The first thing Lance noticed was that the paparazzi's flashes weren't popping.
He had just arrived at one of those aggressively lavish post-Grammy parties, and Lance, one of two Hollywood Kids who've made it their business to gossip, was up to the occasion. A tiny Wilma Flintstone and an itty-bitty Betty Rubble were pinned to his hat. The words beat boy dashed across his jacket like Chinese calligraphy. Leopard spots dotted his vest and a glass-encrusted cross dangled from his neck.
No one cared. Co-Hollywood Kid John Nichols was by his side, decked out in camera-ready makeup and glass buttons shaped like tiny globes.
But for all their attention to flamboyant detail, Lance and John sailed through the entrance of the Four Seasons Hotel to a chorus of, well, nothing.
This did not please them.
"They don't think we're stars yet," Lance sniffed.
Just you wait.
John Nichols and Lance, who never uses a last name ("like Flipper"), have taken a number on the long line to fame and fortune in Hollywood.
Who cares if those eternal commodities are infuriatingly elusive? The boys have taken a do-it-yourself approach to hitting the big time in this limousine-loving town.
When they met, they were mere waiters at a Moroccan restaurant in Palm Springs. But after a couple of frustrating years as Hollywood waiters and out-of-work actors, a friend pinpointed their true talents: "You guys are the best gossips. Why don't you become the Hedda and Louella of the '80s?"
You wanna be a gossip columnist? Dish the dirt in your own eponymous, Xeroxed "ragazine." You wanna be in pictures? Produce your own witty, campy show for the raw arena of public-access cable television. Then sit back and watch the party invitations pour in.
Party invitation, anyway.
"It's not 'in' to get invited to (just) one party," Lance was saying as he scoped out the still sparsely populated rooms at a Grammy bash thrown by the MCA media machine. "It's 'in' to get invited to three others. But we're not that greedy."
Maybe so. But they're certainly custom-made for a place like Hollywood, where nearly anyone can be a celebrity if he just wants it badly enough, and fame can be as easy to don as falsies from Frederick's of Hollywood.
Of course, fame is tight with gossip. Which puts the Kids at a precise point in the Hollywood food chain, dispensing early-warning tidbits that can be picked up by the national tabloids and waft east to New York, where professional gossips make them official.
And the MCA evening was still full of promise. The Kids had arrived unfashionably early to chart their territory and get the business of snacking out of the way. In one room, a selection of wood ear and \o7 enoki \f7 mushrooms beckoned. In another, a large woman in a chef's toque heated up tortellini on demand. Lance, the cattier half of the Hollywood Kids, surveyed the women in shrill sequins parading from \o7 shiitake \f7 table to sorbet station.
"The worst dressers are always the early ones," he said dryly. No matter. The Kids knew the stars could hardly be expected to show up before 9. So then, why were the \o7 paparazzi \f7 zeroing in on a tall brunette in a floor-length white gown--and clearly ignoring the Hollywood Kids?
"The girl in that Dynasty dress, she's a nobody," Lance said, then trotted off to check out his hunch. "A nobody," he harrumphed on his return.
Beyond the general mission of dishing Hollywood, the 30-ish Kids (they won't say for sure) practice a division of labor.
"He's the Crystal," says Lance. "I'm the Alexis."
Lance is all knife wit. John, with his blond surf's-up hairdo and all-American smile, is full of compliments.
Later, John will politely grill the hat-check girls and ply them with small plates of chicken, tantalizing as the unlikely combination of blond hunk/Jewish mother.
"Is he famous?" they will ask.
"Love your lipstick," Lance says to a scrawny rocker in black studded leather, bare chest, long poufy blond hair and coral lips. The rocker introduces himself as Vinnie from Pretty Boy Floyd. Even more tantalizing, he turns out to be a fan of the Kids' defunct cable show.
"Do you get any fun Hollywood gossip?" Lance purrs, tucking a gold lame calling card between Vinnie's fingers, which are tipped in red nail polish.
If Vinnie calls, his gossip may be heard by more than 150,000 people on KPWR-FM (Power 106) radio during morning drive time, Mondays and Fridays, or in one of the emerging magazines the Kids dish for--New York's Paper, Movie Line and the English screen monthly Empire. Their outlets are select at the moment because this is 1990, which is, in Kid reckoning, high time they hit the big time.
And you start to hit the big time by dropping things that are small time. For the record, anything that doesn't make real money is small time, and that includes the free biweekly Hollywood Kids magazine, which vanished in December at a circulation high of 15,000.