Tara Ariano, the co-founder of Television Without Pity and Fametracker, is practically internet royalty. Last week, we chatted about her websites, her new book, celeb spotting in Toronto, and why Tom Cruise is everyone’s favourite train wreck.
Let’s start with the basics – name, place, occupation, what you’re plugging.
Tara Ariano: I’m Tara Ariano, I live in Toronto in the neighborhood that I’m told is known as Bloorcourt Village – I like it there, it’s nice but not too schmancy. We used to live closer to College, near Little Italy, which is a lot more gentrified. And what I’m plugging: I have a new book out, “Hey, It’s That Guy!: The Fametracker Guide to Character Actors”, which I co-wrote with Adam Sternbergh, who WAS a Torontonian, but is now living in New York.
The book, obviously, came out of the column on Fametracker.com – can you give us a short history of the site?
TA: Sure. This is our seventh year doing the site. Adam and I met while working together at Saturday Night in 1999 and we started to become friends when we realized we had this common interest in pop culture and a lot of similar tastes. Anyway, out of our conversations we came up with the idea for the Galaxy of Fame, the Mediator, 2 Stars 1 Slot, and Hey! It’s That Guy and we were originally going to do a weekly compendium of those things on the first, and only, site that I ran at the time, Hissyfit. And Dave, my husband, who is much more enterprising than me, suggested that we come up with a few more things and spin it off into its own site. And we did. So we launched with the J.T. Walsh Memorial Hey! It’s That Guy!
I guess J.T. Walsh is still the definitive Hey! It’s That Guy! Is he still your favourite?
TA: I think so, yeah! He is definitely the definitive one, and I still don’t think anyone has really come along to oust him from his position, although many have tried. When I was researching his profile for the book (we had never actually written a column about him because he had, unfortunately, already passed away by the time we started the site, so we never had anything we could peg it to), I learned a lot more about his life – he was actively left-wing in college, he worked a social worker. I had a lot more respect for him after learning something about his background; he just seemed like such a nice, decent man.
Who was the first Hey! It’s That Guy!?
TA:There were three – John C. Reilly (which Adam wrote), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (which I wrote), and Michael Rooker, two of whom who have obviously gone on to a lot more fame and success.
Ok, let’s talk about Toronto for awhile. You told me before that you had a good story about your neighborhood?
TA: Well, one of the businesses near my place is Harry’s Shoe Repair. And I went in there one day a couple of years ago because I needed a couple of extra holes punched in my sandal strap. So it’s about three in the afternoon, on, like, a Tuesday when I went in. And the door is wide open, and there are shoes in the window, and it looks like a shoe repair shop, and there was this old Italian lady sitting in a chair in the middle of the shop. So I try to go up to her to tell her about my sandal and she says “No, we’re closed.” And I say “Uhhhh, really? Ok, when are you open?” And she says “No, the business is closed.” And I just feel like that has to be a mob front! I always like to say that about any neighborhood businesses where you wonder how on earth they stay in business – you never see anyone inside, everything is dusty and neglected…and most of the time I say that as a joke, but I’m pretty sure it’s true about this place. Why would they have an old Italian lady sitting there for no good reason? And she was all alone, she didn’t even have a radio on – it was kind of sad. And also kind of annoying. Obviously she’s just there to accept cash or something! And my other story is that I go to the gym where that guy died. And a lot of famous people go there too.
Any good celeb encounters?
TA: I haven’t really had any contact with any celebrities other than just seeing them around – Stephen Dorff was coming to my gym for about a month, and I’ve also seen Tim Allen, David Morse (another Hey! It’s That Guy!), and Cynthia Gibb, of the 80s, I don’t know if you remember her from “Fame” [ed note: Oh, we remember her]. Oh, and Sonia Smits, I see her all the time. Actually, I just saw her the other day – in the changeroom, my sister and I were joking about the guy who died, and Sonia Smits was totally listening and laughing. And I can report that she has an amazing body. Fantastic.
How about beyond the gym?
TA: One time in Chapters (the one that is now a Winners) I saw both Randy Quaid and Beau Bridges.
Just hanging out together?
TA: No, separately, but I did think it was funny to see both the lesser brothers…funny and sad.
Yeah, Dennis and Jeff were probably shopping at the Indigo across the street.
TA: I also see a lot of famous people at Whole Foods – I saw David Arquette, with baby. I saw them on the same day I saw Tim Allen, and when I went home I told my sister I saw two and a half celebrities, and she thought I meant Tim Allen only counted as half a celeb.
He should! Ok, what are some of your favourite Toronto places?
TA: My favourite restaurant is definitely Utopia (and I saw Sarah Polley there once!), my favourite place to go to the movies used to be the Paramount, but now I prefer the Varsity for a matinee…I don’t really drink coffee, so I don’t have a favourite coffee place…I drink hot chocolate, but I prefer Tim Horton’s hot chocolate because it tastes like the stuff you get at an ice rink, which reminds me of my youth.
Who is your favourite celebrity to mock?
Tara: You know, I can’t really think of any because I don’t like to give more attention to people who are already getting way too much attention – it’s just too easy, and it becomes redundant. Having said that, it has been a great pleasure to follow the whole Tom Cruise fiasco of the past year. What the hell is up with that?
I just like that he inspired so much slang! Jumping the couch…Cruisazy…
TA: It’s true! I really want someone to write the tell-all book about that whole saga. In one Mediator that I wrote I compared the cover stories about Katie Holmes’ pregnancy from US and People, because People said “it’s great!” and the US version was like “DANGER!” But neither one really had enough real facts about the story, although the US one kind of hinted that Holmes’ parents were not exactly psyched about it. So I would love for one of her parents to come out with the real story. I just don’t know what more Tom Cruise could do at this point (ed. Note: that sounds like a challenge to us – bring on the Cruisazy, Tom Cruise!)…I mean, if you made up the entire story, it couldn’t possibly be any weirder, could it?