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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Hollywood and the Premiere

On Sunday I attended the Hollywood premiere of Around the World in 80 Days. This was a Disney movie, so the premiere is full of Disney-esque marketing, gift baskets, product placements, and precise brand management. The stars were not A list, maybe B+ or A- with kids.

Strictly speaking, this is the second premiere I have attended, but the first one in Hollywood. I attended the dreadful Harry Potter 2 movie in New York, crammed into a far corner seat, with other people in the category of "Time Warner may owe you, but they don't owe you much." Because of the way I look, I am often mistaken, no, not for a movie star dammit, but for somebody who might be associated with a movie star. The prevailing opinion is that I am probably an assistant or some kind of flunky, which in Hollywood is a step above waiter. And the frenzied desperation of fans means they'll grab anybody who looks remotely close to their target star, squeeze, and wish hard. And that's the most interesting aspect of the premiere. It's the crowd. It's like watching a Nova program on animal behavior. The effect the crowd has on itself creates an amazing feedback cycle that amplifies the emotions of every individual until you see people screaming, crying, and looking like they literally died and went to heaven. I won't even essay to fathom what's going on here.

Evolutionary biology made us social creatures, but this has got to be some aberration of the gene that coded for it. And most of the crowd are teenagers, the very same kids that disdain authority and adult social convention during the week, show up on the weekend in crowds of undifferentiated peers and scream in unison, or earnestly consume the latest mass-media pap about some otherwise unremarkable actor. Is this desire to affiliate with a person of fame so great that they would make themselves sexually available to somebody who might be affiliated with that target? What's the evolutionary value of that? Ok, dumb question, we can all answer that. My genes aren't selfish enough, since I have never felt that kind of hero worship or fan stirrings in my life. Thank god for modern society, in the old days I would be dead: stoned by my tribe, shunned by the women, and eaten by wild animals I could not see because of my myopia. My only chance would be going for the exalted position of Medicine Man.

Hence I never feel part of the crowd at a premiere (nor part of the pantheon of the idols they worship). Instead I am a social anthropologist, hidden in the camouflage of the glitter and behind the duck blind of tuxedoed support staff, observing the curious behavior of humans in the wild. Then after their social gatherings to follow them to their burrows and, using special fiber optic starlight cameras, observe their mating behaviors. Just kidding.

Seriously, though, this movie wasn't as good an opportunity for observation, since the star was Jackie Chan, and even lust-blinded teenagers realize that he's too old for them. It's only a matter of time until he starts taking the Pat Morita roles as the wizened mentor.

The guy from Jackass had a good reception, though I can't imagine why anybody's genes would want to reproduce with his. That's when a selfish gene is a stupid gene. For a seriously scary link about this, see James Watson's comments.

In this premiere, I had slightly better seats, having graduated to the tier just below "press that we have to invite but really don't want to," like the rather obnoxious and unwashed reviewer from High Times, or the guy from Hustler Magazine who couldn't stop talking about how the Ashley twins were now 18 years old, and how it would be the nadir of his career if he could just get them to pose... Ok, I'm kidding about the seats, and I actually met those guys at another party. But that really was all that guy from Hustler could talk about. The movie was pretty much what you would expect from the previews. The premiere itself was the wonderful anthropology study, but the reason to attend is to attend the afterparties. The afterparty scene is like the Cantina scene from Star Wars. You need a guide, a Jedi Obi-Wan to keep you out of trouble, and it's impossible to get a quiet drink. It is different from private parties, such as the kinds producers will have in Santa Monica. The latter have a ten to one female to male ratio, where as the after parties are more like real parties with less set up. These parties appear to be the closest thing that stars can get to really hanging out without being on guard constantly. Not that they still don't get harassed. They had to use two bouncers to pry my ass off of that gal who played Helen in Troy. But overall everybody is more relaxed and you can find people to talk to. Stars are usually very clear if they are approachable, and arrange their seating accordingly. If the seating circle is closed and everybody looks at you and frowns, then don't approach. If people look and smile, then you can come in.

Don't think I will repeat. Unless it's starring Winona Ryder, whose fanclub I started, to whom I have dedicated a shrine in my basement, and who I routinely follow around. Or was that Natalie Portman? ;-)


Blogger Lauren said...

I would sceam for you from behind the velvet rope, security staff, and paparazzi, just because of that blog entry. Fabulous. I love people who can step back from a situation they are in and really appreciate just what they are witnessing. Darwin would be proud.

6/17/2004 4:34 PM  

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