“Aww. I think that might be the nicest thing you’ve said to me, Jess. Will you be wearing a wig on Saturday, too? Because you look hot in this red wig.”
“Maybe I’ll be a brunette with long wavy hair and a flouncy white floral party dress. No one would ever suspect it was me.”
“Good. And that’s the key to pulling this off. You’re just a wedding guest, you’ll take surreptitious pictures during the ceremony, and you get the hell out. Try not to talk to anyone. Even if we have you on the list, I don’t want anyone to know you or to be able to remember you. James is kind of a prick, but I don’t want to screw him over.”
“I totally understand,” she said, then her phone beeped. She checked it and read a message out loud. “Source says they’ll be finishing up the read-through within an hour, then heading to Burbank. All systems go.” She tapped out a reply, then turned to me. “And now for my part of the information exchange. That was a message from my client, letting me know that his source says the targets will be heading to the rendezvous point shortly.”
“So that’s how it works? Random tips?”
“I don’t know who his source is and I don’t ask, but it’s probably some assistant on the The Weekenders. Generally speaking, the sources are either assistants, hotel doormen, maître d’s, or publicists.”
“And are they all on the take?”
“Some of them. When the tips come from assistants, it’s either because they’re power hungry and this is their way of feeling in control, or they’re getting paid off by the photo agencies to call in locations. Then there are tips that come from assistants because the stars want their photos taken. It’s this weirdly symbiotic relationship. Stars supposedly hate us, right?” she said, referring to the paparazzi.
“Sure,” I said, agreeing with her.
“But yet they need publicity. They need to maintain their fame. There are only a handful of stars so big and so secure in their careers that they don’t need to court the press and the paparazzi at all. Everyone else, they kind of want and need to be seen. Then, there are stars who make sure to have very specific photos taken. You know Range Treadman?”
“The Australian actor,” I said, feeling like I’d answered a game show question correctly. Given my lack of interest in celebrities, the fact that I’d known the name of even one felt like a huge accomplishment.
“He takes his kids to the same playground every Monday at three fifteen. He’s always there, always happy, always involved with his kids. And every photog shows up because his press people put out an alert to let all the agencies know where he’ll be. Because he wants to have the image of the family guy out there. So he goes to the playground, acts like he doesn’t see us, but smiles the whole time. It’s his way of controlling his image. He makes it seem as if we just happened to catch a shot of him on the playground.”
“What about all the shots of stars leaving their gyms or going to yoga? Is that the same thing? They want to be seen being fit and healthy?” I asked, rattling through some of the questions James had said he wanted answered for his PR client.
“A lot of photogs and their agencies just keep a running list of who goes to which gym,” she said, then named the locations of the most popular gyms for the famous. “Then photogs just camp out and wait. Some of the regular guys who shoot all day—they just have these spots they go to and kind of lie in wait for stars to come by. A lot of personal trainers tip us off, too. Trainers are the biggest gossips in the world. They also know their stock rises if they’re outed as the trainer of someone famous.”
“This is great,” I said, mentally filing away the juicy info.
“And then there are some trainers who might not be tipsters yet, but you still see them in so many pictures with so many different stars that you start to recognize them as well. Like Nick Ballast’s trainer,” she said, and I arched an eyebrow in question. The name felt vaguely familiar, and it tripped on the edge of my tongue as a name J.P. had mentioned once.
“He’s on The Weekenders. With Riley. Former child star, had a weight problem for a bit, now works out like crazy. His trainer has this goatee,” she said, stroking her chin. “They’re always together now because Nick is Mr. Exercise and Healthy Eating these days.”
“And I suspect Nick wants to make sure those pictures get out,” she said, and her voice sounded slightly strained when she talked about Nick.