By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
THE RED CARPET
7:59 p.m. The first celebrity arrives to a flurry of strobe lights: Shannon Elizabeth in chic jeans, red sweater, and boots. One young security guy with a light-saber-ish metal detector paces the entrance. His suit is impeccably smooth. He smells like cologne. “Be still!” says his partner, Jedi-like. “You are too impatient. All questions will be answered in time.”
8:15 p.m. Mark Wahlberg. Mira Sorvino. People I recognize from movies and TV. People I feel I should recognize from movies and TV. One young gentleman with an earpiece escorts Ms. Sorvino from her limo across the red carpet to the door, at which point a different young gentleman takes over and escorts her from the door to a sofa. Up close, she has long, silky blond hair so fine it seems it might melt under the heat of the spotlights.
8:40 p.m. The cones have made it, and limos glide in like 747s onto a landing strip. Beautiful women in miniskirts and stilettos hover like cranes. Exfoliated skin glows. Lips sparkle. There are women who smell like peppermint, incense, root beer, orchids; men who smell like cigarettes. Metal detectors squeak at belt buckles and pagers and phones. “We only check the women if they’re wearing baggy clothes,” says the young security Jedi. “Otherwise, just the men.” A woman flirts with him, giggling, “Don’t you want to frisk me?”
9 p.m. Guests are playing Kung Fu and Wishi Washi and Plate Spinner on the new Sony EyeToy game, looking like Johnny Mnemonic, swatting at colorful critters on a video monitor. Best’s women are kicking into action. They stalk through the event space, picking up empty bottles, empty cups smudged with lipstick, discarded nacho trays. They empty ashtrays, straighten chairs. Tubs of peanuts and popcorn are carted into each of the tents, along with bags of plastic cups, swizzle sticks and cups of green olives. Backstage, Bryan debriefs his crew: They are to go back to the warehouse in Cerritos, unload the trucks and return after midnight. Exeunt workmen, via the back alleyway. They clamber into the truck and speed away. Enter: shiny Porsches, Jaguars and BMWs via the orange-cone runway.
Julie from the PR company grips her radio: “Still missing Snoop Dogg. Still missing Michelle Rodriguez.” A minute later: “Do we have an ETA on Eve?” A girl with a pass tray walks by. The pass tray is actually a clipboard, like the kind a high school gym coach would carry. On it are a dozen pieces of sushi.
9:20 p.m. More fences go up. More security guards watching. People beg to be allowed to move between spaces. Instead of power drills and saws, guests wield cocktail glasses. Instead of a crown, Mark Wahlberg wears a red baseball cap. People eye him standing near the men’s restroom. They eye him standing beside a sofa in the sports-book area. They eye a girl with a blond bob like a silken guinea pig perched atop her head. (“Did you see her? She is so drunk.”) They eye more girls dandling colorful clutches, bracelets clinking on their wrists as they sip cocktails. The surrealness factor is increasing. It is not so much like being at a party as it is like being an extra in a movie about a party. In the restroom, I eavesdrop on a girl speaking into her cell phone. The restroom, with its regular stalls and regular faucets and regular toilet paper, seems not so glamorous. I cannot see her face. She has a European accent, possibly British, or faux British. “It’s a cool party. Absolutely.” Pause. “Call me if you get in.”
GET YOUR GAME ON
9:40 p.m. “Fasten your seat belts, people! It’s time to rock & roll.” Backstage, the AV section is coming to life. Every single cable at the party — power cables, audio cables, video cables, speaker cables, monitor cables — snakes through an opening the size of a mouse hole in the upper corner of the concrete dividing wall. It is like pulling a hundred strands of yarn through the eye of a darning needle. The AV boys travel heavy. It is as if on the way to the party, they decided to swing by the local Radio Shack and buy everything in the store, and then for good measure, swung by the local Best Buy and bought everything there. Early in the day, they had set up their equipment in a big heap as close as possible to the mouse hole.
Now, nerdy tech guys, who’d been lounging morosely in front of monitors on folding butterfly chairs, perk up. The celebrity gaming tournament is in T-minus-five-minutes. A guy in a black Hawaiian shirt snaps to attention. He spent the afternoon creating a PowerPoint presentation of all the celebrity players’ names. “Michelle didn’t show up?” he asks, and deletes her name from the PowerPoint screen. Jerry Porter subs in for Michelle Rodriguez. He’ll be playing against Orlando Bloom.
“Go,” says the AV commander, and the sound cues up.
“Welcome to the PlayStation 2 Triple Double,” says the announcer. Jeffrey Best bites into an apple as he watches the monitors. Little video basketball players dribble and shoot on giant screens.