Archive | celebrity

Brangelina: Why We Rejoice In Other People’s Divorces

brangelina

brangelinaBack in what now seems a life time ago, before kids and mortgages and migraines set in, my husband and I were friendly with a couple we called, privately, “the beautiful people.”

They were, quite simply, gorgeous to look at. He was a tall, athletic and European and she was a lithe, exotic artiste of unknown ethnic origin. They were smart and successful and rich and beautiful and, seemingly…happy.

Until they weren’t.

One day they told us that they were separating and – just like that – the beautiful people were no longer. And with their split, the myth that you really could have it all – that you could be successful professionally while also throwing nice dinner parties having pitch perfect bodies *and* still be in love – disappeared.

While I liked them both, my first instinct was to feel smug.

This feeling resurfaced this week when I learned that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had split up after 12 years, six kids, two films and a joint production company (and a partridge in a pear tree…)

They, too, are beautiful people. And between their outrageous professional success, their large, blended family and the odd humanitarian ambassadorship for the UN thrown in, Brad and Angelina seemed to stretch the limits of what could be possible in coupledom. (Heck, Angelina is even a visiting professor at the London School of Economics this year…I mean, c’mon!, what *isn’t* that woman doing?)

It’s tempting, at first, to gloat at these failed marital projects. We can feel better about our own pathetically normal houses/children/relationships/fill in the blank. Or we write these couples off, saying (not unjustly), that it’s amazing how long it lasted in the first place…that it was only a matter of time until the whole thing imploded…and thank goodness that we ordinary mortals don’t have to co-star in films with Marion Cotillard and endure the temptations of the flesh that ensue…

That may all be true.

But I think we are lying if we don’t also admit that we’re all much more invested in other people’s marriages – and divorces – than we typically let on.

And that’s because all marriages – indeed, all long-term relationships – are inherently fragile. Even the strongest ones are rife with unresolved resentments, longings and deficits, and it is inherent in the marriage project itself to somehow learn to accept and endure those inherent blemishes. Indeed, some would say that  marriage is about learning to love your spouse very specifically, not despite – but because of  – his or her specific, individual flaws.

So when we see a famous marriage go bust – whether it’s Al Gore or Sandra Tsing Loh or Brangelina – we are reminded of the fragility of our own relationships. And that, quite simply, is terrifying. Their plight could, we know deep down, also be ours. But instead of owning that fear and feeling genuinely afraid, we mask that insecurity through sniggers and snarky comments.

If we’re going to be really honest with ourselves, we ought to acknowledge that when marriages split up – even, or perhaps especially, among the “beautiful people” – they are, in effect, breaking up for the rest of us.

That’s not something to gloat over. It’s something to thank them for. And be glad that it wasn’t us.

Image: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt via Public Domain Pictures.net

Why Garry Shandling’s Death Made Me Cry

garry shandling

Garry_Shandling_(2076448529)From time to time, I’ve indulged in an exercise where I pretend that I’m famous and am being interviewed for one of those glossy magazine profiles where they ask you to list things like your favourite meal or your favourite film. When they get to the question where they ask about my favorite comedian, I’ve always known that I wouldn’t hesitate before answering “Garry Shandling.

Shandling – who died at his home on Thursday at the age of 66 from causes as yet unknown – was never a household name in the way of Robin Williams or Chris Rock. Still, Shandling had an almost cult-like following among people like me, for whom his brilliant 1990’s sitcom – The Larry Sanders Show – changed our understanding of what television was and could be. He was also clearly both a visionary and a mentor for an entire generation of comedians, as the outpouring of heartfelt tributes to him last week from the likes of Bob Odenkirk and Ellen De Generes demonstrate, not to mention Conan O’Brian’s very moving, personal tribute on his show.

The Larry Sanders Show was a behind-the-scenes send up of what it was like to work at a late night television show. It ran on HBO for six seasons was universally recognised as the harbinger for subsequent pathbreaking television shows like The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock and others. (If you’ve never seen The Larry Sanders Show I’ve got good news for you – HBO is about to re-release it.)

But Shandling – a practicing Buddhist – stayed largely out of the limelight after The Larry Sanders Show ended, save the odd cameo here and there in film, TV and as a host on assorted award shows. I myself had nearly forgotten about him until I saw him on The Jon Stewart show a few years back (Stewart being yet another comedic superstar – like Judd Apatow and Sarah Silverman – who made his name on The Larry Sanders Show).

Read the rest of this post at The Broad Side

Image: Garry Shandling via Wikimedia Commons

Embrace Your Emma Watson and Become a Mentor

emma watson davos

emma watson davosLONDON – This week, the sublimely gifted Emma Watson has taken to the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos to exhort the corridors of power worldwide to do more to ensure that women are equal participants in the workplace.

As UN Women Goodwill Ambassador – not to mention a star of one the highest grossing film franchises of all time – Watson has the sort of global platform that can enable her latest initiative – IMPACT 10x10x10 to make some real inroads in “encouraging governments, businesses and universities to make concrete commitments to gender equality.” But you don’t need to be Hermione Granger to play a role in advancing women’s status and power in the workplace.

Indeed, we can all do our part – particularly we middle-aged, mid-career female professionals who are close enough to remembering what it was like to be struggling to move up the career ladder but senior enough to have a few years of worthwhile experience under our belt.  Which is why I took the decision in 2015 to start mentoring younger female colleagues in my company to help them both identify and realize their own potential.

Read the rest of this post over at The Broad Side.

Image via watsonfans.com 

J.K. Rowling: Lessons on Fame & Glee’s Cory Monteith

What’s not to love about J.K. Rowling?

The best-selling, mega-successful author of the Harry Potter series has always been a winner with the public. She’s wise…she’s modest…she’s even funny. (If you’ve never heard her commencement speech at Harvard University a couple of years back, drop whatever you’re doing and listen to this…)!

But most of all, I think we all deeply respect and revere this one-time-welfare-mom who decided one day in her mid-30s while working as a divorced secretary that she would take a chance on a dream and create what would eventually become the first of a series of books that has defined a generation.

But Rowling outdid herself this past weekend when it was revealed that she had secretly written a crime novel under the male pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, a (purported) first-time novelist. The book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, had opened to high critical praise when it was published in April, but had failed to attract much in the way of commercial success, selling but 1,500 copies.

Until now. Within hours of the revelation that Rowling was the actual author (an editor at Britain’s Sunday Times was the sleuth), the book rocketed to top the Amazon best-seller charts.

Read the rest of this post at The Broad Side...

Image: 100405_EasterEggRoll_682 by Daniel Ogren via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

Amy Winehouse, Like Princess Diana, Was Bulimic

I’ve always had a soft spot for Amy Winehouse. The British, bee-hived chanteuse was the polar opposite of the proverbial girl-next-door: outré…erratic…Jewish.

In a country where the Duchess of Cambridge – aka Kate Middleton – currently personifies a sort of Ivory Soap poster girl for all that we hold dear, Winehouse embodied this nation’s darker side: wayward, unpolished, self-destructive.

And yet, there was a certain tenderness to Amy Winehouse – a vulnerability – skating just beneath the bravado that drew you to her. You could hear it in the lyrics of her signature album “Back to Black,” which launched her career in 2006 and subsequently won her a record 5 Grammy awards for a female British pop star:

I cheated myself,

Like I knew I would

I told you I was trouble,

Yeah, you know that I’m no good.

Read the rest of this post at The Broad Side...

 

Image: Amy Winehouse – Sign by eduhalls via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Paul McCartney: Yoko Didn’t Break Us Up

Other than Hurricane Sandy, few things can distract us right now from our single-minded focus on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 6. But on Sunday, Sir Paul McCartney managed to do just that when he announced that Yoko Ono – John Lennon’s widow — was not responsible for the break up of the world’s most famous rock band.

In an interview to be published next month on Al Jazeera English with the veteran British journalist David Frost – (and previewed by the British media this past weekend) — Sir Paul claims Ono was not the reason The Beatles came apart in the early 1970s. “She certainly didn’t break the group up, the group was breaking up,” he tells Frost.

If anything, Sir Paul suggests, the Beatles’s split had more to do with the role played by talent agent Allen Klein, who tried to manage the group after the group’s much beloved manager, Brian Epstein, died in 1967.

This is big news for those of us, like me, who’ve watched one too many biopics about the lives of the various Beatles. (My husband is a huge Beatles fan, though he insists that by far the best account of the band’s breakup can be found on the film featuring the musicians themselves, “Let it Be.”)

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: Double Fantasy by thejcgerm via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Roman Polanski’s Victim Finally Speaks; I Wish She Wouldn’t

Every few years, it seems, we are collectively forced to revisit the cultural maelstrom that is Roman Polanski.

Sometimes it’s because a new film by the European director has come out. Sometimes it’s because Polanski is (once again) fleeing arrest somewhere. And sometimes it’s because we all need to pause and revisit the term rape.

This time, however, our cultural re-connection with Monsieur Polanski comes in the form of news that the then-13-year-old girl whom he drugged and raped in Jack Nicholson’s home all those years ago is publishing a memoir to tell her side of the story.

Samantha Geimer – yes, she has a name – has penned a memoir entitled “The Girl: Emerging From the Shadow of Roman Polanski.” In her own words, “I am more than Sex Victim Girl, a tag the media pinned on me. I offer my story now without rage, but with purpose — to share a tale that in its detail will reclaim my identity…I am not a stick figure. I know what it is like to be a woman and a victim in the realest possible way.”

Read the rest of this post on The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: 65th Festival de Cannes by PanARMENIAN photo via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

‘Rebekah Brooks: The Movie’: Can She Play Herself?

Britain’s phone hacking scandal truly is the gift that keeps on giving. On Sunday, news broke from the Cannes Film Festival that “Rebekah Brooks: The Movie”will be coming soon to a theater near you.

Most people know Rebekah Brooks as Rupert Murdoch’s erstwhile girl Friday in the British arm of his media empire, News Corp. Until July of last year, she served as chief executive at the London-based News International, before abruptly resigning over her alleged role in the phone-hacking scandal.

Brooks was charged last week on three separate counts of obstruction of justice, including conspiring to remove boxes of archive records from Murdoch’s London headquarters, concealing material from detectives, and hiding documents, computers and other electronic equipment from the police. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, although the average term served is 10 months.

There’s no question that Brooks is the perfect subject for a film. With her flowing, auburn ringlets and mysteriously cool — almost detached — demeanor, she looks like she stepped out of a Botticelli portrait.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: News International’s Rebekah Brooks Under Fire by ssoosay via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

Game Of Thrones Author Surprisingly Normal

As a denizen of North London lo’ these past five and a half years, I’ve had my fair share of celebrity sightings. I’ve caught a glimpse of chef Boy Wonder Jamie Oliver as he entered a local bookstore. I’ve exchanged a few pleasantries with actress Helena Bonham Carter. I’ve even locked eyes with comedian Ricky Gervais at the hair dresser’s.

But by far the most exciting celebrity encounter to date was this week, when I attended a Q and A with author George R.R. Martin.

Martin — or GRRM as he’s known to fans — is the writer of the best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, on which the hugely popular HBO television series, Game of Thrones, is based. If you haven’t read the books — and you really should — they are famous for their unbelievably graphic and realistic depiction of medieval life, replete with internecine power struggles between warring clans, routine war crimes of the most vicious sort and, yes, quite a bit of sex. The net effect, as many have observed, is a good deal closer to history than fantasy.

I myself am not normally a fantasy reader. I came to these books via my 11 year-old son who, like many fans, literally counted down the nights until last summer’s release of the fifth volume in the series — A Dance With Dragons . (Yeah, I know. Please don’t ask. He was 4,000 pages in before I realized that the books might not be appropriate.) But at my son’s insistence, I immersed myself in Martin’s Kingdom of Westeros and its more than 1,000 characters and have never looked back. So when I saw that Martin would be giving a talk at a local University theatre, I ran to get us some tickets.

He did not disappoint.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones by Arnold Tijerina via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

 

Samantha Cameron: Political Wife For 21st Century

In an election year in which much has been made about the star power of political wives, it’s worth pausing to contemplate an entirely different role model for this category: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s wife, Samantha, who’s traveling with her husband to Washington this week.

As David Cameron and President Obama come together to reaffirm the importance of the Special Relationship between the United States and Great Britain, Samantha Cameron will also make her official U.S. debut. But while there’s been a fair bit of buzz about her personal style, I’d be quite surprised if her contribution to this carefully orchestrated visit makes a huge splash on either side of the Atlantic.

It’s not that “Sam Cam” — as she’s known over here — isn’t seen as an asset by her husband’s handlers. During his election campaign two years ago, the prime minister referred to her as his “secret weapon.” She is often described as “elegant,” “down to earth” as well as “surprisingly normal,”   Samantha Cameron has helped remove a bit of the stuffy, Eton-to-Oxbridge air of privilege that has engulfed her husband at times. (The former art student sports a dolphin tattoo on her ankle.)

In this way, she’s not entirely unlike the political wives of the current GOP hopefuls, most notably Anne Romney, who have been praised – in the words of my colleague Patricia Murphy – for coming across as “trustworthy, relatable and aware that the 21st century started a while ago.”

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: David and Samantha backstage at Conference by conservativeparty