WELCOME TO PLANET PALTROW

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Ours is the city to which people come in droves to fulfill personal and professional dreams. Here is place to envision meeting and marrying a rock star, with whom you will live in that Village townhouse or 10-room apartment on Park Avenue; or being talked about on Page Six and counting celebs and supermodels among your friends. Adding a movie to your Netflix queue? Pick up the phone and call an Academy Award-winning director. How much oregano should go into the tomato sauce? Reach out to the chef of a five-star restaurant. Have a problem? Call and query a well-respected guru.

I have yet to make that life actually come to fruition. How’s it working out for you?

Gwyneth Paltrow photo by Patrick McMullan

Gwyneth Paltrow photo by Patrick McMullan

Well, it’s working out for Gwyneth Paltrow, who God has clearly smacked with the privileged stick. If you’re willing to put your envy, bitterness and resentment (my top three emotions) in your back pocket, you too can live the dream—vicariously.
Gwyneth has created the website, GOOP. The name is actually a family nickname. The “G” and “P” are her initials and I guess the family added the two “O”s to be funny. Anyway, it’s where she shares the abundance of riches that is her life, so you can “nourish the inner aspect” of yours.

The site has gotten its share of press, with words like “superficial”, “smug” and “clueless” being used to describe it.

But because Gwyneth bills herself as “a product of many places, but a New Yorker through and through,” I felt I owed it to this fellow native to check out the site for myself, and to do so with an open mind.

I’m not trying to fool anyone into thinking that I’m above the fray. Normally, I am right down there leading the fray and having fun doing it. However, as I read the vitriolic comments, it all seemed like a waste of rancor.

Why get worked up over Gwynnie’s charmed life? I actually question whether it is her life that bothers detractors or the fact that she enjoys living it so damn much. It’s like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. You end up making yourself sick, and she keeps rolling along listening to Coldplay.

I chose to embrace rather than rebuff life on Planet Paltrow by sitting back and letting the GOOP wash over me; I imagine myself with long blond hair, a willowy frame, walking in a pair of Tod’s and smelling like Estée Lauder’s “Pleasures.”

I can only describe my GOOP experience as a cyber vacay where there’s no stress, and a simple, chic outfit can cure all woes, and if you need advice on anything from books to recipes to life in general, you reach out to an expert in the field.

First of all, the site is a sight to behold. Designed by renowned New York ad man Peter Arnell, it is sleek, tasteful and patrician (just like Gwyneth). The colors are muted, and simple tabs take you where you need to go; nothing pops up, no collage of pictures or myriad of links to other sites.

On GOOP’s homepage, Gwyneth Paltrow invites visitors to “nourish the inner aspect.”

On GOOP’s homepage, Gwyneth Paltrow invites visitors to “nourish the inner aspect.”

Then there is the content—what a pleasure to read. Because Gwyneth gives a shout out to the GOOP girls who do her research, I will confess that the word “ghostwriter” floated through my head. But at the risk of ill will seeping in here, I choose to believe the prose flow from Gwyneth’s Montblanc. That said, the Paltrows clearly got their money’s worth from Spence, where their daughter must have excelled in Language Arts.

So entrenched did I become in her world that I pretended I could actually use the information about where to imbibe in London, lay my weary head in Paris, and eat New York pizza in L.A.

I was thrilled to see the usually designer-clad Gwyneth’s everyday “uniform” was either a little black dress with different accessories to play the look up or down, or a long sweater paired with black leggings: two ensembles that I could actually duplicate with (cheaper) pieces from my own closet.

Much to some people’s dismay, her blog is not Hollywood-gossipy, but it’s a haven for name-dropping just the same. Because Manhattan is a name-droppers paradise, I’m used to people who find themselves in an elevator with Robert DeNiro for two minutes and call him “Bob” for eternity. However, (I know this is hard to believe) I don’t think Gwyneth makes mention of famous people to impress. I think she refers to them, and so nonchalantly at that, because they’re just who she knows.

Who else would she call up for film recommendations, but Steven (as in Spielberg)? It’s not unusual to ask girlfriends for the heads-up on a good book, except that her girlfriends are Madonna and Christie Turlington. I recall the name Stella brought up as well. And when she has a problem—like with a person whose behavior she was having trouble dealing with—rather than reach for her copies of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success  or A Return to Love, Gwyneth reaches out directly to Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, respectively. (I actually benefited from the advice they posted.) And if she’s going to eat her way across Italy, Mario (as in Batali) is the logical traveling companion.

Shift dress, $545; shoes $995; being on Planet Paltrow, priceless.

Shift dress, $545; shoes $995; being on Planet Paltrow, priceless.

Yes, Gwyneth Paltrow lives on a planet far, far away, where the carpets are red, being bi-coastal and transatlantic is commonplace, and receiving designer clothes gratis is expected. Each day, hours are carved out for yoga/Pilates/cardio; and photo ops and interviews are part of the daily grind. It’s an unrealistic, elitist, pretentious place, indeed.

But since in my world people are losing jobs and homes, a young mother is skiing one moment and being buried the next, money managers steal others’ life savings and executives receive bonuses after sending their companies into ruin, getting out of the mire and into the GOOP means, for a few minutes, life is but a dream.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl writes the New York Gal column for Our Town and West Side Spirit. She has been named Humor Writer of the Month by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

What’s in a Name by Nick Broad

The blogosphere has buzzed with criticism over Gwyneth Paltrow’s website GOOP, even taking aim at the wacky name. Paltrow has since revealed that “Goop” is a nickname of hers, which she chose because it’s “a word that means nothing and could mean anything.”

But are her fellow New Yorkers in the know? We visited Fifth, Madison, Park and Lexington avenues to quiz savvy pedestrians on their knowledge of Paltrow’s web presence.

Most had not heard of the site. When asked if she knew what “GOOP” was, one woman in her 40s, who asked not to be named, replied, “Glop? Gloop? Gloopy gloppy—some kind of ooze?”

This was the general consensus.

However, Lauren and Brett, both in their 20s, dared to guess “an ice cream store” and “a gossip column,” respectively.

When told that the site was Paltrow’s, most people let out a compulsive laugh of disbelief or disinterest. Another woman dismissed the information—“I don’t care,” she said. “I wouldn’t take Gwyneth Paltrow’s advice—she doesn’t appear to be one of the world’s greatest scholars.”

In fact, only one previously unaware pedestrian seemed excited by the news. Theresa, a 43-year-old mother, at first thought GOOP was something slimy. But when asked what she thought about Paltrow running a website, her response was enthusiastic: “Gwyneth’s amazing.”

Only two of the dozen people asked had already heard of the site, and neither seemed impressed. Mindy, 48, confessed to being a regular visitor but added that GOOP had gone downhill recently.

“It’s a little pretentious,” she said.

Anne, a 39-year-old teacher, thought the Oscar-winning actress must have something interesting to share.

“She’s beautiful,” Anne shrugged, “so she must be doing something right.”

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