by Patricia Grandjean
Mar 1, 2011
02:52 PMBox Office
Q&A: Ann Leary
(page 3 of 5)
Then you moved to fiction with your second book, 2009's Outtakes from a Marriage. Why'd you want to write a novel?
I majored in writing in school, and always wanted to write a novel. Some people marry celebrities, but I married somebody who was not a celebrity and then became one. So I decided to write a book about that experience. But the situations in that book are completely fictional; so many people assume they're me. Most of the humorous stuff is stuff that happened to me, like trying to figure out how to behave on a red carpet. Anyone in my situation—those I know and like—and hopefully, any reader of the book would probably have felt the same way.
It's weird to walk down the street and have people scream your husband's name, when a week before they didn't even know who he was. That really did happen to us; he kind of took off overnight. And he kept telling me he was famous, but I was home with these little babies . . . and I really wasn't out with him much. He did an off-Broadway show and then he was doing these shows on MTV, and he was telling me how famous he was—but we weren't really making any money yet. Suddenly, we'd be walking down the street and people would be driving by and freaking out about him. So I just wanted to write a novel about that experience, which I think is a little bit unusual.
I remember, when the book came out, a bit of fuss was kicked up as to whether one character was Elizabeth Hurley.
I know, and it was ridiculous! She was a really good friend of both of ours. So that was awful; it was really embarrassing. And then, what was worse was that people thought we were trying to make it look like it was her, so that the book would get press. But that actually hurt the book. There was nothing in my description of that character that reminded me in the least of her.
I don't think the average person really knows how someone might deal with celebrity. Unless you're the child of someone famous, you're not born with it . . .
Right. I don't really "deal" with celebrity. I'm lucky; I live in a town where nobody really cares who Denis is or who I am. That's another thing I wanted to explore in the novel; there's a part where the main couple's daughter—who's extremely precocious and hates that her father is in show business, she thinks of him as a carny, almost—tells her mother about a study concerning rhesus monkeys. It's a real study that I'd heard and read about. The researchers offered a group of monkeys the choice of being able to watch a video of the "alpha" or top monkey—there's always a hierarchy in these groups—grooming himself, or they could push a second lever that would give them their favorite fruit beverage. And they made these monkeys thirsty first, fed them lots of salty food. Over and over again, the monkeys would choose to watch the video. So the study indicated that our need for celebrities and idols is primitive; it's hard-wired into us. People who don't know George Clooney is are actually highly evolved, truly cerebral people.
But at the same time it's something most of us have a little bit of fascination with, and we shouldn't feel too badly about it. It's part of being a "society." I'm pretty fascinated by the culture of celebrity. At the same time, I'm not a "Hollywood wife"—I've never really been at the epicenter of show business; I don't know a lot of celebrities. I think that gives me a better perspective on observing it. Because when we're on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, I feel like an anthropologist. It's fascinating, like a narcissists' convention, with people grabbing attention and ripping it from each other. It's crazy, fascinating and fun.
Speaking of this, I also enjoyed the story on your blog—people have probably told you this many times—about your going to a party and not knowing who Moby was.
That's typical of me. I spent all night taking care of this sweet man who I thought must feel out of place among all these very famous people, and there I was giving him tips, trying to help him with his musical career. The hysterical thing was I told him to send Denis a CD, and I'd been listening to his music all summer on a CD Denis made me—so I just didn't know what he looked like. I do stuff like that all the time. I'll be at a party talking to some beautiful woman and say, "You know, you should be a model." And she'll turn out to be a famous actress on a TV show I watch. I'm just constantly a little bit clueless.
I've written this on my blog too, related to celebrity: Because I'm not in New York or Los Angeles with Denis a lot, when I am and people see him—or when we're on vacation especially—people get excited. A lot of them have never really seen a person they've seen on television in real life. People will come up to Denis and say, "I'm a big fan," and I get overinvolved. We talk back and forth, and I try so hard to make them feel comfortable it's crazy. Denis has to drag me away, saying, "Leave the fans alone!" I have a hard time. I think it's so nice of them to compliment him that I overengage. But we're often late for a plane or something when I do this. Denis will say, "A simple 'thank you' is what I give people—not 'Oh my God, where are you from? What do you do? Do you have kids?'"
But you strike me as very social, and you are certainly socially networked via Twitter and Facebook and your blog. And people respond to your blog entries—you invite them to comment.
Yes, and I like them to do that. But in real life, I'm a hermit. [laughs] I was definitely born in the right era. Because I love the human exchange of ideas in conversation, but it's a little overwhelming for me. We moved up here when my kids were little, and we live on a very secluded property, and I just love it. Like I said, I've been involved in my kids' schools and in different community organizations, but I also enjoy walking around all day looking like a hag.
We have just under 50 acres. We bought the place originally with 39 acres, then we added an additional 10. It's not like a big farm; it's mostly woods. We have three horses—Mark, Snoopy and Gabriel—one is retired; I ride Mark, the gray one. And four dogs: Gomer, who is a Leonberger; Holly, a terrier mutt; Lulu, a cross between a St. Bernard and an Airedale and Daphne, who's a Labradoodle. She's part human, extraordinarily intelligent. They're all wonderful; we love our dogs.