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Even the D-list needs a diva

Kathy Griffin may be Tinseltown's perennial out-of-towner, but on the real streets she cuts a regal stride.

July 22, 2007|Claire Zulkey | Special to The Times

ON the premiere of the third season of Bravo's "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List," the eponymous comedian updated her audience on what had happened since the end of the second season, including that her show was nominated for an Emmy and lost (of course) and that she divorced her husband, Matt Moline.

While the split may not have been a positive personal experience for Kathy, as a professional, it's assisted her in one big way: She has a promising new tactic to get off the D-list.

One of the themes of the 2007 season of the Tuesday night show is that Kathy, from now on, will date only men who can raise her visibility. She's tired of shooting Redken corporate videos and playing Carnegie Hall in the same week -- she's ready to focus on the high-profile jobs and thinks a tabloid romance can help her. Forget that most of the dates, such as with Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, are devoid of any chemistry. It's actually not a bad gambit: While pizza with porn star Ron Jeremy might not be the most romantic rendezvous (although Ron does seem like a gentleman and a hoot in his own way), it's a success as Kathy ends up in a paparazzi photo.

Kathy's show and success center on her underdog status. Her professional victories are made even sweeter with every single "Hey, aren't you what's-her-name?" that she gets on the street. It's influenced her act too since Kathy already knows she's been blacklisted from elite Hollywood circles for her telling-tales-out-of-school style, so she might as well continue telling hungry audiences what celebrities are really like.

Clearly, Kathy covets careers such as Ellen DeGeneres'. Ellen has her own talk show, has hosted the Oscars, gets to do voices in Pixar movies, shills for American Express. Ellen doesn't have to make appearances at chili cook-offs or give away tickets to put butts in the seats. That's Kathy's realm, one that she clearly has a love/hate relationship with. Sure, she's not on the cover of US Weekly, but of the many celebrities out there, she's one of the few who has suffered no loss of fans for being herself.

So is Kathy sure that she wants to get off the D-list? While she jokes about some of the less high-profile gigs she's got to work, she does it with more aplomb than does, say, Paula Abdul, who on "Hey Paula" seems to be driven literally insane by the dichotomy of the fame in her own mind and cold reality.

Kathy can admit that she's just paying the bills. Just like us, she has to do stuff she doesn't want to sometimes to make money. This intimacy may be Kathy's undoing when it comes to upgrading her standing. Being an A-lister comes with a lot of separation from the "common people": It means wearing sunglasses indoors, blatantly lying on "Larry King Live," being so rich that you can adopt a child and know that you can afford to hire people to take care of it while you go on with your life.

Kathy in essence would have to give up some of the goodwill that she's built up with her fans, as well as probably trade in her yellow Labs for some Chihuahuas. Maybe she is exhausted, though, from life in the D-list bubble.

While she clearly didn't relish getting divorced in the public eye, this season she's also had to share the emotion spurred by her father's death. Was it cathartic to share this on her show? Painful?

The audience doesn't know but does feel even closer to her as a human being.

One of the most appealing parts of "My Life on the D-List" is capturing Kathy when she's in a moment of professional bliss. Performing in her hometown of Chicago, brightening a few days for inmates by doing stand-up in a prison, or feeling the love as she hosts a gay porn award ceremony, it's evident that she loves her job.

Kathy joked on the HSN shopping network that she'd like to sell "hope in a jar" and, in a way, she does -- that by being funny, smart, hardworking and honest you can make it on any list, D or otherwise.

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