Case #2: BritneyJune 18, 2015
Andrea’s a writer no one reads. Then she makes a shocking discovery.
SPOILER ALERT, Click with caution: See image proof here.
This episode was produced by Starlee Kine, Alex Blumberg, Melinda Shopsin and Eric Mennel. Producing help from Chris Neary and Wendy Dorr. Eli Horowitz is contributing editor. Thanks to John Delore and Matt Lieber. Arthur Jones made our logo. Thanks also to Jennifer Cumby. Thanks to Matt Carlin and Andrea Seigel.
Closing song “Go Far” written and produced by Emmy the Great, performed by Emmy the Great, Leo Abrahams and David Gardener. Go Far was mixed by Dave McCracken. Additional score used in the episode was written, performed and mixed by Emmy the Great too.
Opening theme song “Those Mysteries” was written by Russell Mael and Ron Mael and performed by Sparks.
Our ad music is by Build Buildings.
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Starlee Kine: From Gimlet I’m Starlee Kine and this is the Mystery Show. (music-why is there time, why is there space, why are there dogs and cats and trees and the human race) Every week I solve a new mystery. Mysteries that can’t be solved online. Mysteries you can’t solve yourself. Up until now there hasn’t been anyone to help with this. That person is now me. (music- those mysteries, tomorrow I’ll find all I should know, those mysteries, I don’t even know what I don’t even know, those mysteries, they’re hanging around and around)
This mystery is from Andrea. She’s a writer.
Starlee: Can you give a little background on what kind of writer you are. Andrea: yes, (sign) I’m like a writer, I don’t sell well at all.
Starlee Kine Well, her first book sold okay. People magazine wrote about it. Then Andrea’s second book came out. It was called To Feel Stuff.
Andrea: No one read my second book really. It didn’t do well commercially, it didn’t really get reviewed or coverage.
Starlee: You don’t see people carrying it around and reading it. Andrea: Never
Starlee: Is it face out in bookstores?
Andrea: NO. I mean this is a thing where I would go and try to buy it in a bookstory, I would be applying for fellowship and need a copy for them and I couldn’t, couldnt get a hold of it.
Starlee Kine A writer who no one reads. There’s pretty much nothing less mysterious. But that’s not Andrea’s mystery.
Andrea: So I have a google setting on myself. Because i’m a Kardashian.
Starlee: As do I.
Andrea: It’s important. And I got a google alert one morning in 2008 from this website and they had a picture of Britney Spears coming out of a restaurant in Malibu, exiting back door of restaurant and paparazzi in it and she’s holding this collection of intimate things, pack of cigarettes, phone pressed to pack of cigarettes and then she’s got my second book (music) and I just lost my mind. I really went nuts. When I get excited I don’t know what to do with myself, I can’t believe I have a body I’m responsible for, what do I do. I start emailing everyone I knew. I don’t think I’ve had this level of excitement that many times in my life. I
Starlee: Were you as excited when you had your baby? Andrea: No. (laughs)
Starlee: Why do you like Britney?
Andrea: Yes. A lot.
Starlee: And this is not since you saw her with the book.
Andrea: No, I got into her when she started dating Justin Timberlake and I have it in my mind where they are wearing matching denim outfits. If you ever seen this picture, just head to toe full denim and she seems really really happy. This is my guy and we are so much alike, we’re even wearing denim together. Then knowing later she cheated on him and she broke up that relationship and supposedly been upset about that event ever since is really interesting to me.
Starlee: And he went on to be so respectable.
Andrea: Yes, but I still find her to be the more interesting of the two. Him I would want to have nothing to do with, but her I would love to talk to. Unless he has current email address for her.
Starlee: The idea of her having an email address, you are making her seem more of this world than I believe she is.
Andrea: You don’t think she has email. (laughs) Starlee: It’s hard for me to believe.
Andrea: She has email. I like to imagine she has secret personality email she can just go on facebook and interact with people not as herself.
Starlee: Facebook account that I can believe.
Andrea: Maybe she is one of these weird people who keep liking pictures of my baby and I don’t know who they are. And it’s just Britney Spears. I’m sending you this picture right now so you can take look at it.
Starlee Kine: I examined the photo of Britney holding Andrea’s book for clues. Britney herself only makes up one little corner of the photo. She’s walking through the back exit of the restaurant, surrounded by men with cameras. Paparazzi tend to work in a triangle, with the celebrity at the center and a shooter on three sides. That way, when the celebrity turns away from one camera, they are facing another, and when they turn away again, they’re facing a third.
In the photo, Britney is wearing a white dress, that Andrea read was one she wore a lot while pregnant. Britney’s not pregnant in the photo, she gave birth to her son a few months before. But Andrea understood why she was still wearing the dress. She also wore her maternity clothes a few months after having her baby.
Andrea: It’s so crazy to think you know something about a celebrity that you don’t know. I’ve always had this distinct sense she is introvert and I really identify with that.
Starlee: Because you are an introvert.
Andrea: Right. I think she likes performing and likes that aspect of her job and she hates everything else.
Starlee: This is one of those pictures we see all the time coming out of 7 Eleven holding slushie or candy not usually carrying books at all, right?
Andrea: No, this she took out to dinner with her. Dinner with her parents, they were celebrating her mom’s birthday.
Starlee: And that’s her dad?
Andrea: This is her dad, he is her legal conservator. He very much manages her life. He is in charge of finances and in charge of her decisions.
Starlee: Do you think she brought it to dinner with her parents because her parents giving her hard time about not reading enough.
Starlee: That is a very firm no.
Andrea: She doesn’t look very happy and kind of era they started discussing the conservatorship with her. She might have been angry with them at this point in her life and maybe just reading through dinner while her parents tried to engage with her.
Starlee: So what you want to know from Britney about your book.
Andrea: I want to know how she got it and then i really want to know if she liked it. If she didn’t I’d be open to hearing her critique of it. If someone could kind of get these answers for me i‘m not a person with a lot to offer materially but I would do anything for them if anyone could bring me closer to this we could strike some kind of deal. (laughs)
Sounds like i’m offering sex. I’m not not. i think my boyfriend would understand. He knows how badly I’ve wanted to get an answer to this.
Starlee Kine So this case boiled down to two things: a book and a person who was seen carrying that book. The person was one of the most notoriously unreachable celebrities on the planet. I decided to start with the book.
Was Andrea’s book really as unknown as she made it out to be? Maybe she was being modest.
Bookseller: Thank you for calling the Open Book at the Oaks.
Starlee: I am calling about the book To Feel Stuff
Bookseller: What is it called?
Starlee: To Feel Stuff
Bookseller: To Steal Stuff
Starlee:To Feel Stuff
Bookseller: Not seeing it.
No. Starlee: Have you ever heard of it?
Bookseller: No I haven’t.
Starlee: What do you think it is about based on the title? Bookseller: Probably stealing stuff?
Starlee: Even the it is to feel stuff not steal.
Bookseller: Oh ok
Starlee: What do you think it is about if it is to feel stuff?
Christina: Thank you for calling Book World, this is Christina how can I help you?
Starlee: I’m looking for the book To Feel Stuff
Christina: Ok. To Feel Stuff
Starlee: To Feel Stuff, kind of weird title, huh?
Christina: We have had weirder.
Starlee: Oh yeah. Like what?
Christina: Well, some good ones couple of months ago. Let’s see if I can find a good one. Never Surrender to a Scoundrel. That’s not too bad.
Starlee: It is so true. Never should.
Christina: In Your Wildest Scottish Dreams. The Echoes of Scotland’s Streets.
Starlee: Is that the same person who wrote the Scottish dreams one?
Christina: No wasn’t the same author. Lot of ladies like to go to Ireland and Scotland to hear the accents so they think the men over there are probably really sexy.
Starlee: Is that your type?
Christina: I like the accents but actually went to Australia and I had an Irish bartender. That was really fun.
Starlee: Wait, you were in Australia and the bartender was Irish. Christina: Yep
Starlee: That was the story, you once had a bartender that was Irish? Christina: I don’t know what it is about Irish accent….
Starlee: Here is a thought what if you went to Ireland and you would probably hear the accent all over the place.
Christina: I would probably die of happiness if I went to Ireland. Starlee: Really?
Christina: That is the dream place to go.
Starlee: Because of the accents only.
Christina: I want to see the land. All the castles and the fairy circles and a bunch of other things that go on over there too.
Starlee: Did you say fairy circles? Christina: And I want to drink.
Starlee: This is an attainable dream. I think you could go. You went to a much further place, much harder to go to Australia.
Christina: It was good because my mom actually won the lottery and we have family there and we didn’t have to pay so much for hotels and it was easy to get flights because my parents won the lottery.
Starlee: How much of a lottery, the big lottery.
Christina: They won a million dollars on the powerball a couple of years ago. Starlee: Seriously?
Christina: Yes, me and my ex boyfriend were sitting with my mom on their couch and it showed on tv there was a million dollar winner from Chilton Wisconsin, and I was looking at numbers and she said this was the number she usually played and got ticket and made us all read through it. The first thing they bought with their money was a lawn mower.
Starlee: But if your mom wins a million dollars and you have a dream
Christina: But the thing is it’s a dream I want to attain myself and I don’t want use my parents money, I want to save for it because I am an adult.
Starlee: You are very responsible with your dreams.
Christina: Well you know if you ask your parents for everything and when they cut you off you won’t be able to do anything for yourself. You said the book To Feel Stuff by Andrea Seigel?
Christina: We wouldn’t actually have it in the store. Was there anything else you needed?
Starlee: No. There is a lot of new things I have questions about but you definitely answered my original question.
Starlee Kine The odds of finding a bookseller whose parents had won the lottery were better than finding a bookseller who’d heard of To Feel Stuff. Andrea was right. Her book had tanked. I crossed that item off my list and stared at the next one. Find Britney Spears. I quickly eliminated going the official route. Britney’s manager said no to an interview. I would have to enlist the help of civilians. You would be surprised how many people you pass every day on the street who have a hidden connection to Britney Spears. One it turns out they are very skittish about revealing.
A friend who worked in fashion slipped me the email of Britney’s stylist, along with a note that said, “you didn’t get this from me.” Another friend knew her former bodyguard who stopped responding to my friend’s emails as soon as Britney’s name came up.
A flurry of tips poured in from an internet forum I posted on. One message I received read, “Britney is supposedly marrying my husband’s first cousin. I don’t know him and they are all crazy. Will inquire.” Inquiring meant getting word to the supposed husband’s Aunty Mary, who had neither a cellphone nor email. The message arrived to Aunty Mary by quote “basically carrier pigeon” and from there the trail went dead.
Herein lies the paradox of Britney Spears: she’s impossible to talk to and yet her every movement is tracked. In 2008, the year Andrea’s photo was taken, Britney was the number one celebrity search on the internet. Fifty to a hundred paparazzi members would follow her wherever she went. Even now, when she’s settled into a more domestic life with lots of time spent at home with her two young sons, paparazzi still photograph her on an almost daily basis. It is because of this that my path forward is now clear. If I can’t arrange a meeting with Britney, my only hope is to run into her in public. And thanks to the crazy amount of paparazzi photos out there, I actually know the place where that’s most likely to happen. The mall. Or to be more specific The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, California, a few miles from Britney’s house.
She’s been photographed here hundreds of times. Britney at the Oaks Mall with an iced coffee. Britney at the Oaks Mall with her kids. Britney at the Oaks Mall in a dress that makes you go she looks good. Britney at the Oaks Mall in a dress that makes you go, whoa she looks good (note: these are pronounced differently.)
The photos of Britney at the Oaks are always taken in the parking lot never inside the actual mall. I soon find out why. The minute I pull out my recorder, a security guard approaches me.
tape: mall sound
Guard: To do interviews and everything need to talk to management quick in mall itself
Guard: Elevator here go back and see the management office and talk to the receptionist
Starlee Kine Feeling like I got sent to the principal, I find the management office and tell them I’m working on a beat the heat story. They tell me there’s no recording of any kind allowed inside the mall.
Everyone in the mall looks like her. Everyone in the mall has seen her.
Poor girl, says the Starbucks guy. She can’t even leave her house without being mobbed. The last time he saw her, he wasn’t even able to see her. He just saw the crowd of people around her, blotting her out like a dust cloud.
She loves the attention, says The Cheesecake Factory waitress. It was just so obvious. For example, one time Britney received a call on her cell and walked outside to take it. Why would she do that if she didn’t want photos taken of her? The waitress says she would never have done that herself, she hates when people stare at her. Her wedding had been very small, with only fifty guests.
She’s so nice, say the Topshop sales clerk. His co-worker nods slowly and adds, and tan. They’ve met her mom. They have opinions about her boyfriend. They lead me to the sales rack and pull out a romper with straps that cross like an x in back and show me the tag. There’s a
tiny B drawn on in ink, with a circle around it. B for Britney. This is what she tried on when she was last there. It was on actual body.
They also show me a blue crop top that she bought in another size. The sales people say Britney loved the top so much, she wanted to wear it out. They told her they had to remove the security tag and she draped herself across the checkout counter so they could do so. One of the salespeople lays his own body down to demonstrate. I buy both the romper and the top.
I told my client about all the promising leads I’d run down. And how all I had to show for them was a lousy crop top. Just kidding about the lousy part. I’m actually wearing it right now.
Andrea: Have you guys ever looked into seeing if she’s ever been photographed with other books
Starlee: Let me text that to Eric.
Starlee Kine: I text one of my investigators, Eric, back in the office.
Starlee: We want to ask him can we do a search on other books Britney’s been seen reading if any. Okay. He used to be a Britney fan.
Andrea: Used to be?
Starlee Kine: It took thirty seconds to send the text. It took thirty minutes to convince Andrea that Eric had a lot of other good qualities.
Starlee: Look at this- eric did a quick search. She was on a read poster telling kids to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. Also read Lion Witch and the Wardrobe.
Andrea: Next two are no surprise to me.
Starlee: Next ones i hesitate to say out loud it seems like little bit of a barb against her. Power of Now, The Secret, Horse Whisperer, My Way, Four Agreements, that’s got to be religious.
Starlee: Taming Chaos, self-help, Pride and Prejudice
Andrea: So she reads fiction.
Starlee: Yes. Eat Pray Love, Candide that is a curve ball. Andrea: That is.
Starlee: She’s always seen holding books. One Hundred Years of Solitude. They’re never in her bag.
Andrea: Right now that I see she carries around books makes me feel more like she read it. If it was just that one time I would be more likely to think that something that got foisted on her that one time. It is a thing she does, she reads.
Starlee Kine Back at headquarters, there’s a development. It comes in the form of an old lead that’s been regifted as a new one.
Eric: It’s only got 64 views.
Starlee Kine It’s a video of the very night that Britney was seen holding Andrea’s book.
Starlee: How do you know it’s from the same night?
Eric: Because she is wearing the same clothes as in the picture and same white dress. Starlee: And that is her dad.
Starlee Kine It was posted on YouTube by a member of the paparazzi. Even though it was filmed in 2008, he only posted it last year.
The photo with the book was just a captured instant, frozen in time. The video is all the other seconds that followed. (noise-cameras flash flash flash) Britney is leaving the restaurant, with her parents. The throng of paparazzi is so thick it seems possible that she’s being carried by them to the car, that her feet aren’t even touching the ground. If you watch this video and don’t feel sad, you’re not a good person.
Once inside the car, Britney places Andrea’s book on the seat beside her. Her mother holds up her coat in front of her daughter and keeps holding it there until the car drives out of frame of the video camera. It reminds me of putting a sheet over a birdcage so that your bird can get some sleep.
The video and the photo were taken at a restaurant called Paradise Cove. Eric tells me that Paradise Cove is also where Britney shot her music video, Sometimes, in 1999, when she was just seventeen. Suddenly it felt like the whole case had been cracked wide open.
Of course they came back here for her mom’s birthday. They probably wanted to rekindle the memory of simpler times. Why would Britney bring a book to dinner? She wouldn’t! Someone at the restaurant must have given it to her!
I drive to Paradise Cove. As advertised, it’s a little slice of you know what. Not only does the staff not know anything about the book. None of them had ever seen Britney there. I ask everyone I see. One of waiters who’d been there forever ask me what day of the week the photo had been taken and so I pull out my phone and scroll and scroll and scroll through the calendar app until we arrive at March 18, 2008. Oh, yeah, that explains it, he says, that was a Tuesday. I don’t work Tuesdays. And then does a quick poll of the busboys. Have any of you ever worked a Tuesday? They all shake their heads no.
Not only was Paradise Cove a bust, it made me feel grossed out with myself. I was becoming part of the reason Britney Spears didn’t want to leave her house. As much as I wanted to find her, I didn’t want to be someone trying to find her.
It was clear that I needed to stop dancing around the problem but toward it. The key word here being dance. Find out what I mean by this after this short break.
Starlee Kine We’re back. I tried to get to Britney through people she knew. Nothing. Then I tried to get her though strangers. More nothing. The only option left was to get to her the most old-fashioned way of all: by paying for access.
Britney Spears is now thirty three. For the past year, she’s been doing a residence in Las Vegas for her Piece of Me tour. It’s been hugely successful and is being billed as her “second act.”
You can buy tickets to that show. And for more money, you can also purchase a meet and greet.
Meet and greets are a standard part of a pop star’s tour. The prices are all the over place. Miley Cyrus’ costs $1000. To meet and greet Rihanna or Kanye will cost you 10 grand. Put in this context meeting Justin Bieber is actually kind of a steal: just $650.
Britney’s meet and greet costs $2500. The exact sum that it looked like it was going to cost me to solve this case.
Melinda: I was going to make try and buy these Britney Spears tickets and then one of those security things that you have to enter the phrase and it is a Robert Frost quote you have to complete.
Starlee Kine I asked another one of my investigators Melinda, to look into the tickets.
Starlee: So you have to know the next line.
Melinda: Multiple choice. . …two roads diverged in a wood.
Starlee Kine I knew it was hard to get to Britney Spears but this was ridiculous.
Melinda: The options are “swear not by the moon” “for you tread on my dreams” “fine is right out” “violets are blue” “shivering sweet to the touch” the last one is “I took the one less traveled by”
Starlee: Has to be the one less traveled by. I feel like shivering sweet to the touch, not saying that is the option but it is good.
Melinda: I feel like swear not by the moon might be quite nice as well. Feel like we might be timed out at this point but should we try it.
Starlee Kine We hit purchase.
Melinda: We chose right.
Starlee Kine It was done. 1 VIP meet and greet at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. I would spend Valentine’s Day with Britney Spears. Immediately a confirmation email arrived that informed me “the event countdown was on.” I would be sitting in Row A, seat 14. But there wasn’t any information at all about the meet and greet itself. I needed to know how long I’d have with her, whether it would be enough time to ask Britney about Andrea’s book.
Ticketmaster: Thank you for calling ticketmaster. Are you calling about an existing order?
Ticketmaster: Now you can say change my delivery, refund my order or you can say its something else
Starlee: It’s something else.
Ticketmaster: Okay please hold while I transfer you to a representative. (hold music)
Dennis: Thank you for holding this is Dennis from Customer Service. Who am I speaking with?
Starlee: Starlee Kine
Dennis: How are you doing Ms. Starlee Starlee: Starlee. I’m good how are you? Dennis: Starlee
Starlee: It’s a hard one
Dennis: Once you see it. Star – Lee. See you have one ticket Britney Spears February 14th, at 9 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. For VIP meet and greet package and everything that comes with it.
Starlee: Can I ask you a few questions about it.
Dennis: Yes you can although I only know so much information. What are we calling about?
Starlee: Wondering do you know how long I get with her? Dennis: I dont have that information
Starlee: Do you think I could bring a book she could sign. Dennis: I wouldn’t be able to guarantee it.
Starlee: If you were to guess a genre of book that Britney Spears would read, what would you guess? This is what I am going to ask her when I go. I think I get one question.
Dennis: I would think you would get more than one question.
Starlee: I know right, for that amount of money. You can say it. We can all agree this is a crazy amount of money to spend on this.
Dennis: Yes. I do believe you have the best VIP if you would.
Starlee: oh okay.
Dennis: That means it would come with the most amenities and everything.
Starlee: Maybe I get 2 questions.
Dennis: Quite possibly. Don’t quote me on that.
Starlee: If one question is-I want to ask her about this one book. But then what should my other question be do you think if I get two. What do you want to know?
Dennis: Something about her success. See if success changed her as helped her. I have seen some of the stuff in the media and I know she started off real successful and role model for some people if you would and then she had downslide. Then she picked herself back up and now she is kind of like rising back up. I would ask how feels that inspiration to know you can mess up and make mistakes and go and change way life is.
Starlee: Do you have role models in your life that inspire you?
Dennis: Sort of. My mom probably be the closest. Did raise me and all my brothers by herself. I have 6 brothers total. My dad passed away when I was 5.
Starlee: Oh really.
Dennis: Yes, so she had to raise all of us. She had to work 2 jobs, worked a lot. And we all reminded her of my dad, and she loved my dad. It takes a toll on you, losing someone like that.
Starlee: Do you remember him?
Dennis: Slightly. I remember playing games, like dog pile and couple of other things like that.
Starlee: You guys must have had good dog pile if so many of you. Are you the youngest?
Dennis: I am the second youngest.
Starlee: You are pretty close to the top of the dog pile or the bottom. How does it work? The little ones get all piled on right?
Dennis: Random game, sometimes you are at the top, sometimes you are at the bottom.
Starlee: That is kind of like Britney. Sometimes she is at top sometimes she is at the bottom.
Dennis: Yes I guess so.
Starlee: Maybe life is one big dog pile
Starlee: Did I just blow your mind?
Dennis: That is pretty deep. Wow. Okay.
Starlee: Are you being sarcastic or do you mean it is pretty deep?
Dennis: For real. I didn’t even think how that applied when I said that. Sometimes you are at the top, sometimes you are at the bottom. It refers to everything we were just talking about. I don’t think this applies to customer service.
Starlee: I like to ask questions.
Dennis: I got that feeling. You are curious. More people should be curious about other people and not focus on themselves. I believe the purpose of life is each other. If everyone cared about everyone else, then no one would have to care about themselves. When i was younger I got in a lot of trouble. You have to be the sort of person you would want someone to be attracted to.
Starlee: That is true because if you are not even if that person attracted to you at first, if you don’t believe you are worthy of that person they are not going to stay interested.
Dennis: That is my problem right there in a nutsell.
Starlee: You don’t think you are worthy.
Dennis: In a sense, no.
Starlee: You are. You have to believe that.
Dennis: But I have made a lot of mistakes too.
Starlee: Who hasn’t? I think you think you are not going to get happiness and so the only way to feel stuff is if it is sad stuff.
Dennis: Yes, you can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness. And what about you?
Starlee: What about me?
Dennis: What about you? You don’t have any of those problems.
Starlee: I do have those problems. That is why I am able to talk about it. I feel I can relate. Plenty of times I don’t feel worthy and I say mean things to myself and loose perspective and get depressed and I totally understand. Everyone does and that’s why you have to start little bits telling yourself-I am worthy. I do deserve that. I am just as good as other person who is getting it. You have to trick yourself.
Dennis: Subliminal messages to yourself.
Starlee: Act as if there are commercials flashing at you that keep
Dennis: You’re awesome.
Dennis: I’ve worked here for 8 months and this is the most interesting phone call I have had. Ever.
Dennis: Ever (laughs) So you go around changing other customer service reps lives. Different companies and stuff. Is that what you do in your free time. Let me go change someone’s life.
Starlee: I just want you to feel worthy. Is that too much to ask? I’ll be first person to tell it to you and then you can take it from there.
Dennis: Thank you very much I appreciate it. Ok Starlee. I hope you have a great time seeing Britney you take care.
Starlee: Ok thank you.
Ticketmaster: Please answer the following questions on a scale of 1 to 6 based upon your experience today how satisfied were you with overall service provided by this representative.
Starlee: Very satisfied
TM: Do you think our representative was helpful? Starlee: Yes.
TM: Thank you for completing this survey…..
Starlee Kine On the morning of February 14th, I flew to Vegas to meet Britney Spears. On the night of February 14th, I called my client from my hotel room to tell her what had happened.
Andrea: Hello. I had so much anxiety. I was like if starlee was really excited I would sense it.
Starlee: Well okay.
Andrea: Oh god oh god. Oh no. Walk me through it.
Starlee Kine Because it was Valentine’s Day I had to book a hotel far from the Strip. It didn’t feel like I was staying in Vegas. The lobby didn’t even have slot machines in it. The concierge called me a cab. I was anxious to get there on time.
Starlee: Everyone was checking in. A whole flood of tourists came in at that time. Finally cab came and I got in the car and he was like how are you doing. I said I am a little stressed. He said why. I said I am on my way to meet Britney Spears and….
Cabdriver: Had her in my car. Starlee: You did?
Cabdriver: When she was just a kid, 12 or 13, about 12 years ago. Very nice girl. Total sweetheart. Very respectful and just -how are you? You enjoy yourself in Vegas. All enthusiastic, still like a kid. Think maybe a kid like that is a little snotty, or whatever, not even close. Very nice.
Starlee: And he had Magic Johnson and Kiefer Sutherland and Britney in his cab and she was his favorite.
Andrea: Of course.
Starlee: Then I got there and gave them the ticket. I said I am here for the meet and greet. The girl is like you are going to have such a good time. It’s so fun. It was packed.
Andrea: How many people?
Starlee: All together think 50 people by the end. Andrea: That is a lot of people.
Starlee: It was nuts.
(meet and greet announcer)
Starlee: Only had 1 friend there. An entrepreneur whose husband told him he was doing meet and greet minutes before he did it.
Andrea: Like it was a surprise to him.
Starlee: It was a surprise. They flew here from New York to go to the show and the husband was like you can do meet and greet.
Starlee: When did you find out?
Husband: 5 minutes ago.
Announcer: Okay everyone form a semi circle … behind me. Starlee: And then the woman who hosts the tour, her name is Fe. Andrea: Is it Felicia?
Andrea: Yeah it is her. Long time sidekick.
Starlee: Felicia is very fascinating to me.
Andrea: How much is Felicia getting paid to be the warm-up guy?
Starlee Kine: Felicia – or Fe as she tells to call her – is a family friend of Britney’s from back home. It’s hard to tell Fe’s age. Even in 2004, when she was on featured on Britney’s reality show – Britney and Kevin: Chaotic – she seemed neither old nor young.
Around the time of the Paradise Cove photo, Fe and Britney briefly parted ways. As Fe explained on her personal website “there’s just so much you can do to help a person… I cannot love her enough for the both of us.” During their break, Fe became a flight attendant and a substitute preschool teacher.
Fe’s dressed in a Dickies jumpsuit, like the kind auto shop mechanics wear, except they’ve been specially hemmed into shorts. The words Team Britney are bedazzled on the back. It’s a uniform she’s designated for herself to wear, a uniform she loves.
We’re taken out onto the empty stage, so we can get a sense of what the world looks like through Britney’s eyes. It looks like rows and rows of audience seats with lights so bright you can’t see any faces. Next Fe shows us where Britney’s dance outfits are kept. She wants us to know we have to go up several flights of stairs. Just when you think you are there you are not. Tell me about it I think. The wings that Britney wears during the song Everytime are Fe’s very favorite prop. One of Fe’s very favorite fun facts is that it takes hundreds of silk and cotton feathers and that no birds were harmed in the process.
It’s right about now it become apparent we have all paid $2500 to hang out with Fe.
We’re led into a parking lot. Fe stops and says she will now demonstrate how the meet and greet will go. She will play herself and a security guard will play Britney. She stands in front of him, smiling cheerfully and says “Hi, I’m Fe.” “Hi, I’m Britney” says the guard. Fe laughs and tells us, “Yes, sometimes Britney may say who she is even though you already know.” But the important thing to remember is that Britney doesn’t know who you are. I’m sorry, says Fe, but it’s true. You are a stranger to her.
We are not to touch Britney. We are not to hug Britney. If we feel a hug coming on that we cannot stifle we are to hug Fe, not Britney. Fe loves a good hug. We are not to make any sudden movements when we meet Britney. If our hands are in our pockets and we discover that we’d prefer that they weren’t, that’s okay. All we have to do is let someone know and then we can take our hands out, slowly, so slowly.
Starlee: And then Felicia said you’re going in there. Britney’s very shy. If you seem cared she will seem scared. Try make your energy not communication that.
Andrea: Like a fucking animal at the zoo. If you are quiet koalas will come down but if you make noise. It is crazy.
Starlee Kine: I wait for Fe to get to the part where we ask Britney our question but that part never comes. So I raise my hand and ask if we were going to be allowed to actually talk to Britney.
Fe says there won’t be much time but if we have something to say to Britney, we should say it. If I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman helped us in our time of need then by all means we should tell Britney that.
Starlee: And that was the entire demonstration.
Starlee Kine: We form a line. There are TSA style bins set up that we have to put all our stuff in.
Starlee: The actual meet and greet happened on the stage
Andrea: I didn’t picture that at all. I thought would be in blank white room. Starlee: Totally on the stage and there is a screen.
Andrea: So you can’t even see her while you are waiting for her.
Starlee: You cant she is behind the screen and you can see the silhouette of Britney and can see the shadow and you are watching everyone go up and you can time it and I am seeing 3 seconds, 3 seconds. Taking picture, taking picture, not chatting happening.
Andrea: Oh god.
Starlee: Two people in front of me, right my turn in 2 people and then it was my turn. I see her, I walk across the stage.
Andrea: You must be so nervous.
Starlee: I feel I have much stronger purpose than everyone else Andrea: Right
Starlee: My friend was like I don’t know what to tell her. He had just found out he was doing a meet and greet. So you go up to her and she immediately faces the camera. She is expecting a picture to be taken and I go “hi Britney I am Starlee” and she smiled and I said “look I just have to ask you” and she kept trying to turn to the camera and I
say “look my friend wrote this book called To Feel Stuff and you had a picture taken with it in 2008. Do you remember this book?”
Andrea: Oh my god.
Starlee: She looked at me really hard and she goes “I think it rings a bell.” I’m like “it’s a ghost in an infirmary” and she goes “yes, i remember it” and I said “how did you hear about it?” and she goes “my assistant gave it to me” and then I said “did you like it?” and she goes “yes I loved it.”
Andrea: What, I am dipping upside down in my chair.
Announcer: Welcome to Britney Spears Piece of Me
Andrea: Do you feel like it was genuine? You feel she wasn’t just telling you that cause she was telling you that.
Starlee: I know it was cause I talked to everyone else and she didn’t give anyone anything.
Andrea: All this makes me love her. She doesn’t turn it on for people or she can’t turn it on for people. It’s sword and the stone, only a valid person can pull it out.
Starlee: Pure of spirit true of heart.
Announcer: Ms. Spears wants each and every one of you to have the night of your life and would like to encourage everyone to get out of their seats and dance until the world ends. It is showtime!!
Starlee Kine: Mystery Show is produced by myself, Alex Blumberg, Melinda Shopsin and Eric Mennel. Producing help from Chris Neary and Wendy Dorr. Eli Horowitz is contributing editor.
Thanks to John Delore and Matt Lieber. Closing song by Emmy the Great. Opening song by Sparks. Original scoring by Emmy, Nick Thorburn, the bands White Dove and Devin Dare. Matt Carlin was my bagman. Arthur Jones made our logo and now you can’t stop staring at it.
Before I give the clue for next week’s mystery, I want to say Lee, if you’re listening, congratulations, you guessed right. And for everyone else who has always wanted to be more like Lee, here’s your chance. Next week’s clue is: to the moon.