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Literature / Star Island

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Star Island is a 2010 novel by Floridian humor novelist Carl Hiaasen.

Cheryl Bunterman, known to her fans as Cherry Pye, is a former teen pop star on a constant spiral of self-destruction. To keep her frequent drug and alcohol binges from derailing the upcoming release of a new album, her mother and manager has hired actress Ann DeLusia as a Body Double to appear in public while the real Cherry sobers up. Challenges arise as Ann encounters a violent but charming vagrant named Skink in a mangrove swamp, Cherry Pye escapes from rehab, and Bang Abbott, an obsessed Paparazzo, takes increasingly extreme measures to get his goal: a photo shoot of Cherry Pye in her final days.

Star Island contains examples of:

  • Accidental Kidnapping: Bang Abbott plans to kidnap Cherry Pye, but instead kidnaps her Body Double, Ann.
  • The Alcoholic: Cherry has no restraint when it comes to drinking.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Cherry is prone to this, to the distress of her mother and record producer. Subverted somewhat in that the greater idiocy is her decision to use drugs or alcohol in situations when any reasonably intelligent person could see it was a bad idea (i.e., Idiocy Induced Alcoholism):
    • On a drunken binge after escaping her rehab clinic, she takes the advice of a crooked psychic and tattoos a centaur with the body of a zebra and the head of Axl Rose on her neck.
    • Her first comeback album bombed as a result of the concert tour being canceled, when she decided on a whim to imbibe crystal meth just before going on stage in Boston, leaving her unable to convincingly lip-sync the song tracks. Followed by mooning the audience, losing her balance, and landing on her head.
  • Always Identical Twins: Played with. Cherry’s media managers, twin sisters Lucy and Lila Lark, were not born identical twins but were obsessed with becoming identical, and so pursued extensive plastic surgery to make their dream a reality.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Cherry takes an instant dislike to her new bodyguard, Chemo, but tries to win him over by prancing in front of him in lingerie and flashing her nipple at him - and is furious when he displays no interest whatsoever. Likewise, she offers "fringe benefits" to an ex-football player who she wants to hire as a replacement, and throws a tantrum when he says he's already getting those from his current employer.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • When the Buntermans offer Ann $50,000 in hush money after her ordeal:
      Ann: For being kidnapped, drugged, and humiliated? Did I mention the guy took a three-minute pee while I was handcuffed to the damn toilet? Try to put a price tag on a moment like that.
    • Skink's description of the Native American Calusa tribe: they decapitated their enemies, and invented the custom of Mooning, as an insult to Spanish missionaries.
  • Artificial Limbs: Chemo, Cherry’s ex-con bodyguard, has a weedwhacker for an arm. He demonstrates it on flower vases, wallpaper, and Bang Abbott’s buttocks. It's also a Call-Back to the earlier novel Skin Tight, wherein Chemo lost the original.
  • Bad Is Good: Cherry and her boyfriend, Tanner Dane Keefe, frequently use the words "bad" and "sick" interchangeably with "cool" or "sweet." This backfires when Tanner is genuinely shocked by Cherry's account of her entourage's plan to fake her own kidnapping.
    Tanner: Cherry, that's f**king insane.
    Cherry: (giggles) Isn't it?
    Tanner: No, I mean, like, insane in a really bad way.
  • Banging for Help: Ann DeLusia after being kidnapped bangs for help when she is locked in Bang Abbott’s car trunk hard enough to make her hands bleed.
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Since childhood, Cheryl Bunterman has been taught to shamelessly flaunt her sexuality, not to attract a man, but rather to attract attention; by the time she is twenty-two, sex is virtually the only way she knows of communicating with anyone:
    • After her first talent contest win at age 6, her parents supplied "provocative wardrobe and dance lessons from a petite stripper recruited at a local gentleman's club".
    • Her mother invented her "shamelessly porny" Stage Name "Cherry Pye" (her father suggested "Cherry Pop") shortly before her casting in a Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie at age 14.
    • When she is recruited as a pop star at age 15, her promoter, Maury Lykes, deliberately crafts her stage persona based on what he calls "the BLS brand" (Barely Legal Slut); her debut single and album are both titled, "Touch Me Like You Mean It"; her subsequent albums include "Down And Dirty" and "Skantily Klad", with song titles such as "Runaway Tongue" and "Jealous Bone".
    • Accompanied by Bang Abbott on a private jet from Los Angeles to Miami, she decides on an impulse to have an onboard quickie with him (despite him being exactly twice her age, morbidly obese, unbathed and in a profession she claims to loathe); afterwards, neither of them can explain why she did it.
    • Infuriated by Chemo's confiscation of all liquor and drugs, she makes a clumsy attempt to seduce him, which fails; later, she tells him to hold a mirror while she shaves her bikini zone, and is even more infuriated when "he look[s] no more aroused than if he were watching a poodle being groomed."
    • During a previous downswing in her career, she made a sex tape; when her mother warns that another publicity jolt is needed before her concert tour, Cherry's suggestion is to make another one.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Ann DeLusia, the body double for the hopelessly drug-addicted pop star Cherry Pye, is called upon to pose on a hospital stretcher, pass for Cherry in public while the real woman is too wasted to appear, and is finally kidnapped at gunpoint by an obsessed paparazzo, all while the real Cherry remains completely unaware of her existence.
  • Believing Your Own Lies:
    • Janet Bunterman feigns that her famous daughter’s frequent trips to the emergency room are dietary problems instead of drug and alcohol overdoses, and acts genuinely outraged if anyone challenges her on this.
    • Cherry Pye, during her rare "flashes of self-awareness", realizes that she has no actual singing talent, but is "happy to play the part" of a world-class diva.
    • Bang Abbott believes photos of Cherry Pye just before her death will be incredibly lucrative, but also fantasizes about them being framed in a museum; he even believes that, after kidnapping Cherry, she would be so enthralled by his pictures that she'd hire him permanently instead of having him arrested.
  • Berserk Button: Skink will bring violent revenge upon anyone who damages the environment, especially the Florida Everglades; he is also painfully aware that South Beach is "a minefield of incivilities and pretension" - i.e., one big Berserk Button for him, and his mission to rescue Ann is delayed several times by his need to "impart a lesson" to whatever rude and inconsiderate people happen to cross his path.
  • Body Double: Ann DeLusia is Cherry Pye’s body double, used to cover for Cherry’s absences when the singer is missing or high on drugs.
  • Book Ends: The book begins and ends with EMT Jimmy Campo being called out ("In all respects, a routine South Beach 911 call - until now"). The first time, he is picking up Ann with Claude present (hoping to get a photo of Cherry). The second time, he is picking up Claude with Ann present.
  • Brainless Beauty: Played Straight with Cherry, inverted with Ann.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated:
    • Played With in the character of Cherry, who complains pro forma about what a hassle it is to be a star, but honestly has no idea what she would do if she wasn't one.
    • Played Straight in the character of Ann, who wants to succeed as a serious actress, but carefully avoids tawdry publicity (in the epilogue, three publishers offer her hundred-thousand dollar deals for tell-alls about her time as Cherry's double, but she turns them down).
  • Child Pop Star: Cherry was one, though in truth, she doesn't write music, can't play an instrument, and can't sing - she's just a pretty face to serve as the front girl for the band who lip-syncs one of the backup singers.
  • Cloud Cuckoolanders Minder: Cherry lives in a different world, and her entire entourage (including her own parents) goes to absurd lengths to ensure that she never has to suspect, let alone suffer, any consequences of her reckless behavior (in an interview, Hiaasen said the title has two meanings: part of the story takes place on Star Island, an actual place in Florida, but it also implies that Cherry's stardom is a carefully constructed artifice (like the real Star Island, which is entirely artificial) that keeps her safely isolated from reality.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Cherry's parents and unseen brothers have no sources of income besides nominal jobs with her personal management company.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Cherry's boyfriend, Tanner Dane Keefe, is absurdly proud of his role in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming shocker parody as a necrophiliac surfer "with the soul of a poet", and is infuriated when he fails to receive any offers to appear on the covers of major magazines, even surfer magazines, and blames his publicist's ineptitude, or Tarantino's "hog[ging] all the media." When his scenes are removed entirely from the final cut, Keefe responds by firing his manager and legally re-ordering the sequence of his names.
  • Cool Shades: Used by Ann to cover up the fact that her eyes are a different color than Cherry's on scheduled impersonations.
  • Crazy Sane: Skink.
    Ann: That man back there... he's nuts, right?
    Jim Tile: No, ma'am... He's got a long memory and a bad temper, but he's completely sane.
    Ann: Oh my God, you didn't hear what he said to those guys from the bus...!
    Jim Tile: I didn't say he was harmless, did I?
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Cheryl Bunterman's only natural stage assets are her beautiful looks, some limited dancing ability, and her shameless willingness to flaunt both; after "three months of expensive coaching... Maury Lykes resigned himself to the fact that she had the weakest singing voice he'd ever heard from anyone not confined to a hospice." Therefore, her "singing" is produced entirely through a combination of backup singers, computer enhancement, and lip-syncing.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ann DeLusia. Especially when talking to Bang Abbott.
  • Decoy Getaway: When Cherry accidentally overdoses on "an unwise mix of vodka, Red Bull, hydrocodone, birdseed, and stool softener", Ann DeLusia is taken out on a stretcher through the front exit, where she is photographed by Bang Abbott, while Cherry is snuck out the back.
  • Dirty Old Man:
    • Maury Lykes, Cherry’s record producer, is outright described as a closet pedophile by the narrative early on.
    • Averted with Skink: while he fully acknowledges how attractive Ann is, he also acknowledges that he's old enough to be her grandfather.
      Skink: Thirty years ago I would have chewed your panties off by now; gently, of course, with candles in the foreground.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After hearing a hotel guest brag about how her husband and his buddies had once beaten a shark to death with baseball bats, Skink sets her suitcase on fire with a can of stolen aerosol paint thinner, and when the fire alarm goes off, seizes her Maltese pet dog and runs off into the street with it. He considers eating it, but decides not to, as the Maltese doesn’t look like it would taste very good.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Cheryl Gail Bunterman detests her birth name, and insists on being called Cherry Pye, then "Cherish". In the epilogue, it is revealed that she settles for "Chair-ish", since "Cherish" was claimed by the Hasbro company. She has a boyfriend who also changes his name often - by reordering it.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Chemo wears an "execrable salmon red hairpiece", but no one dares to laugh, possibly because (judging by the rest of him) it's easy to assume that what lies underneath the piece is far more hideous.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: An In-Universe example. Cherry may not be evil or malicious, but she is a five-star Spoiled Brat who made her first million at age 15, and at 22 resents and shirks her very few "responsibilities" ("There's, like, eighteen songs to learn and they're all different."); yet as with all celebrities, she has a loyal fandom more than ready to invent excuses for her self-destructive behavior, which she herself finds hilarious:
    As for the partying, it wasn't a desperate cry for help; it was fun. Cherry hooted every time a blogger theorized she was subconsciously rebelling against her parents, or lashing out at Maury Lykes. She loved being a star, and moreover was equipped for no other role. The possibility of losing her fame never occurred to her; she wouldn't have known how to live a private life[.]
  • Drama Queen: Cherry Pye.
    • Driving back to the hotel from a photo shoot, she throws a tantrum when her temporary bodyguard refuses her offer to leave his current employer and work for her full-time, then a worse tantrum when she can't find the BlackBerry she stole from Bang Abbott (forgetting that she dropped it in a drunken stupor at her boyfriend's home): "This is the worst f**king day of my whole f**king life!"
    • Told by her parents that the photo shoot for Vanity Fair was a ruse, she throws a can of Red Bull against the wall and screeches, "I hate you both! You are the worst humans ever!"
  • Dumb Jock: Miami Heat point guard Ruben "Whaddup" Coyle's nickname tells you all you need to know about his vocabulary and his intellectual range.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: On the advice of a crooked psychic, a drunken Cherry gets a tattoo of a centaur with the body of a zebra and the face of Axl Rose on the back of her neck; what makes the tattoo even more hideous is that the artist was interrupted midway and the zebra's body is left incomplete, except for the over-sized penis.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Bang Abbott, a paparazzo, has no illusions about the low regard his profession is held in, and no morals when it comes to getting a picture, but he used to work for an actual newspaper, and so is affronted when a tabloid editor refers to his output as "journalism", and likewise contemptuous of paparazzi who shoot video clips instead of still photographs.
    • Chemo's a violent thug, but he takes a liking to Ann and is bothered by the Buntermans' callous attitude towards her safety. Later in the novel, Chemo convinces Skink not to kill Abbott (since Chemo needs his help to sell photos of Cherry that they both believe will become highly valuable), but says that if Abbott had raped Ann or even tried to, Skink could go ahead and waste him.
    • Likewise, Chemo is disgusted by how everyone fawns over Cherry, "some dumb chick with a voice like a sack full of starving kittens", who has become "filthy rich", while thousands of people are "shattered and broke" after the housing bubble burst, "their only sin being trying to score a decent house for their families."
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • Bang Abbott and the Buntermans both assume that Ann, an actress, would do anything for fame and money; after she has been kidnapped, the Lark twins advise Janet Bunterman that it would be more convenient for everyone if the kidnapper killed her, since they can all assume that if she were released, Ann would run straight to the TV networks to sell her story. Bang likewise advises her to "write [her] own ticket" with the Buntermans, threatening to reveal everything unless they pay her off; Ann, however, has no appetite for blackmail, and doesn't want to become famous in the same tawdry way that Cherry Pye did.
    • D.T. Maltby, Skink's former lieutenant governor, decided long ago that any Florida politician who refused to accept bribes must be "crazy as a shithouse rat."
  • Excessive Mourning: After Cherry's latest fling was killed in a car crash, her publicists recommended that Cherry attend the funerals in order to "display her sensitive, compassionate side". Since Cherry was being rushed to the hospital after her own drunken car crash, Ann had to go in her stead and pretend to be crushed with grief (especially since the publicists launched a global media campaign to convince everyone that the young man and Cherry were engaged to be married). Ann considers it the worst experience of her "career" as Cherry's Body Double, prior to being kidnapped by Bang Abbott.
  • Excrement Statement: Skink drops in on his treacherous former Lieutenant Governor D.T. Maltby (and an accomplice of Sebago) by taking a dump in his washing machine.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Ann buys one for Skink before their summit meeting with the Buntermans, to take the part of his glass eye. Subverted in that the eyepatch is less an advertisement of toughness than it is dressing down, since the patch is less menacing than the glass eye (which is bright red and not a perfect fit for the socket). Skink himself jokes about how ridiculously expensive it was.
    Chemo: Is it silk or something?
    Skink: Wool blend. For $300 I could buy a whole goddamn sheep and train it to sit on my face.
  • Fingore: After managing to get Bang Abbott’s gun away from him, Ann accidentally shoots one of his fingers off. It sticks to the ceiling. In addition to the pain, Bang Abbott is agitated by this event because it was his camera finger.
  • Faked Kidnapping: Subverted; Ann's kidnapping is very real, but Ned Bunterman has the bright idea of "converting" it into a publicity stunt by claiming that it was the real Cherry who was kidnapped:
    Cherry needed to generate some buzz, but not in the usual tawdry way. She had to get the fans back on her side; be a victim for a change, not a f**kup.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: As soon as Cherry hit it big at age 15, her parents immediately quit their day jobs (her three older brothers never held one between them) and all five started living large and spent as if the money would last forever; seven years later, her father Ned is aghast to realize that the family has burned through nearly all of the millions of dollars Cherry made, and they will be ruined if her comeback album is anything other than a smash hit.
  • Former Child Star: Cherry's star is fizzling out because of her Alcohol-Induced Idiocy. A large part of the plot is her promoter's efforts to keep her from publicly self-destructing just long enough to cash in on her comeback album. They fail: Cherry melts down in public, causing the concert tour to be canceled, which in turn causes the album (which had already received terrible advance reviews) to tank.
  • Frozen Face: Due to extensive Botox, the twin sisters Lucy and Lila Lark, Cherry’s media managers, have permanent fixed expressions.
  • Ghostwriter
    • Cherry's publicists, the Lark sisters, are entirely responsible for writing "as her" on her blog and Twitter profile, one of many tasks necessary to maintain her public image in which Cherry herself takes zero interest.
    • In the epilogue, Ann refuses at least three offers from publishers to write her memoirs of her time as Cherry's Body Double, in part because all three insist on partnering her with a ghostwriter.
  • Glamour Failure: Somewhere in the novel, the normally cynical Bang Abbott is afflicted with a "sappy enchantment" towards Cherry Pye, as if her celebrity really does make her something special and unique; but by the end of his photo shoot with her, he has spent a last "excruciating" hour trying to converse with her, and realizes that she really is as shallow and empty-headed as the media has made her appear. His photos of her may still prove to be lucrative as long as she is a star, but she is otherwise not worth his or anyone else's attention.
    Of course she stayed high all the time, Bang Abbott thought. That's what boring people do.
  • Going Cold Turkey: After being retrieved from her post-rehab binge, Cherry Pye is deprived of pills and alcohol, under the tender care of Chemo, the ex-con bodyguard.
  • Gonk: Chemo, due to an electrolysis accident and repeated botched cosmetic surgeries, has a face frequently described as being covered in cornflakes and is missing part of an arm; he inspires horror in those who see him for the first time.
  • Grammar Nazi: Chemo zaps Cherry with a cattle prod every time she uses Valley Girl speech instead of proper grammar.
  • Greed: At times, Ned and Janet Bunterman delude themselves into believing that by managing their daughter's career, they are helping to "[bring] happiness to millions of loyal young fans." But they never lose sight of the bottom line: the family has raked in millions of dollars from that career. Likewise, Ned and Janet try to tell themselves that they're not indifferent to Ann's safety after she is kidnapped, but both are "forced" to see the Larks' point that it would be easier for everybody if Bang Abbott just killed her and dumped her body, instead of risking that, alive or dead, her role as Cherry's Body Double could be exposed to the media.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Wherever he goes, someone is always willing to kick Bang Abbott in the crotch. As a paparazzo, he considers it a good day when this doesn't happen.
    • Skink sticks a sea urchin down the front of a corrupt real estate agent’s pants. It is exactly as painful as it sounds.
  • He Knows Too Much: Ann is quick to figure out that the Buntermans didn't report her being kidnapped and are hesitant to ransom her, because exposing her role as Cherry's Body Double would be catastrophic for the latter's career; privately, the Buntermans and Cherry's publicists agree that it would be more convenient for everyone if the kidnapper killed Ann instead of releasing her.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The Buntermans hire actress Ann DeLusia as a Body Double for their daughter, finding it easier than actually trying to correct Cherry's reckless behavior; this blows up in their faces when Ann is mistaken for Cherry, kidnapped, and is furious enough over the Buntermans' indifference to her safety to confront Cherry in public, triggering a highly embarrassing meltdown that instantly ends her career.
  • Human Resources: God put the "little people" on Earth to be exploited, and the notion that they have feelings, rights, or any other grounds for protest is greeted with honest bafflement:
    • Ann, Cherry's Body Double, was hired principally because she looks like her; the fact that she's an actress was a lucky bonus.
      • When Janet Bunterman picks Ann up from the hospital, she immediately launches into a tirade about Chemo replacing Cherry's recently-fired bodyguard; Ann interjects, "I was in a major car crash, but I'm feeling much better now, thanks for asking." Janet carries on as if she hasn't heard a word Ann is saying, noting that a cut on Ann's lip (from the car crash) is going to make her next impersonation of Cherry more difficult, only paying attention when Ann threatens to quit. Then she makes clear that she heard everything Ann was saying - "The part about the car accident, was that true? Please tell me you didn't get beat up on a date or something" - and automatically filed it under "not important."
        "No, Janet, it wasn't a date." Ann said. She suddenly felt like crying, and she wasn't sure why.
      • During the same conversation:
        Ann: "I want a life of my own."
        Janet: "But you're an actress!"
    • Cherry fantasizes about having a "big, bald, black dude" as her new bodyguard. When such a bodyguard temporarily replaces Chemo, Cherry says he is perfect, except "he's supposed to be bald" and orders her hairdresser to shave his head, but the bodyguard refuses.
    • Janet and Bang Abbott (separately) reflexively refer to Ann as a "nobody", while focusing all their attention and concern on Cherry Pye.
  • Hummer Dinger: Before quitting his job to be his daughter's full-time manager and accountant, Cherry's father Ned worked as a bookkeeper at a Hummer dealership outside of Houston, Texas. After that experience:
    While Ned Bunterman was fond of his daughter, he didn't cling to any parental illusions. She was a simpleton, shallow as a thimble. Having worked in a Hummer showroom, he considered himself an authority on the species.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: During the photo shoot on Star Island, Cherry finds "three cocoa colored pills" in her boyfriend's medicine chest, and defiantly swallows them before Chemo can stop her. He then informs her that they were heartworm pills for a dog, and he planted them, in the expectation that she would a) find them and b) be dumb enough to swallow them without stopping to wonder what they were. He was right on both counts. Downplayed in that she is less disgusted at having swallowed "doggy meds" than disappointed that she can't get high off them.
  • Idle Rich: Cherry's parents, Ned and Janet Bunterman, flatter themselves that acting as their daughter's managers is something like a full-time job, but Janet always has time for thrice-weekly combined tennis lessons/sex sessions with her pro/gigolo, while Ned devotes a minimal amount of time to managing the family's bills, and the rest to "golf, vineyard tours, and three-way sex" with a bisexual couple in Pasadena.
  • Immoral Journalist: unlike most paparazzi, Bang Abbott worked for an actual newspaper before switching careers; the act that got him fired - deliberately luring a school of sharks to a public beach in the hopes of causing a photogenic stampede of tourists, and causing one of them to be seriously mauled - was much worse than any of his "low moves" as a paparazzo.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Cherry's parents habitually grope for alcohol after (and sometimes while) trying to communicate with their empty-headed offspring.
    Janet: You felt sorry...for a paparazzo.
    Cherry: Plus, he had the hottest orange Blackberry. Which now I can't even find!
    Janet Bunterman got up and went to the minibar, only to discover that Chemo, as ordered, had removed all the liquor products.
    "The Pulitzer thingy," Cherry was saying, "is that like a People's Choice?"
    Ned Bunterman scouted the room for a minibar. He wondered if it was possible that Cherry had tumbled from her crib as an infant and dented her frontal lobe.
  • I Reject Your Reality: As far as her mother is concerned, Cherry Lye is not a drug addict or alcoholic, she has attacks of "gastritis", and the rehab clinic in Malibu she is frequently checked into is a "dietary camp". Everyone else in Cherry's entourage has given up trying to convince her to accept even part of the reality.
    • When Cherry escapes the rehab clinic in the company of a heroin addict rock drummer, Maury threatens to sue the Buntermans blind if Cherry starts using heroin:
      Janet: She would never. And even if she does, we can find a way to make it work.
      Maury: Excuse me?
      Janet: Look at all the great musicians who have used the stuff and didn't die: Clapton, Keith Richards, David Bowie... I mean, Maury, come on! Let's not automatically assume the situation is unmanageable.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: Hiaasen often employs the written equivalent of a Smash Cut to contrast two different characters or viewpoints:
    • After Bang Abbott forces Ann (at gunpoint) to dress up as Cherry and poise with a used syringe, he then leaves her handcuffed to the toilet while he takes "a major whizz."
    • The narrative then "cuts" to Cherry Pye, who is "nearly levitating with self-pity" in her hotel suite because her bodyguard won't let her out to hit the South Beach club scene or score drugs and alcohol.
  • It's All About Me: Cherry Pye.
    • Surrounded by an entourage of publicists, stylists, bodyguards, her parents, and her record promoter, all of whom work overtime to keep her pampered and oblivious to her own screw-ups, she is still capable of the following pronouncement: "Maybe I need somebody to worry about me for a change! You ever think that, like, hello, that's what's wrong with this picture? Too many people aren't worrying about me!"
    • Although she can't sing, and has little to no interest in rehearsing for her upcoming concert tour, she goes crazy when some other female celebrity gets media exposure; when Lindsay Lohan got a cover spread in Vanity Fair, she bit herself on the foot hard enough to need six stitches.
  • Jerkass: The Buntermans, Bang Abbott, the Lark sisters... there's not a lot of good folks in this story.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Bang, defending his work as a paparazzo:
    Babe, we're just feeding the beast. Soon as nobody cares about Hollywood anymore, we're all out of business. They all bitch about the paparazzi, but guess what? They'd totally freak if one night they came out of a club and we weren't there. Because then they'd know they were done, over... You don't get it. They need us more than we need them.
    • When it comes to Cherry Pye, he is completely right; when Cherry wakes up from her latest Alcohol-Induced Idiocy at her home in Los Angeles, her first impulse is to look out the window and complain that there are no photographers or video crews camped outside the gates - at two o'clock in the morning.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Cherry Pye is, unfortunately, just as shallow and thoughtless inside as she is outside.
    • Hiaasen often specializes in creating a scene in which the hero/protagonist confronts the villain(s), trying to understand the motives for their actions, but always ends up unsatisfied with the outcome, when the villains turn out to be just as lazy, greedy, shallow and vacuous as their actions make them appear; Bang Abbott becomes obsessed with her after she has an airborne quickie with him, then steals his camera bag and cell phone and strands him at the airport. He becomes determined to get close to her again and figure out what "dark plan" she was enacting. After their second meeting, he realizes that her stupidity is no act and she did what she did on reckless impulse.
    • The best clue that Ann, Cherry's Body Double, is the Only Sane Man around, is that she has formed a clear opinion of Cherry from her music videos and televised interviews, despite never having met her:
      So far Ann had seen nothing to suggest that the former Cheryl Bunterman was complicated, misunderstood or even slightly exploited. Rather the woman appeared spoiled, vain, and empty-headed.
  • Karmic Jackpot: While generally pretty cutthroat and mercenary, the Lark Twins did have one act of kindness in the backstory which they ended up rewarded for. They had enough fondness for client Presley Aaron not to sue him for his fee (which was several months in arrears) and out of gratitude for this, and their being able to sell his comeback, Aaron gave them a six-figure bonus once he got his next contract, giving them enough money to pay for their plastic surgery.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Abbott's shark chumming resulted in an unlucky tourist getting part of his buttocks bitten off by a shark, which Bang photographed. Bang takes a bullet to the butt at the end of the novel, and winds up on a stretcher with his pants down while a rival paparazzo takes a candid photo. The Buntermans, meanwhile, plan to use Ann's kidnapping as a publicity stunt to boost Cherry's career, but warn Cherry that to sell the story she has to stop partying, in order to sell her "recovery"; Cherry goes out anyway, which might not have been disastrous, if Ann hadn't shown up at the same club and provoked her into a highly public meltdown.
  • Legacy Vessel Naming:
    • While preparing for his infamous shark photograph, Bang Abbott bought a bag of chum from the mate of a boat named the "Master Baiter IV".
    • Tourist Marian DeGregorio is in Florida to scatter the ashes of her late husband, in the same place he reeled in a hammerhead shark aboard a boat named the "Happy Hooker IX".
  • Marriageof Convenience: Ned and Janet Bunterman had "mostly lost interest in each other" by the time Cheryl/Cherry was conceived, and their shared devotion to Cherry's career and income is the only thing sustaining their marriage; after Cherry's final "crash", they separate for good.
  • Mile-High Club: Cherry and Abbott on a private jet flying from LA to Miami.
  • Monster Fangirl: The "usually unflappable" Lark sisters are unaccountably fascinated with Chemo, despite (or perhaps because of) his hideous appearance and violent criminal history; though he has no interest in either of them, he is not surprised, since, being an ex-convict, he has come to understand that "some women got turned on when they were creeped out."
  • Moral Myopia: While Abbott is being loaded onto an ambulance with a bullet in his ass, one of the other paparazzi raises his camera. Abbott whines, "are you serious?" This from a man who earlier admitted to Ann that he bribed a florist's delivery boy to snap shots of a comatose Farrah Fawcett on her deathbed, and Hand Waved it, "she never knew it happened. No harm, no foul."
  • Mountain Man: Skink, the grizzled former governor of Florida, lives for the most part in Florida mangrove swamps and everglades, eating snakes and roadkill.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Cherry and her parents treat everyone outside their immediate circle as "hired help":
    • While Cherry is vomiting into an ice bucket in the back of a limousine, she whines for someone to hold it up to her mouth; her mother (who's sitting right next to her), orders the bodyguard, Lev, to turn around in his seat and do so; when he refuses, she fires him - which backfires spectacularly on her when Maury insists on hiring the hideously scarred ex-convict Chemo to replace Lev.
    • After Lev is gone, Cherry daydreams about hiring a hulking, bald African-American to replace him "like Britney's guy".
    • When Cherry wakes up hung-over at her family's home in Los Angeles, her mother offers to wake up their cook - at two o'clock in the morning - to make her an early breakfast.
    • Despite her vital role in keeping Cherry's Alcohol-Induced Idiocy secret from the public, Ann is well aware that the Buntermans regard her as expendable, especially after she is mistaken for Cherry and kidnapped.
    • When Janet's backstory reveals that she was a cocktail waitress in a Texan cowboy bar, the reader has to guess that she's overcompensating.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Chemo's exact thought after Abbott kidnaps Ann; he reflects that, during his earlier encounter with the photographer, "he should have trusted his instincts, taken away the idiot's gun and then fractured every chubby finger."
  • No Hero to His Valet:
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-Universe.
    • How Cherry Pye's first number got big: "The ensuing uproar from offended Christian groups" over a 15-year-old in a salacious music video drew even more attention to it and catapulted it to the top of the charts.
    • Cherry's record producer, Maury Lykes, is aware that "occasional public misbehavior... airport tantrums, DUIs, botched shopliftings, and other episodes of delamination" help to keep a star in the public eye, especially when his or her "manifest lack of talent" would otherwise become glaringly obvious.
  • No Sympathy:
    • After Skink puts Jackie Sebago (a Shady Real Estate Agent who'd been both cheating his investors and causing environmental damage with his project) into a diaper with a sea urchin inside the first cop on the scene notes that:
      [T]he other passengers weren't especially sympathetic to Sebago's situation. In fact, a man named Shea angrily demanded that Mr. Sebago be arrested on the spot for fraud and embezzlement, crimes beyond the authority (or interest) of a working road-patrol officer.
    • After Bang Abbott is shot through the buttocks outside a South Beach club, the other paparazzi are "more concerned with chasing the spooked celebrities than consoling their stricken colleague." One of them even snaps a picture of Bang on the ambulance stretcher.
    • The author also identifies his only sane characters (including Ann, Chemo, and Skink) by making it clear that they have no sympathy for Cherry Pye, no matter how much she whines about how she needs drugs and alcohol to "cope with the pressure" of being rich, famous, and more or less free from any kind of responsibility.
  • Noodle Incident: There is never an explicit mention (or even an implied one) of what passed between Child Pop Star "Cherry Pye" and her record producer, Maury Lykes, when her music career was launched on her fifteenth birthday, but there are several suggestive elements:
    • Maury first saw her at age 14 on Nickelodeon, which he assiduously watched on the lookout for fresh talent, and because of his "criminal fondness for underage girls."
    • At age 22, she cheerfully owns that she will "mate for fun" with anything remotely male, even an unbathed, morbidly obese paparazzo.
    • When Maury threatens that her career is on the verge of ending if she doesn't curb her reckless behavior, does she promise to be a good girl? No, she pulls him into a close embrace and whines, "don't ever leave me, Maury."
  • Not Helping Your Case: Cherry tries to seduce Kurt, her one-day replacement bodyguard, into replacing Chemo and working for her full-time, and throws a tantrum when he says he already has a well-paid job (complete with "fringe benefits") with a different female client. She demands to know who it is, and he says he can't tell her the name, but "she's in film." Cherry's response:
    Then you're a stone liar, man! Because movie actresses won't do the help! That's a known fact.
  • Not Worth Killing: After being rescued, Ann quickly vetoes Skink's plan to kill Bang Abbott or at least beat him to a pulp.
    What are you going to do to a guy like that? He's already pathetic.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: Janet Bunterman, who offers Cherry an early breakfast by waking up their cook at 2:00 in the morning. She seems to equate her former job as a cocktail waitress in a faux-cowboy bar in Houston with combat duty in Afghanistan, entitling her to be waited on hand-and-foot for the rest of her life.
  • One-Hour Work Week:
    • Ann's typical job is to be seen as Cherry entering a club, and then be seen as Cherry leaving the club a few hours later. She spends the rest of the evening in a back room eating takeout and watching TV. Five to ten minutes of actual work per appearance. The problem is she has to be perpetually on call for those five to ten minutes, and dealing with the perpetual train wreck of the Bunterman family life that makes those five to ten minutes necessary.
    • Cherry Pye is a handful, but her parents are deluding themselves in claiming that quitting their day jobs to become her "managers" is anything like a full-time job. No matter how hectic things get, Janet always has room in her schedule for tennis lessons (followed by sweaty sex sessions) three times a week at their local country club, while Ned devotes a short amount of time to reviewing the family's books, and the rest to spa days or long weekends with a bisexual Danish couple.
  • Only Sane Man: Ann DeLusia, Maury Lykes, and Chemo, are three of the only people around Cherry with any perspective on her self-destructiveness, as opposed to most of the others who only enable, excuse and, cover up her excesses. Ultimately, however, Ann is the only one who doesn't have a stake in keeping Cherry's career going, which is what makes her the only person who cares to intervene in her self-destructive behavior.
  • The Pig-Pen: Bang Abbott hardly ever showers, not because he Hates Baths, but he is simply too busy chasing celebrities; moreover, he finds his "humid cloud of reek" to be useful in clearing competing "shooters" out of his way in crowded club scenes.
  • The Prima Donna: Subverted. Cherry Pye fulfills every stereotype of the spoiled show business diva, but has no actual talent and little to no interest in actually performing to maintain her fame and wealth.
  • Pushover Parents: Cherry's mother and father are terrified of doing anything that might be construed as criticizing, let alone disciplining their daughter, who has become an alcoholic, drug-addicted, sex-obsessed "train wreck", not because they care about her well-being, but because she is the family's sole source of income and anything that "upsets" her might jeopardize that.
  • Paparazzi: Bang Abbott’s profession, after leaving his previous gig as a news photographer in disgrace.
  • Reality Show: After Cherry's musical career finally crashes and burns, her family gets her a leading role on a reality tv show about washed-up, drug-addled ex-stars trying to put their lives back together.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In-Universe. No one believes Bang Abbott when he swears that Cherry Pye, a "major female recording artist," had a wild airborne quickie with him. He himself is fully aware of how improbable it is, given the vast gap in their ages, hygienic habits and social positions ("like a butterfly humping a cockroach"), and he becomes obsessed with finding out why.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: NBA point guard Ruben "Whaddup" Coyle is getting paid $5 million a year by the Miami Heat, but can't stop marinating himself every night in "marijuana, cocaine, and opiates", liberally doused with alcohol; after wrecking his fifth leased Jaguar convertible, he finally gets cut from the Miami Heat and can't find work except with "one of the top basketball teams in Greece", which (unlike the Heat) strictly enforces its prohibitions against him drinking on game nights, or driving a car under any circumstances.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Paparazzo Bang Abbott buys a revolver from a pawnbroker; though he has never handled a gun before, he assumes that it is less complicated to operate than a camera, "and the operative fundamentals [a]re the same: point-and-shoot." When Ann points the gun at him, he idiotically tries to grab it away from her, resulting in his right index finger being shot off.
    Like countless fools before him, Bang Abbott believed that carrying a firearm would make certain persons take him more seriously.
  • Recovered Addict: Former hillbilly rock star Presley Aaron who only appears briefly but was managed by Lykes before his Descent into Addiction and managed to rehabilitate his image by hiring the Lark Twins to do his PR, and having his family hire Chemo to beat up Aaron (and the drug dealers) any time he tried to use or buy drugs.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Charged with the handling of Cherry Pye, Chemo takes a dislike to her use of valley girl vernacular and, in addition to keeping her on the wagon, pokes her with a cattle prod every time she uses words such as “like”, “dude”, or “totally” incorrectly. When Cherry angrily complains about this to her mother and record producer, they dismiss it as another one of her ridiculous lies.
  • Sex Equals Love: Played With.
    • Bang Abbott is not quite so delusional as to think that Cherry's airborne seduction of him is an expression of love, but he becomes obsessed with trying to find out why "a major female recording artist" would hump a "homely wanker" like himself.
      It was a measure of the photographer's deepening obsession that he was able to twist a frivolously empty act of intercourse into something calculated and diabolical. At times he was close to convincing himself that Cherry had hatched a dark plan, that she was using him in some cynical way.
    • After their second face-to-face meeting, Abbott realizes that Cherry seduced him for the same reason she does anything else - on reckless, brainless impulse.
    • Before being kidnapped by Abbott, Ann's worst experience as Cherry Pye's Body Double was attending the funerals of a young man "with whom Cherry had been romantically linked - meaning she had slept with him more than once." To the media, the fact that she and the young man had been on "exactly three dates" was enough to arouse speculation that they were "getting pretty serious", and after his death Cherry's publicists quickly spread the rumor that they had been engaged.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: After Ann's kidnapping, the Buntermans fearfully offer her $50,000 to keep quiet; Ann rejects it in favor of plane fare home, reflecting later that she needs a "clean, irreparable break" from Cherry and the Buntermans, and accepting the money would have bound her to them instead of liberating her.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Lev, Cherry's original bodyguard, decides to quit his job after being ordered to hold a bucket for the puking diva.
  • Skewed Priorities: Given that the Buntermans are motivated purely by greed, it is almost understandable that they refuse to report Ann's kidnapping, and prefer to let her be killed by the kidnapper, rather than let her role as Cherry's Body Double be revealed to the media; what is less understandable is that they are just as adamant that this not be revealed to Cherry herself, because knowing that a "full-time lookalike" has been appearing in public on her behalf might "upset" her.
  • Smooth-Talking Talent Agent: Ann's agent, Marcus Mink, who has "an ironclad policy against getting to the point unless there was wonderful news to pass along."
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse:
    • Ann reflects that she has little experience with "interesting and complicated" men such as Skink, since her looks "ten[d] to attract the cocky and self-absorbed".
    • Inverted with Cherry Pye: if she wasn't so beautiful, her career would likely have imploded long ago, after her fans noticed that she's a talentless, moronic Jerkass.
  • Stage Mom: Janet and Ned Bunterman push their daughter fairly hard and remain willfully blind to the toxic effect fame and money is having on her life. Subverted in two ways:
    • Unlike some stage parents, the Buntermans have no interest in sharing the spotlight with their daughter, and neither is vicariously living out their own dreams of stardom - their daughter makes the family money, period.
    • Unlike some stage children, Cherry loves being a star and has no ambitions to be anything else.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Though he was already stalking her as part of his job as a Paparazzi, Bang Abbott’s obsession with Cherry Pye turns into this after a one-night stand on her private jet.
  • Take That!: Hiaasen's targets include:
    • A long-time fan of classic hard rock from The '60s and The '70s, Hiaasen has nothing but contempt for the modern crop of "female recording artists", not one of whom, in his estimation, could "yodel her way out of a broom closet."
    • The tabloid media, for feeding the public's appetite for meaningless news about meaningless people.
    • The mainstream media, for jumping on the celebrity news bandwagon.
    • The public at large, for making "American newsstands such celebrity crapfests."
  • That Syncing Feeling: Cherry's first comeback album, Down and Dirty, bombed after its promotional concert tour was canceled after Cherry's disastrous performance in Boston:
    Before the opening number, Cherry had whimsically decided to try crystal meth... she'd lasted for three songs, and at no time had the movement of her lips matched the voice track being piped through the speakers. When the crowd in the first few rows had begun to jeer, Cherry had spun around, dropped her leather mini-shorts, and bent over to moon the offenders. Naturally, she'd lost her balance and fallen on her head.
  • This Is Reality: Cherry Pye is, in her mother's words, an "entertainment franchise", which means that her and her entourage's "reality" is limited to those things that affect their bottom line (sales of the new album, whether the upcoming concert tour is sold out.
    • Lampshaded by Maury's exchange with one of the Lark twins, when he floats Ned Bunterman's proposal of using Ann's kidnapping as a publicity stunt on Cherry's behalf:
      Lucy: This is not a game.
      Maury: Well, it sure as shit ain't the real world.
    • Chemo, a former mortgage broker, is the closest thing in Cherry's entourage to someone familiar with the "real" world, and, characteristically, he can't stand Cherry or her parents.
  • Threatening Shark: Bang Abbott once lured a pack of hungry lemon sharks to a beach of tourists, hoping to get a lucrative photograph of their frenzied, panicked escape from the water. He assumed wrongly that lemon sharks would focus on the bloody chum bag and ignore the tourists. Instead, one of the sharks attacks the swimmers, one of whom runs out of the water with the animal still attached. Abbott won a Pulitzer Prize for capturing the moment, but was forced out the newspaper business after it's brought to light he essentially staged the whole thing, even though the attack was real.
  • Tranquil Fury: The Buntermans and Bang Abbott both catastrophically underestimate just how furious Ann is at being kidnapped, drugged, handcuffed, locked in a car trunk, forced to pose with a discarded syringe, and made to wait beside the toilet while Bang urinates for three solid minutes. From her calm demeanor, the Buntermans assume that she can be bought off to stay silent, while Bang assumes she'll thank him one day for making her famous. She arranges a Laser-Guided Karma which ends with Cherry having a highly embarrassing meltdown in public and Bang ending up in the hospital with a bullet in the crease of his buttocks - which ends both of their highly lucrative careers.
  • The Trope Formerly Known as X: The narrator refers to Cherry Pye throughout the novel as "the former Cheryl Bunterman", simply because she hates her birth name and refuses to answer to it. She is not referred to as "Cheryl Gail Bunterman" in the present tense until the epilogue, after her music career has crashed for the final time and she is forced back into drug rehab. Played with in the following exchange between Maury and Cherry:
    Maury: You blow this tour, say adios to the good stuff. Because Cherry Pye as a brand is over, understand? Done.
    Cherry: Awesome! 'Cause from now on I'm gonna be called Cherish.
    Maury: How about "Bankrupt"? You like that name? The Artist Formerly Known as Solvent.
  • Trophy Child:
    • Cherry's parents are obsessively concerned with her well-being, but only insofar as she is the family's sole source of (profane) income; they seem oblivious to the fact that at 22 she's become an alcoholic, drug-addicted, sex-obsessed "train wreck", and the idea of putting the brakes on her career to help her recover would never cross either of their minds.
    • Cherry herself enthusiastically proposes that she adopt three children as a publicity stunt; since it is commonly understood that she is "unfit to care for a goldfish, much less a child", she takes it for granted that someone else will be responsible for any actual child-rearing.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Cherry Pye.
    Maury Lykes reflected upon the many emergencies that had sprung up during his long association with Cherry Pye–the meltdowns, disappearances, drug binges and sex sprees... That Cherry herself was oblivious to the mayhem she'd caused was ironic, but hardly surprising.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The reader's first introduction to Cherry Pye is from inside a limousine as she is being rushed to the hospital, puking into a silver-plated ice bucket. Any sympathy the reader might feel for her plight dies when she whines that none of the passengers will hold the bucket for her ("Jesus, what do I pay you assholes for?")
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: After Ann was conscripted to pose as Cherry at two funerals in Europe, for Cherry's fake fiance, Janet Bunterman doesn't understand why Ann wasn't profoundly grateful that they let her keep the dress they bought for her.
    Ann: I gave it to Goodwill.
    Janet: But that was Vera Wang!
    Ann: See, Janet, this is the problem.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Most of the novel is driven by Bang Abbott's obsessive need to get a picture of pop star Cherry Pye, believing that she's destined for an early grave and pictures of her just before her "final crash" will be priceless; eventually he kidnaps her Body Double, Ann, and demands an all-day photo shoot with Cherry; he gets his wish - and all it costs him is getting his camera finger shot off, having his butt sliced by a Weed Whacker, and being blackmailed to give up the photos. The irony is that, after his photo shoot, Bang realizes that Cherry really is an "empty-headed tartlett", but the realization does not come in time for him to avoid receiving a non-fatal gunshot wound that permanently ends his career as a paparazzo. He is reduced to operating a portrait studio in Los Angeles, photographing "toddlers, prom couples, and small pets." Since Cherry doesn't die, the photos of her are worthless.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: One which describes (among other things) that Chemo's gone back to mortgages, Cherry's sobered up and gotten a Reality Show job, Lykes was killed by the father of a girl he molested, Ann is discovered as a serious actress, and Abbot has to retire from being a paparazzo due to his immobilizing injuries from the final chapter.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: The entire novel is an excoriation of the media (both tabloid and mainstream) for pandering to the public's appetite for celebrity "news":
    • Hiaasen refers to the furor after the death of Michael Jackson as "the most loathsome media frenzy since the O.J. Simpson trial".
    • In an interview for The New York Times about the novel, he said, "I'll bet more people today can name all the Kardashians than can name the President of Afghanistan."note 
  • Writers Suck: When Ann moved to Southern California from Iowa, she originally wanted to be a screenwriter, until she had a brief fling with one, whose "conversation was even more tedious than the sex." Bang Abbott, whose job depends on knowing what faces the public recognizes, scoffs, "name the five hottest screenwriters in L.A. and I wouldn't know those f**kers if they hanged themselves over the 405."