Updated April 9, 2013, 7:30 am
Harlequin Mira, $29.99
REVIEW BY HELEN CROMPTON
When I stopped laughing at the title, a less than intellectual curiosity had me reading this book in one sitting (including one essential lie-down). My personal favourite chapter was titled No More Dickheads – three words spoken by the author’s father, practical parental guidance, as he drove daughter Georgia Cassimatis to the airport. “I didn’t know where I’d be without Dad,” she writes with affection.
Quotes heading other chapters come variously from Paula Abdul, Hugh Hefner, Gweneth Paltrow’s character from Sliding Doors, and prophetic platitudes from fortune cookies eaten at West Hollywood Joom Cafe. They all mesmerise. Here’s an example: “Loyal, true and kind, remember good friends like this are hard to find.” So what treasure lies between the pages headed by such promising pronouncements?
In a land filled with breast implants, heavy drinking, brown-nosing and environmental pollution, you might toss up the choices of living there or whacking your kneecap several times with a hammer. What could beckon a bright Aussie girl (well OK, Cassimatis was editing Barbie teen magazine) to leave a well-paid job, full social life and close family, to move a world away to a place known to be indifferent to anything but self involvement and unapologetic material success?
In one word, love.
Fate saw our girl Georgia meet Simon (handsome, health-nut, sociopath) in Sydney and later move to live with him in LA, a city where social codes are written in the shallow end of superficial (your car, contacts book, chest measurement and teeth veneers are all the credentials required). Will our heroine make it in a society where serious dating means you’re only sleeping with two others, and then only on a casual basis? To be fair to Cassimatis, anyone who opens Red Carpet Burns can expect more profanity than profundity.
The book is more Cosmo than clever. And yes, you get your due fill of Hollywood name-dropping: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Ben Stiller, Tom Cruise, Chris Rock, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicholas Cage, Jessica Simpson are all A-listers she rubbed shoulders with. When such work was scarce, the enterprising Cassimatis became that desperate animal, the extra, working on Judging Amy, Las Vegas, Alias and even – cue roll of drums – Friends. (For roughly three seconds background work an extra can work between 12 to 14 hours a day.) “By this stage,” she writes, “extras work had become, as Ken had warned, excruciating and barely bearable.” That bad.
More interesting content in Red Carpet Burns concerns the LA focus on artificial body parts, gluten-free food and the desperate need for guidance from higher powers. Say hi to Gary, The Man in White.
“Gary came to me from an interview I did with a former drug addict turned Hollywood fitness trainer called High Voltage – seriously that was her name,” writes the author. “While interviewing High Voltage about training celebrities and her new hit book Energy Up! which outlined her philosophy on eliminating the three white evils in your diet – salt, sugar, flour – she mentioned she saw her psychic for advice, a lot.
“His name is Gary. Oh, you should do a story on him! He sees Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston about what movies they should do . . . and boy, does he get paid big bucks, like $10,000! He’s really interesting – he wears all white. Even his hair is white.” Gary Spivey later tells Cassimatis evil can’t penetrate white.
“I was being delivered some serious psychic knowledge on a silver platter. I felt incredibly privileged.” As well you may, being in the presence of a highly-paid whack-job.