Stephen Huvane sat on one of the two brown distressed leather couches in his fourth floor Wilshire Boulevard office, a corner office, with knee-high to ceiling windows and a late afternoon view of West Los Angeles. The panorama ran left from Century City to Beverly Hills on the right. The couch Stephen sat on had the better view than the couch supporting Jennifer Aniston, who was smoking a cigarette and air tapping the ashes onto a tray the size of toilet seat that sat on the burled oak coffee table separating the two couches. Jennifer was clicking a Bic lighter on and off she held in her right hand, the yellow flame playing off the falling orange California sun. Jennifer Aniston was wearing tight blue jeans, white socks, Nike running shoes and a navy blue tank top with string straps.
“What happened to the gold lighter I gave you,” asked Stephen.
“What do you do with a gold lighter, Stephen? You keep it. You use it. And if I use it, that means I am smoking. And I am trying to quit, remember,” said Jennifer nervously.
“But you’re using that cheap lighter. Bad image. If you are going to smoke, you might as well do it with gold,” said Stephen.
Jennifer shot Stephen a look and then put the cigarette out in the large tray. She then pulled out a pack of Merit Ultra Lights and flipped a new cigarette in her mouth, lighting it with the Bic. She took a long drag and then blew smoke rings into the upper center of Stephen Huvane’s office. Stephen Huvane was the younger brother of Kevin Huvane, the famous and powerful talent agent who was a partner of Creative Artist Management. Kevin Huvane managed the money and contracts of movie stars. Stephen Huvane managed the image of movie stars. Publicists were once considered the lapdogs of Hollywood. They were now the first to call on a celebrity’s emergency list.
“I like smoke rings. Is that a good image,” said Jennifer Aniston.
“Only if you are acting in a movie. But the way I have positioned you, smoking is not a good image in general. You are Jennifer Aniston, the perfect American white girl. Smoking is an imperfection,” said Stephen.
“What about being dumped by Brad Pitt? Is that an imperfection?” asked Jennifer.
“Well, actually, that is a part of the American Girl experience. It is not an image problem if handled correctly, and I think we handled it correctly,” said Stephen.
“OK. OK. So how are we handling this one?” asked Jennifer.
“With Vince Vaughn, I think we say it was a mutual separation,” said Stephen.
“Is lying part of the American Girl experience?” said Jennifer.
“Very much so,” said Stephen in all seriousness.
Jennifer Aniston listened to Stephen Huvane, listened to his speech about the American Girl, the American White Girl, that is. But it did not seem to maytter, this idea. The image was important to Stephen Huvane, not the human being.
“Is something wrong with me? How can I possibly be that perfect American girl? How? I am really quite pleasant, you know. I am low maintenance. I do not demand a lot from a man. But they…they keep…they keep leaving,” said Jennifer as she shoved the cigarette in her mouth for the twentieth time.
Stephen recognized that his client was upset, nearly in tears. It was touching, and though he at times allowed himself to get caught up in the emotions of his high profile clients, he viewed the emotions as publicity opportunities. Maybe the “jilted” Jennifer was a better image move than the “mutual separation” scenario he had proposed. Look at her. You wanted to hug her, take care of her. To say Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn separated mutually lacked any market value. It was avoidance. It was weak. It did not have balls. But sitting in front of Stephen Huvane was a story with balls, a story with value. To get dumped by a string of men can add value. Look what happened to Judy Garland. Sure Garland’s life was a mess and Judy Garland was a drug addict and miserable. That wasn’t the point. The Judy Garland name and image was golden. That was the point. That’s what was important. The market value of the life, not the quality of life.
“Maybe we should be honest. Maybe we should approach this from a perspective of truth,” said Stephen.
“The truth. That would be a new approach,” said Jennifer.
“Jennifer, there is the factual truth and there is the essence of truth. Sometimes the facts and the essence are in conflict. So it is my job to decide whether the facts or the essence serves you better,” said Stephen, knowing that he was shoveling shit with a big scoop, but hell, it was his business to mix shit into something digestible.
“Yeah, so what are you saying,” asked Jennifer.
“Maybe here, now, we go with the facts. Maybe the factual truth is the essence,” said Stephen Huvane. Stephen enjoyed making these pronouncements, and it reminded him that he should write a book on representing celebrities. It was all a matter of how you said things. Shit is only shit if you call it shit. He chuckled at the thought.
“What are you laughing at?” asked Jennifer.
Whoops. His client caught him doing a daydream, a private thought, a mind journey that happens often while dealing with these movie stars who, bottom line, were really only interesting on the screen. In person, they were generally boring, causing Stephen to get lost in thought at odd moments. But he considered it work. He was paid good money to think things through, and so he was thinking, even though he should be conversing with Jennifer Aniston. His clients saw Stephen as part magician, part therapist. And right now Jennifer needed a therapist.
“I am just glad you are rid of Vince Vaughn. He was not good for your career,” said Stephen. He just pulled that one out of a hat.
“Vince is very talented. People like Vince. I liked Vince,” Jennifer said holding back tears.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. But you have class, Jennifer. You have a lot of class. Vince Vaughn is a big lug from the working class. You are from Tiffany. Vince is from…from Home Depot,” said Stephen.
“Just say it was mutual. I’d rather lie about it. It is no pone’s business. I want to get on with things. OK?” said Jennifer.
“OK. OK. A decision has been made. That is good. Sometimes you get to this place only after talking out the possibilities. So this is good. We go with the mutual separation story,” said Stephen.
Jennifer pulled out the gold lighter from her pocket.
“See, I have it. And I will use it. I like cigarettes. And that is the truth,” said Jennifer as she lit another Merit Ultra Light.
“OK. OK. Yes. Good. The truth is good. When it is good, that is,” said Stephen. Damn, he really should write a book.