"So, did you get hit in the face with a ball yet?" one business casual fellow asked another on the interminable line for drinks at last night's Nike-sponsored celebration of "the beautiful game," soccer. Apparently that was the proof that you were really there, dude. "There" was Electronic Arts, a video gaming and graphics megalith on Lincoln Boulevard in Playa Vista, in which the sportswear giant had built a mini soccer field. Corporate teams from "the industry" (that would be the entertainment industry in case you were wondering; I was) kicked around with semi-pro teams from somewhere, maybe Brazil, while a DJ played terrible electro dance music.
"I'm really starting to hate this party," I told Linda, after fifteen minutes in the drink line. My irritability was periodically appeased by the passed appetizers, some of which were Brazilian yummies like chewy cheese balls I could eat dozens of. "There are cute boys here," she pointed out. And it was true, but most of them were playing Nascar 06 or chasing the coolers full of beer the planners dragged out when they realized the drink lines were a buzz killer. (By the way, why do men pour beer into the side of their mouth? Is that supposed to look cool? Is it to protect their capped teeth? I am so not impressed.) Ten minutes later (yes, we were hitting the half hour mark), it became apparent that something had brought the line to a screeching halt. Three very thirsty girls were ordering drinks and then chugging them at the bar while the poor overworked bartender mixed their next round. I'm sorry, but that goes against all cardinal rules of free booze etiquette, so I'm outing them right here.
If you see them coming, form one of those human wall barriers like soccer players do for a penalty kick. And be sure to cup your balls because they'll be angry. Finally in possession of the hands-down worst caipirinha I've ever tasted, I went over to check out the action on the "field." I don't know if there were any genuine futbol superstars out there but it was kind of exciting for a minute. I was especially impressed with the numbers on the backs of the jerseys made of little tiny skulls. How tuff; how un-industry. I took this photograph and then said to myself, I think I went to high school with that guy.
And sure enough it was Josh Oppenheimer, now a successful Hollywood
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screenwriter. We talked about the recent high school reunion in
Westchester that I did not attend, thankfully having just moved across
the country. Josh said that he had a big realization that the source of a lot of the
insecurity and pain he suffered in high school was all in his neurotic
Jewish head; in fact these former torturers and tyrants were actually just nice, good
folk. I told him I was glad that he had made peace with it, but the
fact was, many of the people in our high school were total assholes who
wanted nothing more than to drag others down, and he had good reason to feel insecure. Happily, neither of us are bloated, balding alcoholics
whose glory days are long over, though Josh did remind me that our
varsity soccer team was county champ way back when. After a pseudo-Brazilian carnival number performed by four uncoordinated dancers in feather headdresses ("When are they gonna break into 'Who Let the Dogs Out'?" wondered Doug, another friend who had somehow wandered into this scene),
Linda and I went to the "historical" area, where vintage photographs and facts about soccer were confusingly interspersed with current Nike products and catalog imagery. The actual reason for this event had been effectively veiled until this moment. "Ooh, I want those!" said Linda, descending upon a really cute pair of off-white suede Nike soccer shoes with a red satin swoosh. We schemed about forming an LA Weekly soccer team that would naturally require us to own cute soccer shoes. Maybe it was the caipirinhas talking or just a true, sudden love of the beautiful game, but somewhere over the samba strains I definitely heard the ka-ching of Nike's cash register.
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