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Byline: Evgenia Peretz
If you think her dad sounds unpleasant, you should meet the paparazzi. There's "Sam the Skulker," a middle-aged Richard Belzer look-alike-only scary. There's the charmer in the Jaguar, who alternates between sweet-talking the 19-year-old actress and telling her she's a bitch. And then there are the lowlifes on wheels, who dodge pedestrians on North Robertson Boulevard as they chronicle her trips to tanning salons and contribute to her car wrecks, she says, like the one back in October when she totaled her Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG near the Ivy restaurant and cracked her wrist.
"My first instinct was: Get out of this car-they're going to start taking pictures," says Lindsay Lohan, her voice raspy and excited, kicking back at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, her hotel home for the foreseeable future, as her new apartment, off Sunset Boulevard, is being renovated. "I ran into this antiques store that's called Hideaway House Antiques-I mean, the irony of that is just creepy and weird. [The paparazzi] ran down, and I saw them out the window, and I ran into the corner and sat down on this old chair, and I look down and there's blood specks all over the chair! ... I looked at my assistant. I said, 'Buy this chair. It's not getting sold on eBay!'"
It's impressive that Lohan can find humor in it all-given that the tabloids have feasted on her for the past two years, spilling ink in hysterical tones on everything from feuds and fake boobs (which she denies) to the loose-cannon dad, the withering figure, the canoodling sessions with Colin Farrell and other older actors, the on-set meltdowns, and the speculation about drug use. But being in the tabloids' crosshairs wasn't her only problem. "I was sick," she now admits. "I was sick. Everyone was scared. And I was scared, too. I had people sit me down and say, 'You're going to die if you don't take care of yourself.'"
Before we get into all that, the news is that Lohan is no train wreck. In fact, she may be the most compelling and charismatic and real of all the actresses on the very young A-list. Perhaps that's why on the heels of her new romantic comedy, Just My Luck, due out this spring and for which she was paid a reported $7.5 million, she will co-star in Robert Altman's next film, A Prairie Home Companion, opposite Meryl Streep. "She has a quality that is really unusual in actors," says Streep. "And that is that she is very present and alive, almost preternaturally alive, on camera."
She's genuinely fun to be with-affectionate, unguarded, mischievous, and a little loopy. Having lived at the Chateau Marmont for months, she is now the staff's very own Eloise, careening in and out of the kitchen, taking five pieces of chocolate cake to warm up in her suite's microwave; grandly reserving several orders of curried chicken each Thursday because you never know who's going to drop by; and having amazing conversations with total randoms, like that cool, older Australian woman eating here the other night, who was, like, really sexy and 40 and had a kid and everything.
The Chateau is full of advantages. If Lohan wants her amazing Lip Venom, she explains, she can just call up her assistant and have her toss it down the stairs. "You can throw things down the staircases here," says the actress, who has put on a few pounds and now looks normal-thin, wearing a white T-shirt and dark jeans tucked into high boots. "It's like a house, it's so weird. I'm like, 'This is my den.' Like, three people were lying on the second floor and walking up to my staircase." She catches herself and lets out a goofy laugh. "My staircase!"
But behind the playfulness there's a serious and emotional young woman. Though she has fallen many times in her life, she clearly has great reserves of strength. She has personally survived so much that at this point she can't help but start to let it out-about her damaged relationship with her father, her loneliness and rootlessness, and the demons inside her that almost made her self-destruct. As they say, she is going there-even while her publicist, Leslie Sloane Zelnik, and mother/co-manager, Dina Lohan, work overtime to play the dark stuff down.
"A lot of people that are my age are sheltered, especially in the industry, and [publicists, managers, and executives] want them to have this O.K. image. I don't have that," she says. "All my decisions are things that I make." Like putting out a hit single, "Confessions of a Broken Heart," not about boys but about a difficult, absent, convict father.
Lohan began writing the song, from her new album, A Little More Personal (Raw), one night while she was sick with the flu in Paris. Hours later, it unleashed such …