Walk a mile in my hypocritical sack of shit

Hard at work on my anti-celebrity culture book, I was summoned, urgently, to be in a Sandra Bullock movie.

Published July 14, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

It was all too, too ironic: I had just put the finishing touches on the first half of my book, a bile-spitting epic hate poem in which I mercilessly trash all forms of fame and celebrity, and right as the last page is spewing wet and nasty out of the printer the phone rings. Due to some rather dubious personal connections, I somehow came up in a hallowed Hollywood coffee klatch as a "downtown looking" person, and some very nice people needed me and my Look, urgently, to be in a Sandra Bullock movie, that afternoon. Please.

It was yet another hilarious example of the universal fact that anything you utterly, outspokenly reject: lovers, jobs -- Christ! even the fucking movie industry! -- will hunt you down like a dread wolverine, love-famished for you in equal degrees to the amount it ignored you when you were actually interested.

I handed the book package to the FedEx guy at the same moment I got in the car service sedan to go to the film set, feeling like I was pissing all over my own manifesto and finding that fact somehow karmically ticklish; a good and just revenge on myself.

So, I spent the rest of the day and night playing a recovering alcoholic on Sixth Avenue in front of the Limelight club, which from the outside looks like a church, which is in fact what it used to be, nothing being sacred anymore. On that July evening it was summer, fall and winter in front of the old church on Sixth, replete with stacks of real snow melting under the big lights and a bunch of us standing around in furry hats and mittens while sweaty paparazzi in tank tops jeered at us and tried to catch shots of Sandy B. with her mouth open.

Believe it or not, Sandra Bullock is actually pretty cool. I never thought I'd be one to think such a thing, Sandra Bullock being one of the highest ranking poster girls for everything I consider to be the hacking, shameful death of culture, but there you go.

You take one look at Sandra Bullock in person and you figure it out: She fits perfectly into movie stardom with the smooth machinery click of a math equation. She's so superlatively normal, she's like normalcy squared. Normalcy cubed. Super-attractive normal girl-next-door-at-the-office-in-the-cafe. Her features, taken individually, are kind of weird, but on her head they look really gorgeous, and given her trained eyes-wide-open, long-necked kind of behavioral carriage, she's really ravishing, in a totally normal way. She's a mouthy smarty-pants, she runs around the set giving everyone sass, glowing from all the slavering attention like a non-ornate street lamp; a functional kind of luminosity that does its job, and does it just fine. Still, you can work with her all day and hug her and admire her superhuman qualities all you like, then go home and forget all about her. She doesn't hang melancholy love hooks in your heart; you don't feel all wrecked that she's not your best friend, there's no addictive, heightened deity-aura to old Sandy. She's the kind of gal you'd feel OK about having help push your car if your alternator cacked out. She's folks.

I was sharing my trailer with a soap opera star; an attractive older lady, positively floral with Southern belle benevolence and saintly grace. I didn't recognize her because I don't have a TV, but as we were walking together every black person we passed on the street gave her beautiful, open-hearted compliments and greetings, which she returned with the gushing warmth of a favorite aunt. From the majestic way she treated her fans, I decided she was a good and selfless queen. Then we got on camera together, and I realized the woman was professionally hellbent on usurping the maximum amount of acceptable camera attention she could skillfully wring out of the situation, with a life-or-death seriousness that made my liver curl with fear. She stomped on my lines like they were on fire, and I got out of her way; I could see she was a goddess whose aging vanity would stop short of nothing. Thin as she was, I knew she would easily crush and hide my limp body under the nearest production truck if my elimination meant she could stand closer to Sandra B. in the shots. I slunk back to my trailer to read while she voraciously networked in between scenes. I was easily vibed away.

Movie extras are the most pathetic, ass-sucking spaniels in the world. These people would do anything to be on camera. Anything. They would have chewed off their own fingers for the tiny role I had. One guy, apparently a soap opera regular, started aggressively jabbering his résumé at me and was practically dry-humping my leg as soon as I came on the scene, then intentionally proceeded to stand directly in front of me while the scene was rolling until he was finally commanded not to. His appalling behavior was exemplary of the grabby, Me-for-God's-Sake-Me! attitude that made me run screaming away from the acting profession in the first place, and revalidated my detest for the whole culture of celebrity: Jesus, Extra Boy, I wanted to ask, can any kind of fame be worth the Australian shit-crawl you're doing to get it?

The rest of the experience felt like more of the same, me quietly backing into the darkness so some terrifying wannabe movie creature could step on my foot and explode with the glory of themselves. I got a couple of lines in, feeling sort of dirty all the while for swirling in orbit of the Great Hollywood Dork in the first place.

Then, later in the week, there was a Hollywood thing I ended up falling desperately, weepily in love with, a Hollywood thing that did twist my heart into humming pink jelly and filled my dreams with the kind of glittery hope and magic only possible on the silver screen. I came, I saw, I surrendered: The "South Park" movie -- "Bigger, Longer, and Uncut." I've been trying to explain to my friends for a week why I so heavily value this stunning film, this great musical triumph; why I think it's an important piece of American cinema, and why it made me want to throw my nearly finished book into the ocean.

It said everything I ever wanted to say, so, so beautifully. It's been forever since we've seen anything so outrageous emerge wholly unmolested by the various embalming methods Hollywood routinely uses to kill all of the spark and spirit in any given film production. This was a pure, vile vision, executed in the most balls-to-the-wall method possible, and you could just see with your mind's eye the writers sitting around, weeping with wicked mirth through the whole screenplay process, and being left alone. It was a miracle. I wanted to be near "South Park." I want to live in "South Park." I want to be Trey Parker's pool cleaner after seeing this movie. It's beautiful. Take my word for it. Go. Support this film. Escort a batch of neighborhood 11-year-olds, and explain all the profanity to them. It will make you feel all warm and tingly inside.

By 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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