Vidal Franklin, Former Manager to Emma Blanton
“UGH—Vidal. He totally changed her. I called her once because I saw her at the Grammys and was hoping that I could go with her to some of these really cool parties and he was the one who called me back. He basically told me to forget I knew Emma. I was like, we were roommates for two years. You don’t just forget someone, especially not once they’re finally something.”
Amy Fannerty, ex-roommate of Emma Blanton
Vidal and I decided to skip my dream of being an actress and focus on building celebrity. I’d like to say that I’d had a better goal than to be famous, but Vidal cut through the bullshit quickly. He got me drunk on hard liquor and had me confessing every insecurity and significant event of my life. He explained that he couldn’t make my dreams come true if I couldn’t admit them to myself. And what I wanted… what I really wanted was to be famous. To be seen, known, sought after.
And he acted like it was easy.
“There are three types of celebrities. First are the ascribed ones.” Vidal picked through a salmon and avocado salad with the precision of a surgeon. “Those are the Liv Tylers, the Lisa Marie Presleys, the Paris Hiltons. You first know of them because of their parents, and that’s their launchpad. If I could have a stable of ascribed celebrities…” he sighed. “Actually, I wouldn’t have a job, because they don’t need me. If you’re Michael Jackson’s child, you don’t have to try. You’re born, you’re famous, and then you decide how long you want to ride that train and how far it will take you.”
I thought of Cash Mitchell, who I’d stalked online since our interaction at his party. He would fall into that category. Celebrity mom = celebrity kid. He had almost twelve million followers already, and had been in a movie—some kung fu low budget disaster that I had seen five times already.
I wrote down “ascribed celebrities” then put a neat line through it. My father worked as an editor for a gardening magazine, and my mother was on her seventh career—this time as a bank teller. I couldn’t think of less glamorous, or connected lineage—though Dad always said that our lineage dated back to George Washington’s wife.
I hadn’t told my parents about my lotto win, which probably put me into the hall of fame for the worst daughter of the year. If they had been conscientious spenders, I wouldn’t have hesitated. But there was a reason I grew up in a doublewide and already had eight thousand dollars in student loans. My parents had no willpower or money management skills. I could just picture them with their hand out, demanding more. The scorn they’d dish out if I hesitated. The guilt they’d lay on with each additional request. My money would go through their hands quickly, and what would I have to show for it in the end?
I had tossed and turned over the omission, then solved the moral quandary by withdrawing twenty thousand dollars and dividing it into two different envelopes. I dropped one into Mom’s open sunroof five minutes before her bank closed. I put the other in dad’s toolshed, propped up beside his beer fridge. Inside both envelopes, I typed out a short note.
This is an anonymous gift. It contains no strings or expectations, and no one will know about it unless you tell them. Please spend it wisely on anything you’d like. Thank you for being a good person.
I’m not going to lie, it felt good, delivering those envelopes. Exciting, like I was a secret agent in a movie. I hid in my new car and watched as Mom found the envelope and carefully counted the money. She did it twice, and read the note several times. Then she sat in the car for a good fifteen minutes. Just sat there, staring out the front window. It was eerily similar to how I sat in our kitchen, studying the winning ticket.
It was a bit cryptic of me, but I wanted to see how they would respond, and if either of them would call me. The following Sunday, we talked as we always did for a few minutes after dinner. I told them about James Union, and they gave the appropriate murmurs of disbelief and sadness over the death.
“I quit my job,” I followed up. “I just couldn’t go back after that.”
A long pause. My father cleared his throat. “Have you put in other applications?”
“At a few places,” I lied. “But no one has called me back yet. I’m going to see if my apartment will give me an extension on my rent.”
“I’m sure it was traumatic, but you have to work, sweetheart.” Mom sighed, and I could imagine the moment she pushed her bangs out of her face and sighed in exasperation. “You know this. It was dumb to quit your job without another one lined up.”