Easy on the Eyes(9)By: Jane Porter
“What happened to real news, Glenn? We don’t even attempt news stories anymore.”
“America loves its celebrities.”
“And children love sweets. But that doesn’t mean we let babies eat only candy.”
“Glenn, do you know how long it’s been since we did a really interesting story? One that made people feel? One that made people care?”
“Is this about your Alicia Keys profile again, because I did run it by the heads, but they don’t think a story about antiretroviral medicine will help the ratings.”
“You didn’t even let me present the idea.”
“AIDS stories overwhelm your average American.”
“It might overwhelm us, but it’s killing Africa!”
He just looks at me.
“Glenn, we’ll run stories on how young Hollywood parties, but we won’t show Alicia Keys’s involvement with Keep A Child Alive, a nonprofit that’s saving lives?”
“It sounds bad, I know.”
“It is bad. Come on, fight with me on this one. What about a show for Christmas or the New Year featuring celebs with heart? Stars who are involved with life-changing charities, and we’ll run one story every day leading up to Christmas.”
“Would it be bouncy? Fun?”
“There was a time we had an award-winning show and produced award-winning stories.” I’m referring to the Emmy Awards that Glenn and I both earned four years ago after doing a story on the heartbreaking decline of a former A-list star. No one knew where he’d gone, but after a tip, I tracked him down in Camarillo. The former star, a man who’d made thirty films over twenty years and won an Oscar and been nominated for three, had been abandoned, penniless and senile. His children, named custodians of his estate, dropped him off at the home and that was the end of that.
Until I showed up with my cameraman and microphone.
“Let’s do good stories again, Glenn.” I clasp my hands together. “Let’s not be like the other shows. Let’s be what we’re meant to be.”
Glenn’s smile fades and he looks at me for a long moment. “Are you not happy here anymore, Tiana?”
I shift impatiently. Life isn’t black or white, it’s full of shades of gray. “Of course I’m happy— ”
“Then let’s stick with the format that earns us the best ratings, which means Hollywood banter and celeb chatter.”
Meeting over, I head downstairs to the Starbucks in the lobby for a proper cup of coffee. Usually Madison offers to run down for me, but I need to get out for a few minutes, get some air. Hollywood banter and celebrity chatter. Oh, my God. Is this what I aspired to be?
I can’t even imagine Keith’s reaction to the stories we do. Lesbian prison wedding scandals. The best bikini bods. Reality TV stars.
He’d say it was crap. And I agree. We weren’t always so soft on real news. It’s only lately, as we try to keep up with the other shows. But I think we can do both— Hollywood gossip and human interest stories. People enjoy both. The human interest stories just have to be good.
Grande soy latte in hand, I’m crossing the gleaming glass-and-marble lobby, passing the kiosk that serves as a newspaper stand, when a magazine cover jumps out at me.
The magazine’s caption screams in huge lurid yellow font. But it’s not the caption on the glossy cover that grabs my attention. It’s the photo. It’s Trevor and me.
I stop in front of the newspaper stand and stare at the cover and wonder how in God’s name did they have our Paris pictures on the cover already? It should be impossible to have our photo on a magazine before I’ve even unpacked.
But there we are, in Paris, both of us dressed in black. It’s raining and I’m holding a red umbrella and he’s smiling down into my face and I’m smiling up at him. The photo’s cropped, but I know exactly where we’re standing. We’ve just left Stresa after dinner, and my hair is pinned up and loose bits are falling around my face. I’m wearing big gold gypsy earrings, and I look so happy that it makes my chest hurt.
I nearly pick up the magazine, intrigued by this smiling, beautiful couple who have actually very little to do with me.
Is that what I look like? Am I really that happy?
It’s strange to see me look like that. It’s not how I feel on the inside. It’s not who I am anymore. Haven’t been happy like that since Keith died.
For a moment I’m lost, trying to remember what truly happy feels like, trying to figure out if I even miss happy, when an arm reaches past me, bracelets jingling, and takes a copy of Us Weekly and then scoops up an issue of Life & Style, which also has a photo of Trevor and me on it, but this one screams, SHE’S GOT IT ALL!
I keep my head averted as the girl pays for her magazines.
So this is what I’ve become. Tabloid fodder. In some ways, it’s funny. Not that Keith would find it funny, or my family. My father was an American intellectual living abroad. My mother was a brainy South African beauty queen. They raised us kids apart from society, teaching us to be different, to think for ourselves, to question people and systems. Maybe that’s why I fell for Keith. He reminded me of my dad. Both wanted to change the world. Both died too young.