"Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." - Judy Garland

Almost Famous

I've spent the last few days recovering from my week-long trip back to Los Angeles. Traveling takes a lot out of me - probably the same for most people these days.

When you work on a series that films in another city/country, you end up with tons of things that pile up waiting to be resolved when you finally return home for a brief period. This is largely the reason that so many celebrities have assistants. That and the fact that it now becomes an issue to even go to the grocery store.

Two of my best girlfriends (and my surrogate family in Los Angeles), Jessica Alba and Eva Mendes, are pretty famous these days. I returned to L.A. for Jessica's baby shower last Saturday and I was thrown by the whole pre-shower lead-in. We were couriered invites (mine had to be Fedexed to Vancouver) with a "save the date" card neither name of honoree nor location was given. This was done to avoid paparazzi leaks. We were not told the location of the party until the morning of the event. I kind of liked the whole "spy-like" secrecy as I have always fancied that if I had not been an actress I would have made one hell of a secret agent. (Note to self: Check to see how long it would take for training and what the requirements are for admission to Quantico.)

At the shower, there were a few celebrity types but the group was mostly friends and family, so I knew lots of ladies as well as the smattering of gay men that added just enough variety to keep it from being an estrogen-fest.

The soiree was held at a cute new teahouse that hadn't even opened for business yet called Ever After in Studio City. It was a gorgeous, sunny spring day. The party's hosts outdid themselves. Beautiful flowers. There were fun activities - like guessing the number of M&Ms in a jar - everywhere. I used a calculus formula that I'd assumed was long forgotten to estimate the volume of candies and ended up about 30 pieces short yet somehow someone else still beat me. (I'm not saying anyone cheated but sure was a good guess, dontcha think?)

There was a lovely outdoor patio between two buildings, where the guests were seated. The second building held my favorite attraction, yummy banana pudding with Nilla wafers. It reminded me of my childhood.

Jess' gifts were a little overwhelming. I think the cleverest one was a homemade baby jumper decorated by a seamstress who works with Jess and her stylist frequently. It never ceases to amaze me how much people who don't need anything have free stuff thrown at them. When you see those photos of famous people wearing expensive gear, know that most of it (especially the really expensive stuff) has been gifted to them by the PR companies repping the designers. Swag: Tyler Labine explained to me the other day that this acronym stands for "Stuff We All Get." I guess that's the royal "we."

All the guests had to introduce themselves and tell how they'd met Jessica and her fiancé, Cash, and how long they'd known them. The guests got teary-eyed and spoke about love and babies. I talked about how much fun it would be to coordinate baby accessories. I was blown away when I got to feel my buddy's baby kick in her big, very pregnant belly. This was a sweet, warm moment among a group of loved ones.

But here's where it got weird: Flashes popped over the big white fence. The hungry throng of cameramen had managed to break the boundary by jumping and snapping random pics. One of the party hosts, a very tall man, quickly grabbed a water hose and doused them. It happened so quickly that one of the celebrity-type babes on the inside wasn't even able to apply her lipgloss.

What struck me about this was the fact that any picture would be worthy of that - especially one of a young lady who was not hiding her pregnancy.
A pretty dress at a press event is one thing, but I don't get what's interesting about pictures of anyone buying tampons - no matter what movies they have been in.

I guess it's like any other mindless distraction from all the other more frightening issues in the world. Fluff about some celebrity seen buying a smoothie on Larchmont is a lot less daunting than considering all of the more pressing issues in our own backyards. That's the beauty of entertainment and the danger.

Maybe this is the Devil's joke.

I am reminded of the Reaper episode where Jamie Kennedy guest-starred as a poor schlub willing to sell his soul to the Devil to become a rock star. I kind of get the sense that it might be a pretty accurate version of hell.

On the outside it appears great. Lots of free stuff and adoring fans, but the unseen reality is that nowadays, since reality programming and tabloid mags are moneymakers due to their low overhead (and lack of need to investigate for truth), you live your life on display. While there are quite a few performers who are so in need of attention that they covet any form of it, the idea of continual cameras trained on you for a picture in hopes that you trip or back out of a parking space wrong is pretty disheartening.

I guess I'm almost famous and the upside is that I get to live a normal life and really see the most bizarre aspects of society. I have friends who work jobs where they wear uniforms and are paid an hourly wage as well as friends who get paid to attend parties. What an unusual way to watch the world.

Watch new episodes of Reaper starting Tuesday, April 22. In our world, the Devil wears Armani.

-Val