Horticultural heroics at the Public Relations firm. Office of the beautiful young Publicist. She harangued a client over the phone. Talk, talk. Every word a scream.
“Give the people what they want,” she said. “Tell the people what they want. Make the people want. Tell them, make them, give them. Understand?”
Slammed shut her phone. Wired, she addressed me.
“I’m right, you know. Look at me. Started low: restaurant and club openings, celebrity profile parties, City events. Junk publicity. Junk-pub.”
Hard girl. Learned to be loud, wry, ferocious. Talk, talk. Talkety-talk.
“Phone the news desk direct line to the gossip column, or better yet, the television station. Make a stir. Create a buzz. Disseminate information. Lay anchor in the sea of data. When the job is done, sail on. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. But if the answer must be ‘no,’ carry a grudge. Get mad, get even. You understand, Plantman?”
I explained to her that I was an Indoor Landscaper, a Horticultural technician. I watered plants. No star quality in that. She rolled her eyes with precision drama and ennui.
“Celebrity is currency. Find celebrities and use them. Let them gather at parties and be cheerful. Let them be irritable, contrary, and infantile. Spoil them, pamper them, expose them. Don’t over-expose. Learn your economics. Inflation of over- exposure. Familiarity is contempt. Sow them selectively like political sponsors. Their value will increase and thereby will your own.”
The Publicist procured celebrities. Hyped events. Promoted City hot spots. The Firm directed her to not merely procure celebrities, but represent them.
“Stars emit their comic-cosmic gas until they’re spent. Cave in on themselves or bloat and expand, like cold red giants. Cut ’em from your orbit before they explode. I yank wanna-bees and has-beens from black holes of obscurity. Inflate mediocrities, present new names, resurrect dead reputations.”
The Publicist sipped bottled water.
“Celebrity is pursuit of pure talk. And pictures. Don’t move an inch unless it’s for a camera. Make the talk ‘sticky.’”
Thirty or so. Top of her game. A Vice President of the Firm. Portfolio of high profile stars, starlets, celebrity writers and diectors; headline escapades of pampered, sexually deviant children of the moneyed class. She placed faces on covers of magazines, booked interviews and features on entertainment news. Her celebrity faces launched a thousand talk shows, endless, ubiquitous pursuit of talk.
“Celebrity is liquid. A liquid asset. Catch the celebrity as he moves from A to B. Redirect him to point C, and watch the people flock. Like sheep. The people. Baaaahhhh. Baaaaahhhh. But these stars burn hotter than the Sun. Laws of inertia, entropy, the physics of it all, the real. It catches up to them.”
Her job to feed the fire, shovel coal, keep the locomotive running fast and furious, pulling its enormous freight of “journalists,” commentators, talk-show hosts and paparazzi. Relentless print and talk. Relentless funneling channeling directing redirecting fanning flames. Must burn constantly everywhere always.
“Celebrity is a variable. They fade, grow old, get stupid, boring, dead. They’re easily replaced, and usually more valuable dead. It’s now now NOW celebrity or Never. Even established Stars, etched in The Nation’s memory, must be everywhere always or inch that much closer to Never.
“Celebrities consume cheers, applause, light, expel pure talk. Interview with the celebrity talk show host or entertainment journalist a crowning glory, PR coup. Twin stars. Super Nova. Yes!” she pounded her desk.
The Publicist vowed to enhance the celebrity of Plantman beyond The City. Bring him world renown.
“But I’m a Horticultural Technician,” I explained again.
She laughed, cold fake hard, like the rattle of a penny in a can.
“You’re Plantman. You nurture the most prestigious shrubs in The City. You must promote yourself. I’m giving you free ad- vice here. Not charging a dime. You can’t remain merely an anonymous ‘worker-drudge’ forever. Got to expand your realm. Otherwise…you’re courting Never.”
“I take care of the plants.”
“You’re a Name in this City. Live up to your Legend. All you need is the right publicist and boom — Super Nova!”
“But that’s not — ”
“Boom. Super Nova.”
She lit a cigarette.
“I’ll connect you,” she said. “Not that you need to be connected. The Names would only be too glad to have you appear on their talk-shows and in their magazines. Get you in touch with The Names of The Nation. That’s our goal.”
She studiously, elaborately ignored the messages, all marked “Urgent,” that crammed the screen of her phone.
“Let me tell you about The Names. The Nation might protest that it does not need The Names. The City might plead ‘enough, we have had enough of The Names.’ These are bullshit objections. False modesty. Self-serving lies. Like the beauty pageant winner who mastered baton twirling and dieting at sixteen so she could wave her tits and ass before the cameras protesting she does not ‘deserve’ to win. She’s too ‘humble’ to accept such honors. Humble, my ass. ‘Deserve,’ my ass too. Nobody deserves anything but what they grab.
“A lot of time and energy goes into creating The Names. You, Plantman, must become a Name. Not merely a Name of The City, but of The Nation.”