Some people want their celebrity idols to be just that. Idols. Gods. They want to believe that these stars they admire inhabit a celestial sphere apart from the lame world the rest of us live in. But a celebrity, the public avatar of some talented person, is just a carefully edited and curated selection of that person’s best work, best views and angles. Step away from that and it’s downhill in all directions.
That’s what went through my head when I returned and found Kristina, in her ripped jeans and Mötley Crüe t-shirt, sitting on the floor of the toy department of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Burbank, bouncy balls of all sizes strewn across the floor around her. I had just come back from the office supply section with a basket full of index cards, markers, tape, glue, and other crap.
“Like this?” she asked me, and held up one of those big, cheap, inflatable plastic balls, so light it could blow away in a breeze.
She had no makeup on and her hair was up on top of her head in a kind of haystack, but passersby were starting to recognize her anyway. A teenage girl, 5SOS written on her backpack in sharpie, approached with her phone out, hoping for a selfie, but Kristina gave her a look so cold that the poor girl made a full U-turn and departed without slowing down.
“Nope, way too big,” I said of the ball Kristina was holding. “It should be about nine inches across.”
“I thought you said twenty inches?”
“I might’ve said twenty centimeters,” I replied. “About like this.” I held my hand out like I was palming a small basketball. “I think a volleyball or soccer ball is about right. Look for one of those.”
“Fuck. Now you tell me.” She looked at the mess around her.
I handed her a ruler from my basket and went to go look for peppercorns.
Three days earlier, I’d been shooting pool alone when Stepan swept into the game room of his house on the hillside below Griffith Observatory, towing an actress behind him by the hand. His guests were starting to arrive and he was eager that we mingle. He had on his casual party clothes, a…