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Celebs prompt writers to get out the thesaurus


Last updated 10/17/2019 at 12:05am | View PDF

I wonder, if I started interviewing celebrities, whether my writing style would change.

After all, it seems every article I read about someone famous opens with a ridiculous account of the circumstances surrounding the interview. Years ago I read a piece about Julia Roberts. The author opened with an account of his lunch meeting with her, describing in overwritten detail where they sat and what she wore and what she ate.

“Who cares?!?” I screamed at the magazine.

I tried to find the article to share it with you but was unsuccessful. I found this instead — an October 2017 article from Harper’s Bazaar that is a perfect substitute.

“The dolphins are leaping off the Malibu coast this morning, but no one’s paying attention to them. Not now that Julia Roberts has emerged from her beach hut in an operatic red ballgown by Ralph & Russo, flanked fore and aft by wardrobe minions shading her with umbrellas and holding her regal train free of the sand.

‘Just a little something for the beach!’ she quips, while some 20 people hover about her, on this gusty day, an attentive retinue to Lancôme’s ambassadress. They swoop in to adjust her hair, dab her cheeks and arrange her outfit. She looks like she’s wandered down from a Great Gatsby party in a nearby mansion ...”

Good Lord. How long did it take the writer to come up with the phrase “an attentive retinue to Lancôme’s ambassadress”? How many people even know what a “retinue” is without looking it up?

A July 8 Time article about Colson Whitehead (author of “The Underground Railroad,” my book club’s August book), sent to me by a fellow book club member, reads the same.

“There’s Colson Whitehead up ahead, minutes before our arranged time, dawdling on the corner of 126th Street and Fifth Avenue, dressed in slim jeans and Chelsea boots, his dreadlocks cutting a clean line across his back. I’m content to nurse a half-block distance between us and observe. Whitehead’s walk, by the way, is not what the youngsters would call swaggerific. Swagger is imitative, and the way Whitehead moves evokes less a simulacrum of a strut than it does acceptance of his stature and physiology, most notably that he’s long and lean and little knock-kneed. He stops on 127th Street, and since I’m a few paces behind him and don’t want him to glance back and peep me trailing, I call his name. He snatches wired headphones out of his ears and reaches out for a handshake — our first. ‘Nice to meet you,’ I say. ‘I think we’re headed in the same direction.’ ”

I don’t know where to start. I really don’t care where writer Mitchell Jackson first spotted Whitehead or how many times the two have shaken hands or whether his headphones are wired or wireless. And “evokes less a simulacrum of a strut”? Really? It’s just too much.

I’m not sure who these guys are trying to impress. We, the readers, know these writers work for prestigious magazines and are interviewing famous people. We know — or at least feel comfortable assuming — that they interviewed the personality in person. Otherwise, how would there be enough material for a four- or five-page article? So why all the fuss?

Maybe these writers have to do all this to fill the space the magazine has alloted for their article. Fortunately, I’m out of room for this one.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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