2. The Closers: Celebrity Skin
I took my seat and waited patiently. When he sat down in the first-class seat next to me, I feigned surprise.
“You’re Drew Thompson!” I said, like a star-struck fan.
He smiled. It must be annoying being recognized everywhere. He hid it well.
“That’s true,” he said. “And you are?”
“I’m Jacqueline Coulson,” I said. “You’re in that show, ummm, what’s it called? The Living Things? No, that’s not it…” I trailed off. I thought I detected relief as he realized I was just a regular person and not some kind of stan.
“Life and Other Things,” he said.
“That’s right,” I said. “I’m pleased to meet you.” We shook hands.
“Would you like some privacy?” I said. I gestured to the row of empty first class seats behind me. “It must get annoying to be recognized everywhere you go. I’m happy to sit in the next row, so you can have this one to yourself.” I said
And, as I knew he would, he said “No, no. It’s fine.” Even if he had wanted privacy I’d framed it so that he didn’t really have a choice but to allow me to stay. I’d read up on him. He was a friendly guy and very open to his fans. I’d established I wasn’t a stalker fan, and therefore wouldn’t do something crazy, and will offering to move I’d also reiterated my understanding of his predicament.
I sat there typing away at my phone and waited for him to make the next move. That’s the thing about celebrities; they are used to being the center of attention. If they’re not, they tend to seek it out. That’ what I was counting on anyway.
“So, what do you do?” he said.
I turned to him and smiled. “I make dreams come true,” I said.
“Not like that, you perv!” I said. We laughed together.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll bite. What do you mean?”
“Well I help people get what they want. So, for example, I have a few show business clients. I do things like get them the part they want, or, conversely, convince an actor to take a role. The company’s called The Closers.”
“Any actors you can tell me about?” he said.
“Unfortunately, no,” I said. “You know what the NDAs are like.”
“So how do you convince an actor to take a part?” he asked.
I told him all about the profiling, and how we would spam the actor with references to the movie or TV show. We’d target their agent and their friends. To a civilian it would have sounded Machiavellian. To an actor it was just how the game was played.
Now for the master plan.
“For instance, I also get hired for PR moves, say, when a celebrity does something stupid,” I said.
He raised his eyebrow. “So you’ve been reading up on me?” he said.
“I know how to Google,” I said and then was silent. Most people hate silence. In my opinion celebrities hate it the most. I waited.
“So…” he said. “What would you recommend?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I would need to know the circumstances.”
He said nothing.
“This is how it works. I need to know what happened so I can craft a story. That often means a lot of questions, and these can be uncomfortable. I don’t require my clients to answer every question, but if they answer a question it has to be the truth.” I said.
“Uh huh,” he said. “How do I know you’re not some journalist vying for a story?”
I handed him my business card. “Look me up,” I said. “Oh and I always carry around an NDA, so if you want me to sign that then I can.”
He spent some time tapping on his phone. I could see he wasn’t convinced.
“What’s the broadcast channel for ExtraOrdinary?” I asked.
“The WCB,” he said.
“I’ve done some work for them on a different show,” I said. “If you can get onto Bob Kingsmen, he can vouch for me.”
“While we’re conveniently unable to phone anyone,” he said.
I shrugged. “It’s up to you. Surely you can email or text someone to contact them?”
He looked down at his phone and typed something out.
“Now we wait,” he said.
I smiled. “Can I buy you a drink?” It was funny because alcohol was free in first class and the incident we had been discussing involved him being drunk.
He smiled. “As long as you put your phone away.” I laughed. His antics had been caught on a number of different smartphones.
I regaled him with stories of projects with different celebrities until his phone dinged. I waited patiently for him to check it.
“Seems like you’re legit,” he said.
“I am,” I said.
“Where’s the NDA?” he asked.
I got up from my seat and pulled one out of my briefcase. I added his name and signed it and handed it to me. I took a photo and then handed it back.
“Give it to your lawyer,” I said.
“Where do I start?” he said.
“Just answer my questions,” I said. And remember don’t lie to me. You can tell me you don’t want to answer something, but no lies. I can’t represent you properly it you lie to me.”
“Ok,” he said.
“How much had you had to drink?” I said
“I don’t know. I lost count. I could stand. But I was pretty drunk,” he said.
“Did you own the bar The Dark Ale House?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Did you hit two employees?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Were you provoked?” I said.
“Yes,” he said. I waited for him to continue. “Andrew, the assistant manager, was attempting to blackmail me,” he said and then stopped.
“About what?” I said.
“I can’t tell you,” he said.
“And how did the manager get involved?”
“He was trying to break up the fight. Wrong place, wrong time,” he said.
“Did the manager know about the blackmail?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
“Does anyone else?” I asked.
“Just Steve, the guy that took me outside. The one I put in a headlock.”
“And did you try to bribe the police officers?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but you have to realize it is Austin. They all have their hand out. Things like this have happened before and they’ve happily taken money just to go away,” he said.
“Why do you think they didn’t take the money this time?” I asked.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but we were being filmed. I guess they knew and didn’t want to be caught.”
“But they’re not trying to charge you with bribing a police officer?” I asked.
“Not yet,” he said.
“Who has been advising you on the PR around this?” I asked.
“My agent,” he said. “He said just to keep my head down and it would blow over eventually.
“Hmmm,” I said.
“You don’t think that’s the right approach?” he asked.
“No, I don’t,” I said. “I think you need to make some definitive statement that makes it clear that you won’t be talking about it. The media is just going to keep going until they get some kind of response.”
“So what would you recommend?” he asked.
“How many twitter followers do you have?” I asked
“6 million or so,” he answered.
“About three million.”
“Any other social media networks that you use publicly?”
“No, it’s just those two,” he said.
“Ok, I would post to both Twitter and Insta the same message. Something like ‘You may have heard about my recent run-in with the law. As the investigation is ongoing I will not be commenting however I want to reiterate that violence is never okay. I would like to thank my fans for your support. It means the world to me that so many people have reached out to me during this trying time.’”
I watched him furiously typing.
“Over word count,” he said.
“Let me have a look,” I said and he handed me his phone. I made some edits and handed it back to him.
“’You may have heard about my run-in with the law. As the case is ongoing I can’t comment, however I want to reiterate that violence is never okay. My heartfelt thanks to my fans who have reached out to me during this trying time.’” It fits,” he said.
“You may want to run it past your agent before posting it,” I said.
“Already posted,” he said.
I was surprised.
“Ok, so next is to do nothing. If anyone asks, say you can’t comment. Don’t say anything negative about the police officers, the employees. Don’t say anything at all. There will be an uptick in media about this now, but it will blow over by Thanksgiving. If you don’t give them anything then they will have nothing to post.” Thanksgiving was four days away.
“What about replies to my post?” he said.
“No responses, unless it is a clear message of support. Something like ‘We love you Drew’, you could respond with a heart emoji. Anything that refers to the incident, ignore it. For example ‘We know you could never hurt anyone’: ignore. And you should lay low until Thanksgiving. Can you do that?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m staying at a friend’s house in the Valley.”
“That means no parties, unless with close friends you trust, no going out. You are on lockdown. Can you do that?” I asked.
“If it makes this go away, then yes, I can do that,” he said.
“If you manage to not get snapped at some Hollywood party or at some fancy new restaurant in LA, I promise you it will be over soon.” I said.
“Thank-you,” he said. “How much do I owe you?”
I laughed. “That was nothing,” I said. “That was on the house. Lay low for the next few days and give me a call next week. With a staff member threatening to blackmail you, you’ve definitely got a bigger problem on your hands,” I said.
He started to speak. I interrupted him. “I know you don’t want to tell me. That’s fine. See how this pans out. You might feel differently in a week. Or, you might not. If you think I can help, then give me a call, and if you don’t, there’s no hard feelings. I’m glad I could help with this.”
He nodded. The captain came on over the PA telling us we were landing in LA in ten minutes. My work here was done.