“Paris is a cunt.” These four simple words, muttered in a preternaturally husky rasp by pinhole-pupiled Lindsay Lohan as she snickered in the strobe light glare and high-volume snapping of paparazzi cameras outside of the Roosevelt Hotel (which is now an overstuffed migrant shelter), perfectly encapsulate the gossip rag-driven cultural moment of the 00s (or aughts, if you prefer). The phrase is inherently funny and wholly vulgar, much like that era—a time of flashing bald pussies while stepping out of town cars, sex tapes, shoeless gas station visits, ill-advised musical careers, near-Princess Diana tragedies with sleazy photographers, DUI busts, defiant mugshots, zonked-out post-club snapshots, and undeclared eating disorder-offs. LiLo’s high-BAC blurt—an insult to hotel heiress/fellow attention hog Paris Hilton—also exposes the internal frienemy rifts and ruthless Mean Girl competition behind this gaggle of gakked-up child actors, socialite reality TV stars, and unraveling pop princesses as they attempted to surpass each other’s ability to act bad in public.
And the public fucking ate it up (less so the publicists as seen with a Lohan lackey’s half-hearted: “She’s kidding!”). I don’t exclude myself here. It’s hard to overstate just how influential this starlet era was to me as a student at NYU, spending hours upon hours scrolling through gossip blogs and pouring over the pages of US Weekly. I even got a dose of this celeb psychosis in real life as Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen attended—and just as quickly dropped out—of my own alma mater, shuffling around campus like the youngest crones in mothball-gnawed fur coats, gigantic bug-eyed sunglasses, and chewing gum-shellacked $1000 Chanel purses, all while clutching a Marlboro Red and Venti soy latte. Stars, they float around Washington Square like caffeine-and-nicotine-addicted ghosts just like us!
Even with my collegiate fascination, I had forgotten all about Lohan’s snide outburst, which slipped my memory entirely, unlike bloated Brandon Davis (remember him?) and his description of Lohan as a “fire crotch” (to Paris’s naughty giggling). That is until I read Genna Rivieccio’s Lindsay Lohan Stole My Life, a joyously satirical fictional memoir penned in the voice of rival socialite, one of the fellow white twig bitches and descendent of the Beverly Hills three families, Tate Carmichael. Published in its second edition this year by The Opiate Books (Rivieccio is also editor-in-chief of The Opiate), the faux-autobiography is written as if Rivieccio consulted old Star Magazines like the sacred texts they are, dredging up long-lost dirt for Carmichael’s cunty interpretations, from LiLo’s Roosevelt outburst to her sticky-fingered shoplifting (“every white girl’s favorite crime”) of a $2,500 necklace from a Venice Beach boutique. If you’re feeling nostalgic about Juicy Couture, Razrs, Sidekicks, SCRAM bracelets, and teacup chihuahuas and have exhausted scrolling through the archives of obsessed Instagrams like @popculturediedin2009 or pouring over every leaked detail from Britney’s memoir The Woman in Me (out this week!) while watching Brit-Brit dance with knives on a loop, Lindsay Lohan Stole My Life is the novel to satiate all that aught-stalgia.
Lindsay Lohan Stole My Life isn’t just a silly take on one of those sugary sweet and Frappuccino frothy celebrity memoirs consisting of mostly photographs of its subject like Paris Hilton’s Confessions of an Heiress or Nicole Richie’s slightly more literarily ambitious The Truth About Diamonds. Sure, Carmichael’s memoir unveils a similar world revolving around award shows, movie premieres, bottle service, Halloween parties (hello–Mean Girls reference!), and copious name-dropping. Carmichael’s perspective is, well, a bit darker, more monomaniacal, and quite possibly entirely psychotic due to her predicament (and the lack of a ghostwriter to act as a voice of reason). She’s writing, like Sade or Genet before her, while rotting away behind bars in a Golden State prison! No, this isn’t just a short stint after Daddy refused to bail her out post-drug bust. Carmichael is in more serious trouble after being wrongfully convicted—or so she says—for confronting Lindsay Lohan outside of a West End production of Speed-the-Plow with a gun. A gun that another Lohan stalker just happened to hand her in a panic (“Next thing I know, Lindsay sees me with the gun, goes wide-eyed and, suddenly, the tabloid headlines are filled with shit like: ‘One Mean Girl!: Lindsay Lohan Attacked by Deranged Fan.’”). This, then, is Tate Carmichael’s De Profundis. Except instead of Oscar Wilde’s consideration of suffering, morality, decadence, art, and the life of Christ, Tate’s memoir is a grudge-filled, revenge-fueled spiteful potty-mouthed screed on the object of her envious fury—Lindsay—as well as all those other fickle socialites that wronged her. You can just picture this memoir scrawled in blood on prison-issued toilet paper.
What did Lindsay do exactly to earn the endless ire from Tate? Well, it all goes back to a failed audition for 2004’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. How dare an actress who was born in as wretched of a place as The Bronx swipe Tate’s rightful Disney vehicle? (“Let’s get one thing straight: not all socialites are created equal. The fact that Lindsay was born in the Bronx should tell you first and foremost that she’s of a lesser caliber”). This usurped role is only part of the problem, though. Tate sees Lindsay as a lesser version of herself who has mastered the art of vapidity: “All I have ever truly wanted in this life—apart from constant orgasms—is to be recognized for my efforts in the face of appearing to be doing nothing. My ability to reinvent and resuscitate my public image with my talents in the party arts. But somehow, some way, Lindsay has managed to monger all the credit for quote unquote enduring…” However, these explanations falter a tad once the realization hits that Tate never actually interfaces directly with Lohan in the nearly 400-page book, beyond her criminal firearm possession in London. This puts all of Tate’s reminiscing into question. Did Lohan ever really do anything to her or is this just the ramblings of the criminally insane?! I’m leaning towards the latter as throughout the book Tate attempts to undermine Lohan over and over again with singular focus, whether sleeping with Wilmer Valderrama and “lovable teddy bear beneath that toadish exterior” Harvey Weinstein in order to pump them for info on LiLo’s drug use or hiring Lohan’s recently departed long-suffering assistant (who also emerges as possibly the only person in the book with sense after she stomps away from a hiring standoff between Tate and Kim Kardashian to return to Pasadena “where nothing happens and no one cares.” Good for you, honey!).
When Tate isn’t fixated on Lohan—at least overtly, she spends her time desperately social climbing, bouncing from Britney to Paris to Nicole and back again or simply dragging then-up-and-comer Orlando Bloom around as a swoon-worthy if stiff prop in the hopes of keeping her well-manicured nails gripped on fame. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. All it takes is a slight misstep like, say, fucking the help (“Tate Carmichael Caught Slumming It With Deckhand in Lake Como”) and these contending heiresses will stop returning those calls. Ever self-destructive, Tate also has a habit of stumbling from ridiculous problem to ridiculous problem, from lunging at Paris Hilton with a shattered champagne bottle to being arrested mid-coitus with Marilyn Manson over a stolen pair of maid-themed panties from Frederick’s of Hollywood. The delightfully nasty humor in Lindsay Lohan Stole My Life doesn’t just derive from these broad slapstick scenarios alone. Rivieccio—and by proxy Tate—is a master of cutting and catty insults. Tate, naturally, has more than a couple of choice words for her frienemies. Take, for instance, her view on Britney after Britney deigned to invite her to the Italian dates on her The Onyx Hotel Tour, thus briefly catching Carmichael’s falling star:
“Who knew that it would take such trash to turn me back into a treasure? No offense to Brit-Brit or anything, but Kentwood is a long way from the top of the ladder called Sophistication. And no, reminding me that McComb, Mississippi is her birthplace doesn’t really dust off the lowbrow qualities of her ‘personage’ either.”
More than the shots fired at her fake friends, I was tickled by the bile Tate splattered on seemingly innocent yet renowned bystanders. As Tate writes, “There’s just so many people to casually criticize, you know?” I do. And Tate doesn’t hesitate. On Sofia Coppola: “…Sofia Coppola’s really quite shit, isn’t she? If my dad had directed an iconic masterpiece about the mafia that allowed me to be a nepo baby, I’d be making way better movies than what she turns out.” On Julia Roberts: “…Julia is a notorious cunt that would sooner bite your head off with those giant chompers than smile at you with them for anything less than twenty-five million dollars (in 2004, that is—who knows what the price tag is now?).” On Hillary Duff: “Of course, that’s why she always got the nice girl rep—but really, is there anything ‘nice’ about having no personality of your fucking own?” Not quite as sharp as the previous three, but there is something satisfying about Tate’s brief take on Lady Gaga: “Upper West Side slag.” Hell, even writer Bret Easton Ellis isn’t free from Tate’s omniscient judgment: “It’s like, yeah, we can all write short sentences expressing disaffection.” And if you thought readers were exempt from this unending roast, Tate consistently reminds us that we are pathetic (“Cause I’ve got nowhere to be and it’s apparent that you don’t either”), friendless (“Because, as you, friendless reader, probably already know, you don’t talk about someone all the time if you’re not secretly kind of obsessed with them…), and unfuckable (“…sorry, I don’t want to make you jealous as I know your sex life is likely rather prosaic, if you even have one at all. I mean, how great can it be? You’re reading a book”). All of which made me titter with glee on public transportation and assume that the writing process had to be wonderfully cathartic for Rivieccio.
If Tate’s single-minded Hollywood social climbing all sounds incredibly vapid, well, it is. Or, as Bill Murray asks Tate in horror after withstanding an onslaught of complaints post-Prius-tryst, “Do you have any idea how vacuous you sound?” Tate is indignant but she knows. So does Rivieccio. On one hand, a reader could take Lindsay Lohan Stole My Life as superficially as it appears: a raucous trip down millennial memory lane, one that is a smidge too long but works as a demented missive sent from the clink. The book succeeds if daydreaming about The Simple Life is all a reader wants (Rivieccio urges us to “try not to take it so fucking seriously” for a reason).
On the other hand, I’d argue the novel is also slyly a work of sharp cultural criticism—something that becomes blatantly apparent in the last chapter of the book, albeit paired with a batshit intergalactic prison break fantasy (or, the other option, a suicide by Razr). Rivieccio is clearly a student of high, low, and everything-in-between culture, breezily referencing, at once, the more shameful ends of Lohan’s filmography like my favorite I Know Who Killed Me, more “respectable” cinema such as Mulholland Drive, required reading like Fahrenheit 451, underground icons such as Genesis P-Orridge (Tate’s cellblock neighbor), and (in)famous failures like William Hung. More than just a 00s cultural association game, the novel, in its entirety, raises questions: Exactly what was it about this golden age of gossip that made these shallow pools of fame-whoring just so goddamn captivating? And why does it seem so quaint from our perspective in 2023?
Considering these questions after reading Lindsay Lohan Stole My Life, I still don’t know. In the final chapter, Tate chalks it all up to the 00s’ “Goldilocks balance”:
“just the right amount of ‘easy to become “viral”‘ ingredients with just enough quality control (I mean, come on, compared to what there is now) interspersed to make the product output more, let’s call it, ‘consumable’ for a mind that was, if not exactly sophisticated, then at least not totally void altogether.”
This is a perceptive interpretation, as well as potentially the most accurate. Global notoriety for anyone with access to Wifi wasn’t quite yet a possibility—other than a few delightfully distressing viral videos of, for example, Goddess Bunny dancing with her parasol. Instead, entertainment media and blogs in their early incarnations coalesced around a select few whose talent appeared to be just slightly above nothing (unlike the pure nothingness of influencers and TikTok sensations today)—and those of us sitting on the sidelines could only sit back, laugh, and type in the comment section. It’s that old American pastime: mocking the upper classes while never really upending any hierarchical structures. Truth be told, though, they deserved our rapturous attention. It’s not that easy being rich and classless. As Tate herself says: “Vapidity is a skill that not just anyone knows how to wield correctly.”