For today's lesson in celebrity, we propose a latitudinal study of one Tara Reid in relation to, and notable contrast with, her alleged bestest friend Paris Hilton.
Tara can't seem to catch a break. This week's latest round of snark has been dedicated to a detailed examination of Ms. Reid's curiously contoured stomach, and the lingering (but still unconfirmed) speculation that she might have engaged in a bit of reconstructive magic — speculation, incidentally, that has also been invoked about other parts of her anatomy that she inadvertently displayed to the world during a little dress-strap mishap last fall.
I can't really speak to her stomach, which hasn't yet been granted a close-up on her new E! show, “Taradise,” (new episodes debut Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET) though her knees remind me of those belonging to friends who've had unfortunate moments of arthroscopy.
But recent weeks have offered reminders of why Tara seems to invite scathing media pile-ons.
Frankly, I suspect it all comes back to Paris.
It was Paris, after all, who was offered up as bait in the premiere episode of “Taradise,” an offering so hastily renamed from the far more apropos “Wild On Tara” that my TiVo was confused Friday night as to just what it was called. E! has a long standing series, “Wild On,” and Ms. Reid was apparently intended as the latest in a line of luminary hosts, but perhaps she and her handlers realized that “Wild On Tara” mostly connoted (a) her reputation for enjoying adult beverages, not always in moderation, and (b) the vigorous-if-not-romantic endgame that might result from (a).
Drinks, drinks, more drinksThe premise of the “Taradise” opener: Tara shows up in Athens. Tara goes parasailing with Paris and fiancé Paris Latsis (and his family), and generally dabbles in watersports. Tara wears any number of perilously low-cut tops. Tara waxes about the hotness of said fiancé and brags about trying on Paris’ engagement ring. Tara, Paris and Paris pig out, go clubbing repeatedly, enjoy an good number of drinks and … that’s about it, honest.
Somewhere in the middle of this mindless fray, as Tara gushed about the utter gorgeousness of Greek men, I finally realized who she reminds me of.
My college years involved an unhealthy amount of time behind a frat-house bar, accosted for cups of nasty beer by drunk, rowdy women whose vocal chords were shot and whose clothes were in various states of dishevelment. They were determined to party, even if the beer in our kegs would have been better used to mop floors and remove epoxy.
Whenever I see Tara, these memories instantly come flooding back. I suspect I'm not alone.
There are differences, of course. The women I'm remembering spent their days contemplating Kierkegaard before spending nights contemplating Jagermeister. Many were still too young to be drinking legally.
Time has come for someone to put his foot down ...Tara, meantime, has decided to celebrate pushing 30 by making her general booziness, vapidity and abandon into a reality-show theme. Not to get all Dean Wormer, but after seeing how much saganaki (fried cheese that goes directly from gullet to waistline) she chowed down in Greece, what comes to mind is: Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, girl.
In fact, I'm not sure how Tara escaped our list of celebrities who need an intervention.
Perhaps she should take a cue from Paris. Ms. Hilton certainly made the party rounds once or twice, but at the tender age of 24, she's settling down and contemplating married life. Kathy and Rick Hilton may not know a damn thing about compelling TV, but they really do seem to have raised their daughter right.
The more you watch the Tara-Paris dynamic, the more clear this becomes. Tara drinks with gusto, Paris makes small talk. Tara babbles semi-coherently, Paris smiles demurely for the hovering paparazzi.
Does Paris keep Tara around for comic relief, or have I missed some defining aspect of their friendship? Seeing as Paris didn't think twice about ditching her beloved dog Tinkerbell, I suspect Tara's number might be inadvertently lost from Paris' new Sidekick. She can always blame hackers.
The double-secret irony of all this came as I watched “American Pie 2” again last week. (Don’t ask.) Reid’s character Vicky in the “Pie” franchise comes across as a stuck-up little snot with no sense of fun. I’m thinking maybe she was just overcompensating for real life.
‘I always have a good time’But don’t take my word for it. Here’s how Reid herself describes her qualifications as the show's perfect host: “I love people, first of all, and I can pretty much talk to anyone and I always have a good time. I’m really, like, happy and I love having fun. And I’m known for that, too.” (That video, at least as of Monday afternoon, could be found here.)
If Paris truly wants to be a friend to Tara, she might share some tips from her head-held-high upbringing.
Because Tara's party-girl thing can't really endure, certainly not with a list of film credits as generally cruddy as hers. (I wouldn’t bank on the E! series either. This is the network that realized it could make good ad dollars by convincing Anna Nicole Smith to reveal her nutty inner self.).
Because at Tara's age, the college party-girl ethos is pretty well worn. Even the young women I remember so fondly with a plastic Solo cup glued to their hands, stumbling down the streets of New York, knew that come Sunday night, it was time to hit the books again.
Tara, by contrast, managed to land herself a free all-access trip to Athens without so much as cracking a Frommer's. When you're dining across from the Parthenon, and you need the hotel staff to explain what it is, I’m thinking you might not be fully appreciating the cultural opportunities you've been given.
At some point, you have to pull your dress strap back up and move on.
MSNBC.com lifestyle editor Jon Bonné is pretty sure he remembers how to change taps on a kegerator.