For many years I worked in the magazine industry, and a large part of that was spent interviewing celebrities. Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, and lots of crazy heavy metal hair bands from the 1990s all talked into my little tape recorder. Believe it or not, you can burn out on stars the same way you can burn out on too many red Twizzlers eaten late at night on deadline. (Maybe after watching Celebrity Rehab and Rock of Love you can believe it.) So I generally don’t pay much attention to celebrity gossip.

Today, though, when I heard on the morning news that there’s a rumor about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt breaking up, I said, “What?!” in a way that made my husband Nathan look at me a little funny. Like, “Why do you care?” funny. Or maybe it was “Where the hell is my wife?” funny.

Good question(s). So what grabbed me? (And before I answer that, I have no idea whether this rumor is true. The London news reported it, and reps for Brangelina have denied it. And that’s something you can take to the failing bank, because reps deny everything even when it’s glaringly obvious. To wit: John Edwards’s rep. No, that’s not his child. Nope. No way. Not his kid… Well, yes, actually, that is his child.)

And then I figured it out: it’s because of Haiti. The news from this devastated country has been so incredibly sad that I just, for one moment, needed a light distraction. I’m not saying that a couple breaking up is ever a light matter, but since we don’t even know whether or not this is true, it’s still just celebrity gossip, and that’s a light distraction.

I was working at Mademoiselle Magazine (remember that one? Gone now) when the September 11 terrorist attacks happened. We all had a really hard time going back to work after what had happened just a few miles from our office. What was the point of writing about hair, makeup, and fashion at a time like this? But the readers gave us a good reason: They needed a distraction. Just for a moment, they needed to think about something light. That’s where the magazine came in. ‘Cause there was nothing as light as Mlle. I mean, it made Highlights for Children read like Time.

And for me, that’s where Brangelina come(s) in. I hope they haven’t broken up, mostly for the sake of the kids. But I just needed a few seconds’ distraction, and sometimes a little celebrity gossip is just the ticket.

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