IF ART IS WHAT YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH: Audrina Patridge and the Infectious Disease of Celebrity
As Pacific Classic Day wanes, a bleeding sunset pours generously upon Del Mar signaling the unofficial end of summer. For some of the 42,000-plus attendees the party is just getting started. With Audrina Patridge hosting a cause celebre just down the street at the world class L’Auberge Hotel, there is sure to be plenty for a guerrilla journalist such as myself to observe and eventually divulge. I envision Audrina as many probably do, three-quarters naked chowing down a hearty Carl’s Jr. Teriyaki Burger, her still buzzing bikini commercial fresh on the mind. I’ve come to crash her party and see if this ‘It’ So Cal belle is worthy of the hype her August 944 cover shoot has generated.
Mingling with celebs is somewhat new territory for me and so I hearken back to all those dizzying A-list parties one encounters in the typical Bret Easton Ellis novel.
Terrence Howard, Kate Beckinsale, Salma Hayek, and Phil Mickelson smoke Cubans as they discuss the influence of psychoanalysis on the development of reality television. Joe Rogan talks steroids with Trent Reznor over bruschetta and a bottle Cabernet Sauvignon. Ashton Kutcher throws a tray of California rolls off the balcony; he then notifies the world of this through a tweet. The tray lands on the still somehow glistening head of Hulk Hogan, who then stumbles over Amy Winehouse’s pet albino guinea pig. The guinea pig lets out a deafening shriek, startling J Lo’s driver and causing him to rear-end Kevin Costner’s Mazerati. Mr. Costner then proceeds to exit his car from the window for no apparent reason and offers the driver a cold Budweiser from his back pocket, introducing himself as Roy McAvoy as he apologizes for being on time. Mischa Barton glows orange as she binges on carrots and Harvey Wallbangers. Jared Leto salsa dances with J Lo. Eddie Vedder, dressed like Zorro, speaks Portuguese with a Brazilian supermodel dressed as a New England Puritan. Seth Rogen eats cheese fondue with Jessica Biel and Mickey Rourke. Tom Delonge, discussing microeconomics with Owen Wilson, makes eyes with Christina Ricci.
Which brings us to Audrina, who is nowhere to be found. I picture her in some private villa with some anonymous Mexican drug cartel drinking Zimas, slurring Bing Crosby’s, “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.” In the meantime I mingle with the Chula Vista Little League team, devour a plate of seared ahi with Vince Vaughn and Kirsten Dunst, recite Shakespeare over White Russians with William Shatner, and sketch self-portraits in crayon alongside a much too sober looking Laura Linney.
“Hey Linney, you’ve played a lot of lawyers. I’m a lawyer,” I offer.
“I don’t know that many lawyers that draw pictures of themselves with crayons,” she says indifferently.
“Well I’m not a lawyer, but I did get into law school. I lied. Doesn’t that technically qualify me as a lawyer?”
“Something like that. And for the record, counselor, I’m not Laura Linney. That’s Laura Linney,” she says pointing across the terrace. “But you wouldn’t be the first to make that mistake. It’s either her or Ally Sheedy from the Breakfast Club.”
“Oh my bad. Double vision. Can we make a toast?”
“I suppose. To false identities.”
“Cheers.” I swig down something that is alcoholic but beyond that, unidentifiable.
“So you just drink like a lawyer then… Well, what do you do when you’re not creating masterpieces with Crayolas?”
“I write for the tabloids. I suppose that’s even worse. It’s shallow but like the beach we can’t all venture out too deep or some of us will drown,” I say, unsure of my words, unsure of myself. I’m faintly reminded that alcohol is a depressant.
“Oh I LOVE the tabloids. Gratuitous celebrity gossip and Swedish Fish are my two primary vices.”
“What the hell’s Swedish Fish?”
“Are you serious? Only the best candy EVER. It’s basically a red Sour Patch Kid but without the sourness. I’m an addict. They’re my cigarettes.”
“Let’s get one then.”
She pulls out a Coach handbag, fishes for the red fish, and plops a half-dozen in my hand, which I just now realize is swollen from punching William Shatner. I half-remember something about me referencing a quote from Fight Club and wanting to destroy the face that gave shape to the Halloween mask of Michael Myers.
“They’re okay. Not sure about that whole ‘best candy ever’ spiel.”
“Well that’s just because you’re a fish you drunky. Clearly your act of cannibalism has tainted your taste buds.”
“Clearly,” is all I can summon as I find myself drowning in the martinis of her eyes, olives bathed in Bombay Sapphire, blue as the nearby Pacific. I realize I no longer want to be rescued by Audrina Patridge or any other ‘It’ girl for that matter. “My turn. What’s your profession?”
“Well, when I’m not catching up with celebrity dirt, which believe me takes up a lot of my time, I’m a public health specialist at Johns Hopkins. I was presenting a paper at an infectious disease conference but figured I might as well stay through Labor Day.”
“Impressive resume. I guess celeb dirt infects even the smart ones then. A different kind of infectious disease I suppose.”
“Right Right. But really, you must have dug up at least one juicy tidbit from this gathering?”
* * *
Five hours earlier.
The doorman, mistaking me for Bradley Cooper, asks, “Where’s Jen?” to which I reply, “It’s Renee now. Haven’t you seen the cover of this week’s US?” I don’t wait for an answer. I’m in Turf Club trying not to sweat out my monstrosity, the dress code as stifling as the swarm of sycophants that surround me. A herculean gentlemen wearing a baby blue zoot suit stands alongside Audrina, her bodyguard I assume. She’s drinking a vodka Red Bull as I watch her from across the crowded Celebrity Suite.
Audrina’s naivety, her synthetic beauty, and above all her utter insipidity make her an attractive choice for my most ambitious artistic endeavor to date.
* * *
The next morning Audrina Patridge, or rather what remains of her, is found stuffed inside a suitcase by a transient rummaging through a dumpster in Valencia Park. When the authorities arrive they’re faced with the difficulty of identifying the deceased as the once iconic face has become altogether unrecognizable. The fingers have been removed, most likely with a pair of pliers. The jaw, too, is missing and so there’s no hope for a match through dental records. Instead, the most intact portion of the corpse is the chest. Back at the coroner’s lab it is ascertained that the victim had previously undergone a breast augmentation surgery. This seemingly irrelevant fact would be key in identifying the victim as one Audrina Patridge, the barcodes on the implants eventually leading investigators to a positive identification.
And so it remains to be seen as to whether this will be remembered as my masterpiece or not, a daring work of both conceptual and performance art. Wanting to call into question what Audrina and the likes of her represent, to challenge this seemingly uncontested disease of celebrity culture and its ever-increasing pervasiveness, these were my motives. What’s revealed when something as artificial as a breast implant is the only clue left in the formation of one’s identity and what does this say about how we see ourselves in relation to such idolized fabrications? Ultimately I leave these questions for you, the audience, to ponder. After all, it is you who decide the value of the work you’re presented with.