Saturday, July 18, 2009
The Ugly Truth about Red Carpets
People often ask me what my plans are during the summer.
My response is always the same. "Nothing."
"What, aren't you going to work summer school?"
"Nope. Got enough saved up."
"Well, what about travel?"
"Yeah, I might get around to that, might not."
"Surely you'll go to the beach or something and relax."
I shake my head. Why would I get my car, drive through LA traffic, fight for parking and fend off pan-handlers to get sand in my crotch when I could just sleep in bed?
For some reason this offends a lot of people. Sorry if that makes me a "bad American," but I have no desire to build the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth in the city of Angels.
I do however, make time for movies. One of the best things about living in LA is all the free screenings, provided you know the right people and you are on the "list".
One of those people is Phil, and one of those lists is the "Creative Screenwriters," which gives access to its members for free screenings. After the screening the film's writer will typically come out for a Q&A session, but we usually don't stay.
Who the hell wants to listen to a writer?
Today we are going to see "500 Days of Summer," a quirky independent film starring Zooey Deschanel. It gained buzz at Sundance. The screening starts at 7:30, but you have to get in line earlier as sometimes screenings "sell out" because of lack of seats.
In the past year or so, this has become a more and more common occurrence. We typically get dinner, then get in line around 6:30, but as we walk by the theatre there are already a few people in line.
It's only 5:30. It's not a good sign.
"What, do these people have no life?" Phil complains. "Waiting in line for over 2 hours for a Sundance film? Are they crazy?"
I shake my head. The free screenings have started to become a logistical nightmare. We get dinner, but by the time we're back the line has already rounded the block.
We're an hour early, but experience tells me we aren't getting in. I try not to sneer in derision, overlooking the crowd. Are all these people really writers? That's the problem with insider deals in LA, and why the city works so hard to keep it's secrets. As soon as everyone knows about something cool it's soon overrun with Hollywood "wannabee's" and it's no longer cool.
This will be the last time I go to one of these screenings, I think to myself silently. I'm not surprised, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer filled up a year ago and that turkey had already been out in theaters for 6 months.
Across the screen is the Arclight Cinerama Dome. The Cinerama dome is a Hollywood landmark, one of the 3 surviving theaters in the world today that still uses 3 projectors for its gigantic 70mm screen. It's also a frequent host for movie premieres.
Red carpet is rolled out in front as a throng of photographers wait for the stars to arrive. Sightseers crowd the sidewalk, some wait by the limo's hoping to catch a star as they exit, others try their luck by pushing other pedestrians out of the way. A man piggybacks his girlfriend as young women in 5 inch heels flash cleavage in an effort to get closer.
It's a bigger crowd then the one outside the Staple Center for the King of Pop. Above a banner proclaims The Ugly Truth, starring Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, Grey's Anatomy) and up and coming star Gerard Butler (300, P.S. I Love You).
Phil and I decide to go watch the Hurt Locker. (Which maybe the best war film in a decade, and certainly the best about the Iraq War.)
Naturally Phil didn't care for it. But then he doesn't like war films.
As we exit we still see there is a crowd, smaller now, but waiting expectantly for the stars to exit the premiere. Phil sneaks his way in through a back door, looking for drinks and hors d' oeuvres.
"God damn it." he swears.
We mingle in with the crowd, who all chatter excitedly. Katherine Heigl exits, guarded by security, her agent, a manager and several other suits. People crowd around her in an attempt to take a photograph and a picture. She's a tall woman, attractive and classy with movie star chic, but not anymore beautiful then dozens of other LA women I pass on the street every day.
Phil manages to whistle by security in an attempt to get close to take a picture. I stay to the outside and stand near her limo to get a better look. When Heigl exits the theatre the fans go wild. It takes her five minutes to walk thirty feet, and if not for her manager forcing her along she'd probably be trapped outside the theatre the rest of the night.
Next to exit is Yvette Nicole Brown, an African American woman who has made a career out of playing secretaries, stewardesses, and office managers. A few people say hi to her, but she is mostly ignored. She's a character actor, in Hollywood that means you're an actor who gets lots of work, but you're ugly, so get lost.
Then we spot Cheryl Hines from Curb Your Enthusiasm. In a sharp blue dress, she looks great. People want photos, but they don't mob her like Heigl.
Then out comes the star the fans really want to see. Gerard Butler. Hollywood's new leading man. Nothing in Hollywood gets fans more excited then a rising star, and Butler fits the bill. Handsome, charming, and most importantly, from Scotland, he has what it takes to make it Hollywood.
It takes Butler ten minutes to get out the door, and another ten to get to his limo. Women throw themselves at him, they giggle like thirteen year olds who have never been kissed. Most of them are fashionable twenty somethings, but even older women have to be forced back by security.
One heavyset forty something in a pink dress tries to step forward to take a picture, a hefty security guard pushes her back. "Step back ma'am, step back. We don't want the fans to hurt him."
"Oh we would never hurt Gerard Butler." she gushes. "We just adore him! He's just wonderful, we're nothing but respectful of people like him."
The security guard is unmoved. He pushes her back.
Butler looks like he stepped out of the film, his beard is two days unshaven, cut in the George Michael mold of kept untidiness. He smiles and women swoon. He wraps his arms around two at a time as they take photos, he kisses one on the cheek and she laughs hysterically. People surge forward and security pushes them back.
"Sir, we have to go!"
Butler ignores them and signs autographs. He goes from one side of the crowd, then veers to the other, giving everyone a chance to take a photograph. He has raw star power, the kind that makes you like him even if you aren't a fan.
I know because I like him and I'm not a fan.
Then like a comet, he's gone, vanishing into the dark recesses of a limo. The crowd starts to break up.
If you want to attend a red carpet, don't come to the beginning - come at the end. The paparazzi is gone and with them the majority of the fans. You can get in close and have a much better chance of getting an autograph or a photo.
That's the ugly truth, and just one more of Hollywood's dirty little secrets.