Why are celebrities always hours late for events?

By: Vivien, Nice, France

A.B. Replies: You mean when Diddy blames the red carpet for his lateness--which he has--is he really just sitting in a white limo somewhere, pouting into a handheld mirror encrusted in diamonds that spell out S-E-A-N J-O-H-N?

You mean when Lindsay Lohan runs more than two and a half hours late for a photo shoot--and she did, with Cosmo, earlier this year--is she actually cradling her head over a toilet bowl at the Marmont?

You mean when Gnarls Barkley is an hour late for a concert in Central Park--which they were this very month--are they busy having whiskey-filled balloon fights with the Magnum condoms and Jack Daniels that they reportedly insist upon in their contract riders?

Pah-si-bleee.

Publicists and celebrity therapists name two equal contributors to a star's tardiness. The first, they say, is a poky glam squad. (Those hair people just do not know how to shut up!) Remember, celebrities like Jessica Simpson often count makeup artists and hairstylists as their friends. There may be dinner plans to make, or boyfriends to diss, or what have you.

The second factor is more calculated.

"Stars want people to be thinking about them," says Cooper Lawrence, a New York celebrity psychologist and radio talk show host. "When you go to dinner with girlfriends, and one of them is late, who are you thinking about? Her. Where could she be?"

Lateness builds anticipation. It sends a fan's imagination running amok with glamorous scenarios about what the star is doing, at this very moment, while everyone else stands waiting by the red carpet, pinioned behind velvet ropes and teetering along the edge of Hollywood Boulevard by glowering security goons.

Gee. Is she under the blower with Oprah?

Is she getting a 400-carat canary-and-pink diamond necklace from Jay-Z that spells out "Young B Plus Shawn Corey Carter 4 Ever"? They are so meant for each other.

Is her boyfriend asking her to, like, marry him in an eight-city wedding tour, like Pam and Kid? Oh my god! Maybe she is having sex with Brad Pitt, like, right now! Everybody scream!

That isn't to say the celebrities are idle during this crucial period. They usually aren't just parked in a limo around the corner, waiting for the crowd to work itself up into a death pit of thrashing, screaming, sweating worship. Chances are, the celebrity is also overbooked. And the mystique that accompanies lateness is just an added bonus--one that should never, for the sake of one image, be remedied with a more disciplined schedule.

A star's cell phone rings, say, and it's De Niro calling. Again. Wanting to chat about his mole and whether he should get that thing looked at. Or maybe he's wondering who makes the best spaghetti sauce in TriBeCa or what security password he should give his girlfriends when they visit his hotel. It doesn't matter. Nobody can hang up on De Niro.

Could be the makeup artist is stuck in traffic. Or the interview with Pat O'Brien runs a few martinis too long. Or the stylist wants the client to try on 12 different dresses before making a decision. Or, most likely, Lawrence says, the actress at the center of it all--particularly if she's an aging actress--fears her crow's-feet are showing.

"She may take one last look in the mirror on the way out the door," reports Lawrence, "and decide, 'This is all wrong--we have to start over.' "

You can see how a schedule can start slipping rather easily.

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