Early: Here for It, #219

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

Pictured below: me subsisting entirely on the steady diet of on-set paparazzi photos from the Gucci movie currently filming in Milan starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver:

Pictured below: me patiently refreshing my Twitter browser for more on-set photos of Lady Gaga and Adam Driver filming a movie about Gucci in Milan, reportedly my only source of sustenance and part of a healthy celebrity news diet:

In case you haven’t seen these photos (my lifeblood, my everything) that’s Lady Gaga in the foreground, playing Patrizia Reggiani ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci, played by Adam Driver. They’re starring in House of Gucci, about Maurizio’s assassination (I won’t spoil the movie—based on widely reported factual events—by saying who assassinated him but let’s just say someone in the picture chose to leave the gun and feed the stromboli.) When I first heard about this movie, I got it confused with the story of another fashion icon, Gianni Versace, and I thought Didn’t we already do this last year with Penelope Cruz? Now, I’m never, ever going to complain about Lady Gaga playing Donatella Versace, particularly since she already seems to be appearing in the role on a daily basis, but it did leave me quite confused until I realized that I had no idea what I was talking about and these were two completely different fashion houses on two completely different continents and yes I used to be a Senior Staff Writer at a renowned fashion magazine and yes I was very lost much of the time. I’d recap Project Runway and spend roughly 4 hours googling “synonyms for ‘pretty dress’”. Ah well. It’s like Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett once sang: “You say it’s Gucci, I say Versace, let’s call the whole thing off.”

It is impossible for me to not be obsessed with this movie about gigantic Adam Driver and Oscar-winner Lady Gaga playing decadent Italian moguls who look, in this photo, like the parents of your rich friend who invite you to come on a skiing trip on Spring Break and tell you to order whatever you want from the lodge restaurant. “ANYTHING!” the mom says emphatically, and it occurs to you that you might actually get in trouble if you don’t go ahead and get that double hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. They always have nightly events to go to in fancy yurts and as an adult you look back and you think they had a swinger vibe but your analyst says you’re probably just confused by displays of immense wealth in cold climates and you’ve seen The Ice Storm too many times.

Pictured below: Me questioning my analyst’s assessment, unsuccessfully.

I don’t know what this movie is about other than Lady Gaga pulling absolute LEWKS and frankly that’s the only log line I need. Sometimes you just want to go sit in a movie theater (your kitchen with a laptop) and lose yourself in 90 minutes of costume dramaturgy (make dinner while occasionally looking over at the screen and murmuring “Yes, werk Lady Gaga”).

Someone on Twitter called this a Strega Nona origin story and it’s the funniest thing I’ve read all week. Just imagine Lady Gaga rolling up to some Italian village with a stone and a pot like “Who’s hungry?! Order anything from the lodge! Anything!” and all the villagers are like “this strega is strana but I am LIVING for her headwrap. Werk Nona; give us everything!” And she’s like “I’m going to give you everything! And then you’re going to give me everything in this pot! That’s the whole point!” And the villagers are like “I actually don’t get it.” This all happens in the first 15 minutes. There’s a lot of plot to burn through.

Picture below: Lady Gaga jumps in a cab and tells the driver “Floor it! We have a lot of plot to burn through! And pop the trunk—I need to throw my pot and this big ole stone in the back!”

Pictured below: Mrs. Gaga decided to burn through the plot herself.

I am spending a lot of time on these set photos for obvious reasons (I’m gay and Lady Gaga is wearing costumes; it’s required by law). But also because it’s the kind of digestible, delightful, eccentric celebrity business that I’ve been so starved for over the last year. Is celebrity culture as a whole good? No. But is it a particularly wonderful thing when celebrities are plugged in to their appeal and give us tiny morsels of activity to sustain us and our massive appetites for the outsized, the glamorous, and the peculiar? Absolutely. One of the many things that the pandemic wrought was that it took celebrities off of big stages and random Jamba Juice runs and put them on Instagram Live in weird empty rooms in their mansions. To quote non-celebrity Valerie Cherish, “I don’t want to see that!”

I’m someone who used to wait by the mail slot for Entertainment Weekly as a child and devour the production news, the celebrity gossip, the weird on-set stories, and the highly coordinated “revealing” interviews. Even years later, I still randomly think about tidbits I learned about people I’d never meet. “Bette Midler was originally supposed to star in Sister Act,” I’ll think, while doing the dishes. “People in North Carolina were racist to a Black friend of Julia Roberts’s during the filming of Sleeping with the Enemy and when she talked about it, Julia Roberts got in trouble. Then she talked about it again, because Julia Roberts was a real one,” I’ll think while vacuuming. On one hand, Twitter and the internet in general function in the same sort of role (and I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out Hunter Harris’s newsletter as an essential place for all kinds of celebrity nonsense). But I think I long for the concentrated aspect of getting it all from one magazine and then having to wait an entire week for more.

But, of course, the last year turned what was once a deluge of celebrity info into a dribble. Which is why I’m so grateful for these random photos of Lady Gaga walking around being Italian. When historians look back at this strange period in time, they will credit scientists and frontline workers and teachers and grocery stores employees with saving humanity, and perhaps elected leaders will get a shout out (but not the Republicans who are currently touting the American Rescue Plan after voting against it. No soup for you! Not even a stone!) But I hope the historians save a paragraph or two to honor the two celebrities who kept us going in Q1 2021: Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.

Looking back over the last three months, it’s clear that while congress needed time to work through their strategy for fixing the country, Gaga and JLo marched into this year with a plan.

Let’s just look at the facts: Gaga put a Hunger Games bird on an Evita costume and screamed the National Anthem at Mike Pence at the inauguration; she literally changed the color of Oreos from black to pink (which really makes the racially-charged name-calling I used to get kind of moot, so thanks Gaga!); and then she hopped on a plane, quarantined for 14 days, and started filming a big screen adaptation of every Sophia Petrillo story.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez showed up at the inauguration dressed like a Victorian Dandy going to a Fire Island white party; she shouted “LET’S GET LOUD! like she was in the middle of Glee mashup; she narrowly avoided having to act in a romcom opposite Armie Hammer (who is in his own dark-sided celebrity gossip spiral) and then leveled up when Armie Hammer was replaced on the film by Josh Duhamel; and then broke up with ARod, who I dubbed the 2018 Instagram Boyfriend of the Year.

This photo (and the whole series in the linked article) will never not be hilarious to me.

If celebrity news is the stone soup that once burbled in our now-dry pots, then Lady Gaga and JLo have truly been the Stregas for our struggle, showing up in town in a fierce head wrap and then backing up an entire dump truck of stones like they’re Fred Flintstone fresh from the quarry. “Order anything you want!” they cry, after our long cold winter. “There’s more on the way!”

Yardly a Sale

In other news, I just have to let you know that I am stuck between a rock and a hard place vis-a-vis my other lifeblood: local inconsequential gossip and general nosiness. So, we live cattycorner to a Trump house, like they have a Trump flag and an American flag hanging outside their door. Still. At this late mid-apocalyptic age. You can only see it from one or two windows in our house and we don’t sit on our front porch, so I just ignore it most of the time. It felt like a threat until the end of Election Week and then suddenly it just felt silly. In any case, we’re separated by a busy road (40 miles per hour! It’s basically a Fast & Furious movie!) and I’ve never met them or seen them which is fine with me. EXCEPT that today they are having a yard sale. I know this because I craned my head out of one window to do my daily check of the Trump house and I saw a huge sign that read “YARD SALE”. So, detective work.

Of course I wanted to know what kind of goods the Trump house was selling, so then I got in my car, drove 34 seconds at 20 miles per hour and stared at their yard until someone sped up behind me and honked (Vin Diesel). Then I drove down the road, turned around, and drove 67 seconds at 20 miles per hour with my blinker on so that people would think I was looking for an address and a little bit lost. Undercover work! The Trump house is selling one round top grill, two lawn chairs, and one wooden chair. Babe. That’s not a yard sale. That’s just a couple of thing sale. That’s a Facebook post. So then I had to drive 4 minutes up to the market, turn around there, and drive back to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Stakeout work.

It was on the third trip that I noticed another sign next to the many Yard Sale signs (more signs than goods being offered in exchange for American stimulus dollars that the Trump house is against, methinks). The other sign read “More things —> —>” with the arrows pointing to the backyard. Now I had a decision to make. I want very much to know what kind of junk the Trump house is trying to get rid of (their own morality? common sense? any book not written by Dr. Seuss?) but also even though Lady Gaga’s Oreos are now pink, I’m still Black. What I don’t need to be doing in Joe Biden’s America is pulling into the driveway of a Trump house, getting out of my hybrid car in my Lululemon sweatshirt and matching mask, and perusing their selection of Civil War memorabilia and unopened hydroxycloroquine. Maybe I’ll send a drone. My work is never done!


Look at this picture of these flowers in our yard!

I cannot claim credit for these, part of a delightful sprinkling of early bloomers popping up all over—David planted something like 200 bulbs this winter. So, I feel a little bad going “Look how pretty my garden is!” but the truth is I was very busy staring at the Trump house with binoculars. We all have hobbies.

Yes, I am planning to rake again.

Crocuses and daffodils are like those people who wake up at 5 am and get a workout and morning pages in before going to the office. They’re always so fresh and talkative at 8:45 am in the break room while everyone else still has pillow creases on their faces. This is not and never has been my particular ministry. But I’m happy for them and glad they got an early start. Once a year I pretend to be a morning person when we do the daylight savings time switch where we gain an hour but that’s really just time grifting. I’m wearing the drag of 8 am at what is really 9 am in my body. I thought that that was the switch we were going to do today and, reader, it was not. I was like “Ah yes, the day I steal an hour from Father Time himself like I am a duplicitous character on Succession.” And Father Time was like “YOU THOUGHT! You’re being Time Audited! Your drag is terrible!”

Pictured below: me getting up at 7:30 this morning thinking it was really going to feel like 8:30 but actually it felt like 6:30.

Anyway, congratulations to the flowers and everyone who is awake!

Random Thing on the Internet

Have you seen the bowling alley drone video? It’s amazing!

(Vin Diesel),