On June 1st, like clockwork, Monica's image began to go up on the billboard overlooking the designer boutiques in Soho. First a strip of her hair appeared, followed by the smooth, high forehead, and then the eyes: the irises an almost translucent light green encircled by a band of dark gold hazel. And then the mouth: perched on her face like a sweet strawberry surprise, lips open, smiling. Monica was happy. So very, very happy. You looked at her, and suddenly you wanted to be her.
Unless, of course, you were her.
When P.J. Wallis, creator of peachy-skinned, button-nosed good-time girl Monica (of Monica: A Girl's Guide to Being A Girl, its three sequels and four movies) was christened Pandemonia, someone must have looked into a crystal ball. She might have been born into faded elegance in a dilapidated mansion in the Hudson Valley, but after years of struggle Pandy Wallis the fabulously successful author is cutting a swathe through Manhattan, leaving a trail of trashed pool clubs, shrieking girlfriends and empty pink-champagne bottles in her wake. And then there are the men: if it's not movie star Doug Stone with his chiselled jaw and his megawatt smile, it's darkly glamorous celebrity chef husband Jonny Balaga, who brings some very specialised skills to Pandy's table.
But as a Monica on Top billboard as big as Bergdorf Goodman raises its head above the New York skyline, all is not well in P.J. Wallis's world. Jonny Balaga has sunk his teeth into her earnings, her loyal agent Henry is losing patience and her soul-sister, sidekick and saviour - actress Sondrabeth Schnowzer (who also happens to play Monica) - has betrayed her. Worst of all, though, P.J. Wallis has had enough of her lucrative alter ego. Yearning to return to her roots, dodging divorce-lawyers, lightning strikes and a giant revolving Lazy Susan it begins to look like the only way out for Pandemonia is killing Monica - even if it kills her too.