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Spin: A Novelby Robert Rave
Taylor Green is a corn-fed young man from the Midwest who stumbles into New York without a clue, a contact, or a proper wardrobe. Through true serendipity (or possibly misfortune), he is hired by the outrageous, Jennifer Weinstein, the sleepless city’s moSee more details below
Taylor Green is a corn-fed young man from the Midwest who stumbles into New York without a clue, a contact, or a proper wardrobe. Through true serendipity (or possibly misfortune), he is hired by the outrageous, Jennifer Weinstein, the sleepless city’s mo
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Spin by Robert Rave is a delightfully snarky and hilariously biting peek into the world of high-stakes public relations. With scathing wit and a gimlet eye towards celebrity culture, Rave serves up a delicious tale of rivalry, revenge, and redemption. I adored Spin and didn't want to see it end. You need two things in your beach bag this summer - sunblock and Spin.” Jen Lancaster, New York Times bestselling author of Pretty in Plaid
“Robert Rave takes you on a behind-the-scenes walk on the dark-side of all the grit, vanity and backstabbing of the PR world and in the end you will be left ‘Spinning’.” Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper, New York Times bestselling authors of Celebutantes
"Robert Rave offers an X-ray look into the wicked perversions that make up the celebrity PR world. Dirty, sexy, funny. And compulsively readable." J.J. Salem, author of Tan Lines
"Rave, a former entertainment publicist, delivers an impressive debut novel about the dirty world of celebrity PR." Examiner.com
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By Robert Rave
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Robert Rave
All rights reserved.
The Birth of the Yes Man
MY weakness for the world of celebrity can be traced back to the days of "Calling Doctor Love" and "Beth" by the band KISS. Their music was a commercially intoxicating mix of head-banging rock anthems driven by infectious hooks, pop ballads powered by loud guitars, and overly sentimental melodies that wailed through my speakers. More importantly, they were total badasses. As a scrawny eight-year-old, I would dance in my room for hours, screaming at the top of my lungs that I wanted to "rock and roll all night," or at least until my eight o'clock bedtime. I would fall asleep dreaming that I had suddenly and inexplicably become best friends with the band, a friendship that usually involved the lot of us going to Shakey's and gorging ourselves on breadsticks and pizza. In my mind, this was the life of a rock star.
But at the same tender age of eight, I learned the harsh reality of stardom. Inside one of the album jackets was an order form for official merchandise, a flyer that had all things KISS: hats, embroidered jackets, T-shirts, jean-jacket buttons, shoestrings, and to my delight, KISS makeup. I imagined my friends driven insane with jealously when I strutted my way to the monkey bars in full Peter Criss makeup. I was going to be the shit at the Montessori school. I sat at my mother's kitchen table and asked my grandmother Ethel to help me fill out the order form while my mother was working at Roland's department store. Ethel floated me the eighty-nine bucks without reluctance, since, after all, it was going to the "arts" as she called it (had I asked for the same dollar amount for some Chicago Cubs memorabilia, I would've been out of luck). And so I ordered every available item: the tour jacket, the baseball cap, the Dr. Love T-shirt, and yes, the makeup. Excited to the point of nearly pissing on myself, I had no idea how I would survive the grueling four to six weeks for delivery.
Four weeks came and went, and then six. Then eight. Finally, three months later, and still no official KISS merchandise. The devastation set in. My heroes, such as they were, had let me down, and there was no consoling me. My mother, Elizabeth, didn't even try.
"The sooner you get your head out of the clouds and realize that people are a disappointment, you'll lead a much happier existence," she told me. Not exactly the "let's go eat a peanut-buster parfait at Dairy Queen" kind of speech you'd expect a mother to give to her dispirited eight-year-old. I had stopped expecting those pep talks long ago.
My father left my mother two weeks before my fourth birthday. I don't think he said good-bye. He told me he was going to the store, and I never saw him again. His timing was as perfect as his irresponsibility. He disappeared two months after my mom's dad had passed. We moved in with my grandmother Ethel temporarily until my mom found work at the only department store in town. She had given up college when she married my dad, and so was forced to work retail for minimum wage alongside the sixteen-year-old high-school dropouts.
After my father left, my mother found herself a new man: Jesus. Jesus did not approve of KISS, or any men who wore makeup, or most of the people with a Beverly Hills zip code. To my mother, nothing could take me further away from the Lord then the sinners of Hollywood.
Ethel, on the other hand, felt otherwise, and tried her best to cheer me up after the KISS fan-club debacle. One morning when my mother had to do inventory at the department store, Ethel led me into her bathroom, a place I'd only walked past, a place I was never EVER allowed inside. I paused before entering, not sure if it was safe to proceed. The room looked like someone had filled a hose with Pepto-Bismol and sprayed every last corner. She lowered the toilet lid with the crocheted pink cover, and sat me down. She opened a large Le Sportsac makeup bag and grabbed a giant sponge that looked like it had already been used to scrub a pickup truck before I arrived. She pulled a large, mysterious tube of translucent glop from her bag and began to slather it on my forehead.
"Where did you get this?" I asked.
"You're lucky to have a grandmother with such a colorful past in the theater, my boy," she said. I hated when she slipped into that dramatic stage voice. She sounded like Kathleen Turner. In her youth, my grandma Ethel (as in Merman, she always reminded anyone who might remember) lived in New York, working as a dancer and actress. Growing up, I was fascinated by Ethel's stories of New York City. She had lived in Greenwich Village, and was a working dancer and actress for several shows "that were so Off Broadway you could consider it New Jersey," she said. She knew firsthand the allure of show business. In fact, she relished her time as a dancer and would have continued it had she not met my grandfather, who swept her off her feet. After "falling in love," which she now refers to as a "stumble," she was forced to move back to the Midwest, where she remains in "the hellhole" that she currently calls home. She often points out that the other Ethel also made mistakes. Remember Ernest Borgnine? Don't worry, I didn't either until I looked him up.
By this time, I was sweating so profusely that the white goo dripped down my face, and I looked like some sort of creepy clown.
"Okay, not to worry, not to worry; we had a fella like you in the chorus of West Side Story, a real sweaty pig," she said. She grabbed one of my mother's favorite red guest towels and wiped away the dripping white mess. Then, clutching a bottle of Ban Roll-On deodorant (lavender-scented), she began to roll it all over my face. She blew on it for a few minutes. Her breath permeated a mixture of Baileys Irish Cream and wintergreen Certs. I politely asked her to stop blowing on my face, and she began reapplying the white face makeup. Within minutes my face was stark white. She covered my lips with candy-apple-colored lipstick, my eyes with her black eyeliner, and the pièce de résistance: tiger stripes on my cheeks. I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I looked less like KISS drummer Peter Criss and more like a character on Geishas Gone Wild. But I appreciated the effort, and I prayed the kids at school would as well.
A half hour later, I got out of Ethel's car, and stepped onto the playground in full makeup. In retrospect, the look would have been much more convincing had I forgone the chinos and polo. Less than five seconds passed before I felt an apple hit the back of my head. A few moments later, a punch in the face from Tommy Salinger, causing the eyeliner to get in my eyes. Before classes started I was sent home, bleeding, embarrassed, and with a nasty eye infection. I hated KISS.
Fifteen years later, my thirst for celebrity returned with a vengeance.
I was standing on the wrong side of the velvet ropes desperately trying to get into the opening of Manhattan's hottest new restaurant, Domino. I'd been invited to the opening by my upstairs neighbors, a lesbian couple named Lauren and Allison.
When I had arrived in New York, it had quickly become apparent that Midwestern charm meant jack to New Yorkers. The prevailing attitude seemed to be: "Just do what you have to do and save your pleases and thank-yous for the county fair." I got to New York at the end of June, with a humidity level that rivaled Rio (a comparison that would be more powerful had I actually ever traveled there), and little knowledge of city navigation. Imagine sitting in a steam room fully clothed with a hat and scarf on, and that's what it's like in New York at the end of June. That I had arrived wearing a pair of jeans, a long-sleeve T-shirt, and a sport jacket from the Salvation Army did not help. I wanted to look New York cool but succeeded in looking Midwest stupid; I lacked only the fanny pack. When I arrived at the apartment I had subletted from one of my grandmother Ethel's old theater friends — a place on West Eighty-sixth Street between Columbus and Amsterdam, right across the street from a housing project — I was looking more like a junkie than one of the project's newest residents. Lauren was the first one to help point me in the right direction. For a moment I considered the remarkable possibility that she might be hitting on me. Lauren had a pinup-girl look about her. With her jet-black hair, she definitely had a Betty Page thing going on. Her body was tight, and slightly muscular. Yeah, I can see myself with that. Then Allison stuck her tongue down Lauren's throat. Allison was taller than Lauren and had a pixie haircut that made her look like a teenage boy. She was striking, yet didn't have Lauren's smoldering sexiness. They were the first real-life lesbian couple I'd ever encountered, and they quickly took me under their wing as their adopted child. I gladly accepted.
Allison had just turned thirty and was the senior vice president of original movies for Showtime, hence the invitation to the restaurant opening. Allison's seen her fair share of partying, but she's been nesting ever since she landed Lauren. I shamelessly begged them to take me when I saw them reading the invitation in the elevator. They had looked at each other, then at me, and with pity agreed.
As we waited in the cold March air, the rumblings in line were that Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Lukas Haas were in the ultraexclusive third-floor lounge. Flashbacks of Peter Criss drumming a KISS anthem swirled in my head, and I wanted very badly to be part of Leo's "pussy posse," as the tabloids called it. This was my first real party with actual celebrities! It was taking every last bit of strength to keep from turning into a screaming eleven-year-old girl.
We inched closer to the front of the line, and were held momentarily so Sandra Bernhard and Patricia Velasquez could be ushered inside. While we waited, Allison explained to Lauren and me that for a New York City restaurant to survive, it must create the right kind of buzz. A publicist would have been hired to cultivate the crème de la crème for a series of tastings that had been orchestrated to boost business. "For these types of things to work, there has to be some type of celebrity connection attached," Allison continued. "Why else would a food critic want to visit another so-so restaurant? But if they believe they'll get a chance to mingle with some entertainment-industry elite, they'll line up for hours. It's rather pathetic," she finished.
"Um, that's Mr. Pathetic to you, thank you," I replied, smiling. Anybody who was somebody was there, and I needed to cross over finally from the anybody sideline. Even though I had a powerful lesbian duo with me, I still was very nervous that we wouldn't be allowed past the velvet ropes.
With invitation in hand, we inched closer and closer to the velvet ropes.
"You're going to get a stiff neck," Lauren teased.
"I'm so nervous," I said, bouncing slightly on my toes.
"I'm not good at these things either. It's more Allie's thing than mine," she said.
"Whatever! When we went to that screening the other night, you practically begged me to go. I didn't even know what that so-called art-house movie was supposed to be ..." Allison jumped in.
While they argued over who loved their status more, I stood in front of them adjusting and readjusting the wristwatch my mother had given me for Christmas a few years before. I knew she'd saved up for quite a while and had used her employee discount at Roland's to get me that watch. It was Gucci, with a leather band and gold trim. Unfortunately, its fashion shelf life had worn out roughly four years ago.
"Name?" a woman screamed. She stood in a black trench coat with what appeared to be nothing on underneath. She was so sexy even her cigarette seemed like an invitation to get naked. I imagined that she could have been very pretty, probably gorgeous, but hard partying and heavy smoking were masking the beauty. She was, as it turned out, a city-hardened twenty-six.
"Christina Miller," the girl in front of me said in a Long Island accent.
The doorwoman looked her over and didn't even bother to check the list. "Nope, you're not on my list." She brought her cigarette to her lips and took a long drag and blew the smoke in the girl's direction. "Next."
"But I'm sure I was put on the list," the not-quite-Versace-clad girl whined.
"Try T.G.I. Friday's," the door diva proclaimed. The young woman slinked away, fighting back tears.
As I waited on the sidewalk, I was in awe of the brazenness of the guardian of the velvet rope; had she never read about public stonings? Drive-by shootings? A bitch slap?
"Did you see that? We're never getting in," I said.
"Don't worry, we'll be fine," Allison said leisurely. "If there's any problem, I'll just show them my business card, and that will be the end of that."
"I don't think it matters to these people," I replied.
"I'm with Taylor; I say we bail," Lauren chimed in. "I'm not prepared to be assessed and rejected by some Boston College dropout."
"I didn't say we should bail!" I said loudly. "We can't leave! Julia Roberts and P. Diddy are supposed to be here!"
"And what does that mean to you?" Lauren snapped. "As if you're going to be sipping Cosmos with them!" I ignored her and turned away, but she had given me the visual of sitting comfortably with Julia, discussing her reasons for doing Mary Reilly. To this day it weighs heavily on my mind.
"Are we done here? I've got half of the Upper East Side waiting to get in, and you're polluting the air with your noise," the door bitch said. She came at us like a bat out of hell, spiked heels smoking. Her Gucci perfume caused my eyes to water. "Name?"
"Allison Jacobs, VP of Movies and Minis at Showtime. I'm sure I'm on the list if you could be so kind to check for me." Allison held out her business card, but I knew she had made a fatal mistake; she had been polite.
"Nope, not on here," the doorwoman said, without removing her eyes from Allison's.
"You better check again, or this could get ugly," Allison said as she took a step closer. This was better, I thought, but much too late.
"Oh honey, look in the mirror," the vixen said. "You're a few days past ugly." In one swift motion, Allison lunged at the ropes taking a swing, nearly landing a left hook. The door girl did not flinch. Clearly, she had seen worse.
"Security, get these people out of here; they're not on my list." Two huge, burly security guards came toward us.
"Wait!" I shouted. I had prepared for a situation like this, having caught a glimpse of a name on her clipboard while she berated the previous woman. "Could you check the list again? I'm certain my name is on it."
She gawked at my bloodshot eyes. I had her attention. Her face appeared calm, but in a bipolar kind of way: serene but ready to snap at any minute and make an example of the three of us. I proceeded with caution, "Kyle Milton."
She looked at me and paused before looking down at her clipboard. I nervously began to spell the name, "M-I-L-T ..."
"I know how to spell!" she snapped, then looked back up, stunned. It was as if I had just puked all over her new Louboutins. She regained her composure and looked long and hard at the three of us.
"Well, are you going to unhook the rope or do you want me to try my uppercut? And this time, I promise I won't miss," Allison said, looking directly into the woman's eyes.
"I'll open the ropes, but not for you," she said to Allison.
"But I'm on the guest list!" I said, hearing the ice crack below my feet.
"As unfortunate as that may be for everyone inside, that is true. But Ellen and kd Lang here are not. And you, Mr. Milton, don't have any pluses," she said, pleased.
I turned to Lauren and Allison. Lauren whispered, "Go."
I did not protest: They knew me far too well.
"I'd rather snort broken glass than give this bitch the satisfaction of going inside," Allison said, loudly enough for the entire line to hear, evoking a few laughs.
"Are you coming in or what?" the door chick barked at me.
I looked back at them one last time. Lauren smiled, and said, "Just give us a full report in the morning." She winked.
Excerpted from Spin by Robert Rave. Copyright © 2009 Robert Rave. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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