Monday, July 14, 2003

Grabbing a fast pass to fame


Monday July 14, 2003

Grabbing a fast pass to fame
* A party celebrating the release of a book on gaining instant celebrity is a magnet for the sort-of-famous set.

by Steven Barrie-Anthony, Times Staff Writer

But Warhol didn't say how long it would take to get your 15 minutes.

Up to two weeks, according to Melissa de la Cruz and Karen Robinovitz's new book, "How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less" (Ballantine).

"Once you start telling people you're famous, they believe you," de la Cruz says.

"We should be able to slip past any velvet rope. Everybody should be able to," Robinovitz says.

All you have to do is follow their eightfold path, outlined in chapters such as "A 'Brand' New You," "There's No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, Darling," "Managing the Press Machine" and "The Schmooze factor."

The book began as an assignment for Marie Claire magazine, and it got the authors ink in the New York Post and beyond. Now they've sold the movie rights to Disney. And the Times is covering the book party at the Tracy Ross store on Sunset Boulevard.

The party is hot. Sweat beads on Joel Michaely's forehead. "Apparently they're going to tell us how to become more famous," says the actor ("Rules of Attraction"). "I have a finite amount of fame. I'm looking to become more famous."

Nearby, Jenna Lewis, from the first "Survivor" series, lounges on a black leather sofa. "I hated becoming famous," Lewis gushes, grinning, "but either you embrace it, or you become a hermit like Howard Hughes. Celebrityhood is our royalty, and," she says, grabbing an hors d'oeuvre, "I get free shepherd's pie.

"Do you know who that is behind me?" Lewis asks, chancing a quick glance over her shoulder. "That's Brennan Swain. He was on the first 'Amazing Race.' "

"I was the first 'Amazing Race' winner," Swain emphasizes. "I was a lawyer, then I ended up on the show, and next thing you know -- I was famous." Swain left his law firm. But he is far from idle. "A bunch of my buddies from reality TV series all got together, and we're starting a cable network called Reality Central," Swain says. The network will feature "lots of reruns of the reality shows we know and love." "I'm from the sixth 'Survivor,' " pipes in Alex Bell. "All I did was get on national TV and hit myself with a machete."

In a tent in the parking lot, partyers browse the Silent Auction of Celebrity Swag to benefit the Colombia Presbyterian Herbert Irving Child and Adolescent Oncology Center. Heiress and yoga instructor Anna Getty drops by to check in on her donation of "yoga tea events." She has yet to read the book but says that "there are so many ways to become famous ... go for it."

Has anybody here actually read the book?

"I love the title -- it's so L.A.," says heiress and party girl Paris Hilton. Had she perused the book, she would've come across a section titled "Why Don't You Throw Food at the Hilton Sisters?" in which de la Cruz and Robinovitz consider finding fame by doing just that.

Hilton will soon join the reality TV ranks herself: In Fox's coming "A Simple Life," Hilton will cope without a cell phone or credit cards, and she even has to work ... at a Dairy Queen. She'll become even more famous by pretending she's not famous.

The authors arrive fashionably late to the Thursday night affair. De la Cruz is in Christian Dior, while Robinovitz chose Escada and a pair of custom-made Rock & Republic jeans.

"Calvin Klein called our publicist, but we were already taken," Robinovitz says.

"I haven't paid for anything since I became famous," de la Cruz admits.

Which is apparently the case with some other attendees as well. "One woman tried to pull a switch on me," says security guy Kerry Meets of O&R Protective Services. He is wearing a black suit and an earpiece.

According to Meets, the woman slipped on a blue topaz and diamond ring that was being auctioned, replaced it with her own and walked away. Meets "grabbed her by the arm" and elicited an "Oh, I'm so embarrassed!" before she sauntered off. "That happens more in this atmosphere than in middle- or lower-class areas," Meets says, frowning.

Indeed. Later on, a certain rock star's daughter was seen helping herself to a pair of socks. "She was rummaging through a display," says an onlooker, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "She grabbed a pair of socks, took off her Ugg boots, put the socks on and ran off."

"I know who stole the socks," store owner Tracy Ross says when called the next day. "She told me she was stealing them. And I have her credit card on file.""Celebrity is almost the easy way out," says Ben Coyle, an artist who claims he's not looking for personal fame but, rather, recognition in the art world.

He is in the minority here.

"I feel famous too!" enthuses de la Cruz's mom, Ching. To keep up with their daughter, she and husband Bert "have to keep on reading entertainment magazines," she says. Bert has yet to read his daughter's book -- but he does find a moment to browse People magazine at the party.

Around 9, De la Cruz and Robinovitz try to project energy but, in fact, look exhausted.

"It's fun signing autographs," de la Cruz chirps.

Robinovitz drops and retrieves her autograph pen. "Fame doesn't fill the void," she admits, finally. "There is a difference between this and who we are at heart."

She eyes the door. "I can't wait to get back to my hotel and order room service," Robinovitz says.

As for de la Cruz: "I'm going home with my parents to Pasadena to watch our big TV."

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