Monday, January 5, 2009

Red Carpet

“Hey Lee-ken. You want to go to a red carpet event?”

In my eight years of LA, I’ve worked red carpet events, covered them as part of free-lancer production crews, but never actually attended one. “What movie?” I ask.

“Waiting in Beijing.”

“Any good?”

“It’s supposed to be trash.”

“I’m there.”

A week later I’m standing at the Fine Arts Theatre off of Wilshire in Beverly Hills, a red carpet extends from a small pavilion to the theatre, a dozen photographers armed with space age cameras prowling outside. Phil and I walk up to the guest relations table, get our tickets, stroll to the tent.

“Hey, back entrance for guests!” a beefy security guard barks.

We round the corner and enter from the “rear” entrance. The tent has several couches, a mini-bar stocked with organic coffee in a can, flat screen TV playing the movie trailer, and a red carpet. Phil scouts for drinks, there is no alcohol to be had. I snatch a can of coffee and ignore the clerk as she expounds upon the new organic coffee that it is now available at Whole Foods.

The tent is cold. We’re early, hardly anyone here. Phil gives the tent the once over. “We should have gone to the bar.”

“Maybe it will pick up.”

Phil introduces himself to a pair of young women, one Asian, one Latina, both in black dresses. They openly praise the film. “So the movie was good?” he asks.

“Oh, we haven’t actually seen it.” The Asian girl gushes. “We just work for the ad agency and are hear to inform guests what it is about.”

“So you’ve seen the trailer?” I ask.

She winces. “No, but we’ve seen the EPK and have read the literature.” She hands me a pamphlet. "What do you do?"

"I'm a writer."

"Oh!" A hand flutters into her purse, hands me a card. "I'm an actress. If you have a role or anything that I'd be good for, let me know!"

I glance at the card. The photo on the front of it looks nothing like her.

Waiters bring out the h'or deurves, eggplant on French bread, chicken and beef skewers set in pineapple, egg rolls and cocktail shrimp. You grab one, then like trained soldiers, the waiters move on, unwilling to let anyone seize a second helping. The food is tasty, but it takes over an hour to get full, filling up on appetizers its like having to take a half dozen MTA buses to get 3 miles.

The first celebrity arrives, Audrina Patridge from MTV’s the Hills. In a low cut blue dress, she is simply stunning. I try not to gape. The crowd turns to stare, they would stare even if she weren’t a quasi-celebrity. She’s the kind of woman two hundred years ago men would have fought duels over.

Ted and Varga arrive, an exotic African-American woman is draped over Varga’s arm. I blink, normally Varga is into exotic Asian women, this is out of character. I pull him aside, “Varga, you’re out of character. Where’s the Asian?”

Varga shakes his head. “No, no. I’m into anything exotic."

I stare at her. She certainly is exotic. After two minutes of exchanging small talk with her friend, the and bold faced blonde with pushed up breasts, I realize I have nothing to talk to them about.


Tori Spelling strolls down the carpet in a white dress and black high heel shoes with straps that dance up her ankles. A few women stare at her enviously. It takes me a moment to realize they are staring at her shoes. "Tori, Tori!" the photographers shout. She hasn't been on 90210 in over 10 years, but when you're Hollywood royalty, you don't need to do anything to be famous.

An exotic looking Asian woman, borderline anorexic with giant kohl eyes enters after her. Bai Ling, Hollywood personality, best known for her guest shot episode on Lost where she gave Jack his tattoo.
She isn't classically beautiful, but there is something about her that is mesmerizing, like a glittering snake with light flashing off its coils. A boy toy sits on her arm.

Audrina, Tori, and Bai would be perfect guests for Hollywood Squares.

Provided it was still on.

I meet a commercial real estate agent, a gay couple upset about Prop 8 (although neither one would ever get married), a film promoter, the GQ boyfriend of the bold faced blonde who is somewhere from West Africa, and an older guy who gazes longingly at the pseudo celebrities. Bored, I try to make small talk with one of the servers, she darts away, looking at me like I'm crazy.


The promoters enter and begin urging people into the theater. The photographers vanish, and like the moon at daybreak, so do the celebrities. People make their way from the tent, down the red carpet, and into the theater where they are offered complimentary popcorn.

I just want my parking validated so I get the hell out of there. I'm stuffed on tasty morsels, delectable treats reserved for weddings and gay restaurants. Not for the first time I quietly wonder what the hell am I doing in LA? The ideal life is not one of riches, but of fame, to be a comic strip in the newspaper so
everyone knows your business; the more everyone talks about you, the more important you are.

Phil, Ted and I make our way to a restaurant/bar a few blocks north on La Cienega. Silent Indian music videos play over a large white wall, but the bartender mixes a mean drink. The place is empty.

Varga and his entourage enter ten minutes later, the bold faced blonde, the GQ model from Mozambique, and the Nubian goddess. Like most good looking people, they walk right by us and sit down at the opposite end of the bar, the six empty stools inbetween us remind me of a mouth missing its six front teeth.

Ted, Phil and I talk about great movies.

They talk about fashion and what Tori Spelling was wearing.

Varga dances between both groups, playing the consummate host. He's got a job promoting an upscale Scotch, and offers to buy us a complimentary round.

The drink is too strong, but I hand it to Ted and he sucks it right down.

Good 'ol Ted.

Varga picks up the tab.

He can buy me Scotch anytime.

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