The Star Festival


When my parents came to visit me last O-Bon, my mother presented me with a generous care package full of treats. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Hamburger Helper, La Tamalera Tamales, Barilla multigrain spaghetti and packages of tortellini, Godiva chocolates – it was too much, I swooned. Part of the package was the August 13th issue of In Touch magazine. In general, I’m usually unaffected by celebrity gossip – I worked at TV Guide for 2 years and at a TV research firm for 4; by the time I quit my job last November I’d had more than enough. Now, I can enjoy a good fashion spread or a thoughtful interview – even the occasional scandal – as much as any red-blooded American gal but during my 8 years in New York City, I saw more than enough celebrities walking their dogs, having drunken fights, crossing the street or shopping at KMart to buy into the glamour aspect or snap to attention each time a new Lindsay Watch update blared across the internet. Had I not had friends who worked at celebrity rags or were I not living in America I could have gone forever without knowing if Ryan Seacrest was actually gay. My move to Japan heralded a refreshing absence of celebrity hoopla – Japan has its own celebrities to worry about, 97% of whom are unknown to me. Any celeb magazines here are in Japanese and I don’t watch TV for the same reason. I catch the big Hollywood celebrity headlines from time to time when a friend IMs me with the breathless “Anna Nicole is dead and Britney shaved her head!” news but for the most part, I am out of celebrity touch and okay with that.

Thus, I accepted the In Touch issue with gratitude, yet a small grain of salt. I bid my parents good night and headed to the high horse stop on the corner to wait for my ride home. As I mounted, I felt the stirrings of the familiar quiet longing for something fluffier than my bulky kanji books to read on the ride. It came to me in a flash – I had a magazine! It had been 8 months since I’d read a magazine and I suddenly no longer cared which one I read. I pulled the In Touch out of my bag and set it on my lap.

And then I saw it.

What the fark? I thought in dismay. Brad and Angelina are splitting up?

Wait. Wait. What?

Despite never having been especially attracted to Brangelina, I suddenly had to know more. I flipped to the story and read that Brad wants stability for the kids but Angelina feels that L.A. has too many bad memories and that the children will benefit from a well-traveled childhood. Furthermore, Brad wants to get married but Angelina isn’t interested. Another celebrity split – it wasn’t as though I should have been surprised and yet I was. The Brad and Angelina I knew in January of ’07 were stable – saving lives and desperately in love. 8 months without a constant stream of celebrity gossip has left me in the dark; for me, this rift came without concrete warning.

I flipped to the front of the magazine and saw Rihanna, poised to bite into a strawberry with juicy, glossy lips. A CoverGirl ad for Wetslicks Fruit Spritzers – available in 12 refreshing fruit flavors. This lip product was entirely unknown to me – I’ve been working with Canmake, Ettusais, and Kose for nearly a year. No midnight CVS raids for me here. The lower-end cosmetic stores and sections in establishments such as Loft are visually satisfying though I rarely purchase and I have not yet found a Sephora so I tend to tip toe through the cosmetics departments of Takashimaya and K’ntetsu and bolt as soon as a saleslady beams and bleats, “Irasshaimase*!” at me.

*welcome!

I digress. With only one leg thrown over my high horse now, I read on. Nicole Richie – out of jail and having a boy! Jailbird? Pregnant? Since when? Christina Aguilera – having a girl! What – her, too? The rest of the magazine was filled with more or less the same celebrity gas I remembered – only Posh’s hair and Ashlee’s face were different.

And then – the number one picture that made me realize how out of touch I’ve been and how much time has passed since I moved to Japan:

There she was – her hands on her hips, looking as shapely and luscious as any celebrated starlet. It was Kelly Osbourne, who 8 months before had been easily twice her apparently current size. I always had a soft spot for her and never cared if she was heavy but this was quite a shocking change. She looked absolutely fantastic. How much time does it take to drop that much weight, anyway? How long have I been gone again?

Why did I care, anyway? Celebrities are just people like anyone else, and perfect strangers to me besides. And yet, seeing their faces on the glossy pages was like looking at a high school yearbook; all of the events and people left behind years ago suddenly seemed familiar and comforting, remnants of a time gone by. I had to face it – Paris Hilton’s frozen mug shot was making me nostalgic for my crazy America.

I jumped off the high horse and walked the rest of the way home. I read the In Touch magazine cover to cover. Twice. Three times.

Sean wandered into my apartment and found it next to the bed.

“What’s this – Hello! magazine? Oh Lord, what rubbish.” he declared.

“Excuse me, but it’s In Touch.” I hissed. “It’s an American magazine.”

“Since when do you care about celebrities?” he asked, flipping through the pages. “I didn’t know you liked celebrities.”

Here, I paused. Because I don’t care about celebrities … right?

“I don’t,” I said.

And yet, when Evan and Jiggy IMd me to tell me about Britney Spears’s disastrous VMA performance, I immediately set about to scouring the internet to find a clip.

The MTV site was no help – the performance clips were physically off-limits to viewers outside of the US (I actually swore out of frustration over this). I managed to find mp3s of “Gimme More” but the youtube community was uncharacteristically slow about getting the visual fix online – I had to wait for 2 days before I found it. The time it took me to agree with everything I’d heard – and, by that point, read – was far shorter. I gaped in shock at Brit’s sleepwalk through her come back single. She had been so hot, writhing around on that same stage with a python, snapping her limbs in precise, exciting movements to the beat. It had only been a few years ago!

Sean regarded this with hostility, too.

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“‘It’s Britney, bitch’.” I sighed sadly.

“Oh, right. Okay.” he said, watching the clip. “It’s not a very good song, is it?”

I liked it.

“Why are you watching it, so?” he asked.

“Quiet!” I cried.

I’ve been checking Perez Hilton these days, something I never did back in New York. The unabashedly catty posts fill me with the same indifference and annoyance I used to feel when I happened to glimpse a celebrity magazine’s cover in line at Gristede’s. And yet, they are suddenly a tie to a world that grows dimmer by the day. I click and click. And I click some more. Gimme more, gimme more, gimme more, gimme gimme more.

As of today – September 18 – Britney Spears has been dumped by her manager and might lose the kids. Kiera Knightley thinks she’s big. Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt are really, really cute.

My, how they’ve grown.

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