Nearly every day for a decade, Paula Froelich has done nothing but look for gossip items, dine out with celebrities and power brokers, and haggle with publicists to crank out up to ten items a day for “Page Six.” Today is her last day. So what will she do with her carefully honed persona — the funny but tough broad always ready to be exasperated by other people’s misbehavior?
She’s already written a novel, Mercury in Retrograde, now a best seller, based in part on how she became who she is. In it, the protagonist lives on her real-life street (except “I think I gave her Anna Wintour’s address,” Froelich says). And she has a deal with MTV to develop a show based on her as-yet unfinished young-adult novel, Grits, based on her experience of being shipped off as a teen to a hickish convent school in Kentucky.
So she broke through the gossip slog to become a true creative type, and she’s never looking back, right? “I never say ‘never,’” she says. “I said I would never have a little dog, especially one who wore little sweaters in winter and had a Louis Vuitton leash, because that was just so pathetic.” She has a miniature dachshund named Karl. “Hello! He also has an Hermès leash.”
That’s good copy! But did writing gossip day in and day out for ten years change her? “Yes. I’m a nicer person,” she says. (Unlike some other things Froelich says, this doesn’t come up verbatim in a Google search.) “I give people a bit more leeway. I’m like, okay, I get what they’re going through. You know what’s going to happen next. You can see a train wreck ten stations away.” When she was just starting out, “I didn’t have an eye for the bigger picture,” she says. “You get to the point where you’re like, ‘Oh, Billy Joel’s out drinking alone. He just got back from a tour, and his 25-year-old wife, who has no job, didn’t go on tour with him.’ Then you know who to call to ask the questions, whereas before [the item] would’ve been, ‘Billy Joel at a bar.’ ”
She says she likes Johnson, her longtime boss. “He has this endearing way of being a bit of a parrot. If you say something, he’ll repeat it back. If you go, ‘That guy is such a turd,’ he’ll be at his desk going, ‘Tuuuurd.’ ” Ultimately, then, what has she learned from “Page Six”? “I bought a house in the Catskills once, where this woman had lived for many years, and I cleaned out her stuff. And in the attic were 30 years of National Enquirers. And going through, you learned an instant lesson: Celebrity is fleeting. Most people, if they’re lucky, can get on the cover of the Enquirer for a one-to-three-year span, and then they’re done. The only person from ten years ago the Enquirer is still interested in is Oprah. And Julia Roberts. She’s on the downswing. At this point, she could kill a cat and maybe get on, but otherwise they’re like, “ ‘Whatever, Julia.’ ”