Sprawled across a moss-green couch, tucked into the corner of a conspicuously small bedroom at the Mercer Hotel in New York, Lindsay Lohan, her long, blonde hair falling in her freckled face, her multitude of bracelets jangling, her smoking cigarette held aloft, is giggling, uncontrollably. So too are her close friends, D.J. Samantha Ronson and Lohan's personal assistant Jenni Munro, who are lying next to each other on the large white bed, crying with laughter. Ronson composes herself just enough to continue reciting aloud from the reason for the commotion: an online blog she found on her BlackBerry. She stands up, black fedora cocked to one side, and adopts a stern voice: "Lindsay Lohan has been out partying and drinking every night since she arrived in New York [a week earlier, from L.A. where she lives]. So, rehab didn't work for her at all. What the hell was she doing in there? While everyone else was getting treated for addictions she was probably playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, clapping her hands excitedly, going 'Look at the hippos eat! They're so hungry!'"
Contorting in hysterics, Lohan pulls her knees up to her chest and buries her face in her oversize cashmere scarf. "I did checkers!" she exclaims, laughing.
Once the hilarity has subsided, she sits up and looks over at Ronson, who is still chuckling to herself. "What else did they say about me?" she asks.
Ronson continues reading: "When one of the employees taps her on the shoulder to let her know a meeting is about to start, she orders a Cosmopolitan and takes a nap."
More giggles, and it's beginning to feel like a slumber party in here.
"See now that...It's fine," says Lohan. "I can totally laugh at myself. But if..."
"Oh, if it was mean I wouldn't have read it to you," says Ronson, quickly.
"That's true," says Munro, earnestly. "And we wouldn't laugh at it."
And with that, the friends go back to trying to find more mentions of their social life on the Internet, and Lohan lights another cigarette, inhales, exhales, and turns her attention back to the interview.
"This is why it's such a big deal, and why I get so worried," she says, absent-mindedly braiding her hair, one hand clad with finger-less, studded Chanel glove. "I'm at the point where...oh my God..I'm going to go out! I work hard enough and I know how to take care of myself. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. I will say, though, that it's so much harder to stay sober in New York. Though it's hard in L.A. not to go out, it gets lonely. Being an actress is lonely, and I never want to be alone. I hate sleeping alone."
This meeting was meant to happen in L.A., a week earlier. That morning, however, Lohan's publicist called to inform me that her client was, a little ironically, in New York and that, yes, I had gone to L.A. for nothing. When I ask Lohan about it she simply says: "Yeah...I couldn't do it. My little brother [Michael] and sisters [Ali and Dakota] really wanted me to stay in New York." She shrugs, and goes to the mini-bar, from which she takes a large bottle of water. "There are Marlboro Reds over here!" she says triumphantly, to no one in particular. On the way back over to the couch she reaches into her large black Chanel bag on the bed and gets out her BlackBerry. After scrolling quickly through new messages ("67") she discards it, then looks around, as if noticing her surroundings for the first time. "I like it in here," she declares. "It's...cozy."
Tonight, the room is set up in that dim, brooding way that rooms in boutique hotels so often are when you first check into them—the few lamps are turned down, and the unremarkable music is so quiet that it's almost inaudible. Everything—except the sugar packets, which Lohan has strewn across the eliptical table in order to use the bowl as an ashtray—is in its place. Outside, the snow is falling heavily over the city. It's lying thick on the skeletal fire escape, which is sihouetted against the streetlamps on the other side of the window, and piled high on the sidewalks, making them practically impassable.
Not that the weather has slowed Lohan down. The previous night, at The Plumm nightclub in Chelsea, Ronson stopped a record halfway through her midnight set, shouting angrily to the crowd of photographers gathered in front of the D.J. booth trying to take pictures of Lohan, who was there with her: "I will not play another fucking record if I see another fucking flash. Do you want to be in a fucking quiet club?" They didn't, and the show went on. But the pictures that emerged in the press this morning have only prompted further speculation that Lohan has fallen back off the wagon she so publicly climbed onto over a month ago when she checked herself into Wonderland, a residential rehabilitation center for the treatment of substance abuse in L.A.
When I ask why specifically she decided to go to rehab, she is slightly hesistant. "It was a lot of stuff," she says. "It was...you know, drinking. It was..." and here she stumbles uncharacteristically over her words, but quickly regains her composure. "Ultimately, people that are around me in my life know that if I want to do something then I'm going to do it, and you can't stand in my way. I'm a tough cookie." She laughs. "And I'm Irish-Italian so I've got a really bad temper." A deep drag of a cigarette. "A lot of it for me was like clearing my head, because I'm not really like a crazy addict. I mean: I enjoy having sex..." She descends into laughter again.
"I think that, first of all, it's just to make me look bad while I'm trying to take care of myself, because drama is more interesting," she says, running her hand, fingers apart, through her hair. "But I also think that at Wonderland they didn't really get that I was working, too [filming thriller I Know Who Killed Me]. I was making a movie and trying to get sober. I can't just sit still somewhere all day—I mean that was the point of going—but I was working so I'd be like 'OK, wait, I don't understand how I can be going to work but I can't go take a drive because I need to clear my head'...'cause they expect someone to go and get loaded or something." And here she pauses, perhaps remembering that she is still an outpatient at the center, one who is required to go in at regular intervals for tests, and who might do well to avoid criticizing it in public. "They have to treat everyone as though it's the worst thing possible," she continues. "It's standard. But I was like, 'No, I'm just here because there were helicopters outside of my house and I feel safe here and I just want to not be seen out.' And I'm a social person. I enjoy music. That's my life. It's not because I'm going out and going crazy. I don't enjoy getting fucked up, and I don't do well. But people [at Wonderland] weren't used to me. They've had other celebrities there, just never as hardcore as me."
What do you mean, hardcore? I ask.
"I mean like paparazzi sitting outside of the house and taking pictures from far away. Helicopters. The people there didn't get why, when we would go to meetings, instead of being in the back of the car I would be like 'I think I should drive, because they are going to chase you and it's going to be scary and we might get in an accident, and we don't need that.'"
You actually prefer to be the one driving when you're being chased?
"Yeah, because I can be calm," she says. Then she grins, michievously ."And once in a while, because it's fun."
So you literally race them?
A smile. "I have, yeah."
Are you sober now?
Lohan is not a young woman who is easily fazed. Not by the paparazzi, whom she readily admits to posing for: "My mom sent me a picture from last night and said 'You guys look really happy!' And I will say that, OK, I was totally posing last night, the whole time. 'Cause I know there is going to be a picture somewhere, and it's a recipe for disaster if I make one wrong move, so I've learned how to handle it: just be polite, smile." Not by tabloid journalists ("Page Six like to target me everyday, for no reason...but whatever"), and certainly not by me. "Look, I'm not going to fucking lie to you. Ask the questions: I'll answer them...I say too much sometimes, but I'm honest, that's the important thing." She's convivial, buoyant, and surprisingly frank, rambling on in mostly unchecked discourses until she eventually arrives at the point she started out to make. When I ask what qualities she looks for in the people she surrounds herself with she answers immediately: "Loyalty. Don't fucking lie to me. I can read right through people. And you can't lie to an actress, I mean, that's just stupid!" More laughter. A lifetime spent having people fuss over her (Lohan was signed by Ford models at the age of three and has been working pretty much ever since), seems to have left Lohan confident, rather than arrogant, a young woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.
"As a kid, I always wanted to be the center of attention," she says. I always did shows for my dolls..I was wanting to work from God knows how old."
She didn't have to wait long: Lohan's first acting gig was a piece of garbage on the Late Show with David Letterman, when she was seven. A role that does of couse beg the question: Exactly what kind of trash were you?
A giggle. "Oh my God, things found on the floor of the D train! And Lacey Chabert was a stun gun."
After that, Lohan's early career was steered by Disney, and roles in Parent Trap (which she calls "a turning point"), Freaky Friday, and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen established her as something of a deity amongst the Nickelodeon crowd ("I still have four-year-olds come up to me, it's so bizarre"). Then, she went through puberty and in quick succession came the brilliant, Tina Fey-helmed Mean Girls, a couple of appearances hosting Saturday Night Live ("I want to do that again") and a role in Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. Suddenly, Lohan had become an international superstar. The gossip rags became obsessed with her lifestyle—the weightloss, the boyfriends, the living, and partying, in the Chateau Marmont (for almost two years), the shopping, and the clothes. And, what's more, the most famous teenager in the world actually seemed to enjoy it. Court it, even.
"I get embarrassed about the paparazzi if I'm in a chic restaurant, or when I was in the AA meetings," she says. "I felt really disrespectful because those people are doing that for themselves and it's no one else's business. But that was the only time it was embarrassing—other times, I obviously like it." A pause, and a demure smile. "I wouldn't ever want them to not take my picture," she says. "I'd be worried. I'd be like, 'Do people not care about me?'"
I don't think I have ever met anyone who the paparazzi hound as much as you, I say.
"I don't think I have, either," she replies, thinking about it for a moment, and still braiding her hair. "I said the other day: 'I feel like they hound me more than they hound Madonna' and she's someone that I've always aspired to be like..." She trails off, trying to recall another example of her celebrity. "There are times when I'm just like 'Fuck! Wow!' People know me! Hm...Oh, the Chanel store!" she suddenly exclaims, loudly. From the bed, there are knowing chuckles. "I was in there yesterday—Chanel's my thing. Love Karl Lagerfeld, all that jazz. So I walk in and it started to fill up with paparazzi and they were like 'Do you want us to lock the doors?' I was like 'Yeah, you probably should, because it's going to get crazy and I really want to shop right now.' And so they lock the doors and I'm taking everything from the store...I think I should be a stylist. I mean; I saved another room at the Chateau Marmont for a year that was just a closet! That's not normal! I talk about my impulses with my therapist—I have a shopping problem; I love to shop too much."
The press coverage of Lohan's most recent visit to New York has been even more frenzied than usual due to sightings of her with Jude Law. In the eyes of the tabloids, at least, he is her latest boyfriend.
How do you react when you are hanging out with people like Jude and the press say, 'Oh, she must be sleeping with him?' I ask.
She hesitates slightly, and smiles. "Well, in the past it would suck...they would just name every older man...I mean I would be dead if I'd slept with that many people! But I know it's going to happen. But certain people..." A grin. "Certain people are true."
Are you in a relationship at the moment?
"I don't know, I'd like to be..." She giggles.
"I mean obviously..." She braids her hair a little quicker and looks down at her lap. "Obviously there's someone I like."
She looks up coyly from under her preposterously long eyelashes. "I mean, I like being able to be in different relationships...being able to see a few people. And I'm not into cheating. It's better not to be in a relationship. I'm having fun right now. There's obviously someone I like."
Do you just want to name names to avoid speculation?
"But they're already speculating! I realize that...when I was in the same hotel. So..." and she descends into laughter again, shaking her hair all around her like a lion cub that's just woken up.
This year sees the release of two movies that should, once and for all, establish Lohan as a serious actress, regardless of her lifestyle choices. In I Know Who Killed Me, Lohan plays Aubrey Flemming, a younger woman who is rescued after being abducted and tortured by a serial killer.
"Yeah, it kind of fucked my head up a little bit, just because it was so intense," she says. "Chris Siverston [the director] is a fucking genius. We made a deal that I will do any film he wants me to do. I don't think there has been a role for an actress like this movie was for me in so long." She's talking so quickly now the words are almost overlapping. "At first I was like 'I can't do this, I'm getting my leg cut off. I don't want to look like that in scenes, I want to look decent!' But that was just me being young and stupid. And I have my first sex scene in it, which I always said I wouldn't do...I wanted to do this movie so people can see that I'm a fucking actress and I've been doing it forever and it's about time people see that. It felt so good to really act." She pauses, takes a swig of water, and a drag on her cigarette. "I just pray people won't rip me apart for it, and be negative..."
Before that there's Georgia Rule, in which Lohan stars alongside Felicity Huffman and Jane Fonda as an uncontrollable, rebellious teenager. Not much of a stretch, it's safe to assume. A great deal was made of Fonda's comments in the press on Lohan's professionalism during filming but they seem to have made up now. "She was just trying to help. They always try and do that with younger actresses," she says. "Jane's amazing. She's still hot. And sexy. And..." she taps a huge, orange Hermes bangle on her left wrist, "we have matching bracelets!"
She has also signed on to co-star alongside Keira Knightly, in The Best Time of our Lives, about the life of poet Dylan Thomas, and is looking forward to making her third album, in August. "I'm really serious about it," she says. "I'm not fucking around this time. I want to do a tour like Madonna. I want to do what Britney was doing. I want to work with Pharell, and Justin Timberlake, and Timbaland." And, more often than not, Lohan gets what she wants.
Later that night, I meet up with Lohan and her friends at Stereo, a club in Chelsea, where Ronson is scheduled to D.J. Almost immeditately after sitting down in the corner booth, at about 1 a.m., I am told that everything that happens tonight will be off the record.
And why shouldn't it be? What's so wrong with a 20-year-old girl who enjoys going out and having a good time? Earlier, Lohan had said, "I'm afraid of drinking out of water bottles anymore because they're like 'Oh she has clear liquid.' The thing with the press, and why they need to leave me the fuck alone for a little bit, is because I don't want that distracting from my work. I want to get a nomination. I want to win an Oscar. I want to be known for more than, like, going out. For being 'the party girl.' I hate that. I bust my ass when I'm filming and when I have time off, yeah, I like to go out and dance."
Whatever the reaction to the movies, and the record, Lindsay Lohan's profile is only going to get bigger over the next few years. She has a career, and genuine talent behind that personal fortune—she can dance, and play Hungry Hungry Hippos, all she wants.