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How Does That Make You Feel?
Part Seven

by Michael Barrie

The L.A. psychologist is finding fame and fortune from his celebrity patients and their pals. 1,887 words. Part Six. Part Eight. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


After some back and forth, we agree on a price. More than I’d imagined. I will get a flat fee per gossip tip, contingent on its veracity. There’s a time lag while it’s investigated. The money is payable to Alan Shepherd Black, LLC. Cost me $49 to incorporate in Nevada without my name in the filings. How it works: I give Stop The Presses! a lead. They assign the story to a team who tail and photograph the target, interview friends, neighbors, and colleagues. If they go with it, funds are electronically transferred to the LLC. To encourage speedy payment, I decide to withhold new tips till I’m paid for the previous ones.

I do have ethical ground rules. First, I will not divulge anything a client has told me in confidence that relates to his or her psychic pain or treatment. Gay? Alcoholic? Cheating on a spouse? I’ll take your secret to the grave.

Second, the tip can’t be something that only my client knows, thus traceable to him — and by extension, me. No, it must be a thing two or more people know so as to obscure its source.

But this leaves so much else. What do I consider fair use? Idle gossip. Trash talk. Celebrities love to dish about other celebrities. It’s a stall tactic, a digression, to avoid dealing with their own shit. Every day I get an earful. The married actress sleeping with her nanny; the producer nailing his son’s wife; the Beverly Hills dermatologist meth addict; the talk show host sex offender; the transgender Victoria Secret model; the HIV-positive action star; the sex tape starring “America’s Sweetheart.” And more. Lots more. So much loose talk. Hell, I even hear things outside of therapy. Did you know that Hollywood’s biggest entertainment attorney has a whole second family? Kidding. I would never. But you get what I’m saying.

I’m about to test the system.

First, I consider Sadie’s ménage à trois with Myrtle and Ezra G. Good because at least three people know about it. And I doubt that a full-of-himself punk like Garrett kept it secret anyway. The rat would not be apparent. But: it’s Sadie, and I can’t. Besides, it violates the treatment rule. She found out he was underage and it caused real anguish. In truth, it was statutory rape. Some on-the-make prosecutor would love to drag two “predatory actresses” into court for stealing a young boy’s innocence. Even that inked-up delinquent. No, Sadie’s three-way is out.

Then there’s Coy Chesbro’s physical abuse of Monica. But again, it’s a treatment issue. No can do. A loathsome character, though. I may have to rethink it later.

Instead, I’ll give up Jesse Aaron Royce, a narcissist in the extreme. His fling with Beatriz Madero is small bore, the kind of thing that goes on during every film shoot. Actors. They mate and breed other actors. The affair has nothing to do with his treatment, such as it is. He shouldn’t even be in therapy. I’ve never met anyone less troubled by his own immoral behavior. The examined life. Ha. And it passes the multiple source test; at least two people know about it. Hell, they’re doing a film – the whole cast and crew know about it.

Embracing in the studio parking lot. Climbing into his truck. Making out. Beatriz’s head drops out of frame. Online, you can link to the video. In case you missed the cheating angle, the website has a shot of Bea and Francisco bursting from the chapel in Majorca, all laughter and rice. Video on that, too. What was it, two years ago? STP Weekly covered it big. Pages of photos. Now, a second bite of the apple.

There are quotes from “insiders,” “associates,” “neighbors,” “friends” and “sources” on the hot-and-heaviness of the affair. The obligatory statement from her husband’s publicist: Francisco is “on location” and “unreachable.” On the air, Carlito calls her “our spicy Latina,” “the Barcelona spitfire” and “Latinalicious.” A shot of the lovers going at it in the truck makes STP Weekly’s cover. The headline: “Studio Pickup.” Subhead: “Bea: ‘I’m Having Jesse’s Baby!’”

I leaf through it on the express line at Vons. Toss it on the conveyor along with my six-pack of Dogfish Head and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Caramel Fudge. Livin’ large. Hey, why not? I’m flush. The first payment hit my account today. Ahead of me, an old hag opens her fist and a crumpled ball of coupons and small bills falls onto the counter. She lurches into the night with her can of Friskies and quart of Pinnacle Vodka.

It’s 10:30 PM: shopping time for singles.

My college buddy, entertainment attorney Barry, invites me to meet him at the health club and I jump. Money is coming in, but not fast enough to meet Caroline’s deadline.

Twice a month, Barry and I work up a good sweat — then go out and nullify it with steaks and drinks. His tab. I’m the expense-account freeloader.

LeSport is one of the few in L.A. that still has racquetball courts. Why waste the square footage on two old guys with swelling guts? You can jam thirty Millennials into the same space for kareyoga. Singing oldies in the half-moon pose.

We’re side-by-side on a bench in the executive locker room. Sliding on our shorts, double-knotting our shoes. This has to be the least locker-roomy locker room ever. The air is mountain fresh. Not a hint of mildew wafts from its raspberry-hued carpet.

And here we are: two men of medium height with pale untoned bodies, sitting in our skivvies. Two Jersey guys. Two heads of hair in similar states of recession. Two guys whose wives have had enough. Yet a Martian, just landed, could easily pick out the man Variety nails as “clear-eyed and alert as a fox, fully in command of any room he enters.” Said Martian could also pick out me.

“Lifetime?”

“Lifetime,” he says. “The cable channel has put a morals clause into the contract. So keep your nose clean.”

“I’m speechless.”

“Get over it; you’re hosting a pilot. The Celebrity Whisperer.

“You’re serious.”

“Yes. It’s all on you now.”

The Celebrity Whisperer.” I repeat, trying the ridiculous title on.

“Full title: The Celebrity Whisperer With Dr. Dennis.”

“What, not starring?”

“Fuck off. Doctors don’t star. Celebrity is as good as wedding in a title. Give me a show called Celebrity Wedding and we can retire.”

“Could be a snooze. How about Celebrity Divorce?”

“Better yet — conflict,” he says, running with it. “Today on Celebrity Divorce: Busey vs. Busey. Mrs. Gary Busey seeks full custody of their Maltipoo…”

“You know, of course, that I can’t use my private clients.”

“We don’t need your private clients. Each episode, the show’s bookers find a celebrity with a personal issue that jeopardizes their career or relationship…”

“Which I analyze and solve in thirty minutes.”

“Exactly.”

“You wonder why they’d even expose themselves…”

“To plug a movie, album, concert tour, why do you think? And if the celebrity doesn’t have some emotional block, we’ll come up with one for them.”

“We?”

A humble nod. “Executive Producer. ”

“My boss?”

“I’ll be tough but loving.”

“Hey, you deserve it. Everything came from Sadie, and Sadie came from you.”

“Excited?”

“Over the moon.”

60 SECOND TV PROMO: ANNOUNCER: “New! This January! On The Celebrity Whisperer: twenty-something actor Levi Quinn suffers from debilitating stage fright. He asks Dr. Dennis for help.”

DR. DENNIS: “Tell me what’s going on with you….”

LEVI (sobbing): “I shake, I sweat, I vomit… I’m at the end of my rope.”

ANNOUNCER: If Levi’s unable to change, he’ll be fired from his starring role on cable’s hit comedy series, Killin’ It.

NEWS ANCHOR: “One in ten Americans suffers from SAD: social anxiety disorder.”

LEVI: I was always this way. But now it’s worse!

ANNOUNCER: “Levi confronts the one person who may hold the key.”

Dr. Dennis looks on as Levi addresses his father.

LEVI: “You pushed me and pushed me. I was never good enough…”

DR. DENNIS: “Dad, can you hear Levi’s pain?”

ANNOUNCER: “The question everyone wants answered…”

KILLIN’ IT PRODUCER: “Levi’s illness is costing us money. We love Levi, but we may have to replace him.”

ANNOUNCER: “Will Levi remain with his hit series?”

DR. DENNIS: “You’re due on set in an hour, Levi. How do you feel?”

Freeze on Levi’s face.

ANNOUNCER: “Stage fright! On The Celebrity Whisperer With Dr. Dennis. New! This January! Lifetime, weekdays.”

When future Corbinologists look back on this time, it will be hailed as a watershed in the great man’s life. They’ll say it marked the end of Corbin’s Blue Period, notable for its pervasive lassitude and air of self-loathing, and the start of his Rose Period, with its new positive rose-colored outlook. Not just outlook, mind you, but a real promise of — and this is a word heretofore unseen in the annals of Corbinology — success. Career success, financial success, and who-knows-what-else success. Stay tuned.

Corbin exits underground parking at Westfield Century City Mall and is chagrined to realize he forgot to “validate.” Should he re-park, go back and have the ticket stamped? So Old Corbin. Or should he just pay the four dollars? New Corbin, the one who speaks of himself in the third person, a riff he’s desperately trying to pull out of, shrugs it off. He feeds the ticket into the exit robot, followed by his Visa card. As he waits for approval — a lifelong quest, by the way — he hits speed dial.

“Hey,” I say into the hands-free.

“Who is this?”

“Technically, your husband.”

“Oh.”

I’ve still got it, don’t I?

“Cheer up,” I say. “Not for much longer.” The gate goes up and I roll out, turning right on Constellation. I pull the visor down against the blinding sun.

“Is there a hitch on the money?”

“Nope. On Monday, Lifetime transfers the funds to my account. Tuesday, they’ll be in yours. We can meet at Barry’s office to sign what we need to sign. Then Xanadu is mine.”

“Aren’t you the lucky one.”

“We each get what we want.”

“Too good to be true.”

“No, that would be Peter.”

And we were getting along so nicely.

“Don’t start, Dennis.”

“Just wondering how the extramarital relations are going.” I hang a left onto Century Park West, flip the visor back up.

“Peaceful, respectful, loving.”

“On paper it’s adultery.”

“On paper you’re an asshole. But not just on paper.”

“Ha. I miss you. Sometimes.”

“Wish I could say the same.”

“If you change your mind, you can see me weekdays on Lifetime.”

“I don’t own a TV.”

“Since when?”

“Since ten minutes from now. Let’s talk Tuesday. By text.”

“I’m thinking about getting a new dog.”

”I know you’ll be happy together.”

“It’s a great yard for a—”

Click.

Sorry you had to hear that. But listen to this: just prior, I’d made another sizable financial outlay, minus the fraught banter. It was in the form of a check to be fully negotiable after Monday’s influx of TV money. Made payable to Tesla Motors, Inc. In the lower left quadrant I wrote: “10% deposit, Model S.” And, as befits my new rosy period, “multi-coat red.”

Part Eight

 

About The Author:
Michael Barrie
Michael Barrie began in showbiz by selling jokes for $7 apiece. His work on The Late Show With David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson earned 20 Emmy nominations. His credits include six Academy Awards telecasts. He is the co-writer, with Jim Mulholland, of Bad Boys, Oscar, and Amazon Women On The Moon. Their Showtime movie, The Ratings Game, received a Writers Guild Award.

About Michael Barrie

Michael Barrie began in showbiz by selling jokes for $7 apiece. His work on The Late Show With David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson earned 20 Emmy nominations. His credits include six Academy Awards telecasts. He is the co-writer, with Jim Mulholland, of Bad Boys, Oscar, and Amazon Women On The Moon. Their Showtime movie, The Ratings Game, received a Writers Guild Award.

  One comment on “How Does That Make You Feel?
Part Seven

  1. I still remember when you and I joined The Tonight Show staff on the exact same day, way back when. Now we find ourselves shoulder to shoulder once more, your story and mine having been released back to back on the HD web site. What are the odds of that? Congrats on your excellent story. And your brilliant career. All best regards, Michael

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