They're Not Your Friendsby Irene Zutell
Charlotte “Lottie” Love has a thing for celebrity. Actually, it’s more of an obsession. All her life she’s lurked in the shadows of Hollywood, desperate to step into the light. When she lands a job at Personality magazine, her dreams of red-carpet strolls, popping flashbulbs, and the attention of white/i>/b>
Look Out for Falling Stars
Charlotte “Lottie” Love has a thing for celebrity. Actually, it’s more of an obsession. All her life she’s lurked in the shadows of Hollywood, desperate to step into the light. When she lands a job at Personality magazine, her dreams of red-carpet strolls, popping flashbulbs, and the attention of white-hot heartthrobs finally start to come true. Even Hollywood’s latest “It” boy falls for her, and everyone wants his story. Can Lottie score the scoop? Ask Lem Brac, a British boozehound in the twilight of a mediocre career who knows an exclusive with the It boy would save his job. Lem looks for help from his new (and only) friend—Mike Posner, a young hotshot reporter just hired away from a New York tabloid. But Mike has some damaging secrets himself that are about to surface. He needs the interview too, and it’s anyone’s guess how far he’ll go to get it.
Welcome to the world of entertainment journalism and star worship, where you’re only as good as the gossip you dig up. Written by a former People magazine correspondent who knows the underbelly of Hollywood hearsay all too well, They’re Not Your Friends slips past the velvet rope and grants access to a wickedly funny—and sometimes scary—celebrity magazine scene.
- Crown Publishing Group
- Publication date:
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- 7.99(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.63(d)
Read an Excerpt
It was better than she'd imagined. There was applause, some whistling, even a couple of standing ovations. Lottie's heart hammered at her ribs. She closed her eyes and inhaled, opened and exhaled. She pushed out an enormous fluorescent smile.
"Hello, my name is Lottie Love, and I'm . . . well, it's so hard to say this."
Lottie's eyes flitted around the room, checking for familiar faces. She spotted a soap actor and quickly averted her gaze so he wouldn't sense her recognition. She swilled some Red Bull. This wasn't what she had in mind when she dreamed about the spotlight, but, hell, at least she was onstage.
"I'm . . . I'm . . . I'm an alcoholic."
The group cheered. "All right, Lottie!" "Way to go!"
When she had rehearsed in front of the mirror, Lottie hadn't imagined the applause. She had planned to stop there. But now, she couldn't help herself.
"When I was lit-rully barely a teenager, I'd sneak into the liquor cabinet when my parents weren't around. It was fun? All my friends did it. But the difference was, I couldn't stop. I started drinking before school. Then I'd fill up my Boyz II Men thermos with Absolut and orange juice. The teachers thought I couldn't be more of a typical L.A. kid—loud and always performing. No one knew I was always drunk. It got to a point where I didn't even know how to function sober?"
Words spilled out of her. She spoke about smashing her dad's plumbing truck into the neighbor's kitchen, passing out during the SATs, vomiting on the valedictorian's mortarboard during high school graduation.
Afterward, a throng crowded her.
"What you did was courageous. I hate to sound, well, cliche, but it's the first step. And the first step is the hardest."
"Let's get a soy latte sometime."
"Did you ever think about selling your life story?"
Catherine, her sponsor, wrapped her arms around her. "You did great, Lot. I'm so proud of you."
"Thanks." From the corner of her eye, Lottie watched them file out. Then Lottie saw him. He stared right at her and smiled. I understand what you're going through. I'm there for you, the look said.
Lottie's eyes stalked him. It was ironic. She'd seen his movies, and now he was her captive audience. How to break free of Catherine? But then he was vacuumed up into the crowd. She couldn't wait for the next meeting. Maybe there was one tomorrow. The Hollywood branch of Alcoholics Anonymous was the hottest ticket in town. Chris Mercer was the hottest celebrity.
And soon he would be Lottie's latest conquest.
Charlotte Love was born and raised in Tarzana, just another strip-mall town buried in the hills off the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley. It was a peripheral place, and Lottie and her family were peripheral people. They could almost see the beacons of light swirling in the lavender sky when a movie debuted at Mann's. They could nearly hear the fans' applause as celebrities strutted along the red carpet. But though Hollywood was only a few miles down the road, they were as removed from it as Aunt Bertha in Buffalo. When searchlights scanned the heavens in Tarzana, they led to another going-out-of-business sale at Ali Baba's Imported Rugs.
Charlotte, or Charlie, as her parents called her (an only child, she's convinced they wanted a boy), vowed that one day she'd be part of it. She wanted to be the one vogueing along the velvet rope. She took acting lessons. She auditioned for shampoo commercials and modeled for Loehmann's. In high school she was voted most likely to win an Emmy. But her mother begged her to choose otherwise.
"Don't be an actress, Charlie. Look what it did to your father. Hollywood will eat you alive. Get an education."
Her mother recited this, over and over, year after year, fueling Lottie's desire to act even more. "All acting ever did for us was leave us with a phony last name. Love. Love. God, I hate myself for allowing him to do that to us. What was wrong with Lutz? We have no identity, no past, no history whatsoever, because of Hollywood."
Lottie screamed at her mother that it was her life and she had more talent than her father ever dreamed of and that no one believed in her and they'd all be sorry when she became a big actress and emancipated herself.
They fought like this for years. One day, they stopped fighting. Her mother had had a bad biopsy. So in between sobs, Lottie promised her that she'd go to college and put aside her silly dreams. Right after her mother's funeral, Lottie enrolled at UCLA.
Charlie Love reinvented herself. No more tomboy name. Charlie was okay when she was a kid climbing trees. But from the moment she set foot on campus, she decided to go by Lottie. Lottie Love. She liked the singsongy sound of it. The name fit perfectly into her new plan—she majored in communications because it was the easiest way to coast while attending nightly fraternity parties and daily tanning sessions, and because if she couldn't be a star, she'd cover those who could. She told herself that one day she'd be a young and hip Mary Hart. She would live in Bel Air or the Pacific Palisades or Beverly Hills. She would never spend her life looking in from the outside. Never.
During Lottie's final semester, one of her journalism professors was so hypnotized by the way her tiny tank tops barely contained her chest that he arranged a postgraduate internship for her at Personality magazine. The minute Lottie walked into the Wilshire office, she felt as though she belonged there. She had grown up reading about life just over the hill in the pages of Personality. It had been her conduit between the life in the Valley and the only life that mattered.
Lottie was pleasantly surprised by Vince Reggio, the bureau chief. She had thought he'd be polyester garbed, fat, and bald—a guy with ink stains on a wide paisley tie. Instead, Vince was handsome and well dressed in a taupe Armani suit and Gucci loafers. His face was bronzed and his black hair was peppered with gray and gelled in place, with a curlicue casually yet purposefully fixed in the center of his forehead. He looked like a middle-aged Gerber baby.
"All my life, all I've ever wanted to do was write. I couldn't be a stronger asset to your magazine. I can write well and I'm a people person. For some reason, people like to tell me things? So I'll be able to get lots of scoops."
As she spoke, Lottie surveyed the walls of Vince's office, a floor-to-ceiling chronicle of his brushes with fame. There was Vince sipping cocktails with Al Pacino. Vince grinning ear to ear, standing next to Cindy Crawford. Vince gazing at Gwyneth Paltrow. Lottie was so impressed that she interrupted herself in the middle of her own sales pitch. "Oh my God, that's you and Tom Cruise."
"Yep. And he's laughing at a joke I told him." Vince leaned forward in his chair and lightly rested his chin in a fist. He cleared his throat. "Lottie, meeting celebrities is one of the perks you get working here. Don't drop the ball and you'll be hanging out with the best of them."
THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN.
Lottie spent months answering phones and updating agent and publicist contact lists for the magazine. Her coworkers threw menial work at her as if she was some kind of housekeeper. They'd go to lunch without asking her. They ignored her in meetings. Because she had a mane of auburn hair with a great body and big boobs, everyone assumed she was stupid, probably hired because she slept with Vince Reggio, which was just ridiculous. Lottie wasn't one of those desperate wannabes who'd screw just anyone to get ahead. Besides, she was a serious journalist. She'd teach them not to underestimate Lottie Love.
And she did. While those dour-faced reporters left the office and went home to the kids and the latest episodes of The West Wing, Survivor, and The Bachelor, Lottie hung out anywhere a celebrity would: Dolce, Luna Park, Avalon, Belly, Velvet Margarita Cantina, Jones, Vermont, Lotus, Sky Bar, Fred Segal on Melrose, all the trendy bars at all the boutique hotels, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Sunset, Booksoup, Malibu Kitchen, Starbucks at Cross Creek.
As a teenager she had turned her bedroom into a shrine of famous faces. She augmented centerfolds ripped from Tiger Beat and Personality with posters bought with her weekly allowance. By the time she went to college, every inch of the floral wallpaper her mother had painstakingly hung was covered by a celebrity. There was Brad, Tom, Christian, Johnny, Denzel, Luke, Jason, George, Noah, Matthew, Matt, Keanu, James, Freddy, Steven, Tobey, Leo, Ricky, Hugh, Marky. She wrote letters to Joaquin Phoenix asking him to her prom. She was crushed when she didn't get a reply.
But now she saw him up close. She kept a list of her sightings: Ben and Matt; Paris and Nicky; Reese and Ryan; Justin; Tobey; Vin; Leo; Kate; Katie; Gwyn and Chris; Gwen and Gavin; Britney; Julia and Danny; Ashton; Beyonce; J.Lo. At work, she'd brag about her encounters and recount anecdotes, such as when that hot boy-band singer left Barfly without paying the tab. Or when an actor with a nice-guy image beat up the bouncer at the Viper. Or when a famous actor/recovered drug addict bumped into her looking dazed and disheveled. Or when a devoted family man superstar hit on her. Before she knew it, Vince let her write about most of it for Personality.
And then they started paying her for going out at night. Getting paid to rub shoulders with the stars, at parties she once only imagined! They created a title just for her: Lottie Love, Chief Party Correspondent. After barely six months she had rocketed from anonymous intern to a name on the Personality masthead. It was a dream come true. Lottie had wriggled her way inside. She was reporting for the magazine she had read and devoured and recited as gospel. She vowed to remember the little girl from Tarzana, to write for her. No more watching a searchlight from across the freeway.
Lottie was in the light.
Meet the Author
Irene Zutell is a freelance writer and producer who has written for People, US Weekly, and the New York Times. She lives in Los Angeles.
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Valley girl Charlotte ¿Lottie¿ Love promises her dying mother that she will never become an actress. To keep her death bed vow, but taste Tinseltown, Lottie becomes a correspondent reporting on the misbehavior of the stars for Personality magazine. Her boss assumes Lottie is a bimbo wannabe so she plans to prove to him that she is a serious entertainment reporter by obtaining an interview with media reticent rising star Chris Mercer....................... She has two prime rivals. British journalistic has-been Lem Brac, who desperately misses the three martini lunch paid for by his ¿clients¿ hopes Mercer is his return ticket to the classy bars. The other adversary, the magazine brass¿ favorite son New Yorker Mike Posner, has reported numerous exclusives that he made up. As the trio struggles to be the feature gossip columnist, ethics is flushed down the commode.......................... The key characters are stereotypes coming out of gossip magazine casting 101 starring in a shallow plot that readers will love and laugh. The office wars are cleverly handled with zingers and dirty tricks yet an interesting code is adhered to especially by the three competitors. The cosmetic surgery reminds this reviewer of two mercenaries in Swamp Thing comparing injuries. In other words nothing is sacred in THEY¿RE NOT YOUR FRIENDS as Irene Zutell lampoons the ooze at the bottom of the LaLa Land food chain........................ Harriet Klausner