Called on the Red Carpet

The road to stardom may be paved with some kind of intentions, but Lisa Murray's was slick with hand lotion. The Scottsdale publisher's assistant is now Hollywood-bound, thanks in good part to her recent win on Entertainment Tonight's "Caress Confidante" contest. (Although her new title suggests a career spent listening to absolutions from porn stars, in fact it's all about promoting Unilever's line of Caress skincare products, which sponsored the contest.) Murray's win included a nine-day trip to Hollywood and a fleeting post as an ET correspondent; a gratuitous makeover, a personal assistant, and a life that's no longer entirely her own. Joined for this interview by a Caress publicist who fled only when I growled at her, Murray displayed a talent for pushing oil-infused body bars while also promoting herself. Not to mention her ability to vamp when I mistakenly assumed that her sexy avoirdupois is a point of pride.

New Times: What is Caress, exactly? I thought it was a bar of soap.

Lisa Murray: It's not. I mean, it is. It's a line of body wash and beauty bars and they have a new line that's my all-time favorite. It's got skin brighteners and shade cream.

NT: Shade cream! You won the Caress Confidante contest by submitting a video describing why you embody something called Glowing Touch. I'm certain I'll be sorry I asked, but what the hell does this mean?

Taline Kundakji: Uh, can I just butt in here? Glowing Touch is the name of our new line of skin care products. It's about having good skin and a good personality to go with it. Which is why Caress wanted Lisa.

NT: Thanks, Taline. I've never had a soap commercial in my column before. Lisa, you were in a bathtub in the video that won you the contest.

Murray: Have you seen it? They used to air it on Entertainment Tonight Online all the time, but now they're showing something else. You're right: I was in a bathtub. Which has led me to places I never, ever thought I'd go.

NT: Like the Playboy mansion?

Murray: No. Like getting phone calls from cousins of mine all over the country who I barely know saying, "Oh, my god, uh, you are naked on national television."

NT: How much did your skin really have to do with your big win? I mean, did they actually inspect your skin to make sure you qualify?

Murray: I don't think they did. If they did, they did it while I was sleeping.

Kundakji: No! We never needed to look at Lisa's skin because --

NT: Lisa, you were chosen by a panel of celebrity judges. Like who?

Murray: Uh, well, I think one of them was a supporting actor on Desperate Housewives.

Kundakji: I could get you a list of the judges' names, if you want.

NT: Why don't you go do that? And while you're gone, I'll try to interview Lisa about this lotion thing.

Kundakji: Got it.

Murray: Don't worry about Taline. She's sort of become an extension of me since I won.

NT: That sounds like fun. So, Lisa, what are your duties as the Caress correspondent?

Murray: During the week I was in L.A., I was a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. I attended various VIP events, a couple of red-carpet events, and then I did the red carpet at the Emmys. It was a total VIP situation.

NT: And you got a makeover. I saw the before and after photos. You were already lovely before the makeover, but afterward you looked like you'd been Swanned.

Murray: No, no, no. That was not the intention at all. And makeover is a word we don't want to use. They picked me because of who I am, and any changes just came from me having the opportunity to meet with the best hairstylist in Beverly Hills and stuff like that. When do you ever get that opportunity?

NT: What? To have your hair color changed and forced to wear hair extensions?

Murray: The extensions were my idea. And it was like, "Not only are they gonna pay for it, but they're sending me to the best hairdresser in Hollywood!" But, yeah. I would never have picked this color for my hair. It's interesting and neat and everything, but it's the same color as my freckles. I'll probably go back to blonde.

NT: What is it about L.A.? It seems like you're not allowed to work there if you actually look like yourself.

Murray: I know! But, hey. Scottsdale is like that, too. I have a friend who moved to Scottsdale from the East Coast and she went out and got that Scottsdale blonde hair. Afterward the stylist said, "It looks great but now it doesn't match your skin tone." It never ends.

NT: Maybe Caress makes a product for that. I saw your publicity shots from the Emmys. You look like a teenage boy's wet dream. And there you are in all the photos, gripping a bottle of lotion!

Murray: You have a dirty mind. Actually it was the body wash that I'm holding in all those pictures. I always have a bottle of Caress Glowing Touch with me when I'm on the red carpet. Of course I had my assistant hold it for me, because my shiny little purse was too tiny.

NT: You're a former kiddy pageant queen. I understand you were once crowned Little Miss Scottsdale.

Murray: Actually, I was the runner-up. And the little girl who won looked like Meat Loaf. I don't know what they judged the competition on, but back then it wasn't like a JonBenet thing with four-year-olds wearing lip gloss. There was no makeup and hair stuff going on.

NT: Let's talk about big, beautiful women. I'm guessing you're all about empowering big women?

Murray: You'd be guessing wrong. My weight has gone up and down. I've been really thin in the past, but it actually requires a lot of work to stay really thin. I don't stand for any cause or promote any body type. People come in all shapes. Women are beautiful because they carry babies.

NT: So you were a red-carpet correspondent. Tell me about some bitchy, neurotic actress.

Murray: I actually didn't interview anyone. I was trailed everywhere by cameras from Entertainment Tonight, and I got to be interviewed, and I met a lot of people, but I didn't do any reporting that night. It was such a blur, like the floor of the New York stock exchange -- chaotic and loud and sort of exciting. I just remember seeing red.

NT: Wait. You worked the red carpet. People are gonna want stories about bad behavior by famous people.

Murray: I know. But the problem was that a lot of stars came late and I was early. I did see the cast of Desperate Housewives when they came in. I did talk to some people at [the Emmy party at] Spago -- Terry Hatcher and Cameron Manheim. And I touched Eric McCormack's arm -- does that count?

NT: What's all this about you and Jim Carrey?

Murray: Oh, my god, it's so weird. It started about 10 years ago, when I began having recurring dreams of him. I'm not even a fan of his -- it wasn't like I was part of his fan club and had the tee shirt. The whole Jim Carrey thing came out of the blue. He keeps showing up in my dreams. Him and Madonna and Oprah.

NT: Does Jim Carrey know about this?

Murray: I met him, but I didn't tell him about the script. It didn't seem appropriate. I was taking a screenwriting class, and I wanted to write about these weird Jim Carrey dreams. So I said to my friends, "I need to meet him to see if he's someone I want to write about." And they said, "How are you going to do that?" I said, "Look, he shows up in my dreams every night. It shouldn't be that hard to get him to turn up in my real life, too." And there he was, one day. We were standing in line for the same event, and I just started chatting with him.

NT: And now you're back to your dreary old life. What do you do?

Murray: I work at a Scottsdale-based publishing company that publishes spelling programs for school kids.

NT: Quick! Spell Sepulveda!

Murray: S-E-P-U-L . . . wait. Okay. V-E-D-A.

NT: Woo-hoo! Now, I'm guessing the workaday world isn't as much fun as being a red-carpet correspondent.

Murray: You would guess correctly. So I'm leaving this weekend for Hollywood. I'm moving back to L.A., and I'm going to become a famous movie star. This whole trip with Caress and ET really made me want to go back there. Some of the people I met while I was there want to meet with me, so maybe they'll help make me famous.

NT: Can I be the president of your international fan club?

Murray: Absolutely. As long as you give Caress Glowing Touch to all of your friends and their wives and daughters.

NT: I promise. I'll get right on that.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela