A top gossip editor is asked to help Jason get a job. 2,176 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
While Jason was asleep across town, the West Coast Editor of Juicy Magazine was in the midst of her Wednesday morning meeting with editors and reporters. The top dog on the manure pile known as celeb reporting. Beverly Jones (once Jankovitzki) was having a tough day. But then all her days were tough. Her idiot husband and whiny kids had no idea what she had to go through to pay their personal vegan chef to put the bok choy on the Philippe Starck knock-off table. She let them know every day and night on the rare evenings she was home. She texted them about her suffering for her foul working life. She loved it, of course. They knew it. She knew it. But it was their family myth: Mommy is killing herself for us.
Beverly sighed loudly and farted silently. She was on a raw vegetable diet.
Beating the other tabs was the name of Beverly’s game. Her take — a cool million dollars a year, an unlimited expense account and the various perks of the job like travel, access to the famous, stock options. But, most importantly for Beverly, all the ass-kissing that went along with her title. The agents, the studios, the celebs paid her homage despite the fact that they knew her to be ruthless as far as scandal went. No one was off-limits, so best send a case of trophy Pinot Noir at Christmas and ask her to the exclusive Oscar parties. And more importantly, attend hers.
While her twentysomething staffers vied for her attention, recounting tales from last night’s clubbing and speculating on the drug consumption of the famous, Beverly was thinking about her future. She was damned if she was going to allow herself that long slide toward the humiliating bottom-feeding of celeb reporting. She shuddered, imagining a future of covering movie junkets for the wires or filling in at Entertainment Tonight. Beverly thought about the pile-up of aging media people – Katie Couric, Mary Hart, even Billy Bush was sounding like an altercocker until he got busted encouraging Trump. On camera, no less.
No, not this Brooklyn girl. She might be over forty – just barely — but Beverly wasn’t aging any further. She couldn’t afford to since she didn’t have the inborn grace of other women in this town. Beverly knew that she had to kill everything she ate. She wasn’t like her masters at the mothership in New York with their Princeton degrees and Old World ethics. She didn’t have a “rabbi” at corporate looking out for her. She knew they disdained her even as they praised her and kept upping her paycheck. As long as she brought the kill back, she was safe but she never forgot whence she came, or all the barbs and insults on her way up.
She’d had to endure the Chairman’s drunken comments at a long-ago lunch when he gave her the job: “Don’t fuck up Juicy whatever you do. It’s the cash cow.”
Beverly snorted back, “Yeah, no kidding.” Increasingly she’d had to subsidize the up-market magazines in his stable with Juicy’ profits.
In that ridiculous Southern accent that he affected even after forty years on the Upper East Side, he slurred. “I don’t read Juicy. I don’t understand Juicy. But it makes me a lot of money so take care of it, honey.”
It better make money since it took a lot to pay his bar bill, not to mention the girlfriend he had tucked away in Key West. A fact that Beverly wouldn’t hesitate to use should there be any disagreements in the future.
She licked her lips, feeling for the Rystelane to see if it needed a touch-up, and then turned her full attention to the staff.
“You’re not telling me anything new. Nothing feels like you have the inside scoop. Come on, guys. Can’t one of you sleep with a pap, at least?”
She was kidding (sort of), but if one of these girls had a taste for bad boys, God knows a pap would fill that bill. Hmm. She’d have to bait that hook soon.
She concentrated on her daily psyching out of the staff. Smiling sweetly at one, and ignoring another. Soon they’d be cat-fighting in the ladies’ room. But eventually they took it to the streets – competing for scoops, betraying friends for secrets and spreading the compost of expense account dollars. Even A-listers liked to be taken out for drinks. They all love the freebies, even the millionaires’ wives fighting over the gift bags at the Carousel Ball. And the more they appeared in Juicy, the more free stuff rained down on them – expensive dresses, glamorous makeup, jet rides, birthday parties in Vegas. Gossip could make or break careers. Talent was still on the table, but less so. Much less so on the pages of Juicy and its ilk. Famous is, as famous does.
Beverly was in a hurry to get to the yoga studio after the staff meeting. She’d always been hit or miss about exercising, but she’d learned a valuable lesson a few years ago. She’d scooped all the rags when she’d discovered the plastic surgeon that operated on Kanye’s mom just before her death was a regular at a studio in Brentwood. She got more from the ladies working on their planks than she could from those stonewalling bastards at the medical board. She took up yoga and sent her staff out to run the Santa Monica stairs regularly. She even paid for their Equinox gym memberships at the most exclusive one near CAA. Her abs were all the better for it and the intel proved invaluable.
Arriving late, she found a spot just to the left of Melody Alden, the first ex-wife of Teddy. He’d been largely absent from the scene, but everyone assumed Teddy had made a pile in real estate so if he didn’t work it meant he didn’t want to. Rumor had it that Teddy was collaborating with a New Yorker editor. Jesus, he must be rich if he can afford to do that, thought Beverly.
Beverly had to a moment with Teddy years ago when he was still hot shit and she was still authentically young. It was two days at the San Ysidro Inn – the WASP-ishly discreet retreat of the famous in Santa Barbara. He’d never called again, which stung a little at the time (she was young) but it was all water under the diaphragm now.
Melody Alden was looking a little worse for wear today. Not her usual Zen (read Zanax) self. In her late forties she was the result of good genes, luxury grooming and rigorous diet and exercise. She’d had a great rack in her day but now looked to Beverly like she might have had a lift and a modest augmentation. It looked natural enough but, when you thought about it, no way these women could be that full and “up there” after babies. Melody had what Beverly referred to as Pacific Palisades tits – conservative but perky enough to fill out the La Perla. Nothing like the bowling balls attached to the boney chests of third wives in Orange County. Even so, a practiced eye could spot the subtle examples of L.A.’s finest doctors. Beverly’s eyes were 20/20 when it came to that.
Melody had always been friendly, which surprised Beverly. Most celebs and their families, with the exception of the Kardashians, were loudly disdainful of tabloids, routinely snubbing anyone who worked for them. Except when they were pitching a story about themselves, of course. Recently Beverly had seen an aging A-lister walk the red carpet with her husband, cowering beneath his protective arm. The celeb stared at the reporters waiting to speak to her as if she were being forced to lunch with serial killers. Beverly chuckled at the memory, knowing from older editors at the New York tabs that the same singer, then on Broadway, spent the sixties chasing reporters down the street for attention.
Melody stopped Beverly on the sidewalk after class. She wanted some advice. Her oldest, Jason, was at USC and looking for a job. “He’s in the film school, but he loves journalism. Could you suggest some place he might apply?” Melody asked.
Beverly was taken aback. Usually these kids were in Bali for spring break studying algae or whatever. Or, they had go-fer jobs at the studios. According to his mother he was interested in writing and reporting like his father who started at The New York Times before he wised up and learned how to make the L.A. fuck-you money he no longer had.
Jason had no burning interest in journalism, but it sounded good to Melody who’d come out of her Hollywood Wife fog long enough to figure out that her child needed income. She certainly couldn’t support him and her Botox and her Barney’s habit.
About to dismiss her with a promise to think about it, on a hunch, Beverly told Melody to have him call her. The editor had had a bad experience with a mega-producer’s daughter a few years back, taking her on as an intern intending to pump her for info. Then the kid complained to daddy and Beverly got a call from the Chairman to lay off. Good Christ, how did he think she got her insider info? From those lying slimy PR people? Yeah, right. Eventually the little princess toddled off.
But there was something about the way Melody was asking for Beverly’s advice that piqued the editor’s interest. Could this kid need work? What if this turned out to be a real favor and not just one of those Hollywood Kid-too-old-for-camp-so-we-have-to-get-him-something-to-do favors, which didn’t count. It might be something that paid dividends over years. At the very least he could be trained to make her lattes the way she liked them and get her dry cleaning. Always fun to humiliate the rich and famous when you’ve spent most of your career chasing after them while they threw crumbs of news over their Dolce and Gabbana’d shoulders.
I’ll see if he calls, thought Beverly getting into her Jaguar kitted out with a directional boom mic she used for picking up conversations in passing cars. The very same mic that got her the tip on a huge hush-hush divorce. The husband was bailing before the couple hit the ten-year mark. The wide had no idea until Juicy broke the story. Lawyers should not talk on cell phones in the car. And only an idiot had a private conversation walking down the street. Evidently L.A. was Idiot Central because that mic had picked up a lot in the years she’s had it.
Beverly was heading to the Beverly Hills Hotel to listen to the woes of a freshly fired PR lady. A shoulder to cry on was often the spot where the disgruntled unloaded their hottest gossip, confidentiality agreements be damned. Of course, the pair would avoid the Polo Lounge, taking their lunch and drinks poolside for more privacy. Or maybe in a room, if what Beverly had heard about this flack was true. If she wants a little dip in the lady pond, I’m not one to deny her, thought Beverly.
Jason had been for a run, gotten more rack time and was getting ready to hit Sunset Tower and then meet friends at Nobu Malibu for a birthday party. His cell blared.
Shit — it was his mother. She never called him. Something must be up.
“Jason,” came his mother’s breathy voice, “how are you, precious?”
”All good, mom. Whassup?"
”I got you a job! Well, I got you a chance at a job."
Jason rolled his eyes. He could just imagine what this would be. But he’d long ago learned patience with his fragile mother. She was a type — the ex-Hollywood Wife – but she still had a little soul and grit left from her Midwestern upbringing. It was just getting harder and harder to find it as she drifted through life. So her son dutifully held on, ready to hear her newest hair-brained scheme.
”I just talked to Beverly Jones, who runs Juicy," said Melody. "She said that, if you’re interested in journalism, call her. She might be able to give you some work."
Jason read Juicy weekly. Everyone did. "What a rag."
But it was a rag he understood, and had often thought that he could tell its writers so much more about what was really going on. He was about to lose his car, his apartment and his credit card. At least this editor lady would pick up lunch. "Okay. Give me her number."
Melody was shocked. She had assumed it would be a fight for her son to even consider gainful employment. He must be more scared than she’d thought. "Here’s Beverly’s cell. She said that’s the best number to reach her."