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Survival of the Fittest

There's Nothing Like a Press Junket to See the Evolutionary Process: Sensitive Man, Provocative Man and Babbling Man

March 26, 2000|Martin Booe

The following is from the journal of a Hollywood reporter who's suffering a bout of clarity.

Wednesday, 8:42 p.m. "Random Hearts" press screening. Directed by Sydney Pollock. Starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. How long, Lord, how long? This movie is a three-hour slow-motion train wreck. Or plane crash, if you want to be technical, since it's about a man and woman who fall in love after discovering their respective spouses went down in a flaming disaster while flying away for an adulterous tryst. Note to self: Wipe that martyred look off your face. Smile, dammit. Do not forget apparent correlation between exhibiting

symptoms of Tourette's syndrome while viewing "Lost in Space" and subsequent cancellation of Heather Graham interview. How was I to know a studio publicist was sitting next to me?

Thursday, 10:12 p.m. Preparing for interviews with the movie's stars. If I were you, what would I want to know about Harrison Ford? But who are you? Help me out here. Because I have to interview Harrison Ford tomorrow and I cannot think of one thing to ask. It's just that by my estimation, Harrison Ford has answered every question about himself that he has any intention of ever answering. Worse, this movie is going to go down in a bigger ball of fire than that jet.

Movie Junket Rule No. 1: You always just loved the movie, no matter how much you hated it. Failure to just love the movie will result in swift defenestration, although this has never been proven, since no one ever didn't just love the movie.

Problem No. 1: I am a terrible liar. Imagine Mary Tyler Moore trying to tell a lie to Indiana Jones and you've got the picture. Maybe shift interview to personal questions. (Adultery, maybe, just to stir things up? Ha!)

Problem No. 2: At some level, not too deep, I agree with Harrison Ford that Harrison Ford is absolutely none of my business. But it is finally going to happen. It will be beyond my control. It will just spring forth, as if by divine inspiration. "So, Harrison, how are those monkey-gland implants going?" (Of course, there are no such implants. My objective is to undermine global crypto-religious celebrity fixation by means of dialectical assault.)

Friday, 3:34 a.m. How many nights I've paced the creaking floor of my windowless garret, waiting for the moment when my work would begin. It all seems so clear to me now. I have a mission: to liberate earth from the hypnotic drone of celebrity interview patter. I thought I was a reporter. I realize now that I am actually a dadaist provocateur, part Oriana Fallaci, part Alfred Jarry. "Harrison, how are those monkey-gland implants going?" First there will be outrage, hostility, denial. Then his eyes will flash in recognition of me as the messenger he has awaited. He will respond in an angelic tongue, decipherable only by an unknown hierophant who, according to myth, will arrive in a spaceship. At H.F.'s first utterance, the world will fall awe-struck to its knees. Soon the white noise of promotional guest appearances will break up like a radio signal in a hurricane. The ink used to print People magazine will mysteriously fade to white before it hits the newsstand. Thus will we be delivered from the prevailing death cult of personality.

Friday, 4:52 a.m. Possible difficulty regarding dadaist provocateur strategy. May not get paycheck.

Friday, 9:30 a.m. Scrap dadaist provocateur strategy. Think of the reader. What does the reader want to know about H.F.? If I were the reader? If I were you? But who are you? Somebody said we are all points of consciousness in the universe and that with practice I can reposition my own point of consciousness. OK, here goes:

Point of consciousness No. 1: I am a construction worker riding Q Train to midtown building site. H.F.? Now there's a guy you could bend an elbow with, maybe arm-wrestle him for next round o' brewskis. 'Less of course he's too high 'n' mighty?

P.O.C. No. 2: Thirty-four-year-old Nail Technician in Queens: Han Solo, baby, you can leave your shoes under my bed any time.

P.O.C. No. 3: Alan Greenspan: Why can't I stop thinking about Henry Ford? Of course! Too much money going to middle-class wages; must squash wealth redistribution tout de suite. Raise those . . . . Signal disconnect. A.G. not a moviegoer?

Must have smart questions, not stupid questions. Ford reputed to practice cannibalism on journalists: last seen publicly picking shards of Gene Shalit's femur out of his front teeth. Fall back to standard hack celebrity reporter questions.

Question: How did you relate to your character on a personal level? Variations: What did you learn from playing your character? Or, must you like a character in order to play him? (Celebrity Journalism version of the literary concept of pathetic fallacy: weather conditions reflect human events; choice of role necessarily reflects star's inner life.) Probable Answer: Seven words of perfunctory blather.

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