SECRETS OF THE STARS REVEALED
Is a celebrity finger photo really considered taboo?
For maverick icons, rebellious rock stars and pissed off rappers, it's a good resume-builder. For blow-dried supermodels, it's an easy way to prove they can count. In this prepackaged age of phony smiles and even phonier teeth, the finger is a victory for honesty and integrity.
Jenny McCarthy, Tracey Ullman, Leonard Nimoy. What do these celebrities have in common? No, not syphilis. The aforementioned stars all turned down the chance to appear in THE FINGER.
In putting the book together, our main method for getting celebrities to pose for the book was to stalk them. The best way was to go to their crummy book signings and wait in line. We mainly targeted signings because A) we live in Los Angeles, and B) they're small enough that you can actually get a word in edgewise. Oh, yeah, and C) the security in bookstores pretty much boils down to a guy named "Todd" with thinning hair, a brown sweater-vest, and wrists no thicker than a Bic pen.
The problem with "original" photos, especially if they're taken on private property is that our lawyer strongly suggests we get the celebrities' permissions. (Unlike paparazzi photos, taken in public places, which are somewhat more protected by law). On more than one occasion, stars posed for one of our photographers and then refused to sign off later. Or, sometimes they just said no right off the bat...
JENNY McCARTHY - SHANGHAIED BY SVENGALI!
We decided to zero in on blonde bombshell Jenny McCarthy, appearing in Hollywood to autograph copies of her dissertation on quantum physics, cleverly titled Jen-X. If anyone would flip the bird for us, we thought, it would certainly be Senorita Wacky. Ms. McCarthy, attractive but "...wearing a lot of makeup," according to witnesses, arrived shortly after we did. When our photographer gamely asked Jenny if she'd mind flipping off the camera, Jenny actually considered it, briefly.
She then looked over at her "handler", an older, stonefaced man in the corner, possibly her manager/(now ex-)boyfriend, Ray Manzella. (We're not sure exactly what HE looks like.) Mr. McCarthy said, quite succinctly, "No." But, as a consolation prize, Jenny offered up one of her many wacky faces to photograph, despite declaring a moratorium on wacky faces in her book.
Ironically, not soon after, NBC declared a moratorium on her sitcom. Months later, Ms. McCarthy filed suit with her publishers, charging that the book's lackluster sales were due to lack of promotion. Did an unwitting encounter have anything to do with her fall from grace? Could a well-thrust digit have created the good karma she needed? We may never know.
LEONARD NIMOY - I LOVE TUNA!
The sage-like star of "Star Trek" and "In Search Of..." turned out to have more of a sense of humor than anybody would have thought--but, alas, not enough to appear in THE FINGER.
We tracked Mr. Nimoy down at a Borders Books promoting his collection of science fiction radio plays called "Alien Voices." Spock's discussion was peppered by enthusiastic fans nitpicking about various "Trek" episodes and whether Nimoy believes in God. He does.
We asked Nimoy to sign his book, I AM SPOCK and quickly pitched THE FINGER. We "disguised" the project a bit by saying it was a book about hand-gestures in general. "You know, the peace sign, the Spock sign...(clears throat)...THE FINGER. Could give us the Spock sign?" Nimoy chuckled and moved into the famed pose.
Next, we asked if he could flip us off if we made him angry enough. "No, " was all he said.
However, our pal Joe did come away from the signing with a real treasure. "I'm sorry, this was the only book I could afford!" he blurted out as he handed the "Starkist Tuna for Today Cookbook" over to Mr. Nimoy to sign. "Could you please write, 'I love tuna'?" he asked innocently. Nimoy raised a Vulcan eyebrow. "Does that mean something?" he asked, slyly. Was the logical Mr. Spock afraid we would trap him into admitting he liked pussy? Of course.
Dateline Los Angeles: Spock loves Vaggie!
TRACEY ULLMAN -STILL BITTER ABOUT LOSING THE RIGHTS TO THE SIMPSONS? OR IS IT JUST US?
Tracey Ullman is a respected British actress and comedienne who's appeared in memorable movies like "Robin Hood: Men In Tights" as well as several canceled TV shows bearing her name. Her most recent HBO show, "Tracey Takes On", managed to spawn a book. And it was at Dutton's in the snooty, Nicole Brown Simpson-slaughtering neighborhood of Brentwood that we attempted to get her to FINGER us.
Before beginning the signing, Ms. Ullman proceeded to "perform", doing a number of her character voices while perched on a chair near the cash register. Although her prefabricated shtick wore thin, she was genuinely funny when picking up the store's phone and bantering with surprised customers. Tracey's husband, a graying, much older man in a trenchcoat, stood in the crowd, laughing too-loudly in all the appropriate places.
Tracey then started scribbling in people's books. We quickly conferred: between the four of us, we didn't have the $21.95 COMBINED to pay for it, and frankly it wasn't worth putting on anyone's credit card.
We waited for every puttering yuppie customer to wish their best to our little thespian until finally, the store was empty.
"Um, hi...we were wondering...um..." our photographer began, her voice quavering for close to a minute until one of us broke in and simply asked, "could you please give us the finger for the camera?" Tracey looked down her nose at us like she'd just smelled a pile of flaming roaches.
"No. No, I don't think so."
"Would you mind flashing us the double-back 'V'?" (As described in the FOREIGN FINGERS chapter, the double-back 'V' is the British fuck-you; an inverted peace sign).
She thrust her two fingers upward. "Like, 'up yours?'" Our photographer quickly flashed away until Tracey said, "okay, that's enough."
Although it wasn't quite the finger, we did have a usable shot and wrote a nice letter to Tracey's management asking if we could run it. No doubt remembering us as "those cheap, skittish weasels who couldn't even afford to buy one of my books", Ms. Ulman refused. The moral of the story? ALWAYS BUY A BOOK, even if your only use for it is to RUN IT OVER WITH YOUR CAR REPEATEDLY.
In Hollywood, it seems flattery gets you everywhere.