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Around the bend: Mesmerized by Hollywood hype

I used to look at the covers of celebrity gossip magazines at the supermarket checkout and wonder about the headlines: What is Kim Kardashian’s “painful secret”? Is Jennifer Aniston really pregnant?
But I could never bring myself to buy a copy; other shoppers might think I was the kind of person who cared about the vapid lives of Hollywood stars.
Turns out, that’s exactly the kind of person I am.
Last year one of my coworkers started receiving, for reasons he does not know, a complimentary subscription to Us Weekly magazine. (It’s similar to People, but without the hard news edge.) Every Monday, he brings the latest edition to work, as much to get it out of his house as to satisfy those of us who clamor to decide Who Wore It Best.
Unlike Newsweek and Time, which devote page after page to world events, politics and the economy, Us Weekly is filled with photos of attractive, wealthy, thin people living fairly boring lives, but in designer clothes and four-inch heels. It’s fascinating.
Oh, I’m as worried as anyone about the Greek economy, but it’s hard to stay focused on austerity measures when there’s a full-page spread in Us Weekly on little Suri Cruise’s latest outfit. (Suri is, of course, the fashionably dressed young daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. As if you didn’t know.)
Us Weekly appeals to me, in part, because it shows that celebrities are really quite normal. In the section titled “Stars — They’re Just Like Us,” we see that they go out for coffee, they shop for groceries, they go to the gym. Just like us. Sure, they have bodyguards to protect them, and nannies and personal assistants to haul around their babies and shopping bags. And also, they are constantly hounded by paparazzi, who earn a living by selling photos of them going out for coffee. But other than that, they really are just like us. 
I recognize almost no one in the magazine, apparently because I don’t watch enough reality TV shows. Every season they generate new stars, most of whom rise to fame not by having talent, but by having great bodies and a willingness to behave reprehensibly on television for money. I may not know who they are, but I still like seeing them pump their own gas (in four-inch heels), just like us.
By reading Us Weekly, a person can learn a lot about how to act like a celebrity. One way, I discovered, is to name your baby after a food, crayon color or inanimate object, or all three. If I had known this 13 years ago, my daughter might today be known as Sundae Periwinkle Jabot Raymond. (And I could have named a line of clothing after her, because nothing says “star” like turning your child into a brand.)
By watching the signs, you can even predict a star’s future. For instance, I’ve noticed the size of a celebrity’s engagement ring is inversely proportional to the length of the subsequent marriage. Also, any time married stars publicly — and emphatically — shoot down rumors that they are separating, you can bet their reps will release a statement containing the phrase “irreconcilable differences” before the next Us Weekly hits the stands.
OK, I am obsessed with Hollywood stars. But I’m not shallow. I care about the debt ceiling. It’s just that right now I’m more concerned with how Demi Moore is going to move on after what that dog Ashton Kutcher has done to her.
Anyway, the Us Weekly subscription is going to run out soon. When it does, I’ll have to settle for news about home foreclosures, the Dow Jones and education funding. Meanwhile, Suri Cruise will attend a birthday party and I won’t get to see her new $350 red-sequined Mary Janes. It’s going to kill me.
Once my Us Weekly reading is again limited to scanning the headlines at the supermarket, I’ll be desperate for details. So I’m asking those of you who read the magazine — whether out in the open or behind a copy of U.S. News & World Report — to help me out. The next time Jennifer Aniston makes the cover, promise you’ll let me know: Is that really a baby bump, or did she just have a big lunch?

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