Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The one explains the other

[Dear readers, This is a re-post of an item that appeared here Saturday. I took it down at the request of an editor, mentioned below, who didn't want to tip off her competition before their deadlines, today. -- Mark]

I've now done the top two things I never thought I would in my life: get a lobotomy*, and pay $200 to see Jessica Simpson.

Longtime M&M readers already know about the brain surgery, but the Jessica Simpson episode may come as a surprise. I know it did to me.

To back up briefly, it's been two years now since I last worked for a living. The break was good for my health, but what with the eventual boredom and lack of purpose -- not to mention the expiring health insurance and the threatened end to my disability payments -- I've been casting about lately for some paying work. My timing's a bit off. As we know, it's a tough time in the ol' news business. A couple of nearby newspaper gigs that I thought would have been a natural fit didn't generate so much as a return phone call.

But I've nevertheless managed to snag some offers. For work, that is, just not for pay. Of the four recent opportunities that have come my way, one would have paid $200 a week for full-time employment. The other three would have paid nothing but the joy of seeing my name in pixels. I tried to be polite as I declined the generous terms of those proposals. (Sorry to the regular M&M readers on the other end of those conversations if I didn't come across that way.)

So, when my email inbox dinged the other day with an inquiry from an old colleague in Los Angeles I was ready to consider most anything.

"Hey Mister," said my friend Martha, "you know anyone who would be interested in doing a little reporting for me in Snoqualmie Casino, Snoqualmie, Washington? Jessica Simpson is performing."

That rang a bell. The Snoqualmie is the new, long-awaited tribal casino located 30 miles east of Seattle, just a smidge closer than my standby the Muckleshoot, and its grand opening was Thursday night. Simpson was headlining the venue's inaugural concert on Friday night. I'm not much of a Jessica fan, I told Martha, but I'm a total casino whore and planned on checking out the place anyway, so bring on the details.

Martha and I worked together at the LA Times, but she has since moved on to Us Weekly magazine, where she is West Coast news editor. As a celebrity-focused mag, she said, Us Weekly was not much concerned with the casino or even the performance and instead interested primarily in the latest Jessica "news": Was her boyfriend Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, traveling with her and was there any talk of marriage? Stuff like that.

No, it wasn't blogging about the election, or becoming a local media critic, or covering the environment or technology, or reviewing books or writing snarky, misanthropic essays for a startup publication. But it was a paying gig -- at many times the rate of my best previous offer -- and it included mileage to the casino. Deal me in.

And so I found myself offering up my credit card for a ticket to the big show (on the promise that Us would reimburse). I've attended a lot of concerts and seen a lot of big acts in a lot of top-tier venues, but I can't remember paying anything near the $175 they were charging for Jessica's casino show (plus a $23 Ticketmaster surcharge). But pay I did, withstanding a lot of strange looks from box-office workers, ushers and fellow audience members as a single ticket holder, a middle-aged man, sitting alone, to watch this pop-music screamer turned reality-show star turned tabloid fodder turned, now, country-music screamer.

Honestly I didn't know even that much about Jessica Simpson before a long day online reading about her, listening to her music and watching videos in preparation for my assignment. What a story! Always something new! The Nick romance, marriage and divorce. The brief John romance. The dad/manager influence. The sister angle. The new Tony romance. The paparazzi clashes. The best friend/hairstylist who got whacked in the face last week protecting Jess from photographers. And this is only one celebrity. You can see why entire magazines spring up to cover this stuff.

It seemed the only consistencies in Jessica's career were her bouncy blond locks and her ability to keep her name in the press. Plus she can rock a low-cut shirt.

Anyway, Jessica didn't disappoint. She scream/sang, she talked about her love life, she spilled provocatively out of her black sequined top. She even ditzed out, in character, forgetting the words to one of her own biggest hits. [I took the above illegal concert pic with my iPhone; for a professional's view see the P-I's fine concert photo gallery.]

I wrote it all down and emailed it off, with passages like this: "Tony does not have to prove anything," Jessica said. "He's amazing."

My editor Martha responded right away: "Hey Mark, you are a natural!"

So that's one thing. I mentioned the lobotomy*, right?

[* Editor's note: Michelle informs me that technically I did not get a lobotomy but a partial resection of the right frontal lobe. Close enough if you ask me, but whatever. For precision's sake, please read this as "brainectomy."]


kateco said...

so many questions answered. Of course we already knew you were a natural. -- pub date?

kateco said...

btw, last week's adsense take: $11.25

Mark said...

Kateco, man, you're putting the sense in adsense. I'm sure I'll regret missing out on that gravy train before long.

No word on pub date or even how they'll use my stuff. They requested it as a feed, rather than a full-fledged story, so my guess is a real writer will look it over and decide what pieces if any fit into their plans.

If any of it's published I'll let you know.

mike said...

What about the card room? Any competition for the Muck?

Ronelle said...

Finally the rest of this post -I have been waiting patiently. It was worth the wait. I enjoyed reading the story and visualizing you at the concert. It reminded me of my excursion to a Tom Jones concert a few years back. Shhhh, don't tell anyone! By the way -mine was voluntary, unpaid and not preceded by any surgical procedures. Yeah, I am sure it was the BOUNCING of Jessica's BLONDE LOCKS that caught your attention. Now, how about looking into what is happening with Madonna and ARod.

Anonymous said...

Why bother with this. You went in with a pre-determined idea on what you thought you would see. If you were truly interested in the performer you woudl not have spent so much time on the net for info. Another thing is thatyour dealing with US magazine & thats a luagh in its self as the is the magazine that so eloquently sent a letter to Tony's parents trying to dish dirt. Now isn't that a reputable magazine you want to work for? lol Yeah its true the letter was posted they sent to Tony's family & I see US magazine is still looking for dirt on this young woman.
Thank god her tour dates with Rascal Flats have finally been announced & rightfully so right now she has no dates in the west where the multitude of tabloid & garbage reading is.
Next time for a proper & unbiased review work for reputable magazines & stay off the net.

Mark said...

Anonymous: Welcome, and thank you for your comments.

You're right about one thing: Thank god the tour dates with Rascal Flats have been announced.

Jason Bellamy said...

Anon: Why even bother with this review? If you were truly interested in the guy who isn't interested in Jessica Simpson you ... wait, a minute. This is sounding familiar.

Ronelle said...

Wow! Anonymous sure takes his/her Jessica Simpson seriously! Maybe you should have consulted with them for all the information you needed to give a clear unbiased review of Daisy Duke...I mean Jessica. I wonder why they choose to post anonymously... they probably don't want anyone to know that they are Jessica fans...maybe it was Nick!
Mark -your post was interesting and fun to read and I for one am glad you wrote it. Continue to take chances and venture into new places...maybe even an Ashley Simpson lip sync event next!

Anonymous said...

Mark, any sign of Tony Romo being there?

freda said...

expiring health insurance and the threatened end to my disability payments?

Is this really a possibility?

Mark said...

Anon: For news about Jessica and Tony you'll have to pick up the new copy of Us Weekly.

Or you can subscribe here.

Ronelle: I'll bet Tom Jones was good. I've been a fan since he covered Prince's "Kiss."

Mike: Casino review coming.

other m-boy said...

You're pathetic, man.

Jason Bellamy said...

Michelle informs me that technically I did not get a lobotomy ...

How can anyone who has had a partial resection of the right frontal lobe be expected to remember the difference?

Anonymous said...

LOL Just so you know I am in no way Nick Or Jessica or anyone related. Do I expect you to believe that absolutley not but I do speak the truth.
What really is bothersome is the need for US magazine to continue this witch hunt. Now if the US magazine should change there pattern here & give an article that is not in poor taste I would more than welcome that. Unfortuantley I am biased now & given your article know fully what to expect & there wiil be no change. The minute US magazine opted to contact Romo's to try to interfere & they were called out by MR Romo SR & Fox news they lost any little respect I had for them. For them still to be on this hunt is rediculous. I can only imagine what they do to others that many have not caught on.
Yes I like Jessica & yes I like ROMO & I like many celebrities. What I hate is some of this other BS.
Oh by the way I can see also many have some fun here & thats awesome. The minute I saw US magazine & that you had to scoop everything on the net first before an honest approach many new exactly what was coming & how it would be reported. I don't think we need the magazine as our opinions would be biased. JMHO
Have a great day!

Opinions are opinions right & just to make one more comment there are others out there that have NOT had that lobotomy & actually enjoyed the show.

Rita said...

Think you've hit a nerve somehow.

mich said...

Mark, welcome to the world of arts-and-entertainment coverage. This makes me feel right at home.

Ronelle said...

...and I thought politics was tough!

Gary said...

Wow, the ol' bailout discussion didn't even inspire that much vitriol...

Excellent post, I looked at those pictures at the P-I. I tried not to, but I did... $200 a ticket...wow, I think you can get an in home stripper for less on Craig's List...just saying...

Anyway, thanks again for the post. and a special thanks to Anonymous for all the chuckles...