Two Oscar seasons ago, Susan Sarandon had a big new movie to promote. She brought her son Jack to the L.A. premiere of “The Lovely Bones” — but not her longtime partner, Tim Robbins. Days later, People broke the news: Sarandon and Robbins had parted ways.
J.D. Heyman, the magazine’s West Coast executive editor, can’t speak to the precise methodology of the scoop. A story such as that comes about via diligent reporting, not mere guesswork, he said. But “as a starting point, reporters do look at photographs and say, ‘Something’s up.’ . . . Engagement rings, baby bumps, new relationships — these are all things that you do see evidence of” on the red carpet.
It’s a kind of science perfected during the Cold War, when so little was officially knowable about the Soviet Union. To glean intel about possible leadership changes, U.S. analysts scoured photos and programs from party gatherings for clues — who was sitting two seats closer to the premier on the dais than at the last event, who was suddenly absent from the roster.
Today’s shrewdest Kremlinology is practiced by show-biz reporters and gossip writers. When unconfirmed reports emerged last fall that Ashton Kutcher had cheated on Demi Moore, neither would comment. So the red-carpet analysts trained their firepower on the stars’ public appearances. Both were still wearing their wedding rings, it was noted . . . but he arrived solo at a Clinton Foundation party, while she walked alone into the “Margin Call” premiere. The fact that she appeared unusually thin (“gaunt” was the paparazzi word of choice) solidified conventional wisdom that this was a marriage in trouble. They announced their divorce a month later.
These experts later kicked themselves for missing the warning signs about Heidi Klum and Seal. But they seemed so in love on the red carpets! Now ambiguously separated, the two are watched more closely than ever. (Still wearing their rings — what does that mean?!?!)
It’s why Shawn Sachs of the New York public-relations agency Sunshine Sachs will tell any coupled client who asks for advice to walk the red carpet solo.
“The red carpet is a place of business for celebrities,” he said, “and personal relationships should generally stay separate.” Many celebrities, of course, can’t resist using the red carpet as a medium to broadcast their happy news or show the world and their ex that they’ve Moved On. But Sachs thinks it’s a perilous tactic. When they put their relationships out there, the media feel entitled to ask more questions and demand more answers. Go ahead and take your significant other to the show, he recommends — but meet him or her inside. “It sets up for a better situation.”