If you haven't figured it out, the two key words I referred to are "Tabloid Bullshit." I wrote this on Sunday. Mother's Day. I held off on posting it until today. I didn't know if they would actually run this non-story, but after seeing this, and this, I decided it was time.
May 8, 2004
This morning, I told my wife:
"Something weird is going on." She looked over her coffee mug at me, "What do you mean?" I pointed to my laptop and told her, "Well, I track my stats on my weblog pretty meticulously and there's been a jump in the number of people using a google search of my name to get here."
HER: [Blank stare.]
ME: "See, people find my website sometimes by searching Google, and if a keyword matches, my site comes up in the search results. I can tell what people searched for to land here. Usually, the number one name people search for to get here is "Erin Elmore," but in the past two days it has been "Shane Nickerson."
HER: [Blank stare.]
ME: "Anyway. It's weird. Plus, someone keeps doing a netscape search for "nickerblog.com." It's almost as if they have that particular search bookmarked."
HER: Oh, that is weird.
ME: "Yeah. Something is going on. I can tell."
Later that day, as we were getting ready to take our daughter outside to play, I noticed somebody walking up to the front door. We live in a little neighborhood in Manhattan Beach, so that's not uncommon. Neighborhoods bring solicitors. I went to the door to tell the gentleman that I wasn't interested. I opened it.
ME: "Hi, can I help you?"
HIM: (British accent) "I'm looking for Shawn Nickerson."
HIM: "Yes, I'm looking for Shawn Nickerson."
ME: "It's SHANE. Trust me. I'm him."
HIM: (slightly surprised) "Oh, it's Shane? Hi, I'm Lee Hannon with The National Enquirer."
At that point, I started to panic a little bit. What was he doing here?
For those of you that don't know, I've been working for the past year or so on a TV show called Trippin', with Cameron Diaz. I don't mention it here too much (other than in my bio) because I respect the privacy of the people I work with. It's an exciting job, but like any job, it's a lot of work. Also, because of the people involved, discretion is essential. The tabloid media are ruthless and evil.
ME: "I'm not going to comment on the show. You can talk to [insert network name here].
HIM: "Oh, so you work for [insert network name]?
ME: (crap). "I don't know. I'm going to close the door now."
HIM: "OK, well you know we're going to run a story about you and Cameron Diaz tomorrow, right?"
ME: (more shock)
HIM: "We know you've been seeing each other."
ME: (now I'm wondering if this is a joke or maybe just some freak) "I'm sorry, I'm not going to comment."
(I've been around town long enough to know that sound bites and quotes can be manipulated, twisted, edited and taken out of context. "No comment" seems to be the safest thing you can do.)
ME: (starting to close the door) "Good-bye."
HIM: "Can I show you something?"
ME: (say no, say no, say no) "Sure."
HIM: (pulling a grainy photocopied picture that looks like me and someone else out of his pocket and showing it to me) "Pretty damning evidence, don't you think?"
ME: (squinting) "I have no idea. I'm not commenting. Bye."
HIM: (as I closed the door) "Are you together?"
As the door closed, I started to realize what was going on. My wife and baby stood behind me as I turned away from the slammed door. Elisa looked at me, confused.
HER: "Did he just say "Are you together?"
ME: "I think he did, yes."
HER: "Who was that?"
ME: "The National Enquirer."
The thing is, we joked about something like this when I started this job.
"How funny would it be if you end up in a paparazzi picture with her and the tabloids say something like, "Cameron's new man! Hahahahahahaha. HA." [Insert Krusty the Klown groan here]
Now that our "joke scenario" was actually happening, it wasn't quite as funny. I told her the story about Lee Hannon at the door.
HER: "What was the picture of?"
ME: "I have no idea. All I could see was my face and it was grainy."
HER: "Oh my GOD dude." (laughing)
Here's the other thing: It's such a ludicrous story, that there was never a moment from her of "Is this true?" In fact, I told my wife, "One of the reasons this is so stupid is because you know that if I was hooking up with CD you'd have been the first one I high-fived." She laughed because she knows me. If The National Enquirer knew me at all, they'd have saved whatever money they paid for this supposed picture.
I sat on the couch and started to feel that tension in my stomach. I made some calls to some people and left voicemails to make sure they knew about this supposed story too. I relaxed a bit. Maybe this was just a desperate magazine fishing for a story. Maybe they weren't actually going to run this, but were snooping around to see if there was anything to drudge up. Maybe I was panicking over nothing. My voicemail ring beeped from my cellphone. I called it:
"Hey Shane, it's Derek. I just got a call from The National Enquirer about you and Cameron Diaz. I told them nothing. Uh...call me."
Motherfucker! How the hell did they...? Why Derek? Derek is in the show I used to do at Improv Olympic. Derek and I have known each other for about 7 years, but he's just such a random person in my life to call. We perform together and occasionally I'll see him at a party. I knew then that that they were using my website to find out who I know. My e-mail alert went off. I checked it:
Hey, can you call me? The Natl. Enquirer just called me about a story they
are doing about YOU.
Not that I had anything to say to them, but I did get the information
about the story from the reporter if you want it.
Jessica, "The Ninja" Stover? I JUST met her like two weeks ago at Wil's show. What kind of reporting are these guys doing? I called her immediately. I won't try to quote the conversation, because admittedly, I was still in a bit of shock and I question my ability to accurately recount her exact words, but the gist of it was this:
They called her parents in Virginia. On Mother's Day. Fuckers. JM's mom called her to tell her someone from the press called. JM used to have a show on AOL called "Jessica's Crush," so she wasn't totally shocked by that. Local press call her house sometimes. Then her mom told her it was from a 310 number. 310=Los Angeles. JM called the "press" number immediately. The woman on the end told her they have a picture of me and Cameron Diaz and would she like to comment? You can read JM's account HERE (love the Harry Potter reference JM).
Anyway, it was real now. In a way, I was relieved to hear that the man at my door actually WAS from The National Enquirer and not some other freaky freak with my address. Which makes me wonder:
How did they find out who I was based on a picture?
How did they find my address? (google)
How did they find JM's parents number in Virginia? (google)
etc, etc. (google, google)
I started thinking about the other people I link to on my weblog on a regular basis. I immediately e-mailed Wil Wheaton and told him to call me ASAP. Seconds later, the phone rang.
ME: (paranoid about media) "WHO IS THIS?"
Wil: "It's Wil!"
ME: "OH! Right. Sorry. Um....here's the thing...if the uh...National Enquirer calls? Tell them nothing.
Wil: [Confused silence]
ME: "Because um...see, they're trying to do this totally fake story linking me to Cameron Diaz. They have a picture of us or something and they're using my blog to find people I know. So if they e-mail you or call, just ignore them."
Wil: "Dude! Congratulations! You made The National Enquirer before me and I've been doing this for 26 years!"
Wil: "Seriously though, can I tell them to fuck off?"
ME: (more laughing) "Nah, don't bother."
Wil: "Any e-mail from them will just go to /dev/null anyway.
ME: "Awesome. Thanks, man"
Wil: "Wait! Can I tell them, "Actually, the truth is that Shane is covering for me. It's ME, Wil that is having a relationship with Cameron Diaz and I'm very, very ashamed. It's been three shameful years that I, Wil Wheaton, author of "Just a Geek," available at your local bookstores, have been in a relationship with her."
ME: (laughing) "Yes, you can definitely tell them that."
I thanked him again and hung up. Talking to Wil made me feel better. I realized how silly the whole thing is and I made the turn from shock and panic into "this is actually kind of funny." Let them run it. I'll frame that fucker as a reminder of the day when the tabloids actually took an interest in some kid from New Hampshire with nothing to hide and alas, no story to give them.
A bit later that day, I got the following e-mail:
Subject: Cameron Diaz
Date: May 8, 2005 7:44:59 PM PDT
Hi. It’s Lee from the National Enquirer. We met earlier.
I wanted to give you one final opportunity to respond to the pictures of you and Cameron Diaz kissing.
You can contact me at the numbers below.
Kind regards, Lee.
(310) xxx-xxxx office
(310) xxx-xxxx cell
(310) xxx-xxxx fax
Lee Hannon. Not familiar with his work? Here's a gem you may have missed. Never saw that? Hmm. How about this one? No? Well, I'm sure they're true. If you'd like to give him a call to let him know how much you like his work, I'm sure he'd appreciate it.
Anyway, I forwarded the e-mail to the appropriate people and let it go. I've been on the internet long enough to recognize a troll, even in real-life, so I did what any smart, tabloid-hating person would do:
I ignored it.
To the people at National Enquirer that decided Mother's Day was a good day to invade my life and create this week's lie:
I don't know how you sleep at night. Your work is shameful and evil.