By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Hansen wrestles with the concept that perhaps the town unknowingly showed less than obsequious obeisance and that this may have driven Willis away. "Maybe a movie star sometimes feels they have a right to expect things. I think he felt the town didn't give him enough gratitude, and maybe the town didn't."
Still, having received no response after repeated entreaties, Hansen has had to accept the fact that not all responsibility rests on her shoulders and entertain the notion that the "neighbor" she and fellow Haileyites idolized may have feet of clay.
"I would welcome him back, but . . . there is a minority [in town] who think, hey, screw it, he let us down."
At a cocktail party in the exclusive hamlet of multimillion-dollar homes in Gimlet, six miles north of Hailey, a casually dressed, ruddy-faced group of baby boomers talk heartily about the slopes, Democratic politics and the merits of pinot noir over petite syrah. These are not Enquirerreaders, and yet, within minutes, the conversation around the butcher-block island in the sky-lit kitchen falls to Bruce and Demi: The writer saw her in The Gold Mine (a thrift store in Ketchum that's been known to receive a donation of a Range Rover), sorting through costume jewelry. This includes a description of Demi's outfit ("a ratty coat, and urban jeans like a snowboarder"). The developer of a golf resort remembers his first Demi sighting: sitting at the counter of Shorty's on a Sunday morning, wearing "a skin-tight brown cashmere dress that left not one millimeter of the flesh beneath in question . . . I was impressed." This segues into a ponderous discussion of a frozen confection called Gisé, which Demi had Shorty's stock. When asked what it tastes like, someone offers that it's like frozen yogurt, but airier and less substantial; something that gives the oral simulation of eating, but is in reality mostly air. "Now, listen to what you just said," the writer caws. "That's what her acting is. It's like junk food!"
When they're not dumping on Demi, they're eager to let it be known that they've shared the same oxygen with the Willis clan: A city planner divulges that daughter Rumer has the chickenpox; a firefighter remembers being kicked off the dance floor by Willis, after taunting the actor over his former position as pitchman for Seagram's wine cooler; a ski instructor remembers seeing Willis and his perennial entourage on the slopes.
It's clear that these have-it-alls harbor a subliminal need to fetishize Willis and Moore. (They're not alone. "We love to see Hollywood marriages break up," Timemagazine wrote rather caustically last July, when the Willis-Moore split went public. "It makes us feel better to know the stars' glamorous lives are actually empty, solipsistic nightmares.") And yet for all the schadenfreude masquerading as table talk, there also appears to be a genuine ã concern for the integrity of Willis and Moore's marriage. Not salacious or vicarious peeping, but a tenderhearted and personal involvement.
"We're talking about our neighbors. I mean, don't you care what happens to your neighbors?" asks Karamargin. "It's the same reason why people have that feeling almost of betrayal, by being able to put the face on the person who may have misled them. Bruce and Demi are our neighbors, and there is that sense that we're all here together. We're a small, isolated community, and our sense of community is acute, regardless of status or job. It's as if Joe and Cindy down the street were going to get a divorce."
AFTER A FEW FINAL MONTHS IN THE limelight in mid-1998, when the global media descended upon northern Idaho in hopes of getting the inside poop on the rumored Willis-Moore divorce, Hailey became very quiet, even depressed, leaving the tangible signs of what had once signified such glorious possibility spent and broken in the middle of Main Street.
"When Bruce first came, he said he didn't want this town to die, like his hometown had in New Jersey," says Hansen. "But Hailey wasn't really dying. Now, when you come into my town, what do you see? Empty buildings. Does it make you want to stop? For what?"
As important is the way the people of Hailey appear to one another, and to themselves.
"I think of [Willis and Moore] as being on the order of the celebrities who've taken full advantage of the naiveté of their audience," says Tony Evans. "I mean, look at these cinematic lounges he's building all over the world, Planet Hollywood. That's smart business, it's good, it's great, and, let's face it, it's far beyond the level of art this man is creating . . . it has much more to do with groupie activity than it does with any conscious examination of the work he does and the response to it.
"I believe that when Bruce left, when he really rolled up the carpet and took his ball and went home, only then did people realize the impact he had -- not on the town of Hailey, which is too general -- but upon themselves, upon their personal lives. I think each and every person is coming to terms with that, some slowly, some quickly. Some are having garage sales and moving to Shoshone . . . and they'll always have these stories of having worked for Bruce Willis."
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