If you ever worked in the entertainment industry, a movie premiere was just an extension of your workday. A 5-6 hour extension, if you added in driving and parking. 6 out of 7 movies made by my employers were terrible, but God forbid Big Boss A caught you tacitly admitting this by sneaking out. Part of my job already involved reading very bad scripts and screening very bad independent movies. The last thing I wanted to do in my free time was watch another (probably awful) film. When I got an invitation to the premiere of one of our REALLY big movies with a REALLY big star, the invite went straight into the trash.
Andy fished it out. Andy works for a company where everything is classified. The office buildings have no windows. He has to take polygraph tests. His field is about as far from the smooth-talking, pathological lying culture of Hollywood as you can get. Even his holiday parties are closed to anyone but employees. Andy scanned the premiere invite and gasped. “Seriously? Not going?”
“It’s a pain the ass.”
“But it’s got a REALLY BIG STAR! And there’s a party afterwards at this AWESOME PLACE! And it’s free!”
“Not worth it.”
Andy scanned the invite. “It says you can bring a guest.”
“You wanna go, don’t you?”
“No. I guess not. Not if you don’t want to.” He held the invite over the trashcan. “Is there really a red carpet?”
“And you can actually walk down it? With your, ahem, guest?”
“Yes, but security and handlers all stop you, and you have to wait for stars to take photos, and it’s such a hassle.”
Andy’s smile faded. He let go of the invitation. And sighed mightily.
I sighed martyredly. “Fine. We can go.”
Andy’s face lit up. “What do I wear? A suit?”
“That’s what I’ll be wearing.”
“I’ve got a new tie!” Andy hauled me off to view his closet and play “Project Runway.” FOR TIES. This from a Hawaiian-born guy who likes baggy tee-shirts and jeans. For Andy, dressing up is wearing a polo shirt to work. The siren call of the red carpet had just ensnared another victim.
The day of the premiere, Andy called me four times at work to “finalize our plans.” (Said plans stayed as final as they had been after the first phone call.) He changed his tie color three times. He left work early to trek all the way across LA County in rush hour, paid an ungodly sum of money to park close to the theater in Hollywood, and met me near the front of the theater. We hugged and kissed a few yards from the glistening red carpet.
He stepped back, adjusting the winning tie (purple). “Do you think we’ll wind up on ‘E!?’” Or ‘Entertainment Tonight?’”
“The back of our heads, maybe.”
Andy beamed. “I’m recording both.”
We stepped into the line, into the lights, showed our credentials, and strolled onto the red carpet. We advanced a few feet. Got stopped while the VERY BIG STAR showed off her dress.
Andy let out a loud, outraged gasp while we were waiting. I cocked my head at him.
He pointed down. “It’s not a carpet! It’s a roll of RED ASTROTURF!”
“Oh, sweetie. You didn’t think it would be a real carpet, did you?”
The betrayed look on Andy’s face told me that, yes, he did think that. Poor Andy’s illusions of glamorous Hollywood shredded further as the evening progressed. He couldn’t believe we were only allotted one popcorn and one drink during the movie. (“What? No free Milk Duds?!”) A radio station had given away tons of tickets to rabid fans of the VERY BIG STAR. The movie was – for once – very funny, but we could hardly hear it over the screams and cheers. Getting out of the theater and to the after party was one traffic jam after another. Getting into the party also took forever, what with fans and paparazzi trying to crash it. The party place was packed — but only for us peons. Important execs and stars had the special (and undoubtedly spacious) VIP room. Platters of food were few and far between.
We fought our way to the bar. Andy downed a Maker’s Mark and mournfully told the bartender, “The red carpet is fake.”
The bartender nodded. “The whole town is fake.” She selected an expensive-looking bottle from the top shelf, and poured a generous glass for Andy. “But tonight the drinks are free.”
Andy’s smile returned, with a hint of awe. “You have Jefferson’s Presidential Select!” He clinked his bourbon against my club soda and declared, “We’re going to every premiere from now on!”
Free, expensive, and mood altering compounds = forgiveness.
Hollywood in a nutshell.