Kristin Luna
    Celebrities
    Career

Celebrity Tell-All: Moonlighting as an Entertainment Reporter

Richard Gere called me “honey” in the most patronizing manner and told me to get my priorities straight. I peed next to Dianne Lane, who was the loveliest of bathroom companions. Beyonce’s bodyguard shoved me into a wall. All in a day’s work for a celebrity reporter. (And don’t you dare call me a paparazzo! I’m classier than that.)

Ben Affleck

Meeting Ben Affleck over drinks while promoting Hollywoodland in 2007.

Many of you know that I’m a travel writer for many a magazine, as well as a guidebook author by profession, but if you’ve read my bio page (or simply been around these parts long enough), you’ll know I also dabble in entertainment reporting. This was never my intention, you see, but when I first moved up to New York in 2005, I had a job at Newsweek International on Fridays and Saturdays, but nothing to do the rest of the week. So I got a four-day-a-week gig at—don’t judge me—In Touch Weekly.

Clive Owen at Mill Valley Film Festival

Hanging with Clive Owen at Mill Valley Film Festival in 2009.

For as little as I’d ever read the magazine (which was never) and as infrequently as I logged onto sites like Gawker and Jezebel, it’s funny that someone like me would end up in such a position. On the third day of the job in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, my boss sent me to Chelsea to my first red carpet event to interview the likes of Kanye West, Hilary Duff and Carson Daly (who was not pleased when I was made to ask about his eating disorder, let me tell you). Working for In Touch turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it helped my reporting, celebrity or otherwise, in so many ways: It’s admittedly one of the trashier of the weeklies—no one will deny that fact—and pretty much every question I had to ask celebs was of an extremely personal nature, but it gave me thicker skin and quicker wits as a reporter. I learned to think on my feet, to shove aside my Southern shyness (at least temporarily) and that actors, comedians, models and the like were real people, not idols to place on a pedestal and be intimidated by. (Yeah, remind me of that the day I finally get to meet George Clooney.)

Jessica Simpson at Dukes of Hazzard premiere

Jessica Simpson at the 2005 premiere of Dukes of Hazzard in Knoxville.

Six years later and I’ve interviewed thousands of celebrities and covered hundreds of red carpet events, movie premieres, award shows, concerts—you name it. If you’re doing it nightly, as I was in New York (after working a 9am to 6pm job at a fashion magazine, mind you), it can get exhausting and you quickly burn out. In New York, you see the same old guys at every event, it seems—Paul Rudd and Christopher Meloni, for example, were always party staples—as well as a smattering of reality TV “stars” you feel like you should know but the faces and names get muddled along with every other cast member of America’s Next Top Model, The Apprentice and Big Brother hoping for their mention the following day in Page Six, Gatecrasher or Rush & Molloy.

Annete Bening at Mill Valley Film Festival

Annette Bening at a The Kids are Alright panel at the 2010 Mill Valley Film Festival.

Luckily, since my In Touch days, I’ve worked my way up the entertainment reporting chain—to Us Weekly, then Entertainment Weekly (which is pretty much THE pop culture Bible and still my favorite read), InStyle and Glamour, and now for PEOPLE magazine. Each one is a different experience—you are definitely treated better the more credible the publication for whom you work—and I’ve loved reporting for PEOPLE these past four years, as it’s a magazine everybody knows but it doesn’t carry a bad reputation and I get to ask about the films but also carry the conversation into a personal realm if the situation calls for such. (Case in point: I totally asked Lily Collins about dating Taylor Lautner while chatting this weekend about Snow White and Priest. She was a sweetheart and didn’t get mad, though she preferred “to keep my personal life private” and rightfully so.)

Emily Blunt at Mill Valley Film Festival

Chatting weddings with Emily Blunt (Jon Krasinski in tow!) at The Young Victoria screening in 2009. We were born the same day, me and Em!

And now that celebrity events are a rare occurrence—they happen in San Francisco, sure, but often times the press aren’t even invited as no one seems to give much thought to the media–I’ve grown to enjoy them again, to regain that excitement I’d get while prepping for interviews in my early reporting days before heading out to meet my newest subject.

Gavin Newsom, San Francisco mayor

Mingling with San Francisco celebrity and former mayor (future President?) Gavin Newsom.

So how does one interview a celebrity, you ask? Well, there are a few different ways this can go.

Round table. At big conferences like this past weekend’s WonderCon (little sister to the more famous Comic-Con), this is usually how things work. Before or after a celebrity panel or appearance, the talent will arrive in the press room, where dozens of reporters are seated around a series of round tables. One celebrity takes each table for an allotted amount of time (15 minutes in this case) and chats with the reporters before time is called and he/she moves onto the next table, another actor taking his/her place. This is how I “met” both Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds on Friday, both of whom were lovely and eloquent and funny to boot.

Ryan Reynolds at WonderCon

Ryan at the pre-round table WonderCon panel.

Press line. This is the most common way for interviews to go. You’re given a placard behind the rope on the red carpet and meant to fend for yourself as dozens of other journalists (usually photographers) elbow you in the head and try to nudge their way in on your time. Often, the celebrity’s manager or publicist will escort them over to specific outlets they’d like to talk to, or sometimes the celeb will run right through the carpet without speaking to anyone (hello, Sean Penn at the world premiere of Milk…jerk). San Francisco is much more laid back than New York or LA, though, for which I am thankful. For instance, a few years back, I covered a Paul Newman tribute—where Julia Roberts, Joaquin Phoenix, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson and Casey Affleck were just a few among the talent present—and all of four print journalists showed up. I wasn’t complaining—this meant more face time for me and a solid 10 minutes to talk to Tom Hanks about his nappy ‘do! If that was a New York event, no doubt hundreds of reporters and bloggers would have been swarming the premises.

Russell Brand at WonderCon in San Francisco

Getting cheeky with Russell Brand on the red carpet (or concrete floor, in this case) at WonderCon 2008.

1:1. Obviously, this one is the most ideal as you get private time with your subject, usually for five or 10 minutes, sometimes more if you’re doing a long-form feature. But this is a rarity if it’s a big event (though I did get to snag Henry Cavill—the new Superman!—Luke Evans and Tarsem Singh alone this past weekend).

Henry Cavill and Luke Evans in San Francisco at WondeCon

Chatting with “gods” Henry Cavill and Luke Evans of Immortals at WondeCon in San Francisco.

Broadcast. If you have a TV crew or camera in tow, you often get special broadcast privileges, which simply means you get an allotted amount of time with the interviewee in front of the camera. I’ve had a bit of fun doing TV in the past, though I find it so stressful and feel I’m stumbling over my words as if English were my third language. Also, my videographer would always tell me to wear makeup, and I’m lazy and usually go without. I did not appreciate that!

Paula Patton in Precious at Mill Valley Film Festival

Interviewing Paula Patton at the Precious junket.

The after party. If you’re lucky enough to get in (the times I’m not invited, I often “find” my way inside anyway), then you can approach the actors if you see them milling about. This is how I got great quotes from Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jon Stewart at a Comedy Central event a few years ago and also how I snagged an interview with Keri Russell at the premiere of The Waitress. Particularly during night events when the booze flows freely (and the majority of paparazzi have been sent home), that’s when celebrities truly loosen up and get candid.

Keri Russell at The Waitress premiere

Braving a sleepless night to talk to Keri at TriBeCa Film Festival in 2007.

The stalking—or more nicely put, stake outs or “street reporting.” Yes, I’ve done some of this, too (hangs head in shame). Hands down, this is my least favorite part of the gig, mainly because it’s a whole lot of sitting around and waiting—and truth be told, I feel terrible about invading someone’s privacy, public figure or not. When Sean Penn and Robin were still Bay Area residents, I’d often have to head out in pursuit of them—or at least hunt down their hairdressers, architects, bartenders, you name it, to try and snag an interview. (Friends of celebs are very often tight-lipped, so your attempts are usually in vain.) I remember once when I was still in NYC that my fellow reporter friend had to go down to SoHo in the aftermath of Heath Ledger’s death and look for the Olsen twins in hopes of a chat. I would never be able to do something like this, so I’m grateful my street reporting has been very limited and that most of my entertainment experience stems from events.

Lindsay Lohan in San Francisco

Lindsay Lohan playing camera shy at ex-girlfriend Samantha Ronson’s DJ gig a few years ago.

So what would you be surprised to know? Celebrity reporting not glamorous. No, really. OK, sometimes—as in once in a blue moon, you’ll attend a dinner party at Cipriani surrounding by the likes of Woody Allen, Kim Catrall, Rihanna, Eve and more and be the envy of everybody on your block—but for the most part it’s just work or exhaustingly boring, like waiting for Samantha Ronson to finish spinning while sipping a Sprite at a club in the Tenderloin at 3am on a Saturday night while flying solo. Definitely not glamorous. In fact, most veteran celeb reporters will often show up to a fancy affair in jeans and sneakers, knowing they could very well be standing outside in the street for three hours on a 15 degree Manhattan February night. (I’m a rare case because I almost always wear a dress anywhere, no matter the venue or occasion. I often suffer hypothermia as a result.)

Robert Redford in San Francisco

The dashing Robert Redford at San Francisco International Film Festival 2009.

There’s a lot of waiting. A LOT. We always joke that entertainment reporting is a case of “hurry up and wait” because you’re told to be someplace BY THIS TIME, come Hell or high water, and inevitably it doesn’t start for at least an hour later than planned and, even then, the talent comes moseying in whenever they please, oftentimes just moments before they are going on stage and conveniently (for them) with not enough time to stop and answer a few questions.

celebrity reporting

Waiting ages last weekend to get my interviews in.

Soooo…are you ready to try your hand at celebrity reporting? I guarantee you, it’s far more tiring (and boring) than you’d ever think.

Also, if you have any burning celebrity reporting questions you’re dying to know, ask below and I’ll be happy to answer in a follow-up post.

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Comments ( 57 )

  1. I loved this! I’m such a celebrity stalker though. But what I really want to know is: CARSON DALY HAS AN EATING DISORDER?! I need deets.

    • Ahh, this was years ago (2005). Remember when he emerged all skinny after he’d been sort of dumpy during his MTV days? I don’t know if he ACTUALLY had an eating disorder, but the powers that be made me ask him anyway! It was embarrassing.

  2. I loved reading this! As someone who did the other side of journalism – sitting through school board meetings, talking to murder victims’ families, jumping into disaster scenes – I always thought the entertainment side sounded so much more fun. But after seeing what you and other celeb reporters go through over the years, I almost think news is easier!

    • The funny thing is that I started out in newspaper journalism, too–the milder side, that is; no disasters or murders (but school board meetings and the like)–so jumping into celebrity reporting was a drastic 180 for me!

  3. My favorite parts of this post are the the dress you’re wearing with Gavin and Joshua Jackson lurking behind Emily Blunt. And Ben Affleck’s funny titled head.

    • I feel like that doesn’t even look like Ben! Like I got some doppelganger to come and pose with me instead and tried to pass it off as Mr. Affleck. But I swear, it was him! And he was lovely and funny as you would expect/hope.

  4. Rebecca (Bearca) April 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Love this, Kristin! I have no desire for that job myself, but it sure is fun reading about it. You do good work. ;)

    • You’ve been with me while I’ve been “on the celebrity trail”–you know it’s not *always* glamorous…though I’d take Bloody Marys in Laguna Beach as a job duty any day =)

  5. You really have some exciting names on your resume…. and not a bad resume I must say. Only thing, you are missing one male singer….. :)

    Great work Kristin. Like always!

    • Speaking of…I saw a few of his albums on sale at the Borders closing out clearance event and almost bought them all. Only problem is that half off they were still $10 a pop, so I resisted in hopes that my good friend Ellen might make me a mixed Josh CD one day =)

      • Any time my dear friend!! And you know me…. I have some exclusive pieces too; pieces you wont find at Borders. Good thing I wasn’t there though – I don’t think I would be able to control myself and leave them there! Also, you know who to call if you were to get a story on him on his coming tour: I’ll be a damn good camera-girl :)

  6. Great read. Didn’t realize how much of a celebrity reporter you are. But certainly not my cup of tea. Give me the big open desert, crisp running waters, majestic mountains, towering trees and the Grand Canyon, please.

    • It was never my dream job (and still isn’t) but it’s nice supplemental income that helps in living in such an expensive city! =)

  7. I enjoyed this peek into your entertainment reporting — very similar to sports writing. The hurry up and waiting, the round table, the egos and the lack of glamour. I’ve even stalked a few people too :)

    • The funny thing is sports reporting was my ultimate goal in the beginning, growing up a Tennessee girl and die hard Pat Summitt fan, hence all the hours I logged working for Glenn at the Beacon =) And then I sort of fell into travel and entertainment instead! Equally exciting, though, I’d say.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I don’t envy you (ok, maybe just a bit) since I don’t care too much about celebs, but I’m curious to know… see from movies and what not I always have a vision of what these people are like in person and always wonder how accurate it is. Is there a celeb you met that’s nicer than you thought he/she would be in person and vice versa?

  9. No judgment here, I write on occasion for a celebrity gossip blog. The owner of the blog often interviews celebrities and it’s funny how the people the seem like they would be assholes in real life usually are, and the ones that came across as cool, also usually are.

  10. Keri Russel is so gorgeous. I didn’t even recognise her from the photograph.

  11. Kristin, what a great post! Great that you get to “meet” all those people, sounds pretty exciting to me :)
    And I love all the pictures with you and the start, too cool!
    :)
    Have a lovely day, xox, Kristina

  12. sorry, I meant *stars* not *start* – uppps :)

  13. Love these stories… celebrity culture is so fascinating.

  14. What a fun post, I had no idea you did this as well. I must hear that stories you couldn’t write about!

  15. This was such an interesting post to read!

  16. Who was the nicest celebrity you ever interviewed?

  17. I love Keri Russell and Waitress. She looks gorgeous in that photo. Was she nice?

  18. What an interesting post! I know I would never be able to do this just because I have such a hard time asking people questions. And to echo others, wow, Keri Russell looks amazing! Her skin looks fantastic, I wonder what she uses on it? It’s probably just genetics, lucky girl.

    • Yeah, it takes some getting used to. I still get really nervous at times before interviewing certain people (depending on what I have to ask them) but it’s done wonders for my shyness! (Most people are shocked to find out I am incredibly shy by nature, though being a reporter has helped that a lot.)

  19. So who is the best smelling celebrity you’ve been next to?

    Which celeb was shorter in person than you realized?

    Do you think it’s easier to photograph a moving tennis ball at the US Open than it is to try and catch a celeb walking in somewhere?

  20. I love reading about this other side of you!

  21. Oh wow…There are days I so regret switching my major from Journalism…As unglamorous as a lot of that was, it still sounds pretty darn fabulous lady! You’re a journalist. That’s a hat I really wish I had been able to wear. : )

  22. I, too, would have forgone sleep to meet up with Keri Russel. Felicity will forever be a fav of mine!

    • And she’s sweet as pie, too. Keri and Felicity are one in the same, I think. She definitely reminded me of her character!

  23. Oh.. My ILs subscribed to People magazine so I read them ALL THE TIME. Now I will look out for your name. :)

    • Haha, that’s infrequent. I don’t really do a lot of things for them anymore–only if festivals or concerts are in town–and even then, it’s usually in an online story or very very tiny at the bottom of the page among a whole host of reporters’ names!

  24. Reading this “behind the scenes” stuff is so fascinating! I guess I just always assumed that entertainment reporters DO lead a glam life, but it sounds like there are some very non-glam parts to the job. It would be really cool to meet celebrities and realize that they’re just plain ol’ people… I think too often they’re seen as larger than life and untouchable, which probably isn’t a very healthy perspective. :)

  25. I STILL go back and visit your original Clive Owen post :-) Got it bookmarked – I adore him. Great post…I know it is a lot of waiting around to get those moments, but it is fun! Met the Old Spice Man yesterday, super nice, they are people too, but it can be overwhelming for them.

  26. Holy. Ass crackers. Could you get any more badass? Seriously, next you’re going to tell me that you have an Olympic gold medal and, oh yeah, you’ve been to the moon. Twice. Shut up.

    Also, the “hurry up and wait” is a favorite phrase in my line of work as well. Yesterday we were called at 11 and the not only did the client not show up until around 1:00, but they didn’t send any information ahead, so we couldn’t do any prep while we were waiting. Hello, Angry Birds…

  27. Kristin, I’m so used to your travel writer persona that I forgot you lived a double life as a celebrity reporter! :) The closet I’ve come to that was being a journalist at the red carpet at Austin Fashion Week–woohoo! It was a hot summer day…probably 102 degrees…and I stood outside for at least an hour, increasingly sweaty, interviewing people I’ve never heard of. It sounds like you have had much more fun experiences! Though it does sound like it’s not often as glamorous as it would seem. Either way, it’s fun to see your pics!

  28. I would need a couple of cocktails before interviewing some of these hotties you’ve interviewed!!! Your red dress is to die for.

  29. I’ve been thinking about my comment on this post, and I feel I need to explain myself a little. The reason you are a badass is not because you’ve interviewed all these famous people. I know who like, half of those people are, and I don’t care about any of them. (Though if you happen to bump into Steve Yzerman, let me know.) The reason you are a badass is because that job takes BALLS. Huge ones. I can’t even comprehend how much confidence and self-assurance you must need to walk up to people of influence and ask unsolicited (and sometimes uncomfortable) questions, let alone possess it.

    THAT is why you’re an epic badass.

  30. I’m late to this but having done a bit of entertainment personality interviewing in my time – albeit rarely the “A” & “B” list like you – I have to say I really admire your stamina in juggling that with the travel writing. But, that leads me to ask, since I’ve juggled both – what do you really, really think about the difference between the two worlds as a writer just in terms of what you encounter in the attitude and m.o. you get from an entertainment publicist as compared to a travel publicist? Yes, I know, you’re being diplomatic, and not burning those bridges you need to keep open, but I have to say for myself – travel publicists are sheer dee-light compared to their entertainment cousins. Usually travel p.r. are happy in their jobs, enjoy both the client and the media, and actually LIKE people. You can see what I’m saying here by inference – but, maybe that’s because most of the entertainment PR I dealt with were largely handling “C” list clientele and overcompensating with the attitude.

    Someday we’ll meet up and dish. Till then, I’ll admit I envy your meetup with Clive Owen, even if his publicist was a bear:)

    • No bridges to burn in the entertainment PR world–I can be honest. I think, many times, they seem very fake and–as you implied–not at all happy with their jobs or the stress that comes with them. There’s definitely a massive wall up, and whether it’s from working in a high-stress position or dealing with demanding celebs on a daily basis, I don’t know. Some have been absolutely lovely, but that’s not the norm. The local entertainment PR gals in San Francisco are really nice and laid back, but I think that’s the environment and the lack of the celebrity culture in this city. It’s usually the big studios or agencies in NYC or LA who have such an attitude!

  31. This is so interesting! I must admit that celebrity gossip is my secret shame. I love reading sites like DListed and getting the scoop on what Brangelina and their child army are up to or what mental diet Jessica Simpson is on this week. A little glimpse into this world is just fascinating for me. Although, I think I’d ditch it for assignments that involved globetrotting too!
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    • It can definitely alter your opinions of favorite movies—for example, I refuse to watch Pretty Woman now after finding out Richard Gere is such an ass—but also make you love things you didn’t previously when a celebrity is super surprising and nice!

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  34. So is this job good for people who love traveling and meeting famous people?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] couldn’t believe our luck! I had stalked many a celebrity for my job with insider knowledge and tips, to no avail. So the fact that locating two of the most [...]

  2. [...] In honor of the Oscar’s this Sunday, I thought I’d give you a peek into “the dark side:” that of celebrity stalking. This is the lengthier version to a story I wrote two years ago for Visit California’s 2011 Visitor’s Guide. And for those of you who weren’t aware I supplemented my travel writing career by dabbling in entertainment journalism, read my celebrity tell-all here. [...]

  3. [...] Star Trek: Finding Celebrities in LA February 22, 2012 By Kristin 35 Comments If you're new here, subscribe to my RSS feed and/or newsletter. We love our readers and hope you'll be back!In honor of the Oscar’s this Sunday, I thought I’d give you a peek into “the dark side:” that of celebrity stalking. This is the lengthier version to a story I wrote two years ago for Visit California’s 2011 Visitor’s Guide. And for those of you who weren’t aware I supplemented my travel writing career by dabbling in entertainment journalism, read my celebrity tell-all here. [...]

  4. [...] just going to say it: I was not impressed by Old Faithful much at all. It’s a lot like interviewing celebrities—so much hurry up and wait. Unfortunately, you can’t very well ask Mother Nature to [...]

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