On one particular stretch of Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills, there are two restaurants across the street from each other. One is the Newsroom Café, where I occasionally go because it has good food at reasonable prices and you can buy a newspaper on your way in. The other is The Ivy, a celebrity beehive that sees a constant stream of Hummers, Mercedes and Jaguars pull up and discharge folks who pay through the nose to be seen eating in public.
Rarely does the twain meet. But one day last year, I was on my way to meet someone for a nice, tranquil, unpretentious dinner at the low-key Newsroom when I saw a commotion on the street. Lindsay Lohan had crashed her car.
I bring this up because, in the past couple of years, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, no matter how ardently you seek out peace and quiet, news of Lindsay’s misadventures will find you. It usually involves partying, but it could also include her romantic flings, her poor work habits, her shopping, her driving, her weight and, once in a blue moon, her talent.
The aforementioned car accident apparently occurred because the 20-year-old Lindsay, who had just dined at The Ivy, was speeding to get away from paparazzi and broadsided a van that was making an illegal U-turn in front of her. She then ran into a nearby antiques shop to escape photographers. In another incident four months prior, a photographer had crashed his car into Lindsay’s in an attempt to take her picture.
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Since then, the Lindsay file has only gotten thicker. And it burst open last week when James G. Robinson, an executive with Morgan Creek Productions, the company that is producing her latest movie, wrote a scathing memo addressed not to her handlers but directly to Lindsay that ripped her for partying too hard and skipping work.
Said Robinson: “You and your representatives have told us that your various late arrivals and absences from the set have been the result of illness; today we were told it was ‘heat exhaustion.’ We are well aware that your ongoing all night heavy partying is the real reason for your so-called ‘exhaustion.’ We refuse to accept bogus excuses for your behavior.”
On the surface, Robinson might sound like a big, bad bully, the kind of guy who smokes a stogie, berates his assistant and fires the pool boy over one floating leaf. But to me, he comes across more like a concerned parent, which is probably why he sounds so unfamiliar to her.
Parental supervision?Lindsay is the product of a broken home, but so are a lot of other people. Father Michael Lohan spent time in prison for securities fraud and other charges. He and wife Dina officially divorced late in 2005. Since then, Dina has been in charge of Lindsay.
But like many parents of celebrities, Dina seems to think that the best thing for Lindsay is to let Lindsay do whatever she wants, even if it’s self-destructive, and then make excuses for her afterward so the gravy train doesn’t derail. Recently she rebuked Robinson, saying his memo was “way out of line” and told Access Hollywood: “Maybe he has personal issues with whomever and it came out with my child.”
Memo to Dina: Where there’s smoke, there’s Lindsay. People aren’t out to ruin your daughter, because she’s doing a great job of that herself. When a Hollywood executive takes the extraordinary step of blasting a major star in public because he just can’t take it anymore, it’s a sign that Lindsay is entering Tara Reid country.
And that’s too bad, because Lindsay Lohan is much more talented than Tara Reid, and therefore has a lot more to lose. When you see Tara Reid slip a nipple at a Diddy party or engage in drunken table dancing in the Hamptons, you figure she’s found her niche. When you hear that Lindsay is causing production delays because she’s out partying in clubs until the wee hours, you conclude sadly that sometimes even the most promising careers aren’t meant to last.
What is most interesting is that, if you chart Lindsay’s ascent in Hollywood with her off-screen troubles, the two trends recently have met at an apex. Until a couple years ago, Lindsay was a pretty teen queen whose poster adorned thousands of adolescent bedroom walls. She appeared as a curiosity in “The Parent Trap” and “Freaky Friday.” She was perhaps best known as Hilary Duff’s rival. In fact, in the minds of most the two were interchangeable.
She's an A-lister — nowBut that is no longer the case, thanks to Lindsay’s breakout performance in “Mean Girls” in 2004 and her prestige turn in this year’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Now she’s a bona fide A-lister. Now she’s an actress.
Of course, as a certain human arachnid was once warned, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As the offers and attention have increased, Lindsay seems to have handled it all like Mel Gibson handled his traffic stop. Instead of using this opportunity to build her career into something special, she seems determined to sabotage herself.
Instead of using the film she is currently shooting, “Georgia Rule” — in which she plays (ahem) an uncontrollable teenager and in which she co-stars alongside respected actresses like Jane Fonda (Oscar winner) and Felicity Huffman (Academy Award nominee) — to showcase her considerable gifts, she instead caused a 70-year-old executive with about 50 films under his belt to finally pop his cork in exasperation.
And Dina Lohan’s response? Outrage that someone would criticize her daughter in public.
When Lindsay starts getting offered the roles that Tara Reid turns down, the real outrage will be that more people didn’t do it.
Michael Ventre lives in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.