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But here's a handy hint: If the show is The Splendid Life of Lindsay, gush about how sublimely sophisticated she is. If it's The 25 Tackiest Celebs, moan that she's so resolutely skanky you'd need ice tongs to even shake her hand. But please don't say anything you really can't live with. In one pre-taped interview, I gurgled that TOM CRUISE "is up there in the pantheon with the great old-time stars." I instantly regretted the comment and pleaded with them to take it out, saying I'd been embarrassingly hyperbolic and would be deeply ashamed of myself if that quote actually ran. They said, "OK, no problem," but not only did they leave it in, it was the very first soundbite in the show! Which has now run for three years!

But sooner or later you don't have to worry about mishaps like that because they won't want you at all. On the road to chopping your monologues into monosyllables, these shows eventually decide you don't even merit getting booked and canceled anymore. Your having been so good for so long means that one mild trip-up can seem catastrophic. It doesn't matter that you did 40 fabulous appearances in a row for them. If you then come in with one unamazing one, whether it's the result of dental surgery, a brain tumor, or a dull topic, you're off their list for at least the next decade.

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Tune in: La Dolce Musto


There are other limits to your stardom too. If you're on one series a lot, the channel heads won't let you do too many others because they feel each show should have its own talent pool. But then they suddenly decide they don't want you on that one series anymore either because specific talent shouldn't be too associated with any one program. All at once, every producer in town decides you're overexposed and simultaneously drops you without even telling you. There is no consideration, gratitude, or apology—you are simply as over as a volunteer at ground zero. You're abruptly fired from a charity gig, blackballed from helping their struggling asses fill airtime without compensation—and your biggest crime was that you were so good at it that everyone wanted you!

Why did you do it? Because it can be enormously intoxicating, especially when the process clicks and you actually get on and don't humiliate yourself. In those cases, the chance to be a human bobblehead can be even more addictive than heroin or Swedish fish. In fact, I got so hooked on the instant gratification of it all that when the offers dried up, I started calling around, begging to be put on again. The result was something never allowed on these shows—dead silence.

But suddenly, by some cable miracle, I got sizzling again. Countdown With Keith Olbermann and other MSNBC shows can't seem to get enough of my blathering skills, and I'm absolutely loving having a second wave of head time. I'm a superstar for the next three and a half minutes! But wait, the other line's ringing . . .


Web extra: The low-level celebrities coming out of the woodwork to say they might be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby are providing an onging gossip saga that's both sad and hilarious. The whole crazy scandal should be turned into an even worse version of Mama Mia! ("Which one of you three dingbats is my father?") I've even heard sick murmurs suggesting that Anna Nicole's departed son could be the father! Aren't they confusing this with Susan Sontag? And there's also the theory that her dead husband may have left his sperm in a jar. Wouldn't she have rather he left the keys to the safe? While we're wondering, let me throw my own hat into this perverse ring: I think I might be the father too! (Yes, Anna Nicole was that promiscuous.) Oh, wait the kid might not be worth all that money after all? OK, count me out. Not the father. Nope, not at all.

         Other topical thoughts: Even if Dannielynn doesn't get the dough, won't she eventually nab the world's most whopping book deal? Don't you love all the media critiquing the key players picking at the corpse of Anna Nicole? Aren't they doing the same? Does that include me? Will Zsa Zsa suddenly think, "Gosh, darling, I hope that fake prince hasn't impregnated me too!?? Doesn't Anna's Svengali/hanger-on Howard K. Stern remind you just a tad of David Gest? Whose hate is more valid—Stern's for Anna Nicole mother or Anna Nicole's sister for Anna Nicole? And, finally, will Elton John now have to update "Candle in the Wind"?

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