How do you create and then exploit your celebrity romance? (First advice: Imitate everything that Demi and J. Lo do.) If you haven't found your celebrity love, arrange it: Jennifer Aniston had her publicist call Brad Pitt's publicist to ask for a date. Once it's started, promoting it is very simple. You should appear together at semi-private places—in a back room at the Los Angeles' Ivy restaurant, or at the New York club Bungalow 8 *, or anywhere that Tobey Maguire is. When you're photographed there, feign annoyance and express surprise that anyone would see you. A joint appearance at a Lakers or Knicks game (depending on your coast) is useful fodder for the tabs. Start engaging in very public canoodling—in your car, in clubs, at restaurants. "You should hold hands and gaze lovingly no matter what the situation," says Walls. When quizzed about the relationship, issue an ostentatious denial through your publicist: "They are just close friends." If public interest flags, have a friend drop a leak to Us or the tabloids: "They couldn't keep their hands off each other on the set. …"
Finally, when you're really ready to be a public couple, says entertainment reporter Elizabeth Snead, "you appear on a red carpet together. That is the Hollywood equivalent of walking down the aisle. Then you have to start answering questions, start dressing the same, and so on."
Some celebrities do strive to keep their private lives private. They don't appear together much in public, and they save their groping for hotel rooms. A few brave souls insist on dating civilians, much to the annoyance of the gossip hounds (and, presumably, their own agents). George Clooney is Exhibit A of a star the tabs would love to couple with a hot actress, but who dates coat-check girls instead.
It is generally considered a bad career move to allow celebrity dating to progress to marriage. When a sexy actor marries, it dims his hot image. When a sexy actress marries, it's even worse. The story gets boring for the public: The tantalizing fear and doubt and curiosity about whether the couple will survive dissipates. Both members seem suddenly duller. There are a few notable exceptions: When Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas married, she ascended from B-movie actress to Hollywood royalty, he from wrinkly old man to stud. The marriage of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward gave him depth and her glamour.
There is one corner of the entertainment industry where celebrity romances are still manufactured the old-fashioned way: reality TV. As Obst points out, reality TV shows—in which the players are indentured by rigid contracts—are ruthlessly controlled by producers and publicists. They insist on a romantic storyline, regardless of truth. Since Joe Millionaire wrapped, Evan Marriott has complained that the producers pushed him together with winning companion Zora Andrich, even though he wasn't interested, in order to create a better story. It is a delightful irony of the American entertainment industry that Demi and Ashton may be less fake than the stars of reality TV.
[Correction, July 7, 2003: The original version of this piece mentioned the club Bungalow 61. This conflated two ultratrendy New York bars owned by the same person, Bungalow 8 and Lot 61.]
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