I was in Manhattan a few years back to attend New York Comic-Con at the consistently underwhelming convention center out on the Hudson River. (Does NYC deserve a better convention center than Javits? It does.) I was there to work a gauntlet of red carpets. My cameraman and I would interview all the SyFy Channel bottom-feeders, cut-rate VOD horror movie “stars,” and without fail, Kevin Smith.
The director of Clerks is positively ubiquitous at New York Comic-Con. He’s on every red carpet, even if he has nothing whatsoever to do with whatever it is that’s being promoted.
He simply shows up and starts talking about himself. Or Superman. Or both. (Usually both.) Smith always wears his hockey jersey, always sweats profusely and talks fast, and always, always finds a way to squeeze his swollen ego into every damn camera lens in the godforsaken vicinity.
When I arrive for a red carpet, the first thing I do is introduce myself to the red carpet’s point person. Also, for the record, that’s a pro tip. Keep a notepad handy so you can write these things down, OK? You can find the point person by looking for the person who is clutching a clipboard to her chest. You might be wondering who on earth still uses clipboards these days. Why does your local Staples even sell them? I’ll tell you who still uses clipboards: the red carpet point person does.
The point person studies the clipboard with her tired, makeup-free eyes. She finds my name and checks me in. This act gives me a sense of legitimacy. Then she—yes, the point person is almost always a she for some reason—directs me to the section of the carpet that has been allotted for the media outlet that I’m representing. “You guys are down there somewhere,” she says, motioning her arm in a dramatic, carefree fashion. “All the way down.”
The general rule on the red carpet is this: the more vaunted the media outlet you’re representing, the better the position you’re allotted. For example, WABC had a carpet section that was about the size of Jay-Z’s secret parking spot at the Barclay’s Center. This, people, is the red carpet equivalent of a mansion. WABC had already erected a makeshift campground on the spot, complete with the following:
-very advanced camera equipment
-a tray of artisinal sandwiches that used croissants as “buns.”
Note: the croissant bun has been a weak spot for me for 20-plus years.
My cameraman and I were at the opposite end of the carpet from WABC, both literally and figuratively. To locate our far-flung swatch of real estate, I had to double over at the waist like an elderly detective, and inspect the bits of masking tape on the floor. I eventually found a piece of tape that had the words “ELE PLAYGRIND” scrawled on it.
Eighty-percent of the time the point person misspelled our outlet’s name name on the masking tape.
“This is us,” I said, waving my arms at my cameraman and pointing at my feet. He squinted at the bit of masking tape on the floor.
“Yep,” he said. “It’s definitely us.”
ELE PLAYGRIND was positioned between the bluechip media outlets of Hoboken Auto Trader and omgtinalovescelebrities.org. You think I’m joking.
Some good-natured jockeying began. I inadvertently stepped on the shoes of Hoboken Auto Trader, lobbed a few slow-motion elbow jabs at OMG-Tina. “Excuse me, pardon me, coming through,” I said.
It’s like Lord of the Flies down there; you have to claim what’s yours, with violence if need be.
Then, like cattle in a chute, the notables were released.
These were the people we were here to see. The cattle/celebrities looked confused and a bit wide-eyed. Some wore scarves and sipped coffee. They were all curiously small—almost tiny. Celebrities are usually tiny like this, as if they are a somehow tinier, more intensely realized breed of human.
My cameraman and I hunkered down. We grabbed whoever we could grab by the elbow. We began filming and peppering people with questions before the celebrities (or their handlers) had the chance to gauge who we were exactly. In fact, that’s almost always the first bit that winds up getting filmed: the celebrity asking, “Um, who are you exactly?”
This particular red carpet was to celebrate the then-upcoming release of a horror film directed by a man named James Wan. The movie was called The Conjuring.
I grabbed James Wan by the elbow. Wan is a hero to me. I liked Insidious quite a bit (the first two thirds of it anyway). The first Saw films are inventive, if a little grim. Dead Silence is interesting, too.
Wan looked as small and as innocent as a child. The resulting footage, we would later discover, looked like a tiny, immaculately dressed Malaysian boy and I were stranded in a rowboat in the throes of a violent storm of humanity.
I’m not sure how much of the Wan interview footage ELE PLAYGRIND wound up airing.
Not much, I’d guess.
Wan was eventually swallowed again by the teeming masses around us. Then, to my surprise—and probably to his surprise as well—I found myself standing next to actor Patrick Wilson.
Before Patrick Wilson could back away, before his PR handler could advise or dissuade him, my cameraman had the camera on and I had the microphone in Wilson’s charming but bland face. We were rolling.
Science fact: Patrick Wilson is like a sunbeam that figured out how to wear clothes.
Wilson talked about the movie’s story. “It’s about a family with five daughters that moves to a farm house in rural Rhode Island in the early ’70’s, and discovers a secret in the basement,” Wilson said. As he talked, I noticed that the sunbeam and I were wearing the same leather jacket. When I say “the same,” I don’t mean “vaguely similar.” I mean exactly the same: same brand, same zippers, same cut of the jib.
At the end of the interview, as Wilson’s PR flack was hauling him off, I said, “Patrick, we’re twins today.” I pointed at his jacket. Then I pointed at my jacket. “See? Twins.”
Wilson looked back at me. He was confused. I figured that I had to spell this out for him. “WE. ARE. WEARING. THE SAME. JACKET. MAN,” I said.
The leather jacket coincidence thrilled me to no end. The fact that I even owned the same jacket that a movie star owned, let alone happened to be wearing the jacket on the very day that the movie star and I met—well, this was a glorious wave that I would ride for the rest of the day.
But as Wilson and the jacket was being swallowed by the New York Comic-Con crowds, I could see the look of abject horror on his face. He had been wearing the same stylish jacket that a reporter happened to be wearing on a crummy red carpet, in the crummy Javits Center.
I would go on to wear my jacket with a little more pride after that day. I would wear it on ELE PLAYGRIND a thousand times, at least.
But I doubt if Patrick Wilson ever wore his jacket again after that.