Personal Faves: Lindsay Lohan’s Wild Ride

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Jennifer Wright details her love for this year’s brightest burning star: Lindsay Lohan.

It’s hard to write about Lindsay Lohan.

Not because she’s not interesting. She’s interesting in the way only a true star can be interesting.

The thing that makes writing anything about Lindsay Lohan nearly impossible is that, by press time, she will have at least three more things no one could possibly have predicted. She seems to live in a wonderland where she can do six impossible things before breakfast. Just a few weeks ago, Lindsay supposedly punched a psychic in the face over a weird dispute involving a member of a boy band. I cannot imagine what she’ll do this week. But I know it will be bizarre, and I know I will turn my attention to her for at least a moment, because Lindsay Lohan was honestly the only truly fascinating star to watch in 2012.

Do you know what happens when you Google “Reese Witherspoon last week?” Or “Kirsten Dunst last week?” Nothing. Just like us! Oh, well, a bit. They were working on some projects. They had relationships. Maybe if it’s a crazy week they were dieting, probably for a project.

Most people’s lives, even if they are famous people, at their apex of oddity, are about as interesting as a very slowly paced sitcom. Not Lindsay Lohan’s. Lindsay Lohan seems to have found her way to make her life mirror a soap opera that would almost certainly be canceled for being too outrageous.

That much decried, comically melodramatic scene in Lohan’s recent Lifetime Elizabeth Taylor Biopic Liz & Dick wherein Lindsay screams “I can’t live without you!” and then runs down the hallway, grabs a bottle of pills, gobbles them down like M&Ms, and then flings herself onto the bed? I do not think that scene seemed like melodrama to Lindsay Lohan. I think that seemed like “Tuesday.”

And that—not because she gave a decent performance in Mean Girls, though I know we cling to that as an explanation—is why Lindsay Lohan is an object of national obsession. She could very well have given that Mean Girls performance, and, if her private life had not been insane, she would likely be just another semi-remembered teen idol. You can turn to anyone in a room and say, “How about Lindsay Lohan?” They will probably have something to say. She will make them sad. She will make them angry. She will make them jealous. Try doing that with Rachel McAdams. People will say she has nice hair and wonder why you’re asking.

Lindsay is fascinating for negative reasons, of course, but the definition of a fascinating person may be one going through experiences most of us can barely imagine. Those experiences—outrageous bar fights! Theft! Fiery brawls with lovers!—might not be ones we’d want to experience. But surely someone is supposed to experience them, the way someone is supposed to walk on the moon, or explore the depths of the ocean.  

While every other star seems to be getting photographers from US to take “candid” shots of them helping out at soup kitchens and loudly proclaiming that they are “just like us,” and, really, generally behaving just like us… Well, Lindsay Lohan has no apparent interest at all in being just like us. Or perhaps circumstances conspire against her being like us. Either way, if you put her picture next to the vast morass of humanity, you could play “one of these things is not like the other.” 

Just look at her 2012.

A brief rundown: in 2012, Lindsay Lohan posed for Playboy. She hit someone with her car. She found out she had a secret half-sister. She punched that psychic. She sold her own clothes for cash. She was given $100,000 by Charlie Sheen. She was on Saturday Night Live. She slept with Terry Richardson. She was on Glee. She got into a fight in a limo with her mother, who she claimed was on a lot of cocaine, and her father told her the limo driver was kidnapping her. She was almost strangled by a congressional aide.

These are the things I remember off the top of my head.

Other things almost certainly happened at the rate of about one a week. And isn’t any one of them more interesting than the stories we read about nearly anyone else?  

Because, if we’re honest, there’s almost nothing less interesting than the endless articles about how stars are keeping their marriages spicy and raising great kids while watching their weight. Honestly, I don’t care I don’t care about how they’re doing that, unless their secret is living on kale and human blood, and even then, I don’t care about the kale.

Meanwhile, I would buy a whole magazine entitled What Lindsay Lohan Did This Week.

Like Addison Dewitt of All About Eve, I have absolutely no interest in stars being just like us, given that, as he points out, “their greatest attraction to the publicis their complete lack ofresemblance to normal human beings.” Stars aren’t stars because they’re just like us. They’re stars because they are vastly removed from us, burning brightly and briefly somewhere out in the ether, not at all subject to the rules that govern mortal man.  

And for most of, well, the history of movie stars, this was understood. Gloria Swanson had her toilet made out gold. Charlie Chaplin ran off with a 16-year-old girl. Loretta Young supposedly had a secret baby that she covered up and then “adopted.” Montgomery Clift was so into drugs and alcohol that in The Judgement At Nuremberg he had to ad lib all his lines. Elizabeth Taylor, who Lindsay Lohan played with around three different kind of accents, had so many personal scandals that it is too difficult to pick just one.

It seems impossible to say whether those scandalous, unusual elements of their lives occur because they’re famous (Marlon Brando claimed that, at the height of his fame, he couldn’t open a door if he wanted to—they were all opened for him, which says something), but they do occur.

All of this madness provides the rest of us out in the dark watching with a sense of envy, but also a sense of pride in our own decisions. We envy Lindsay Lohan, and all the really brightly burning stars with lives unlike our own, because we wish we could get away with things the way they do. I wish I could crash cars and emerge unscathed and suffer no real consequences (time after time after time). A great part of the interest in Lindsay Lohan—at least my interest in her—is that in addition to seeming reckless she seems somehow, well, wreck-less.

A few weeks ago, the Twitter account “God” tweeted that “the human race is so busy reading about Lindsay Lohan it doesn’t realize it IS Lindsay Lohan.” A great sentiment, but entirely untrue. Most of us wouldn’t survive acting like Lindsay Lohan for a month, let alone a lifetime. At the very least, we’d be in jail. But really, we’d probably be dead.

Yet, Lindsay continues to make films, and recently, during an interview detailed in The New Inquiry, she told a reporter that her goal is “to work with Oliver Stone. And I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to get it.”

I read it and thought, “Well, she might.”

Lindsay Lohan was arrested because she ran someone down in her car this year. And yet, the idea of her working with Oliver Stone still doesn’t seem entirely outside the realm of possibility.

That is not what it is to be human. To be human is to be bound by rules. That is what it is to be some kind of Greek God.

While the idea of a life without rules might fascinate us, we also know that none of this is very good for Lindsay Lohan. We know that we will probably live longer and have happier relationships. We know that, because we know that living without rules and repercussions, and burning at such a dazzling rate is synonymous with self-immolation. 

No one actually wants Lindsay Lohan to die.

At best, probably, she will fade into a minor sort of obscurity, periodically popping up for roles in made for TV dramas and otherwise living somewhat quietly. That would be good for Lindsay Lohan, but, God, we’d miss her exploits. Because know that, like Edna Saint Vincent Millay, if she continues burning away at her current pace Lindsay may not last the night. Still, while she burns, she gives a hell of a light.

Follow Jennifer Wright on Twitter

The Realities and Fantasies of Finding Love With New York’s Top Matchmaker

You are not the kind of girl who would be at a place like this at this time: 6:30pm. Or maybe you are. Maybe you are the kind of girl who would sit under a massive plastic cupcake-shaped awning while waiting for matchmaker Janis Spindel to assess you. But then, what kind of girl is that?

When I walk in to Dylan’s Candy Bar for one of the famed Matchmaker’s Meet and Greets with eligible women I feel an almost frantic temptation to inform anyone manning that door that I am fine. I don’t need any help getting dates! Maybe some women do, but not me! Not me! I feel this way, because, if you are a halfway attractive woman, you are supposed to be in, approximately, the same romantic situation as Scarlet O’Hara at a barbecue—no matter that not even Vivien Leigh had that many beaux.

Besides, you know the kind of girl that you expect to see at any kind of matchmaking event.You know. Imagine them in your head. Imagine The Millionaire Matchmaker if you’re having trouble. Bleached blonde hair. Lips pumped full of collagen. Dead behind the eyes.

When I think of the women who use matchmakers, I specifically think of one of the girls on Millionaire listlessly stroking the back of her male conquest as he excitedly explained they were co-habitating. While he did so, she stared at the camera, blankly, as though she had decided her youth would be a fair price to barter for a three bedroom on 3rd Avenue.

Which is to say: I don’t think I could ever pull off bleached blonde with my coloring. Becoming utterly soulless also seems like it might be tough.

And if there’s any door guy, I want him to know that, too.

There isn’t one, of course.

There is, instead, an incredibly nice, down-to-earth group of around a dozen women waiting in the upstairs cafe. Not a single of one them seems to suffer from jelly-fish lip syndrome. They appear to range in age from their mid-twenties to late thirties, and all of them are excitedly waiting to meet Janis.

I’m shocked, mostly, I think, by the footwear. They wear sensible shoes. I realize I—ludicrously—expected everyone to be teetering around in 6-inch plastic heels.

But the women aren’t gold diggers or dilettantes or universally known “actresses/models”. They have great jobs. They make good jokes! They’re the kinds of girls you’d want to be friends with. Then I draw back and realize that this is perhaps because they are not doing this to be on television.

That might be why. So, why are they here, then, these nice, pretty, normal women in their nice, pretty, normal shoes?  They’re certainly the kind of women who can find dates on their own.

Everyone has their reasons. One woman explains that her mom met someone through Janis. Someone else says that they found an offer through Lifebooker. Someone remarks that Janis has e-mailed her to come in about 20 times (Janis proudly admits that she is relentless). And someone else points out that she read that Janis has married almost 1,000 couples (Janis is, in fact, six away). The group nods in unison. 

Ah. That’s right. They’re there to meet their husbands. 

That, perhaps, really is the appeal. In an age and a city where you’re supposed to be so fulfilled with your life that you’re perpetually “only looking for something casual”—you’re Scarlet O’Hara at a barbeque!—it’s almost taboo to be obviously looking to settle down and get married.

Even on the Internet. In spite of the fact that on online dating sites it’s perfectly acceptable to say that your interests include, say, crocodile wrestling and braiding strangers’ hair, it would still be a bit weird to lead with your desire to get married and start a family as soon as possible. But Janis assures the room that that is precisely what her male clients are looking for.

Marriage is what Janis Spindel does, and she’s fairly clear on that point. She recounts a story to the women about meeting a man who had decided he was ready to find his wife, and how a name of one of her clients instantly popped into her head. “So, I said to him, ‘Brianna,” she declares, “and he says ‘who’s Brianna?’ And I said, “well, she’s your wife.’”

Janis says this with such conviction that I imagine there’s no doubt in any listener’s mind that, a week later, Brianna and that man are now married. This, seemingly, is just how it happens with Janis. She does—as that one attendee pointed out—have nearly 1,000 couples married, and a shockingly low divorce rate.

Now, maybe it happens that way simply because she is throwing together two people with reasonably similar interests who are both very ready to settle down. But still. On some level, everyone who has ever had disappointing experiences dating probably dreams that a fairy Godmother will sweep in and say, “Here. Here is the person you are supposed to be with. Go live happily ever after now.”

And to get to skip all the stumbling about and feigning an interest in crocodile wrestling in search of that person? No wonder men pay Janis a starting fee of $100,000. And as for the women, perhaps it’s worth sitting through Janis’s intense questioning period (she asks one woman if she’d like to move to Seattle, the woman declines, and Janis replies, undeterred, “Until you meet him and fall madly in love!”) on the off-chance that your name will pop into her head and she’ll present you with true love on a platter.

We may be willing to work very hard to find love, but how wonderful it would be if, instead, it could just be presented to us so effortlessly.  As the women—these nice, normal, pretty women—leave the Meet & Greet, they do so with a sense of childlike optimism that befits the venue.

And who’s the kind of girl who would be into that? Well, maybe it’s just about all of us.

The Not-So-Modern Failures of the Opera

Do you want to know why young people don’t love opera? Really? Why they don’t go no matter how prettily you stage Wagner? Lean in. We can whisper it sotto voce, all molto allegro: it’s because they’ve never liked the opera itself that much.

No, really. Young people were not fundamentally more tasteful or smarter or gifted with prodigious attention spans 200 years ago.

While it’s probably a mistake to think of human history as an elaborate costume party, as a general rule, in any age, young people like places where they can wear less clothing than usual and have a higher than average likelihood of having sex. This explains why Marquee keeps packing people in (and nightclubs still would even if they all decided to only play Puccini), and the Met, alas, does not.

Opera houses did pack young people in, once. But that’s just because opera houses were the hot club of the 19th century.

Of course, the way Struldbergs insist on disguising themselves means that we can’t ask many people from the 19th century their feelings on opera in its heyday. Fortunately, we have some little books to draw from, like War and Peace, the main thesis of which is “opera is so freaking lame, you guys.” Natasha—a young woman and, debatably, the heroine of the novel—attends her first opera and reflects:

It was so pretentiously false and unnatural that she first felt ashamed for the actors and then amused at them. She looked at the faces of the audience, seeking in them the same sense of ridicule and perplexity she herself experienced, but they all seemed attentive to what was happening on the stage, and expressed delight, which to Natasha seemed feigned. "I suppose it has to be like this!" she thought. She kept looking round in turn at the rows of pomaded heads in the stalls and then at the seminude women in the boxes, especially at Helene in the next box, who—apparently quite unclothed—sat with a quiet tranquil smile.

Dude. She’s quite unclothed. The important part of this isn’t that Natasha realizes her peers are just pretending to be delighted by the opera, it’s that La Belle Helene is quite unclothed. There seems like a possibility that the beautiful seminude opera-going ladies in Tolstoy’s time might have been a draw for some men. No. No, maybe young men were just there because “Dit-moi que je suis belle” is like a shot of heroin right to their hearts.

Spoiler: they weren’t. And Edith Wharton is on that like The New York Times! She describes men going to the opera, circa 1870 in The Age of Innocence by saying:

“When Newland Archer opened the door at the back of the opera the curtain had just gone up on the garden scene. There was no reason why the young man should have come earlier … New York was a metropolis, and perfectly aware that in metropolises it was “not the thing” to arrive early at the opera.  … (the boxes always stopped talking during the daisy song)… all the carefully crushed, white-waistcoated, button-holed flowered gentlemen who succeeded one another in the club box, exchanged friendly greetings with him and turned their opera-glasses critically on the circle of ladies who were a product of the system.”

Well, any club promoter can tell you, first you get the models, and then you get the bankers.

And those waistcoated men fell uncharacteristically silent for one song. Try to imagine a 21st century person’s reaction to going to a movie where the audience was silent only for one scene. It’s unimaginable. Or it’s imaginable, but in the way the apocalypse is imaginable. Though when you take that people were talking throughout into account, it explains why operas’ librettos tend to repeat the same point an average of 20 times.

The chatter was aggravating to some people at the time, too, but only people who authors wanted you to know were awful. In Where Angels Fear To Tread, upon attending a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor one irritatingly moral character tries shushing everyone around her—and they “were quiet, not because it is wrong to talk during a chorus, but because it is natural to be civil to a visitor.” 

When the Civic opera house—now The Lyric—opened in Chicago in 1929, it was considered shocking that the boxes faced towards the stage, rather than forming a horseshoe pattern. That meant that people in boxes would actually have to watch the opera, rather than waving to their friends and strolling around to talk to them.

So, it all really fell apart when wealthy young men stopped being able to walk around talking to eligible semi-nude women. Especially because that really diminished the likelihood of having super-hot affairs with them.

In Madame Bovary, Emma Bovary rebounds from her last failed relationship almost immediately after meeting her old acquaintance Leon at a local opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor (it was a hot ticket of the day). Leon thinks the opera is terrible, but praises it as soon as Madame Bovary reveals she likes it—because she loves romance novels (if it strikes you that “disliking opera” is a shorthand for a 19th author proving a young character’s intellect, it’s because that’s a thing that keeps happening.) Then they have sex. In a carriage. For an entire day.

The last good piece of media propaganda the opera had was suggesting that if you go, you might see Richard Gere hold Julia Roberts’s hand while she wears a red ballgown. That is nothing compared to suggesting that if you go to the opera, you will soon be having 12 hours of sex in moving vehicles.

Even Natasha, who thought the opera was absurd, is seduced by the dashing, married spendthrift Anatole while attending. She proceeds to have a tryst with him. Not in a carriage, though. Why? Because she’s a lady. And, of course, the opera is where Newland Archer first spies Ellen Olenska, who he then obsesses about for the rest of his life.

All this seems obviously superior to “watching Wagner in silence behind very elderly, very clothed people who are slowly falling asleep.” At least, superior in a passionate way, obviously not superior in a “longevity” way. Or a “well rested” way, if that’s your thing.

Of course, there is still a group of young people who do love and attend the opera, but they tend to be the kind of oddball young people who quote Tolstoy to prove their points. That is to say: they’re young people who have a sneaking suspicion that they might have an easier time getting laid in a prior era. And if you gave them the option of attending the opera now or attending it during its prime? Most would opt for the prime years.

It will be a similarly grim but determined group who will insist on hanging out in the joyless 22nd-century imitation of Marquee. They’ll drink vodka tonics reverently, and, like Richard Gere’s character in the Traviata scene of Pretty Women, turn to a 22nd-century woman and say, “People’s first reaction to Far East Movement is very dramatic. They either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If you don’t love ‘Like a G6’ immediately, you may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of your soul.” 

And yes, maybe they will be sincere about that, or as sincere as they can be. But being there, and being reverent, won’t be anywhere as enjoyable as it would have been in the time when it was designed to be taken less seriously, and, in essence, just be more fun. And, to paraphrase that musical genius of our time, Cyndi Lauper, young people just want to have fun.