A Star Is Bored isn’t a memoir, exactly. But Byron Lane, former personal assistant to Carrie Fisher, isn’t quite shying away from life experience in his debut novel.
Inspired by his own humble beginnings with the late Hollywood icon, Lane introduces the character of Charlie Besson as he prepares for a potentially life-changing interview outside the Los Angeles mansion of one Kathi Kannon, a legend across town best recognized for her cinematic role as Priestess Talara in a blockbuster sci-fi movie, and more widely known as Hollywood royalty. (You get the idea.) But once he gets the demanding, all-hours job of personal assistant, Charlie develops a real friendship with Kathi, forcing him to make a choice: stay on the sidelines, or step into his own leading role.
Slated for release this summer, A Star Is Bored has generated praise from Jonathan Van Ness, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and more. EW can debut a first excerpt from the novel, which you can read below, and be sure to check out the official cover above. A Star Is Bored publishes July 28 and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from A Star Is Bored, by Byron Lane
I feel the hot Beverly Hills sun leave my back as I enter the shadow of her mansion, her front porch reaching out to me, consuming me.
Behind me, the earth gets quiet, birds flutter away, squirrels scatter across the tennis court, like they all know a storm is coming.
The front door swings open, and like embers shooting up from a fire, she appears, her hair blown back by the door, an e-cigarette dangling from her mouth. Her eyes widen and her lips part and she says, “Hello, I’m Kathi Kannon from Jaws 3.”
I hold my breath and stare at her, Kathi Kannon, Priestess Talara, real and living, barefoot and disheveled, dressed in a flowing black robe over a loose black T-shirt and tattered black leggings. She’s wearing no makeup, no pomp or circumstance, no fucks to give. Her face is tired but alert, familiar and yet mysterious—she looks so much like the woman I remember from my childhood movies yet donning gravity and time like some kind of disguise, like some kind of mask that’s taken up residence upon her, leaving her both an old beautiful acquaintance and a strange, fresh new one.
“You answer your own door?” I blurt, a mix of surprise and enchantment as my eyes adjust to her.
“Yeah,” she says. “We had a butler, but he died in the pantry a few years ago.”
“I’m Charlie Besson. I’m a big fan.”
“You don’t look very big,” she responds, intimidatingly sharp for being so tiny, five foot one, with all that life squeezed into that little frame. She grabs the door as if ready to slam it on me.
“I’m here for the personal-assistant job,” I say.
“Not the colonic?” Kathi says, disappointed, yanking the e-cigarette from her lips and letting her hand flop to her side, her shoulders slumping, her other hand still holding the front door, letting it sway slightly closed then open then closed then open, as if she’s considering.
Excitement drains from my limbs. A colonic? Ah, this is why I was granted such quick entry; she expected someone else. I’m not who she wants, of course.
“Sorry,” I start, feeling the magnitude of the not completely unexpected moment—my unforgettable hero has forgotten we had an appointment. Cue my shame, horror, foolishness. Except I notice Kathi Kannon beginning to smile. She stands up straight, pops the e-cigarette back in her mouth, lets go of her front door, allowing it to swing open.
“Acting,” she says smugly, raising her eyebrows, proud of herself.
“Wow,” I say, speechless, entranced.
“Come in.” She turns casually and walks into the wonderland that is her home, motioning for me to follow. “Please wipe your feet,” she says. “The floors are made of endangered trees.”
I look down and wipe my feet on an absurdly tiny, vintage-looking Mickey Mouse rug resting on an ocean of caramel-colored hardwood flooring that stretches under us in all directions. To my right is a massive roaring fireplace and, above the mantel, the mounted head of a huge hairy moose staring down at us. To my left is a piano covered in photos of Kathi Kannon’s family and friends: Her flipping off a laughing Barbra Streisand. Her smoking with Bruce Willis. Her Lady-and- the-Tramp-ing a hot dog with Tom Hanks.
“Miss Kannon,” I say, trying to exhale away my encroaching stress-related neck pain. “I hear you’re looking for someone who can help you with your writing, and I’ve been a writer for many years now, a journalist, so I’m trained to take down information and to be sure it is precise and accurate and grammatically correct. And I can do that for you, help you with your writing and whatnot, if you want.”
She coughs, looks away, then back at me. “What?”
“I’m very responsible, I’m always on time, I’m hyper-organized, and no task is too big or too small.”
I pause for her praise.
She says, almost with frustration, “I feel like I’m dreaming and if I could just wake up, I’d be thinner.”
I follow her to the backyard, where trees have trunks painted in different colors, mannequins are posed in unspeakable acts with each other, and a flower bed is full of glistening shards of colorful broken glass.
She stops in front of a fountain at the center of the patio.
“I made this one night when I was bored,” she says. “I smashed a bunch of plates and incorporated the broken pieces into cement as a fountain.”
The water trickles, trickles, trickles.
“Oh. It’s very interesting,” I say.
“It leaks. We did something wrong and have to refill it constantly, but isn’t that just a great metaphor for life?”
“Like, life is garbage?” I ask, instantly exposed. I’ve let my guard down and perhaps spoken too much truth again, revealed too much about me. Kathi stares at me.
“No, like life is art,” she says in a near-huff, as if scolding someone who lacks understanding of basic language.
“Right, right,” I say, blushing, sweating, back to being underdog.
Kathi turns slowly and starts to walk away. I follow. I can tell she’s thinking hard—maybe about me. “My attorney told me there are a bunch of questions I’m not supposed to ask you, so I’d like to go ahead and get those out of the way,” she says.
I cringe but manage, “Sure.”
“Are you gay, married, impotent? Did your parents love you? When did you lose your virginity? Are you right-handed? Do you ever want to harm yourself or others? Do you have any fake limbs? Answer in any order you like.”
To her back as we walk, I say, “Um, okay, well, I don’t have any fake limbs.”
“Are you at least open to having a fake limb?” she asks.
I hold my breath, then blurt, “Yes?”
“How old are you?” Kathi asks.
“I think it’s definitely illegal to ask that,” I say playfully.
“Well,” Kathi says. “Brace yourself.”
Excerpted from A Star Is Bored, by Byron Lane. To be published by Henry Holt. Copyright © 2020 Cookietown Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.
Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, briefly played young Leia in The Rise of Skywalker
Author of unauthorized Carrie Fisher biography defends it against family disavowal
An exclusive look inside Carrie Fisher’s infamous celeb-filled house parties