This is Awards Season. And in La La Land, that means that all the cool kids (ie, famous folks) get dolled up and hit the red carpets and ballrooms to recognize each other because they’re so “amazing.” Many of them truly are extraordinary actors, directors, producers, writers, etc. Others are just global superstars whose presence at these events generates massive publicity and bigger TV ratings points for the televised awards shows. No one’s curing cancer here, but let’s face it: It’s a system. It’s part of the publicity machine that helps feed and clothe thousands of white- and blue-collar workers with entertainment-related jobs, not to mention gardeners, nannies and rehab clinics. The system works. It’s a slick, perpetual motion machine built on mutually assured egomania and fueled by the public’s insatiable appetite for celebrity news. It’s a world in which “Who are you wearing?” gets asked as if the answer could quite possibly solve world hunger. Of course, revealing the dress designer’s name only encourages the press to dig deeper. “Why do you love it?,” the most enterprising reporters yell from rope line, to which the stars cheerfully respond with succinct but insightful missives like “it’s comfortable” or “it’s red.” Take that, world hunger! Take that!!
For the press, covering an awards event can be a humbling experience. It’s truly like high school. Imagine that the most popular kids in school—the football players, the cheerleaders, the rich kids, etc—all organized their own series of VIP proms and then invited the rest of the school to watch them arrive in hopes they might come over and talk on the way inside. Some of the cool kids are like Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde” or Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless”: They actually care about the freaks and geeks. They talk to everybody, including even those of us relegated to the last stretch of the red carpet. They’re pleasant. They’re respectful. We know they know we know we’re not as cool. But they gracefully decline to bring that to our attention. Others rush past these smaller outlets smiling and waving apologetically… It’s sort of like when you see a homeless person begging from the sidewalk. You don’t want to give money, but you know… ya sorta feel bad. So you just make eye contact and smile. Still others rush past eyes forward, completely ignoring the desperate, pained cries for attention and flailing limbs assaulting their eardrums and peripheral vision, respectively.
To be sure, how the stars work the red carpet can be revealing. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday (where cable cleaned up by the way… subs can check our coverage in CableFAX Daily), some of the biggest stars were also the most gracious, pushing away their nagging publicists as they stopped to chat with a small Minnesota radio station or a 3rd-tier newspaper or a blogger with a cheap video camera. Meryl Streep was ridiculously friendly. George Clooney, who was clearly in a hurry to get inside, still stopped when one female reporter practically lunged over the rope to get his attention. He was all smiles—and probably made her life.
I was wedged between a group of extremely excited (and sequined) indie entertainment writers and an Access Hollywood 2nd-unit crew at the end of the rope line. As it turned out, my seemingly lowest-on-the-totem-pole position quickly got an upgrade as I noticed an AH covert operation underway to snag Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt for an on-camera interview before they disappeared into the bowels of the Shrine Auditorium. Producers scrambled. Cameramen switched out batteries. AH host Shaun Robinson rushed over to grab the mic and deftly corralled Pitt, who gave her a couple minutes on camera. Then came Jolie, who was only behind her beau because she was so busy giving even the lowliest scribes a quote or two. Finally, Robinson pounced on her for a quick interview before the Bradgelina duo disappeared. And with the homecoming king and queen safely inside, the show could finally begin as the rest of the high school filtered into the press room to watch it via closed circuit TV. Hollywood, baby. Hollywood.
(Michael Grebb is executive editor of CableFAX Daily).