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Saturday, April 17, 1999

Stone meets the press

Actress speaks at editors meeting
on collusion between press and celebs.

Jane Ganahl - SF Examiner

"I AM THE offspring of your illicit imaginations," said actress Sharon Stone, gazing unflinchingly across the top of a podium at a sea of newspaper editors. "So I thought it was about time we spent some quality time together."

Stone, the keynote speaker at this year's meeting of ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, addressed an attentive crowd at the conference's final lunch meeting. Her husband, Examiner executive editor Phil Bronstein, sat close by her side during the meal; their every nuzzle was recorded by a blast of flashbulbs.

That very issue - celebrity vs. the news media - was the topic of Stone's 20-minute speech. After being introduced by Examiner managing editor Sharon Rosenhause - as "the other Sharon" - the Academy award-nominated actress plunged right in, with some harsh words for celebrity journalism. At the same time, she acknowledged that celebrities do need the media. She termed the relationship "this silent and secretive agreement."

It's pretty basic, she said. "You tell stories about me. Some of them are hideous, some of them are fabulous, and almost all of them are exaggerated. And I bathe in the glory, rage in the heat - and then overtly ignore you."

The 41-year-old brainy beauty was the picture of cool: Wearing a "mod" A-line black linen summer dress, her spiky blonde hair grown out a bit from the near buzz-cut she was sporting. Stone was challenging in her delivery, yet smiling - and made most of her remarks extemporaneously.

She talked about what it was like to be interviewed and then read the story later, "and wonder what the hell happened!"

Although, she added, that can be a mixed blessing. As often as the story can turn out negatively, she said,

"Sometimes I am younger, smarter, wittier and much, much wilder. . . . " Which was fine, she joked, because she wants her grandchildren to hear those stories "when I'm a withered-up old broad."

Stone also found examples of how she and the news media had much in common. "I think we both try to speak out to the world," she said. "You cover the slow-motion car crash that is humanity . . . and I am in the car. My job is to understand emotion and what drives people, and it's yours to write about it."

She also noted that in both worlds - journalism and entertainment - there are "good people and bad people. You have (Washington's on-line muckraker) Matt Drudge, I have Hollywood. On the other hand, we've got people with integrity like Albert Brooks, and you've got Art Buchwald."

She also admitted to a new admiration for the way newspapers run - thanks in large part to her yearlong marriage to Bronstein. "I've learned a lot about the pressure to get a story. I've watched my husband stay up all night trying to get at the truth, and then have to tell a very unpopular version of it."

Stone chided the deadline mania that drives newspaper people, often at the expense of accuracy. "Don't be the first paper to write the story, be the best paper to write the story," she said. She also promoted fact-checking as a method, noting that her office was always happy to verify "anything and everything."

And if newspapers agree to make that a priority, Stone laughed, "For my part, I promise to make better movies!"

During the question-and-answer session, Stone was asked what she thought she owed the media as a celebrity. She responded quickly that she felt anything she did on screen or publicly was fair game to be written about. "But I think people should stay out of my house - and that doesn't mean using long lenses from across the street!"

She spoke somewhat bitterly of seeing her mother shoved to the ground by a crowd of reporters and photographers pursuing her, and feeling guilty - "like I was somehow responsible. I guess I would just say: Treat (celebrities) as you would like to be treated."

Asked about her work for AIDS causes, Stone said she involved herself "so my fame would have some dignity and purpose." And she reiterated a statement that caused a furor earlier this year when she spoke at the UN: "To not provide condoms for both your male and female teenagers is to risk their lives."

Asked whether she believed politicians' private lives should be written about, Stone said only if their personal peccadilloes impacted their ability to do their job. Otherwise, she said, "I care a lot more about homeless children than if the president got a b- -j- ."

When the audience roared with laughter, Stone grimaced.

"Oh, that will be the pull-quote, won't it? You people never change!"



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