An ever-expanding group of paparazzi has descended on Señor Grandes, a Mexican restaurant located in a Woodland Hills, California strip mall—the paps, by far, outnumber the subjects they have come to shoot. The reason for their presence is Tabloid Taco Time, a Feed My Starving Children charity event featuring appearances by such humanitarians as Michael Lohan, Joey Buttafuoco, and Nik “The Dirty” Richie. Tabloid Taco Time is, naturally, the brainchild of Gina Rodriguez, a celebrity manager and self-described “D-list diva.” The event exists to raise money for Feed My Starving Children and promote the infamous characters on Rodriguez's roster. Members of the press, myself included, have once again taken her on-brand bait.
At 11AM, the event’s set “red carpet” time, there is no one on said carpet (which, actually, is a green patch of astroturf). As a DJ pokes at his laptop, paparazzi wither in the hot sun, staring off into space. All the usual suspects (TMZ, E!) are in attendance. Toby Sheldon, a man who spent $100,000 on plastic surgery to resemble Justin Bieber, steps out of a cherry-red car, composes himself, and heads toward the carpet like a moth to a flame.
He takes photos in front of a logo-laden wall. (Tan-XS of Westlake, TabRag, Deejay Mickey, Lebrisa Designs, and Shane Sparks Dance sponsor the event.) Interviewers, not afraid to probe deep, ask hard-hitting questions. “How tall are you?” one posits of Sheldon. “6'2'',” Sheldon replies. "How tall is the Biebs?" the interviewer asks. Sheldon does not know. "You're a cool, nice guy,” the interviewer tells Sheldon. “You’ve got really good vibes. One last thing—any message for the Biebs?"
A group of gals, who appear to be employed as professional housewives, approach the carpet. One, holding a copy of her own book, I later find out is Erica Rose, star of Bachelor Pad 2. “I'm nobody,” a friend posing alongside her tells the press. “It's not actually out yet,” Rose says of the book in her hand, titled Confessions of a Reality Show Princess. “My publicist just mocked up this cover.”
Occasionally, the DJ apathetically informs us that proceeds from the restaurant go “to a good cause,” reminding us that taking photos of celebrities at Senor Grandes supports a good cause. Bobby Trendy, the celebrity interior designer who appeared on The Anna Nicole Smith Show, gave away these Anna Nicole Smith-branded pillows to convince people to donate to Feed My Starving Children.
Angelique “Frenchy” Morgan’s enormous fingernails furiously clack against her iPhone as she shades herself under an umbrella. “I got hot,” she tells a member of the press. “You are hot,” he replies. She giggles. He tells her that he's on his way to interview the guy who got $100,000 in plastic surgery to look like Justin Bieber. “Holy shit,” she replies. “It only cost $25,000 to look like me.” They share a laugh.
“Let me give you my business card,” Frenchy tells me after the man leaves. “I give everyone my business card.” She pulls a card out of her see-through pink plastic handbag—it lists her profession as “Reality TV Star.” She wears the same shoes on the card as she is wearing in real life. Her accent is incredibly thick, rendering her near impossible to understand. “You know the show Rock of Love?” she asks. “I'm sorry, what?” I apologize. “The show Rock of Love?” she repeats. “Yes,” I say. “I was on Rock of Love,” she tells me. “I was one of Bret Michaels's girlfriends.” She sweetly, demurely, delivers this information, though her dress is the antithesis of demure. As she does so, a man on a scooter drives across the green carpet before us, beeping his horn all the while.
Nearby, Manu Toigo, star of Naked and Afraid, explains who she is to a journalist. She recently contracted Dengue Fever; the journalist asks what kind of press she got out of her near-death experience. “On TMZ, they showed a little bit of me in the hospital bed in ugly pain,” she replies. “Did it already air?” he asks. “Yeah,” she sighs.
Ron Jeremy, in spite of the fact that he isn’t listed as an attendee of the event, is tied to the hip of Joey Buttafuoco, a man who’s famous because his teenaged mistress shot his wife in the face over 20 years ago. The dynamic between Jeremy and Buttafuoco resembles that of a buddy comedy. (Buttafuoco, in case you were wondering, is the straight man.)
Two stoners, who just so happened to be patronizing the coffee shop down the strip mall, stare in wonder at the sight before them. “Instagram?” one asks the other. “Definitely, Instagram,” he replies, before approaching Sheldon and asking for a photo.
Frenchy was right—it is fucking hot out here. I don't know how the heavily made-up Venus D'Lite, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race, isn't melting. The fact that she isn't wearing pants, I suppose, helps.
At one point, Sheldon poses for a photo with Justin Jedlica, the human Ken Doll, and Kitty Jay, a woman who paid to have plastic surgery to look like Jennifer Lawrence.
An hour into the event, Michael Lohan finally arrives. Wearing acid-washed jeans and a cuffed shirt, he spends most of his time having intense conversations on his phone, the ringtone of which is the sound of a slot machine paying off.He gets off his phone at one point to take a selfie with Buttafuoco and Jeremy, the sight of which spontaneously causes me to whisper, “Oh, my God.”
Shane Sparks, who the press packet informs me is a choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance, introduces teen pop singer Laci Kay to the group. After informing the press that he and his crew have been “developing her for a couple of months,” he gets out of the way and allows her to perform her new single, “Runnin Free,” which, conveniently, came out today, with two teen backup dancers.
As I take my leave, I watch an ostentatiously dressed man, who has described himself as a stylist, tell a fellow attendee that he’s a “superstar in training.” The “artist/designer” he's talking to concurs. "My day is tomorrow," she says.
Did the photo of Michael Lohan, Joey Buttafucco, and Ron Jeremy taking a selfie make you hungry? Well then drive to the San Fernando Valley and eat tacos at Senor Grandes!
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