By Jessica Whitby
It’s Friday night and I’m sandwiched between US Weekly and Variety at the gala presentation of the Matchstick Men at Roy Thompson Hall. The stars of the movie, Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman are expected on the red carpet anytime soon.
There is an undescribable energy on the red carpet. A sort of anxiety in the air. It’s a surreal experience. There’s so much to take in-the screaming crowd, the blinding camera flashes and the proximity to all the action. A rope is the only thing separating me from the chaos.
Fans have been waiting for hours just to get a glimpse of their favourite stars. Every time a limousine pulls up the crowd goes wild and starts screaming “Nic! Nic!”
A coach bus pulls up to the red carpet, blocking the view of the fans on the sidewalk. People shout obscenely for the bus to move. They don’t want to miss anything. There’s a rumour that the billionaire twins Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are showing up. The press is already snapping pictures when the tinted doors open. Out step three decrepit old men, wearing baseball caps and walking with canes. The photographs cease immediately. Like in Hollywood, it’s not who arrives but how they arrive.
When Nicolas Cage finally shows he takes a while to get down the red carpet, and the photographers are anxious. My media friend Richard approaches and tells me to follow him through the heavily-guarded building doors. Once inside, we are lead down the elevator into the green room. Producers and the actors’ family members are gathered inside drinking and socializing. Richard and I are the only media present!
Everyone knows each other well and I feel out of place. To loosen up I head to the open bar for some alcohol. Before I can drink anything, Cage walks in.
“Hello. I’m Jessica Whitby. I really enjoy your work,” I say to him before shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you. Thank you,” he replies.
Before I can say anything else, someone interrupts. It’s nearly impossible to get more than a few minutes with a star when everyone wants something out of them.
As we head to a party at the Royal Ontario Museum I notice a huge crowd standing outside. Eyes are on us as we walk past security with clipboards. Last year at this time I was sneaking into classy parties. This year I’m invited. It’s amazing how life can go in a complete circle.
I find a spot on the red carpet between the Toronto Star and AOL Canada. From my angle, I can look down on fans waiting for the celebrities to arrive.
A man and two women practically prance down the carpet. They link arms while looking directly at the television crew surrounding them. No one really pays attention. Frustrated, the man says loudly, “I’m famous. Take my picture!” There are snickers in the background.
Once inside the museum I hit the bar. I just love catered events and open bars. It’s funny how a few years ago I came to the ROM for school field trips. Now I’m drinking in the museum.
The people around me sip martinis and take delicate bites of their food. My stomach is aching from hunger. I stuff myself with grilled salmon and coconut sprinkled chicken. I miss my mouth a few times and splatter myself with sauce. I glance around to see if anyone has noticed. I’m safe.
Just as I contemplate leaving around midnight, I see a familiar face looking at me. It takes me a moment to recognize who it is. I look closer and realize it’s Dan Aykroyd. The thing with celebs is that when you see them in person you can’t quite figure out where you know them from.
I walk towards Aykroyd and casually ask if I can have a photo taken with him. He agrees without hesitation. I can see why the media all love him. The photo is snapped and he smiles at me.
“You are looking real great!” he says while winking at me. Why thanks…
I’m a little disappointed at the lack of famous faces. A public relations flack informs me that Neve Campbell was here, surrounded heavily by bodyguards but she’d left.
Before I head out the door I make sure to pick up the free swag being handed out. Celebrities are notorious for attending parties for the free stuff. There are horror stories of top stars getting caught trying to steal more than one loot bag.
The attendant hands me my bag and I can’t conceal my excitement.
“Wow! This is the best part of the night!” I say a little too loudly. I am shot a dirty look. Inside I find free CDs, a disposable camera, an InStyle magazine, a shooter glass and a vodka shaker.
It’s time to go home. As interesting as my night was, time flew by too quickly. I got so caught up with the whirlwind of events that I didn’t really get to live for the moment.
At the end of the day though, celebrities are just like us but richer. When the attendant is not looking, I pick up another loot bag. Why let the celebrities have all the fun?