January 16, 2019

The Rise and Fall of Celebrity Supernovas

“November 29, 2006. The New York Post ran, on its front page, a photo of Lindsay, Britney, and Paris (if last names were even remotely necessary, the story wouldn’t have been), captured together, in a single image. They were in a car, looking rowdy, reckless, ready to bust loose, raise hell, pursue the dark ecstasies of night and the city, the matching gleams in their heavily shadowed eyes telling you just how profoundly they didn’t give a fuck. Stamped across the bottom, the headline: BIMBO SUMMIT. There’s the smug sneer of “bimbo,” of course, yet there’s also the grudging marvel of “summit.” It’s the marvel that gets it right. These three were at the center of the heat and the flash and the noise. Not merely stars, but stars that were simultaneously rising, falling, exploding, and, suddenly, colliding—a new kind of star being forged in the process. They understood what nobody else did: that Hollywood wasn’t a geographical location, it was a state of mind; that rock ’n’ roll wasn’t a musical genre, it was a way of life. And they were, in that moment, more Hollywood and rock ’n’ roll than anyone.

he photograph defined that present. Also, this present. Lindsay, Britney, and Paris weren’t of their time, they’re of ours. The world we’re living in is the one they made 15 years ago.

The Child Star. On November 21, 2003, principal photography wrapped on the teen comedy Mean Girls. It was a sensation, as was Lindsay, its lead, known until then as the cute-as-a-button Disney spitfire. The transition from kid performer to grown-up is a perilous one. Yet no sooner had she made it than she appeared to lose interest. Sure, she was playing opposite the national-treasure likes of Meryl Streep and recording certified-platinum albums, hosting S.N.L. Didn’t it all seem a little dull, though—a little predictable, corny, old-fashioned? Her fame morphed for a second time, into notoriety. She had trouble with alcohol, drugs, guys, girls, tabloids, the law. And as her reputation for unreliability grew, she not only worked less but the work she did do was less compelling.”

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