Published Feb 01, 2000As you may have gathered by now, I'm not very impressed by celebrities. They carry too much emotional and psychological baggage around with them, are self-absorbed and self-conscious, generally make lousy friends, and rarely, although much more rich than you are, pick up the check at dinner. Of course there are exceptions, and I do retain a few famous people on my speed dial, but even they, although I love them dearly, frequently conform to the aforementioned profile. Lately, in fact, I wouldn't cross the street to meet a celebrity, or might even dash over to the other side of the street to avoid meeting one. Ever since I was snubbed so severely by Leo at that Details party in L.A. a few years back - when I introduced myself, he looked right through me and walked away, and that was before Titanic was released - I decided to cool it with the celebs. (By all reports, Leo, who is beginning to look a little like a young Henry VIII, is going to have a karmic debt the size of Wyoming to pay off after he finally succumbs to the gout.) I prefer the company of completely unfamous people who act like they're famous anyway.
And so it was with a little trepidation that I accepted this past week an invitation to dine with Bijou Phillips, the young starlet/model/singer who has been terrorising New York for the past four or five years. Bijou, which as you know is French for "finely wrought trinket," is of course one of the three daughters from different mothers of Papa John Phillips of Mamas and the Papas fame, the other two being MacKenzie (so good inAmerican Graffiti , currently hawking anti-acne medication on an infomercial), and Chynna, whose former partner, Carny Wilson, spiritual godchild of Mama Cass Elliot, recently had her stomach stapling operation broadcast live on the internet.
Bijou, who is 19 going on 35, was also a famous model for a while with the Elite agency in New York but in that glamorous way, she has never really managed to get out of bed in time to make it to very many runways or photo sessions or anything. But my favourite of her claims to fame is the little known fact that she appeared as one of the kidnapped molested ingenues in Steven Meisel's chilling '70s wood panelling snuff commercials for Calvin Klein a few years back, when heroin was still chic and paedophilia was still the last frontier. (I do a great imitation of Meisel, by the way, even though I've never met him and really have no idea what he's like. But it's dead on. Remind me to do it for you sometime.) Oh yeah, and she also put out an album a while back calledI'd Rather Eat Glass , which everyone kept comparing unfavourably to the lost island of Alanis. Fortunately I haven't heard it yet so I don't have to give you my review.
I met the finely wrought trinket in question through another young celebrity friend of mine named Esthero, who is in a band of the same name. The auburn-haired beauty had a hit record out about a year ago, and has a song on the Go soundtrack. You may have caught her last week joining the Roots on stage for a couple of tunes in Toronto. The Roots' retro-funk stylings, replete with uncannily real sounding vocalised record-scratching set against a lovely ambient backdrop, along with their political verve, make them one of the real stand-outs in today's sea of hip-hop mediocrity. For Esthero to be asked to sing along with these amazing artists on a few songs clearly demonstrates that she is a true graduate of Cooley High. Pretty fly for a white girl.
Arriving for dinner at the expensive Japanese restaurant a little late, I remove my shoes and enter the private room to reluctantly encounter our celebrity. Although the holy terror of Page Six is quite lovely, with a porcelain complexion and kewpie doll lips, she looks pleasantly normal, as celebrities generally do in the flesh. Accompanying her is Canadian entrepreneur and bon vivant Jeff Rogers, who until recently has been managing our Ashley, BMG big wig Keith Porteus, and Esthero and her housemate, the lovely and talented young Leyla. It seems that I've come in after the opening credits, and sure enough I find out later that I missed the spectacle of Bijou using her hot towel for a little ad hoc sponge bath, then apparently utilising it to mop up some excess menstrual flow. Although quite publicly having spent time in rehab a while back, Miss Phillips is clearly being a sake-to-me girl tonight, getting giddy and garrulous as teenage girls sometimes do. Esthero has the right idea - she plops her sake cup right into her glass of beer: a Tokyo boilermaker. It's such an adult gesture for such a young girl. I'm duly impressed.
I'm tempted to ask Bijou, the new Drew, if some of the more legendary stories about her are true, particularly the one in which she is said to have once grabbed the cigar cutter from some entertainment executive and dared him to put his finger in it, which he foolishly did, so she snipped off the end of it. I decide not to, but do ask her whatever happened to the Paul Morrissey movie she was supposed to be in. She informs me the funding fell through, which is a shame, for it's precisely that kind of vehicle the gamin needs to propel her into a more famous fame. I'm lucky to get that much information out of her, considering that she spends a good 80 percent of her time on her cell phone, rapping dirty raps and whispering obscenities to either Dave Navarro or David Blaine, I can't quite make out which. When not talking to Quincy Jones' daughter or someone, the rest of her time is spent getting awfully frisky with her two young female cohorts, who yield to the mock rape attempts and impromptu tongue baths with steely fortitude. Poor Leyla in particular suffers through a rigorous lap dance which cause our demure Japanese server to close both of the sliding doors to our room lest the other customers become aroused. I take some choice photographs of the girls stuffing various bowls and glasses into their mouths for a photo series I decide on the spot I want to do of people under 20 wrapping their lips around common household objects. Please do not steal this idea.
Suddenly Bijou makes such an outrageous and shocking pronouncement that the table falls silent. She declares she has just read her first book -Memoirs of a Geisha , she says proudly, a selection that, considering our surroundings and her black past, seems all too perfect. I personally think she should be cast in the Hollywood version.
I have no recollection of what we talk about at dinner, which is just as well because if Politically Correct with Bill Maher has taught us anything, it's that celebrities don't have any more to talk about than we do. I do recall that when Bijou takes her leave, she announces that she hasn't any cash on her to pay for her pricey sukiyaka and numerous sakes. Rich celebrities rarely carry cash, and rarely pay for anything. That's how they remain rich. I am too drunk on sake to care and end up with Jeff and Leyla at a rip-roaring, kick-ass Starve 'n' Hungry show at the Rivoli, where we happen upon a mean, dirty little report in Toronto's NOW magazine about Esthero leaving her label, Work.
In the currently volatile and unpredictable climate that is the music industry, we all know that artists are routinely dropped, picked up, and shuffled according to the dictates of various mergers, shake-ups, and restructurings, and Esthero is going to end up doing just fine, thank you. She has the pipes, she's smart, and she's beautiful. What more do you want? The spectacle of these mean little men who write music reviews viciously attacking a young kid because they have some misguided idea in their pointed little heads that she is the poster child for hype and prefabricated talent - a patently ludicrous charge, considering that the girl has been singing in Toronto clubs since she was 15 - is truly ugly. Outraged, the three of us compose a nasty letter right there and then, in which, among other things, we tell the fatuous scribe that we're not only going to get Bijou Phillips to kick his ass, but also to cut off his micropenis and shove it down his throat. And don't think she won't.