What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I’m an entertainment journalist reporting and writing about movies, TV, and music. In earlier times we called this beat “gossip.” In today’s 1983 Hollywood, it’s becoming everyday news. For a decade I was the “legwoman” or assistant to world-renowned columnist Bettina Grant, visiting film sets world-wide, interviewing celebrities, developing and following stories about them. My author, Penny Pence Smith, came to me when Bettina was murdered—and I found the body. I was struggling to keep column news flowing, fighting for my changing professional life, and dodging the crosshairs of Bettina’s killer. Before that, I worked in lower level industry positions but now enjoy all the benefits of show biz’s fast lane as a gossip journalist. Who wouldn’t love the job?
What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? What do you like least about yourself?
I’m proud to be a journalist, not a star-chaser, and feel enormous responsibility toward what and how I write about celebrities. I’m respected and liked for those attributes. But I’d probably be a better gossip reporter if I better played the fame game with a more aggressive self-interest, less integrity.
What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
My author walked in my shoes in her early career with a real gossip queen, so the most dramatic situations she places me in are similar to ones she experienced. For example, in Legwoman I had an encounter with a popular night-time talk show host, angered to violence over a lie I uncovered about his past. Also, an unexpected confrontation in a biker bar turned dicey and moved the interview beyond a casually shared afternoon beer.
Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Penny and I argue over how much risk of danger I should accept during investigations. I see a story and simply go after it. She’s more circumspect. We also disagree about my flirtations with detective T.K. Raymond. She’s more traditional than me, with more stringent professional—and personal—boundaries. Me, not so many.
What is your greatest fear? What makes you happy?
I fear what’s ahead in my career with my all-powerful mentor gone and massive competition from all corners of Hollywood. I’m also terrorized by the idea of reaching old age alone with awards and autographed photos but no intimate connections. Happiness for me is a balance between the joy and acclaim from colleagues and knowing that friends and family consider me a person of value—even in a glittering community that ignores those characteristics.
If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Recasting my own life story, I’d want my parents to have lived longer to see that their efforts paid off. They both passed before Hollywood became my beat. And, I should have taken my light-hearted early work years in Hollywood more seriously. But it was a wonderful playground for a budding journalist who got to know her turf, or beat, before reporting and commenting on it.
Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Cassie O’Connor was columnist Bettina Grant’s long-time legwoman before me. She disappeared from the Hollywood scene and only resurfaced when Bettina died. With her came a mysterious manuscript and obvious intentions to reclaim a starring role on the gossip stage. Replacing Bettina Grant? Threatening my opportunities?
Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Oh! To be Porter “Potty” Osborn, popular character actor and long-time life partner of my friend and mentor, Allan Jaymar, retired mega-agent who’s taken me under his wing. Neighbors across the street from our offices in Bettina Grant’s Bel Air home, Potty’s an equal in the relationship, is caring, gentle—and a great cook. Allan acknowledges, respects and thrives in it. What a wonderful deep forever life.
Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Penny lives in Hawaii with her husband of nearly 40 years, former academic publisher, and their cat, Bob. She’s professionally crafted stories as a writer and communicator since high school. She’s traveled with that skill from Hollywood to high technology to health care, as an ad/PR and marketing agency executive, always seeking fascinating stories. She claims the Silicon Valley was as enigmatic as Hollywood. She’s also an education junkie, incorporating later-in-life MA and Ph.D. degrees along the way, and serving as a professor at two universities for the last 15 years of her career. She says that, upon retirement, she slid from left to right brain, writing painting, singing dancing and focusing on my story. Learn more about Penny and her books on her Amazon author page.
What's next for you?
My story finds me seeking a new path in entertainment journalism, facing a future with promising potential and some unknown doors—professional and personal. We’ll be pursuing those in the sequel.
The Last Hollywood Legwoman
Meredith Ogden is at the top of her game in Hollywood as Legwoman (assistant in modern terms) to Bettina Grant, the country’s most widely read celebrity gossip columnist. But life changes for the 36-year-old journalist when she arrives for work at Grant’s Bel Air home-office on a December morning in 1983 to find her famous boss dead, murdered. A manuscript lies on the floor next to the death bed. Partnering with High-Profile crimes detective T.K. Raymond to find out who killed Grant and why, Meredith faces more than questions or answers. A volatile TV night-show host lobs threats because of a damaging news investigation about his background, Grant’s children have demands on the office and valuable celebrity files. Meredith’s home is broken into and searched, and she is assaulted.
With “High Profile” detective T.K. Raymond’s help, and that of an unlikely team of colleagues, Meredith deals with the threats to herself, her future and even ghosts from her own past brought up by the emotional chaos.