By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The event space is partitioned into layers. Visualizing it makes me think of those Stephen Biestys cross-section diagrams of castles, or man-of-war galleons under siege, where you can stare and stare and still find something new because every square inch has some intricately detailed thing going on. There is a front layer, the party room, where the event will take place, which Best has further subdivided into distinct areas: a sports-bar lounge, a sports book, three sports bars, a stadium with actual stadium seats, a tournament stage and an open-air dance floor. There is a second, hidden layer, which I’m calling backstage, where the people working the event get themselves organized. This is where the radio girl sits, where the audio-visual tech nerds crouch in front of their monitors, where emergency medical technicians and firemen wait in the wings. And finally there is a beyond-back layer, an open-air alleyway where the catering company is setting up. Concrete walls separate these layers. To move between them, through the open doorways shrouded in wispy gray fabric scrim, is to feel like you are stepping into different worlds.
4:28 p.m. The red carpet has been laid down and taped over with plastic tarp to keep it from getting dirty. The crisscrossed aluminum arch, called a “truss,” has gone up. The rooms are quiet. The music has stopped. The space is cooling down. It is the lull before the storm.
4:30 p.m. A friendly young man from the client’s corporate office, with a shaved head and goatee, introduces himself. I call him “Sexy Bald Guy.” His job is to escort the celebrities. He will walk them from the red carpet to the VIP room. He will show them how to play the video games, possibly bring them a drink. He will do whatever they want, except maybe wash their car. Tonight he is responsible for Michelle Rodriguez and Snoop Dogg. This is your regular job? I ask. You do this often? “Well,” he muses, tugging on the cuffs of his dress shirt, “not really. We don’t get a whole lot of Snoop Doggs up in corporate.”
4:46 p.m. The cones are missing! The neon-orange traffic cones — around a hundred of them — that show the cars where to wind up and down on the street and deposit their celebrity cargo at the start of the red carpet. Emma rifles through a binder thick as a phone book looking for the number of the guy who was supposed to bring the cones, the numbers of other guys who can bring other cones at the last minute. “I know. I’ll call the valet guys,” she says, punching numbers into her cell. “Valet people usually have cones. They can just bring them along.”
5 p.m. The street has been blocked off. Department of Transportation pouches like oven mitts are slung over parking meters and padlocked in place.
5:28 p.m. A note on infrastructure: The outside area where people are going to dance is distinct from the actual outside, as it is fenced off with makeshift walls of shiny black plastic tarp. And the actual outside itself is also partially tarped. In both, there are fences delineating where certain people can and cannot go. Little green tents mushrooming at the periphery are coming along nicely. As is the round bar, like a giant doughnut, that is going up in the middle of the dance floor.
Jeffrey Best is outside, near the red carpet by the velvet-rope area (actually a leather rope). He scoots folding ladders around as men attach banners to the aluminum truss with plastic twisty ties. “Black ones, white ones,” Best says. “Two and two.” His jeans are getting more and more low-slung as he raises both arms to point. Overhead, the billboards for the Church of Scientology and the Broadway Hollywood buildings come alight. A lanky production assistant shimmies backward on top of the truss as if it is a 5-foot monkey bar and not one story off the ground. Doing a party is a cardio workout.
5:38 p.m. Gray scrim fabric is multiplying like lusty bunnies. It covers walls, smoothes imperfections, camouflages power cables. Bolts of fabric lurk in corners. A man in dreadlocks staples fabric and more fabric to the wall over the soccer pit. “See all that gray stuff?” he says, pointing to the walls.
5:50 p.m. Time is moving fast now. Jeffrey Best is moving faster. Best and Beau move around purposefully like sharks. The well-dressed PR people are here, testing out the red carpet. The minutes have a crackly electric feel.
5:53 p.m. The executives arrive: Thin women in black turtlenecks and black slacks with glossy calfskin shoulder bags.
5:54 p.m. A woman with a fuchsia bow tied around her waist flips open her cell phone.
5:56 p.m. A folding chair collapses. A stack of pizza boxes topples.
5:57 p.m. A cell phone rings in a backpack, unattended.
5:58 p.m. I’m starting to smell dinner.
6 p.m. The caterers arrive with aluminum platters of meat covered in foil, plastic trays of mini–hamburger buns, hot-dog buns, pretzels. “Tonight will be mostly concession-type food,” Emma says, “stuff you’d eat at a game. Nothing like, oh, I don’t know, sushi, which people love, but it’s not exactly sports-themed, is it?” Submarine sandwiches the length of two-by-fours float by, carried aloft on the shoulders of pairs of men in white chef’s coats and hairnets. The caterers haul equipment out to the brick alley behind the backstage area. A cook stokes coals in a barbecue pit and sets them on fire with sprays of lighter fluid. The flames flicker in the evening light. The wind is picking up. Piles of backpacks, jackets, purses, sweaters, shopping bags, laptop cases are gathering in corners, near walls, beside entrances and exits. Trash cans are filling up.