For stripper turned screenwriter, fame was 'terrifying'
By Luaine Lee
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
PASADENA, Calif. — Screenwriter Diablo Cody doesn't harbor different personalities like her character in Showtime's "United States of Tara," but she hosts a slew of different lives.
She was a college graduate working in an entry-level job for an ad agency in Chicago when she suddenly picked up and followed a boyfriend to Minneapolis. That wasn't all.
"I still can't explain it — that was when I quit my job and started stripping," she says in an anteroom of a hotel here.
"That was years ago now, so I have a lot of distance from it, and I didn't really understand why I did that. People say that I can't be stopped. I guess I'm more headstrong than I think. They said, 'We couldn't have stopped you if we tried.' I say, 'OK. I guess I didn't know I'm that stubborn.' "
Falling into a new subculture gave her something to blog about. "I brought my computer every day, would sit in the corner. I'd find a nice couch and sit and write while other girls were giving lap dances."
Stripping didn't pay much. "But I made enough to stay alive and suddenly I had something to write about. So every day I would hit the computer and write about the ridiculous day that I had and the girls that were around me and their lives. And that was the blog that got the attention."
Smiling, she says, "It's unfortunate that people only care about sex because if I'd been writing a blog about working in a pet store, I would not be sitting here right now."
Her folks had no clue what she was doing. Her mom, an office manager, and her dad, a government employee in Illinois, thought she was waitressing.
"The very bizarre life change almost had like a paranormal, like a supernatural effect on my life," says Cody, 31, who's wearing a red dress and a cluster of tattoos on her right arm.
"It was the first time I'd ever done something that was a complete deviation from the norm. It made me realize that you can fall pretty hard and come back. It was a lesson for me. It's OK to venture outside of who you are and explore, and you can come back," she says.
"Some girls do that kind of thing and wind up on drugs, and they do this and that. And that never happened to me. I never really strayed morally. So I thought, 'All right, I guess there's something in here. I don't know what. Like maybe I'm a person of substance, maybe I'm just lucky.' "
She was lucky all right. Somebody saw her blogs and encouraged her to try more. To this day she's not sure she can write.
"I doubt myself every single day. I don't know what makes a great writer, she says. "I don't know if I ever would've become a writer if somebody hadn't approached me and said I'm an admirer of your writing, you need to keep at it. So I was lucky enough to have a mentor."
Their teamwork turned into the screenplay for "Juno," a hit comedy about a moxie teenager for which Cody won an Oscar. Once that happened, Cody (whose real name is Brook Busey) was thrust into yet another life — one she wasn't prepared for.
"The scariest part was the sudden visibility. ... And for some reason at the time, the press really latched on to my back-story and my personality. Why I don't know. I do not consider myself a fascinating person, but I was getting a lot of attention for a second there, and it was WAY more than I'm equipped to handle," she says, shaking her head.
"It's terrifying. I just absolutely could not believe that anyone would want to comment on what I was wearing or how much I weighed. I was just not ready for that kind of scrutiny."
"I had to go through so much therapy," she says, laughing. "And I realize this is the dumbest thing in the world to be complaining about, because so many people would love to have that happen ... I'm much happier now."