Paula Froelich’s ‘Mercury in Retrograde’
The queen of the New York City celeb gossip scene writes a chick-lit novel
Paula Froelich is the formerly blonde, newly brunette, second-in-command at Page Six, the New York Post’s popular gossip column. Paula is also the author of Mercury in Retrograde, a bright, funny chick-lit novel, which reads quite a bit like a studded-with- boldface-names Page Six column. Definitely set in Candace Bushnell territory (“I love Candace,” Paula declares), it is about three Manhattan women who are looking, not for sex in the city, but purpose in their lives.
One, an intrepid newspaper reporter named Penelope Mercury, who seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Paula, has lost her job at a New York tabloid. Another, a workaholic lawyer, has been dumped by her two-timing husband.
And the third, a socialite and magazine editor named Lena “Lipstick” Lippencrass, has been cut off by her parents. Poor dear, she is out her $10,000 monthly allowance. No, the others don’t like her at first either, but she turns out to be not only resourceful but talented. The three meet when they move into 148 Sullivan Street, a Soho tenement, which has some upgraded apartments. Paula really lives in the walk-up building that is pictured on the book’s jacket.
Unlike most chick-lit novels since Jane Austen penned the first, Mercury in Retrograde does not end with wedding bells. Our three heroines along the way do turn up some good prospects, but the book is more about the women finding they can cope with the crises in their lives rather than meeting the guys who will solve all problems. Paula told the New York Observer, “I knew I wanted to write a women’s book, but what bothers me about women’s books is that a lot of them are like, ‘And they gave themselves one year to get married!’…It’s really misogynistic in a way.”
Paula’s own glamorous life as a gossip queen just might be even more interesting than her likable heroines. Raised in Cincinnati, she was educated in a convent in Kentucky. “No, I am not Catholic, but there was a wild patch and my mother thought it would be a good idea,” she declares cryptically. She started her career unspectacularly as a clerk in an Ace Hardware store in Los Angeles. In New York, she first worked at a financial newsletter with the very unsexy title Derivatives Weekly. She applied to Page Six with no gossip-writing experience and not very much interest in the celebs and socialites she would be covering. How did she get the job? “I told them I was a good reporter. And I am.”
Since then, for the past nine and a half years, Paula has slipped into her Miu Mius and hit the party circuit, though she admits she does not got out as much as she once did. For the first two years at Page Six, she went out every single night and then, she says, suffered a crack-up and slept for a month. Some of her Page Six experiences include finding Nick Nolte passed out on a toilet with his pants down as well as having various tiffs with various celebrities, including Edie Falco. She has been accused of having a hit list, which she vehemently denies. “Let me make this clear: If you really don’t like somebody, the worst thing you can do is not write about them. If you give them any ink, it propels them forward.”
Still, she can also be quite outspoken about those she writes about. For example, in a recent interview, she told Fox that “Paula Abdul is crazy.” “Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown are crazy.” and “Marie Osmond is crazy.” Yes, Paula is not shy about telling you how she really feels.
But what Paula wants, she claims, is to party less and write more. She is working on a teenage novel about her convent days, and hopes that Mercury in Retrograde will be such a success that she gets a two-book contract. So, please, buy her book. It is a fun read and you will help keep the girl out of her stilletos and cozily at home on Sullivan Street, turning out her entertaining pages, instead of all those juicy Page Six items.