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
“How’d you get in here?” my friend Kay asks and hands me a drink.
“Connections,” I say, pointing at the laminates collecting around my neck.
“I see,” she says, raising her glass to me. “You have a chest full of lies.”
None of the badges will help hours later at the door to a party being held by one of the mini-major studios. The security buffer zone is seven men deep. When you give your name to the point man, he passes it back to the guy behind him, who passes it farther back, and so on, like a game of telephone, until it reaches the information officer holding the clipboard. Ahead of me in line, there’s confusion surrounding someone who believes himself to be a Hollywood macher but can’t get in.
“I’m [so-and-so],” he’s complaining, likely with added urgency since he’s with a woman. “And I’m supposed to be in there.”
“I’m not seeing him on here,” reports the information officer, and when that makes it way back to where we’re standing, the macher is livid. “[So-and-so] put me on there,” he says. “Check again.”
The actual sheets of paper with the names are so far away, it is logistically difficult to make your case to the security apparatus, which is probably the point of their tactical configuration. It is by far the most forbidding door I’ve approached at Sundance, but I know my name is on the list. Don’t ask me how, but it’s true, and I will admit to a sense of tremendous satisfaction when I breeze through the gauntlet and leave the abandoned, fuming, putative macher still standing outside.
Two Jack-and-Cokes later, I see Tara Reid up in this piece, but the party’s flat-lining. Half the rooms are empty, and no one is dancing. The paradox of VIP access is that once you get it, you realize there’s nothing very important back there at all. It’s all a well-choreographed deception: Pull back the curtain, and there’s just a little old man pulling levers and scaring people.
Earlier in the week, I had been walking past a party at Harry O’s. The scene out front was like a bread riot, with actual metal fortifications controlling the frantic multitudes. I happened to know one of the people presiding over it all, pointing at the anointed few who were to be granted admission. I waved. My friend pointed at me — “He’s cool” — and the security seas parted. I was with a half dozen friends, but had to leave them behind. It was the cold, hard calculus of Sundance parties: If you can enter, you must. And plus-six ain’t gonna happen. Instantly, I knew it was a mistake. I had no idea who was playing and didn’t care. My friend was too busy pointing at people from the door. The biggest reward of a VIP party, I realized as I was leaving, is the thrill of getting in; more exciting than staying would be to keep going out and getting chosen to come in over and over again.
At the studio party, I’m outside on the smoking patio, where I can hear the seven-layer security team still telling people the party’s too crowded when it is in fact in dire need of people. Lots of “You two are good when the next two people come out” and “She can come in but not her friend.” Now, there are several good reasons for operating a tight door. You may want to keep out the riffraff. You don’t want the fire marshals to shut you down. You probably want delicate control over the demographic mixture in order to maintain your high-octane awesome party atmosphere. But tonight none of these apply, and the policy seems arbitrary, to the detriment of the actual party. The door is rogue, spun off from its source, a mutagenic power regime existing for its own sake.
Or is it? To those waiting in the cold, this still looked like a desirable destination. The aggressive door management is perhaps not about the party itself but how it appears to the public. This is Hollywood by proxy, after all, where even the parties have a Potemkin logic. If everyone were allowed in, it might help the party, but the door would be dead. And that would kill the illusion. For the outside world, the door is the party.
Finally, a movie. It’s my last day at Sundance, and I discover a recently added press screening of David Sington’s documentary, In the Shadow of the Moon. It’s been getting a lot of attention; even more so after ThinkFilm bought it for $2 million. While looking for the theater, I meet a woman named Bern Haase, whose son has a feature in competition called On the Road With Judas. She’s also lost.
“What are you seeing?” she asks.
“A bunch of archival NASA footage of the Apollo lunar landings.”
“Oh, that sounds better than what I was going to see. I’m coming with you.”
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