For weeks after this April Fool’s story about a fictional Hollywood guru came out, managing editor Kateri Butler, who posed as spiritual counselor Gioconda Monette, was repeatedly stopped by enlightenment-seekers:
From "Connie Does Hollywood: The Industry’s Latest Spiritual Fad," by Jerry Stahl, March 28, 1997
It all begins with puce. That’s a color you don’t see a lot of. Or I didn’t. Until, some months ago, summoned to a meeting by some higher-ups at CAA, I noticed a peculiar thing. My summoner, a Big Dog in the agency’s After School Special Wing, was sporting a puce bow tie. His partner, who’d always been the monochromatic type, worked a puce-on-puce skirt-and-sweater combo.
The thing is, puce is a pretty horrific color: purplish-brown, with a kind of muddy undertone. So it seemed more than a little odd that a pair of high-profile professionals would both go that way. Too cowed, however, by the heady status of the team to mention their mutual fashion gamble, I wrote it off to the peculiarities of power . . .
So okay, you’re thinking to yourself, "Some heavy hitters have started showing up in a color more commonly associated with motel carpets. What’s that got to do with the fastest-growing spiritual movement to sweep L.A. since Marianne Williamson started hawking audiotapes?" Well, hang on. Cut to Christmas ’96, and I’m in Goa, on the southwest tip of India, holed up with the legendary Ben Stiller banging out Howdy Doody, a big-budget musical based on the life of Buffalo Bob, the man behind the much-loved ’50s television icon. Ben’s slated to star and direct himself as the wholesome kiddie host, a secret swinger with a soft spot for cocktails and blondes. But that’s not the point. The point — did you see it coming? — is that Stiller, when he wore a shirt, wore a puce muscle T. Not every day, but enough to make me nervous. What’s more, when I ask him about it, mentioning the odd profusion of puce I’d noticed on the Hollywood scene before we left, he averts his eyes and changes the subject in an evasive, vaguely pained manner I hadn’t experienced from him up till then . . .
I wouldn’t let Ben off the hook until he told me all about it.
"I can’t tell you," my partner insisted. "You’re too cynical. You’ll just make fun of it."
"Make fun of what? What do you mean?" Now I was really piqued . . .
"You’ll turn it into a story," he said, fidgeting with the amulet he’d taken to wearing around his neck. "The truth is, there is something. I mean, a lot of people have found someone who helps them out. Spiritually. There’s a kind of pressure only people in this business — at this level, understand. And this particular person deals with that."
Now, of course, I was the one getting defensive. Hey, I’m a spiritual guy. I killed at my bar mitzvah.
"There’s a woman in Los Angeles," my partner went on, but tentatively, reluctantly, as if wary of giving away too much and inviting a puce-colored chariot to swoop out of the sky and smite him. "Her name’s Gioconda Monette, ‘Connie’ for short. She’s not exactly a guru. She just helps people. Mainly famous people. Anyway, everybody who’s into her wears this color. Connie says puce manifests the perfect blend of heaven and earth. See, purple is traditionally the shade of royalty. In some cultures it’s worn by priests. So that’s, you know, what’s holy in all of us. And brown represents the earth, the world we live in."