Forty Minute Lunch

Goon Squad Chapter 9


 Forty Minute Lunch: Kitty Jackson Opens up About Love, Fame, and Nixon!

 Jules Jones reports

Movie stars always look small the first time you see them, and Kitty Jackson is no exception, exceptional though she may be in every other way.

Actually, small isn’t the word; she’s minute— a human bonsai in a white sleeveless dress, seated at a back table of a Madison Avenue restaurant, talking on a cell phone. She smiles at me as I take my seat and rolls her eyes at the phone. Her hair is that blond you see everywhere, “highlighted,” my ex- fiancée calls it, though on Kitty Jackson this tousled commingling of blond and brown appears both more natural and more costly than it did on Janet Green. Her face (Kitty’s) is one you can imagine looking merely pretty among the other faces in, say, a high school classroom: upturned nose, full mouth, big green eyes. Yet on Kitty Jackson, for reasons I can’t pinpoint exactly— the same reasons, I suppose, that her highlighted hair looks superior to ordinary (Janet Green’s) highlighted hair— this unexceptional face registers as extraordinary.

She’s still on the phone, and five minutes have passed.

Finally she signs off, folds her phone into a disk the size of an after- dinner mint and stows it in a small white patent leather purse. Then she starts to apologize. It is instantly clear that Kitty belongs in the category of nice stars (Matt Damon) rather than of difficult stars (Ralph Fiennes). Stars in the nice category act as if they’re just like you (i.e., me) so that you will like them and write flattering things about them, a strategy that is almost universally successful despite every writer’s belief that he’s far too jaded to fantasize that the Vanity Fair cover is incidental to Brad Pitt’s desire to give him a tour of his house. Kitty is sorry for the twelve flaming hoops I’ve had to jump through and the several miles of piping hot coals I’ve sprinted across for the privilege of spending forty minutes in her company. She’s sorry for having just spent the first six of those minutes talking to somebody else. Her welter of apologies reminds me of why I prefer difficult stars, the ones who barricade themselves inside their stardom and spit through the cracks. There is something out of control about a star who cannot be nice, and the erosion of a subject’s self- control is the sine qua non of celebrity reporting.

The waiter takes our order. And since the ten minutes of badinage I proceed to exchange with Kitty are simply not worth describing, I’ll mention instead (in the footnote- ish fashion that injects a whiff of cracked leather bindings into pop- cultural observation) that when you’re a young movie star with blondish hair and a highly recognizable face from that recent movie whose grosses can only be explained by the conjecture that every person in America saw it at least twice, people treat you in a manner that is somewhat different— in fact is entirely different— from the way they treat, say, a balding, stoop- shouldered, slightly eczematous guy approaching middle age. On the surface it’s the same—”May I take your order?” etc.—but throbbing just beneath that surface is the waiter’s hysterical recognition of my subject’s fame. And with a simultaneity that can only be explained using principles of quantum mechanics, specifically, the properties of socalled entangled particles, that same pulse of recognition reaches every part of the restaurant at once, even tables so distant from ours that there is simply no way they can see us1. Everywhere, people are swiveling, craning, straining and contorting, levitating inadvertently from chairs as they grapple with the urge to lunge at Kitty and pluck off tufts of her hair and clothing.

I ask Kitty how it feels to always be the center of attention.

“Weird,” she says. “It’s so all of a sudden. You feel like there’s no way you deserve it.”

See? Nice.

 1 I’ve engaged in a bit of sophistry, here, suggesting that entangled particles can explain anything when, to date, they themselves have not been satisfactorily explained. Entangled particles are subatomic “twins”: photons created by splitting a single photon in half with a crystal, which still react identically to stimuli applied to only one of them, even when separated from each other by many miles.
How, puzzled physicists ask, can one particle possibly “know” what is happening to the other? How, when the people occupying tables nearest to Kitty Jackson inevitably recognize her, do people outside the line of vision of Kitty Jackson, who could not conceivably have had the experience of seeing Kitty Jackson, recognize her simultaneously?
Theoretical explanations:
 1. The particles are communicating. Impossible, because they would have to do so at a speed faster than the speed of light, thus violating relativity theory. In other words, in order for an awareness of Kitty’s presence to sweep the restaurant simultaneously, the diners at tables nearest to her would have to convey, through words or gestures, the fact of her presence to diners farther away who cannot see her— all at a speed faster than the speed of light. And that is impossible.
2. The two photons are responding to “local” factors engendered by their former status as a single photon. (This was Einstein’s explanation for the phenomenon of entangled particles, which he termed “spooky action at a distance”). Nope. Because we’ve already established that they’re not responding to each other; they’re all responding simultaneously to Kitty Jackson, whom only a small fraction of them can actually see!
3. It’s one of those quantum mechanical mysteries. Apparently so. All that can be said for sure is that in the presence of Kitty Jackson, the rest of us become entangled by our sheer awareness that we ourselves are not Kitty Jackson, a fact so brusquely unifying that it temporarily wipes out all distinctions between us— our tendency to cry inexplicably during parades, or the fact that we never learned French, or have a fear of insects that we do our best to conceal from women, or liked to eat construction paper as a child— in the presence of Kitty Jackson, we no longer are in possession of these traits; indeed, so indistinguishable are we from every other non–Kitty Jackson in our vicinity that when one of us sees her, the rest simultaneously react.
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