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Celebrity and Its Discontents


The people who help make stars beautiful are the ones they’re closest to—they see the Real You before the fake one. Jennifer Aniston moved in with her hairdresser when she and Brad split up. Therapists are great, but they’re hard to own—“You don’t have time to treat more than one celebrity at once, unless it’s Woody Allen,” says psychologist Stuart Fischoff. “They say, ‘I want to make sure, Doc, that I can call you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.’ Well, no, you can’t. ‘No one sets limits on me!’ ”

The aura of a celebrity extends over everyone he or she works with. “I’ve gotten thank-yous on albums, and that’s really great,” says Stuart Kaplan, star cosmetic dermatologist, multiple triple-platinum albums with plaques inscribed TO OUR DERMATOLOGIST hung throughout his Beverly Hills office. There he is, still at the office at 9:30 P.M., a lovable guy in blue Dickies, a Horace Mann graduate who misses New York but can’t give up the swell life. “I treated a kid whose father was a director, and he said, ‘Somehow, somewhere, you’ll have a character named after you in a movie,’ ” he says. Then he catches himself. “I am not a better doctor because I treat celebrities,” he says. “I am a better doctor because of my charitable work.”

Spoken like a celebrity.

Nowadays in the celebrity nuthouse, the inmates are running the asylum, only pretending that they’re the ones under observation. Brad Pitt owns the international rights to the lusty 60-page W magazine spread that cast Angelina Jolie as his wife. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones sold their wedding pictures for £1 million to OK!, the smarmy British tabloid that will open a U.S. office this fall and very likely broker more of such deals to the detriment of shallower-pocketed American tabloids. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin staged a paparazzi shot leaving her gynecologist after getting the news that she was pregnant, her brother’s girlfriend behind the camera.

Of course, for a narcissist, privacy is a relative concept. Often, it’s just part of the performance. Private, when a celebrity uses the word, means many things, perhaps “I’m classy” or “I don’t go to nightclubs” or “I’m shy,” but what it rarely means is “I’m private” and certainly not when a semi-naked photo shoot is involved. A few months ago, good-girl actress Hilary Duff, 17, explained to me in an interview that she couldn’t possibly divulge that she was dating rock singer Joel Madden—she was a private person, she said, and she had to save something for herself, otherwise what does one have? This made sense. Except a couple months later at the premiere of The Perfect Man, Duff’s new movie, there was Madden, covered in tattoos, his hair arrayed in a black-dyed faux-hawk—Hilary’s “Perfect Man,” as the entertainment-news programs put it. He mumbled something about Hilary being a great girl.

Public image, after all, is the business stars are engaged in. Nowadays, reality seems to be following fantasy, as stars become their tabloid selves. Angelina Jolie, best known for Tomb Raider, is now an A-list star. The affair with Brad Pitt has been a small price to pay. Manipulations of the machine can have real-life consequence. The May-December between Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, which began when both had projects to promote, has now produced a “bump.”

No one is being fooled, and no one is in control. The circus has no ringmaster. Yet everyone is getting some of what he wants. And isn’t that what psychiatrists say a relationship is all about?

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