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By Jane Heller
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Things weren't going so well for the country that winter—the stock market was slumping and gas prices were rising and our soldiers were still at war—but they were going very well for Britney Spears, who was pregnant with her first child. She described the experience as "freaking awesome" during the two hours we spent together at her recently purchased nine-thousand-square-foot Malibu beach getaway, and she confided that sex with her husband, despite her swollen belly, was "crazy good."
No, the Britster and I weren't girlfriends sitting around having an af-ternoon gabfest, although there were moments when it felt like that. I was
a thirty-year-old reporter for Famous, an entertainment magazine in Hollywood, and my beat was interviewing celebrities. Britney was an assignment for a cover story. She's generally viewed as a product rather than a talent, but she had a sweetness about her, I found, a giggly openness, and I enjoyed my time with her.
I enjoyed my time with all of them. I loved the feeling of gaining access to their private realms, loved trying to figure out for myself what it was that made them special. I'd been fascinated with famous people since I was a kid in Middletown, Missouri, a tiny place in the general vicinity of Kansas City. They were royalty to me—the beautiful ones with thebeautiful clothes and the beautiful houses and the beautiful companions—and they were my escape from what was a dull and dispiriting childhood. I dreamed nonstop of fleeing Middletown and landing a job in L.A., and I'd made the dream come true. I'd really done it. So you could say that things were going very well for me too.
Well, you wouldn't say it if you're one of those snobs who thinks it's only news if it's on PBS or NPR. In fact, you're probably rolling your eyes right now as you picture Britney telling me about her morning sickness, her fluctuating hormones, and her cravings for pickles and ice cream, but I considered myself the luckiest woman on earth to be doing what I was doing. I could have been stuck in Middletown, where people get their kicks experimenting with different brands of snowblowers, eating casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup, and needlepointing pillows with bumper-sticker-type sayings on them, and where the biggest celebrity for a while was the guy who was cleaning his rifle and accidentally shot himself in the balls. I was bored out of my skull there, logy with the sameness of it all, convinced that if I stayed I would end up like my father, who died a slow and agonizing death, or like my mother, aunt, and grandmother, a trio of phobics who were too afraid of life to take risks and live it.
By contrast, I felt healthy in L.A., empowered, energized by the constant whirl of activity and by the people I met, most of whom were colorful and creative and the opposite of dull. I mean, I was attending movie premieres, film festivals, and Oscar parties, mingling with Clint Eastwood and marveling at the merry band of women who bear his children, waving at Penélope Cruz and admiring her ongoing battle with English, exchanging friendly glances with Meg Ryan and wondering why she looks so much like Michelle Pfeiffer now. It all seemed so glamorous to me, so Technicolor, especially in comparison with the grayness I'd left behind. Rubbing shoulders with exceptional people made me feel exceptional by osmosis.
Yes, the city was my oyster or, to be more L.A.-ish about it, my sushi. I had Leonardo DiCaprio's cell phone number, for God's sake. (Okay, his publicist's cell phone number.) It doesn't get much better than that, does it?
Not for me. Not then. When you grow up yearning to be in the orbit of movie stars and then actually hang out with them, albeit in the service of helping them promote their latest project, it's—well—freaking awesome.
And as far as I was concerned, there was nothing cheesy or demeaning about my career. I mean, I wasn't one of those tabloid creeps who picks through people's garbage. My methods weren't exploitative or intrusive. I had scruples. I didn't resort to underhanded tactics to score an interview. I didn't have to. I was a hard worker and a good reporter. The new and notoriously temperamental editor of Famous, fifty-year-old Harvey Krass, had been expected to clean house and bring in his own writers when he'd taken charge the previous month, and though he did fire some of the staff, he'd kept me on. I assumed it was because of my straightforward approach to the job, my integrity. He hadn't said as much—he wasn't big on compliments—but the fact that he'd asked me to stay at the magazine spoke volumes.
So, yes, things were going very well for me. I was living my dream, as I said.
And then, suddenly, a jolt.
Not an earthquake, although there was a cluster of tremors that winter. No, this was a much more internal, life-altering shift. A radical change in direction that sent me into an entirely new phase of my life. I went from Gutsy Girl to Gutless Wonder and back again, and what I learned from my journey was this: It's possible to be chasing the wrong dream and not know it.
"Good morning," I trilled to Harvey on Monday at nine twenty-five. His assistant had summoned me to his office for a nine-thirty meeting, but I was always early for things, unlike everybody else in L.A., where traffic is an extremely reliable excuse for being late for things or for missing them altogether. I'd been raised to believe it was rude to be late, and I certainly wasn't about to be rude to my new boss.
"It isn't good at all!" he shouted, brandishing a rolled-up copy of what appeared to be In Touch Weekly. "This rag and its evil twins are eating into our sales and it's gotta stop! Right here! Right now!"
Excerpted from Some Nerve
by Jane Heller
Copyright © 2006 by Jane Heller.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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