By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The unintended subtextual degradation behind Luxestar is that the card’s value depends on how much of a celebrity you are. So the very act of accepting the thing means allowing a team of flacks evaluate your worth. I wonder who enters that number into the spreadsheet. And how do they decide? Is there a formula? Billy Baldwin = how much free crap? How about “the girl from Scary Movie”? In the case of Tara Reid, does her card’s total rise or fall as her career devolves into peekaboo nipple scars and tabloid notoriety?
100,000 Thumbs, 50,000 Phones
Among the many Sundance press materials is a handsome 295-page catalog featuring descriptions of all the features, documentaries, shorts, panels, talks, workshops and many bands playing in ASCAP’s official daily music lineup at the Star Bar. Flipping through it is exciting, like planning for college: A vista of opportunity, with dreams of taking Russian lit and karate and foreign policy of the Weimar Republic, all meticulously planned out on paper when deep down you know you’re going to spend the semester playing video games, eating two-for-one Little Caesars crazy sticks and going to parties.
Only here, partying must also be planned in advance. On Saturday there are at least a dozen producers feting their own films with dinners or cocktail receptions; MySpace/Tao commandeered Harry O’s to bring us Mos Def; a bar called Celsius has become a satellite of Cahuenga’s Hotel Café; Filmmakermagazine is celebrating its 15th anniversary at the Delta Sky Lodge; Entertainment Weekly is celebrating, well, Entertainment Weekly, at the Gateway Center; and who knows how many private soirees are under way at the timber-and-stone A-frame villas whose twinkling lights we can see on the hills above downtown. Hollywood has mapped its social structure on Park City, reorganizing its geography according to access. All these events have various levels of exclusivity, depending on host, guests, size and altitude. Last night, I heard, even PBS had an invite-only affair.
11 p.m. — parking is $25 but all the lots are full. The cars on Main are at a dead stop. The sidewalks are crowded with Los Angeles natives wearing strangely well-appointed and fully coordinated winter wardrobes. Fueling the frantic social structure of Sundance is a constant fear that there may be a better party than the one you’re at. There are just 10 days, after all, to get in as much posturing and networking as possible. A hundred thousand thumbs are working 50,000 phones, coordinating and evaluating the evening’s rendezvous opportunities. From my sidekick:
Me: Where U@?
Friend: Heading 2 myspace
Me: can u get in?
Friend: On list +1
Friend: But w/ 3 friends
Friend: Def can’t bring everyone there. Plus last night was too crowded.
Me: Good Mag party supposed to be alright
Friend: Maybe EW later
I never hear back from my much-better-connected party contact. I’m at a mediocre bar where there’s a $20 cover for no reason other than it’s Sundance. Down the street, a storefront has been rented by a magazine called Hollywood Life. I have no idea what that is, despite the fact that I live in Hollywood, but some friends are heading there to celebrate a big movie sale. The door is closed, protected from interlopers by the kind of tall, attractive girl that typically serves as Keeper of the List. Backing her up is a strange show of force — a man with camouflage pants tucked into shiny black boots, a flack vest, utility belt and cop squawk affixed to left clavicle, and the requisite paramilitary flattop. The only thing missing is a black balaclava. It’s party security by way of Special Forces, as if any revelers getting out of line at the Hollywood Lifehouse would quickly discover dude descending upside down from the ceiling to break their necks in one of 17 weak points.
Special Forces turns out to be real friendly once we’re cooled by a producer already inside. (Cooled as in: “They’re cool,” as in: They can enter.) The party feels transplanted directly from any of the clubs in “revitalized” downtown Hollywood. DJ Spider is reading the room pretty well with the wheels of steel. Producers, agents, actors and people who aspire to be producers, agents and actors salute each other unctuously. The vodka tonics are free, but the bartender must be drunk because in four trips to the bar I got either all vodka or just tonic and ice.
What talk about movies I hear mostly relates to business deals. “The lawyers are working it out.” “Is that foreign and domestic?” “They paid how much?” A brief buzz surrounds a rumored after-party at Nick Cannon’s house. When that fizzles, we realize this is where we’re spending the rest of Saturday night. Hollywood Life is our Alamo. And we better make the most of it. What core remains of the party is on the dance floor, couples together, free agents looking for last-minute connections, the rest too drunk to care. DJ Spider plays Dick in a Box and the people go wild, pantomiming, singing and wondering if J.T. will rock that accidental hit when he plays on Tuesday at Celsius. “Oh, man,” says a guy on the edge of my dancing perimeter who’s been cutting up the rug while still wearing his scarf and hat with earflaps, “I’d love to see that shit live.”
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