Sex, Lies and Decoding Hollywood-Speak

By Stacy Jenel Smith When Jimmy Kimmel served as master of ceremonies at the Publicists Guild Luncheon a few years back, he set the mood by asking the crowd in the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom to join him in saying grace, and proceeded to lead them in a prayer asking forgiveness for “all the lies we told to US Weekly last year, and those we will tell this year.”

Yes, of all occupations, celebrity publicists may now actually occupy the lowest rung on the veracity ladder. Thank goodness for the brave public relations professionals who try to play it as straight as possible with the community at large and with the press, but others, well, they brought this detestable designation on themselves. We’re talking about the sort of folks who can say with a straight face that Whitney Houston played air piano and muttered bizarre statements throughout an interview because she’d been to the dentist and was on Novocain. Makes you wonder if the rep rushed to the next room and snickered privately after having dropped such a doozey. These very special PR people can say such things, because (a.) they are on attractive retainer fees, and (b.) they are without shame.

Knowing this, celebrity watchers can certainly benefit by keeping this guide to Hollywood Press Agent Speak handy:

HOSPITALIZED FOR EXHAUSTION: The oldest dodge, and still, remarkably, in use. Such a statement might really mean that the celebrity in question was found curled in a fetal position in a bureau drawer, mumbling in Klingon after ingesting enough drugs to make an African bull elephant high. It might mean that the celebrity’s anorexia problem has become so bad that children put a string around her waist and flew her at the park on a windy day. It might mean the celebrity went off to Africa to dry out, detox or attempt to find sanity. It might even mean he or she was hospitalized for exhaustion — but whatever you do, don’t put any money on the latter.

WE DON’T COMMENT ON OUR CLIENTS’ PERSONAL LIVES: Really means, “Holy crud! You caught me completely unprepared and I’ll have to go think up an explanation for what my client was doing,” such as a client picking up a transvestite hooker on Santa Monica Boulevard in the middle of the night instead of being home with his wife. The pretentious-sounding “We don’t comment on our clients’ personal lives” line was used a month before their official split by a rep for Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow, with the rep adding, “but I can assure you that [breakup rumors are] totally false.” Note: Always beware the words “I can assure you.”

THEY HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER: “They loathe each other but each one has enough power to intimidate the other so they’re sucking it up – for now.” Can be used to pass off on-set catfights, such as when one actress gets a higher salary and then on top of it gets a better bathing suit and more important placement than her costars in a fashion magazine layout involving their hit show.

THEY HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER, II: “They have the hots for each other to such a degree that everyone else on the set wishes they’d take a cold shower.” Used to dodge pesky inquiries about an on-set romance, especially when one or both stars are married.

THEY MAY HAVE THEIR DIFFERENCES, BUT THEY’RE LIKE A FAMILY: “A really, really hostile and dysfunctional family.”

FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELVES: “You’re right, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to be the one who confirms it.” A perfect example was when the late Anna Nicole Smith’s rep and lover, Howard K. Stern, was asked by the Associated Press whether she was expecting – which she was. He said: “If Anna Nicole is pregnant, she obviously doesn’t want anybody to know yet. If she’s not pregnant, she’s not denying the rumor because she thinks it’s funny how much of a stir it’s causing. She’ll leave it up to you to guess which one it is.”

A MUTUALLY-AGREED UPON DEPARTURE DUE TO CREATIVE DIFFERENCES: Someone’s being a jerk. The publicist might be thinking, “So what if the crew witnessed the director and star threatening each other’s lives with Botox syringes, this is what my boss/client/legal department wants me to say.” This standard line covers up all sorts of wars and warts. It could mean someone’s refusing to talk, gotten fat, or won’t come out of his trailer. You just never know. When stylist Patricia Field (of “Sex and the City” renown) departed the production of “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing,” the director and others chalked it up to the ol’ creative differences. But not star Alec Baldwin. “When Pat left, virtually everybody on the film was relieved,” he told the New York Daily News. “”She is a cranky, miserably unhappy woman, and I’m actually one of the few people on the set that actually gave Pat a chance.” Now, there’s some refreshing candor.

THEY’RE JUST GOOD FRIENDS: “They’re getting it on at every opportunity.” Think of all the couples whose publicists denied that they were even dating. Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake come to mind.

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