The Dark Side of Stardom by Christopher Stone
Publisher: MLR Press (May 30, 2014)
Category: GLBT Romance, Hollywood
Tour Date: June/July, 2015
Available in: Print & ebook, 285 Pages
Fame is fickle, and stardom's flip side harbors and reflects darkness. Stardom on a network situation comedy had been Grant Jackson's lifelong dream. Ambitious, young, sexy, and willing to do almost anything, Grant makes his dream come true at age twenty-three. When we meet him, in 2004, Grant Jackson is a star of NBC-TV's "Our House". The reality of television stardom is heady and intoxicating. As a songwriter once put it, "The sound of applause is delicious, it's a thrill to have the world at your feet." And Grant's newfound celebrity lives up to his expectations: The money, the recognition, striving for creative excellence and rating numbers every week. But stardom's flip side harbors and reflects darkness. The knives are always out. One of Grant's co-stars harbors a cocaine addiction. Another co-star masks a career-busting sexual secret---as does Grant Jackson himself.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Standing under the soothing, warm spray of his studio trailer's shower, Grant Jackson relaxed for the first time since arriving at Paramount this morning.
The small voice in his head-the one that commonly nagged him-doggedly repeated the questions he had asked himself since NBC-TV had picked up the Our House pilot for series last summer: Are you ready for the dream-come-true-stardom in a network sitcom-and a great big dose of happy ever aftering with Cam?
Mentally, he answered the small voice: As it happens, I was ready. Or, at least, I was ready for everything that made network sitcom stardom my lifetime dream. I was ready for working at the legendary Paramount studio. I was ready for the money and fame, for being recognized at the Pavilions, at restaurants-everywhere I go. I was most certainly ready for the never ending compliments about the show and my work. And I was ready for the nonstop waves of sexual desire rippling off fans of both genders.
The warm shower spray soothed Grant physically. But the next thoughts that came to mind distressed him. Sadly, there's the other side of stardom, the dark side. The nonstop pressure to act and look like a star. The career responsibilities that extend way beyond my work on the series: the entourage of agents, managers, publicists, network and studio executives. And then, there are the probing interviews and the endless personal appearances. Perhaps darkest of all is a predatory media that builds you up, only to wait for you to crash and burn. I wasn't ready for any of them. I don't know if I'll ever be ready for this darkness. In truth, I only recently discovered its existence.
And I definitely wasn't ready for everything that intrudes upon my personal life, taking me away from home, away from Cam, the love of my life. As a gay man, I most certainly wasn't ready for the necessity of constantly dodging media questions about my private life.
Grant stopped the small voice in its mental tracks. When he allowed the silent speech again, it was harsh, self-critical, indicting: I have some nerve complaining about the dark side of my stardom-even silently.
After all, I'm on a hit series, making big money, and living my dream.
Taking his cue from Fonzie's thumbs up trademark "Aayyy!" and Joey Tribbiani'ssignature pick-up line, "How YOU doin?'" my producer gave me â€˜Sup?' an every episode first entrance query that is trending on Yahoo, and repeated by fans everywhere. I've been on the cover of TV Guide, for Christ's sake. I went to the Oscars.
Cam, my Sugar Babe, is the one who is living the dark side of stardom. He's still Hottie's most expensive escort, but his adult film career has gone to hell in a hand basket. Twice already, he has played the older second fiddle to a teenybopper title star.
And then there's living with me! Not only does everyone kiss my ass, but I'm always rescheduling or canceling our personal plans because of something work-related. While I walked the red carpet at the Oscars, Cam sat at home alone in front of our big-screen watching his spouse schmooze with the nominees. By now he must feel like Norman Maine in A Star Is Born.
Grant refused to let his mental voice continue its rebuke. And so, he grabbed the soap bar and made the shower water warmer. I know hot water dries my skin. But it feels so good-so damn good.
A change of temperature brings a change of mind. Grant's thoughts turned away from self-recrimination, returning to the minutiae of his stressful workday.
He had been in the makeup room less than five minutes this morning when Clark Montgomery, one of his Our House co-stars-the impossibly handsome, self-possessed one-had rushed in, telling him that Kathie King, another co-star-the most talented, but increasingly unreliable one-had again called in sick.
The news had completely unnerved Grant. Most of his scenes this week involved Kathie King's character, Elena Evans. Kathie's stand-in, Charlene Mercedes, was a great gal, but her delivery and timing were very different from Kathie's. Grant's own performance was always askew when Kathie was absent and he rehearsed with Charlene.
Consequently Grant had gone through the blocking rehearsal, unable to make even his best lines work. James Burgess was directing the episode, wondering why Grant's delivery was flat, and imploring him to "get with it."
He had resisted telling "Burg" that Charlene's delivery was the problem. Her timing and her phrasing were radically different than Kathie's. He could not get the hang of playing off of Charlene. But his lips were sealed. Grant would not chance causing trouble for Kathie's stand-in though. Like all jobs on a primetime network series, stand-in jobs were hard earned. And Charlene was a good kid, even if she wasn't a catalyst for eliciting Grant's best performance.
That is why he had felt insecure and stressed all day. That is, until now. As the soothing, warm shower spray pelted his enervated young body, Grant literally felt it draining away anxiety and insecurity, and restoring him to a state of relaxed energy.
Finally he turned the water off and reached up to the top of the shower door for his bath towel. It wasn't there, and Grant suddenly remembered he had left it on the towel rack near the sink.
Stepping out of the engraved glass shower door, Grant saw his co-star Clark Montgomery, and not his monogrammed bath towel, awaiting him. Nude, dripping wet, and surprised to see Clark, Grant reverted to his Our House catch query, "Sup?"
Before Clark answered, Grant saw his co-star's "bedroom eyes" sweeping up and down his nude physique, lingering, or so Grant thought, on his privates. Despite himself, Grant felt his organ stirring, growing, under his co-star's gaze. Grant always became aroused when anyone eyeballed his nakedness He remembered the embarrassment of becoming semi-erect under the gaze of old Dr. Boecker during his yearly physical exams. Quickly returning to the moment, Grant thought, If I didn't know better, I'd swear Clark is cruising my junk!
But Grant's next thought was, If Clark is enjoying the view, then why the hell, not? Cam is always walking around the house and the backyard naked. And he's always telling me to become more relaxed about my own nudity.
After drinking in Grant's tanned, muscled torso, Clark quipped, "You've got a better body on you than I would have thought."
So that's it, Grant thought. It's just one guy comparing his stuff to the next guy's. But stillâ€¦
Finally Clark handed Grant the plush royal purple, monogrammed towel, GJJ-the one Cam had given him on Valentine's Day. "I've got news, Buddy Boy. Big news!" Clark exclaimed.
"Do tell," Grant said, sighing. Instead of covering himself, Grant casually toweled off his long blond hair, now almost shoulder length for his role as Our House's Artie Miller. As he did so, Grant was embarrassed to feel his organ expanding between his smooth, tanned thighs.
Not only had Grant's platinum hair grown longer, the producers had compelled him to sprout a beard and a moustache, such as they were. All of this had been done in order to make him appear more convincing as the
twenty-five-year-old character he was playing.
Grant would be twenty-four in October, but because of his baby-face everyone took him for much younger.
Although his thin blond beard and moustache required enhancing in makeup before he faced the cameras, Grant had not resisted altering his appearance. In fact, he had welcomed it, since it made him less likely to be recognized as Grant J, the HottieInternational "escort" and gay adult film actor he had been until last August.
His hair and torso toweled off, Grant finally wrapped the towel around his waist. Only then did Clark's eyes meet Grant's own. "What's the big news?"
"You'd better sit down, Buddy Boy," Clark said.
Grant followed Clark into the sitting room. He sat on the plush leather massage recliner, and Clark sat across from him in a retro fabric-covered fan back chair.
"This is big-really big," Clark began. His excitement was palpable. "Ready?"
"Ready," Grant said, flipping the switch on the recliner's massage unit. It vibrated soothingly, increasing his feelings of peace and well being.
"NBC picked us up for twenty-two episodes!" Clark blurted. "That's a full September to May season."
With the news, Grant bolted upright, his towel falling to the floor as he stood. "All right!" he exclaimed, high-fiving his co-star. Clark had not exaggerated. This was really big news-a full second season pick-up!
Clark rose too, retrieving Grant's towel from the floor. As Clark did so, Grant noted that his co-star's eyes lingered a little too long at his crotch level, Clark's face was too close for comfort to his junk, before he met Grant's eyes and returned the towel. Once again, Grant felt a stirring in his loins.
"Can you believe it, Buddy Boy? A full season!"
"That's great!" Grant concurred, securing the towel around his waist once again. He was happy, ecstatic really, but not surprised. After all, Our House had debuted at number eighteen in January, and the series had never left the top twenty.
"Do you know what this means?" Clark asked, his voice near breathless with excitement.
"It means I'm holding on to this sweet trailer," Grant replied, light-heartedly.
In contrast, Clark's voice was dead serious. "It means I can buy that Holmby Hills house the wife wants."
Sitting down on the vibrating recliner again, Grant said cordially, "Before calling the realtor, why not fix yourself a drink?"
Whenever liquor was offered, Clark was all in. He crossed to the bar and poured his poison of choice: Stoli, neat.
Grant's thoughts remained on his co-star.
It would seem that Clark has everything: fame, health, world-class looks, a beautiful wife, and a hit series. So why does he always seem restless, somehow unfulfilled? Why does he drink so much? People magazine just named him one of their sexiest men alive, saying, "The raven-haired sitcom star looks like a twenty-first century version of another Clark - Gable."
Out of print, people often compared the actor to the comic book character Clark Kent. His thick mane of hair was so black that, under lights, it shimmered blue. Clark's face was classically handsome. You would be hard-pressed to find a single extra ounce of flesh on his muscled frame. In reviewing Our House, several critics had noted his resemblance to the young Matt LeBlanc on Friends' first season-before success caused his
waistline to expand along with his fame and wealth.
Clark interrupted Grant's thoughts. "Your usual?"
"Sure." Grant never drank liquor at work. His "usual" was bottled water. At home, Grant still enjoyed one daily Cajun Dirty Martini before dinner.
As Clark handed him the water, Grant asked, "So, what's up this summer?"
Sitting again, Clark answered, "I'm doing The 40-Year- Old Virgin, with Steve Carell, at Universal. How about you?"
Grant had not heard of Steve Carell, or The 40-Year Old Virgin. But the title reminded him of another movie, an ancient one, The Old Maid, starring Bette Davis. One rainy winter afternoon he had watched the tear jerker on TMC-Mama and her tissue box beside him.
Grant took a long swallow of the icy water before replying, "I'm taking the summer off-going to my best friend's wedding, and then, hanging at home."
As ever, it didn't take long for Clark to polish off the cocktail. "I'd better get home to the wife," he said, rising from the chair.
"Thanks for being the bearer of great news!" Grant said, his bath towel slipping down a bit as he stood, revealing a tantalizing hint of platinum pubes. And he was thinking, Why does Clark always refer to Cindy Lou as "the wife?" I've never heard him call her by name.
"Thanks for the drink."
Clark crossed to the door, opened it, and disappeared.
The Dark Side of Stardom is a refreshing, fun book that is set in the often bizarre world known as Hollywood. When I first started this book I didn't realise it was actually the second book in a series, so I probably don't know the full background of the characters. But I don't think it really affected my enjoyment of the book as I absolutely loved it. The author has created some interesting, well developed main characters that are easy to care for, with a great supporting cast to back them up. This book is a real page turner, it successfully kept my attention from beginning to end. I'm really hoping that there will be a third book though, as the story doesn't feel complete and the characters still have much more to tell us.
The story features a young, gay actor called Grant and his long term partner, Cam. We follow his struggle to balance their life and relationship with his newly successful acting career when he lands a role in a TV sitcom. As well as the obvious benefits that Grant's newfound stardom brings, there is also a negative side - including time apart from each other, jealous and bitchy cast mates, lack of privacy and press intrusion. This story is a fascinating roller coaster ride of ups and downs that truly had me gripped.
I was really impressed with the level of detail in this book, Mr Stone really brought the world of Hollywood alive. It is obvious that the author has a lot of knowledge of this lifestyle and had done his research well. I found his writing style easy to read and I felt that the story flowed well. The Dark Side of Stardom is a fun, sexy book that also has a great deal of emotion in it. I would definitely read more from this author, and give this book five big stars.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
Praise for 'The Dark Side of Stardom' by Christopher Stone:"I really loved this book! It is quite the page-turner, between wondering if Grant, a former porn star, is going to be forced out of the closet, to the dramas he faces working on a legitimate television sitcom. Not only that, but it is a very emotionally involving story. We truly care about Grant and his long-term partner Cam, so we want them and their relationship to succeed every step of the way. Since we care about them so much, it’s the small details of their lives that truly make the story what it is. I also really loved the ambiguous ending, and am hoping that the author will make it a trilogy! A fun, sexy exploration of Hollywood life."- Rebecca VanDusen, Amazon Reviewer
"The Dark Side of Stardom kept my attention from start to finish. Dealing with issues of fame, love, and sexuality from a unique perspective, it sheds light in areas that often remain dark and unspoken of. A perfect book for a rainy day, or whatever the weather for that matter. I highly recommend it.”- Rich Kendall, author of 'The Road to Elmira'
Praise for 'Frame of Reference' by Christopher Stone:"This book was recommended by one of my gay friends and I must admit, as a straight lady, I wasn't sure it was something I would be interested in reading. Glad I took the plunge. Interesting characters, in an interesting Hollywood setting that the writer is very familiar with. I loved the references, by the main character, to all the TV. and movies. Clearly, Mr. Stone has done his homework. The sex scenes, (while a bit too much information for me!) will be much appreciated by the appropriate audience - in other words, quite hot! Still, no romance novel is worth its salt without a good story line. Again, Mr. Stone has shown his mettle. The characters are well developed and the story interesting as a young man fights his way to the top of the heap. Bring on the next book, sequel!"- Sharyn St.Clair, Amazon Reviewer
"I only have good things to say about this book from a literary point of view. The characters are well-developed and Christopher Stone’s writing style is superb. I enjoyed going with Grant on his journey of self-discovery and look forward to seeing what happens next in his life. In case the description of the book isn’t clear enough, this is a gay romance, so readers should not be surprised about the fact that the sex scenes are between two or more men. The sex scenes are not the whole of the book, and they are not overly-explicit, but they are more explicit than the average romance novel. I truly enjoyed this offering by Christopher Stone, and I will definitely be putting him on my list of authors to look for in the future."- Brriske, Paranormal Romance & Authors That Rock
"This book is definitely not in a genre I ordinarily read, so when a friend recommended it to me, I was admittedly a little skeptical. Skepticism, however, soon turned into genuine delight. Using an almost Christopher Isherwood, I-am-a-camera-like precision, Stone expertly evokes the world of a young gay man from a small town who struggles to establish himself as an actor in Hollywood. Written vividly and wryly, the book is by turns touching, exciting, erotic and dark, and is always compelling. The characters were full-bodied (in more ways than one!) the dialogue was realistic, the situations off-beat and interesting. When I finished the book, my first thought was, "Bring on the sequel!" I can give "Frame of Reference" no higher praise than that!"- Robert J. Van Dusen, Amazon Reviewer
"I stumbled on Frame of Reference at the nail salon. A lady was reading it and would read passages to the entire shop. So, I bought the book. What an eye opener into the world of gay young men. Being raised in Hollywood as a non-gay, I had no idea about this vibrant subculture. Being mature and growing up in a movie family, I understood all the references to movie stars, TV shows, and cinema. Do read it, you won't be able to put it down!"- Dee Lewis, Amazon Reviewer
Born in Bronx, New York, and raised in Fresno, California, Christopher Stone’s early years were dominated by school, watching television and motion pictures, bicycling, skating, and reading avidly. Summers were spent swimming, and doing whatever it took to survive the oppressive San Joaquin Valley heat. But he also remembers fondly the yearly summer trips to New York, to visit family and friends – and to see Broadway shows. Christopher left Fresno, for Hollywood, California, during his college years after being accepted into the Writers Guild of America’s Open Door Program, a two-year, scholarship, training ground for aspiring screen and television writers. As it happened, rather than a teleplay or screenwriting gig, his first professional writing job was in journalism – as the Los Angeles Editor for Stage Door, at that time, Canada’s equivalent of the U.S. entertainment trade weekly, Variety. Christopher would later use his Writers Guild of America training to co-author and sell the original screenplay, The Living Legend, with Jon Mercedes III, to the Erin Organization, and later, and also with Mercedes, to write two seasons of The Party Game, a Canadian TV game show. As a young freelance entertainment journalist, he contributed to many Los Angeles-based publications, among them The Advocate, for which he wrote a breezy film column, “Reeling ‘Round,” and the Los Angeles Free Press. During this time, he became a member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Christopher dipped his toes into the world of motion picture advertising and publicity, as assistant to the West Coast Director of Advertising and Publicity for Cinerama Releasing Corporation, in Beverly Hills. At the same time, he also did special advertising and publicity projects for 20th Century-Fox. Christopher went on to become an Account Executive for David Wallace & Company, a public relations firm specializing in entertainment accounts – and located on West Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Strip. Returning to his first love, writing, Christopher became a full time freelance contributor to national consumer publications including Us, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, McCall’s, In Cinema, and The National Enquirer, among others. Many of his stories were syndicated worldwide by the New York Times Syndication Corp. Another important area of endeavor for Christopher Stone was Re-Creating Your Self. A Blueprint for Personal Change that he first developed for himself, the journalist went on to teach the principles and processes of Re-Creating Your Self to others – first, in private sessions, later, in workshops and seminars, and, finally, for California State University Extended Education. Eventually, one of his students suggested he write a book version. Re-Creating Your Self was first published in hardcover by Metamorphous Press, and subsequently published in a trade paperback edition by Hay House. It has since been published in Spanish, Swedish and Hebrew language editions. When not writing, Christopher used his longtime interest in, and study of, metaphysics, to teach meditation and psychic development classes – first in Beverly Hills, then later, in Manhattan Beach. He went on to co-author, with Mary Sheldon, four novellas for a Japanese educational publisher, and then, also with Mary Sheldon, the highly successful The Meditation Journal trilogy of hardcover books. Subsequently, he returned to journalism, this time, contributing hundreds of print and online entertainment features, columns and reviews to magazines and websites. For eight years, Christopher was the Box-office Columnist for MatchFlick.com, a popular online motion picture site. In his private life, Christopher Stone met David M. Stoebner on May 17, 1994, and they have been together ever since. ?In 2008, they were married in Los Angeles. They share a home with their three pets in Coastal Los Angeles County. In 2013, Christopher’s pet project has been transforming their rarely used kitchen table area into a killer, retro 1950s Diner Nook, complete with a 1952 Seeburg Table Top jukebox, a neon diner sign, and a malt machine. Christopher’s first novel, Frame of Reference was e and print published, in fall 2012, by MLR Press. A short story, Sweet Homo Alabama was published by MLR Press, December 19, 2012. Stone spent much of 2013 writing Frame of Reference 2: The Dark Side of Stardom, a sequel novel to Frame of Reference, as well as, Abracadabra, and a short story, published at Halloween. But the indefatigable scribe also found time to contribute weekly reviews, columns and interviews to Queer Town Abbey. Christopher is currently writing Going and Coming, a novel laced with metaphysical themes, and wrapped around the character of Dr. Minnow Saint James, a highly successful Past Life Regression Therapist, and the author of a best-selling nonfiction book. Christopher hopes Going and Coming will launch a series of Dr. Minnow Saint James Metaphysical Adventures novels. As of this writing, Going and Coming is tentatively scheduled for November 2015 publication, by MLR Press. On a personal note, Christopher and David adopted a five-month-old Yellow Lab puppy, Sammy (Samantha Stevens), on February 6, following the sudden passing of their beloved Yellow Lab, Gracie, on January 22.
About Christopher Stone: