The Awful Truth

Care and Feeding of your New York Celebrity.

By Cintra Wilson
Published September 23, 1996 5:58PM (EDT)

uma thurman and Ethan Hawke are having sex with each other. Let me be the first to break this news. I know, because Ethan Hawke is loosely connected in an
I'm-a-star-who-lends-his-great- starlike-name-to-this-paltry-endeavor kind of way to this theatre that I'm loosely connected to in an I-really-wish-they'd-produce-another-one-of-my-plays kind of way. The guy answering the phones over there confirmed what I'd seen in the restaurant only hours previously. They were eating together, and are therefore obviously having sex with each other.

Uma and Ethan. Two blonde demigods of blistering media sexuality. When they have sex, it must be like 20 million people all having sex at the same time, on one big floodlit stadium of a bed the size of Oahu. When 20 million people read and think about Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman having sex, I wonder if their pants will explode outwards from the sheer force of world speculation on their genitalia.

Ah, to be a famous person having sex with another famous person. The sheer mammoth narcissism of it all. Like slapping two movie screens together and making the films burn into each other under the projector's all-seeing white light. Like a sun swallowing another sun. I bet if you had a malignant tumor the size of a baseball on your neck and were under the bed when Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman had sex, when they were finished, you would roll out and look in the mirror and the radiation would have sucked it down to the size of a small heart-shaped mole that somehow improves your appearance.

I was wearing an enormous white headdress in the restaurant from a bizarre African ritual I had attended earlier in the day. Ethan and Uma were intrigued. They poked around my table waving and smiling at me on their way out, as if my apparant religious eccentricity and their stardom were sort of SIMILAR, and my dedication to this unknown sect somehow qualified me for notice by them. Their friendly actions implied that we were all in some spiritually superior boat together -- their stardom and my turban were badges of Godly likeness. "We know," their smiling and respectful faces seemed to say. Ethan didn't recognize me two nights later when I attended his theatre benefit. I had swapped the white turban for a jeweled cat collar. I wasn't spiritually superior with him any more.

The other day I saw one of the most dreadful faux pas I'd ever seen in a social setting. It was like a car accident involving a schoolbus and a drunk.
I was taking a yoga class in my obscenely terrific gym. "Live like a dog but have an exquisite gym" has been my motto for years, so I live in a tiny one-room immigrant box, but my gym could be Caligula's orgy hall. Sunboxing. Powertanning. Aquablading. Legions of ruthless bronze gladiators in floral exer-trunks summoning images of '40s pool starlets. Tall tiny model women with bones like balsawood airplanes, and flat, shiny eyes like CDs of The Sounds of Starving. The locker rooms are thick with the intoxicating smell and the mouth-watering lust of new shoe technology. The new generation of footwear is a revelation of bubbles, hooks and as living organisms of pleasure, shoes like clusters of prehensile tongues wrapped in sexual anguish about the foot. It is a fancy gym, filled with fancy people with torrentially expensive, highly awakened feet. In any case, there were two aging hipsters in my yoga class, whom I didn't particularly notice at first, then realized were Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed.

There is an inviolable bubble of invisible force around most stars that says "Look if you have to, but under NO circumstances touch me in any way." This is something that is so thick and obvious that most people would reflexively throw up if forced to impede on this cosmic law, as it would just be too horribly DREADFUL and BEYOND HUMAN REASON to touch a star and suffer that "Please don't touch me" look.

Our yoga teacher is a big gregarious blonde who has obviously been through some shit in her life and has overcome it with a big sense of positive identity, earned the hard way. This woman carries that dangerous joy of someone who has had to learn to live with the consequences of stepping on a lot of toes. She has a highly unorthodox flair for walking up to her pupils and eliciting horrible gritty ricochet sounds from their joints and vertebrae -- something most teachers won't do, because of the inherent dangers of making a mistake and sending some poor clutz to the hospital. "Does anybody in the class have any pain or injuries?" she asked. Bravely, Lou Reed, in his unmistakable Lou Reed cigarette-exhale drawl, told the teacher that he had a hip injury, obviously some form of premature osteoporosis brought on by the total assassination of his body's calcium by his legendary lifestyle. The yoga teacher was doing a fine job of not-treating-the-stars-with-much-more-attention-than-the-other students, randomly bouncing about the room which was filled with groaning secretaries forming fleshy triangles and snapping misplaced angles in their bodies back into their proper holes.

Then she got to Lou.

She seemed to be trying to pull his leg off, for a moment, or bend it sideways into the small of his back as if he were a collapsible bicycle. Then there was a sound like the skull of a cat being popped with a hammer, and we were all treated to the superhuman howl of thoroughly famous Icon Lou Reed in Pain. The class stopped breathing and we knew by the alarms in our stomachs that something terribly WRONG had happened, on the level of electrons sailing out of their orbits or atoms falling in half. The Rule had been violated.
Lou's celebrity bubble had been punctured by our big blond yoga instructor, who was now backing away from him with her eyes darkening into hell-swirling sockets in her head like Peter Lorre trying to crawl under a wall of garbage in "M." She was giggling with a terrible, harrowing anguish, "Oh my God, oh my God, are you OK? I'm so sorry, oh my God!" giggling and giggling, awash in this unspeakable public nightmare. Air left the room as the Order of the Universe scrambled to right itself from the unholy catastrophe that had just impossibly played out in front of us. Out of compassion and loyalty, the rest of the yoga instructor's students and I tried to die in quiet motionlessness on the floor, in order to remove the witnesses to her terrible blow of fate. But the horrible wheel of time creaked forward in slow, cruel seconds, and we were forced to pantomime through the rest of the class, accepting a mildly perturbed "I'm all right, I'm OK" from Lou and pretending that we had all recovered and that it wasn't such a big deal. But it was. Never touch a New York celebrity. Never speak until you are spoken to. Don't stare, and NEVER touch. I am not sure why this is, but I suspect it is because their sex is so, so, so much bigger than ours.

Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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