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September 08, 2008

A Walk on the Red Carpet

Img_0337Of all the many attractions of Los Angeles, none is more iconic than the movie premiere.

When I was a kid (back in the dark ages of the 1960's), these were big ticket events for big ticket pictures in movie palaces like Grauman's Chinese and the Carthay Circle theater, and the local television stations would broadcast the arrivals of the big stars in their big limos.

Times have changed. Many of the palaces were demolished or converted to multi-plexes (although the Chinese, now part of the Mann chain, remains), and a premiere screening -- sometimes several screenings, in different key cities -- is now standard operating procedure for even low budget flicks, generating dependable photo spreads and interview segments in the many celebrity media shows and publications that have replaced real news coverage in our country.

But even though premieres are more common and less star-studded, there is still a certain cachet to getting an invitation... which is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance of attending Thursday night's Hollywood premiere of Diane English's new movie, "The Women" (to be released on September 12).

My invitation came courtesy of the folks at Dove, the cosmetics giant that has enjoyed great success with its advertising campaign highlighting the real beauty of real women. I am not endorsing their products in this post, but I think their approach to advertising is brilliant, as was their decision to associate with a film that features an all-female cast.

The premiere was held at the Mann Village, just a few blocks from UCLA -- the college my niece is attending. So it made sense to invite her along. We'd been instructed to pick up our tickets from the Dove representative at 6:30, she said she would be at the Starbucks next to the theater.

The paparazzi were already lined up below the klieg lights when we got to the Village. We parked and attempted to cross the street to pick up our tickets, but were stopped by a burly bouncer, who told us that without tickets, we would have to walk to a corner a block away before we could cross.

I wouldn't normally have a problem with this, except for the fact that my feet were already in pain from the "big girl shoes" I'd donned for the occasion. Besides, I was an invited guest! A VIP!

I think I may have sniffed at the guy (who was only doing his job) as I called the press rep who was holding on to our tickets. "No problem," she said. In a flash, she crossed the street to meet us and hand us tickets to the screening and the after-party.

I waved our golden tickets at the bouncer.

"NOW you can cross the street," he said.

I quickly learned how very UN-important a person I was in the scheme of things. Another bouncer approached me when I tried to photograph the arriving stars.

"Who are you with?" he asked.

"Dove," I told him, waving my ticket for good measure.

"You can't take pictures here," he said. I've been to plenty of screenings where we were not even allowed to bring a cell phone. I put my camera away.

The Mann Village is a big, old-fashioned theater, holding some 1400 people. The cast and their family and friends got the choice seats, as did the producers and their parties. The rest of the audience consisted of other production team members, studio folks, publicists and people deemed important to the promotion of the film.

We bloggers were seated about five rows from the front, forcing us to crane our necks upwards to see the screen, but we were in better position than the young people seated in front of us.

The movie began with a presentation by Ms. English, who thanked her family and friends for their support and talked a bit about how she struggled to make a movie with an all-female cast. Then she introduced the cast.

Img_0346At this point, it was obvious that I was not the only one who'd brought a camera; flashes were going off all over the theater. So I joined in.

(At left is the best of the fuzzy results: Diane English, Debi Mazar, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, India Ennenga, Meg Ryan, Debra Messing and Annette Bening. Cloris Leachman and Candice Bergen were on Ms. English's right.)

The film was well-received by the audience, which was admittedly biased. After all, you are not going to diss the efforts of the people who created the movie (some of whom, like Diane English, spent YEARS getting it made) - not when they are sitting beside you.

After the screening, we walked a few blocks to the Napa Valley Grill (the site of the after-party). Again, there were bouncers on a red carpet and crowds of people standing behind ropes; hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars. So were we. After a quick trip through the buffet line, we went inside the restaurant to find a table and discovered that ALL of them were reserved for the cast and producers; none of whom were there yet. We moseyed back outside and commandeered the one empty bar table we could find.

My niece pointed out that the outer "patio" we were on was actually a sidewalk. A tarp had been stretched over poles to create a soft "wall," and we were seated below a traffic signal.

At least, we had a place to sit. This suited my feet, which were a painful reminder of why I don't wear high heels any longer. I watched as more people made their way into the restaurant and had to make do standing (awkward, as the buffet was not high on finger-food).

The evening had been something of a disappointment to my niece. She desperately wanted to catch a closer glimpse of the celebrities. I advised her that her best opportunity to rub shoulders with a star would be to take a trip to the ladies' room, because EVERYBODY ends up there at some point or another -- and you had to pass by the stars' tables to get there.

She returned with the news that she'd seen Steven Spielberg. He's no Will Smith, but hey -- as far as star sightings go, he's a pretty good one. (He is one of the most powerful people in Hollywood, after all.)

I disappointed her further around 11:00, when I announced I needed to go home. It was a school night, after all. The party was thinning out anyway. The movie business has always been one for early risers, which usually comes as a surprise to the East Coast folks who move here. That, and the fact that like those elaborate New York city street sets, once you scratch the surface, it really isn't all that glamorous - just a pretty facade.

An original LA Moms Blog post, cross-posted at our sister site, 50-Something Moms Blog.

Donna Schwartz Mills also muses about the absurdities of life in Southern California at her personal site, SoCal Mom.

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