My REAL Red Carpet Moment With Julia Roberts

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Have you ever been suckered into waiting in line at a club, just to find out it isn’t near capacity on the inside? The ‘busy’ illusion can fool even the most savvy when it comes to just about anything. If there’s a lineup – the club, restaurant, or product must be worth it!

It’s kinda like that with red carpets. There’s a whole lot of hoopla on a red carpet that makes it look it’s something that it’s not. What it IS is a public exercise in celebrity aggrandizing that helps all of us in the biz sell something. The grand illusion of a red carpet is the epitome of show business. The business of show. All us players know how it goes: the celebrities show up to promote their movies, we press show up to get interviews that help sell our shows and their movies all at once.

IMAGE 1 kim on red carpet coral dress

We all dress up in our fanciest threads and lay down a synthetic red carpet to show the world this is a serious affair. Then, we assume our roles and positions…

IMAGE 2 red carpet positions

IMAGE 3 press waiting on red carpet

…wait for a few hours… and let the games begin! Everyone in the biz knows this is a fabricated situation don’t they?

Maybe not. Let me explain.

I was recently working a red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival that the wonderfully talented and genetically gifted Julia Roberts was walking. What started out as a relatively civil affair, turned out to be one of those nutty experiences where reporters start pushing, shoving, and contorting their bodies in an attempt to get a good sound bite from a megastar.

 

IMAGE 4 Julia Roberts media scrum

It’s a situation that no reporter wants to be in. It’s gross. It’s degrading and humiliating. Well, maybe that’s just me. I’m sensitive like that. Clamouring to get the attention of another human being who has been exalted to mortal divinity by virtue of their celebrity status feels beneath me. I know these people are neither divine nor more important that you or me. They’re just actors, performers, musicians, reality show stars…fill in the blank. Even if they’re one of the most respected and celebrated performers of our time, they still inhabit the same plane of existence as me (relatively speaking). They make movies and get paid a lot. I make TV and get paid much less. Either way, we’re all humans existing together doing our jobs – to promote their movies. Yet, there I am, with the throngs of other “lowly” reporters behind that red rope hoping to get some form of genuine interaction from this modern-day deity in a red dress.

IMAGE 5 Julia Roberts smiling side

 

It doesn’t need to be crazy like that. Red carpets are weird enough. They don’t need to be artificially frenzied. If the stars arrived to walk the carpet and ‘do press’ at a decent, respectful time, we could all ask a few questions in a reasonable and civil manner. But that wouldn’t be as sexy as the raucous media mosh that happened that night (and many nights before).

After years of covering red carpets, I’ve decided that it must happen something like this: if there is a ‘huge” star attending a red carpet, someone in that star’s “camp” must decide that it is utterly beneath said precious star to arrive on time and be subjected to addressing each, individual press on the line. Yuck. Doing ALL the press is reserved for the non-stars who really need the publicity. That would be too big a burden and too much to ask of an exalted millionaire demigod like Julia Roberts. So, instead, the BIG stars arrive late enough that they couldn’t possibly do interviews with everyone there. The beauty of this is that it won’t look like their fault. There just wouldn’t be enough time. Sorry.

The celeb ends up spending an inordinate amount of time with the first few positions (reporters for the most popular entertainment news outlets) that by the time they make their way down the line to the less important reporters (read: smaller outlets), the publicists start getting antsy about running out of that precious time. The celebrity handlers then try to expedite the situation by “scrumming’ the remaining reporters.  If you don’t know, “scrumming” is when the publicists tell a group of reporters to “get together” and ask one question between the group…As If!

Talking to a celebrity is not like getting a clip from a politician in a scrum. We don’t need a statement that clarifies their position on a news story of the day. Not really. And it’s not as easy as simply asking ‘who are you wearing’ – one of my least favorite things to utter.  Entertainment journalism is all about personality and unique moments that create original, entertaining content that suits the tone of our specific shows. We all want something different from the actors and, like all press, we all need our mic flash in the shot to distinguish our respective brands. We want a one-on-one exchange in the midst of the chaos so it appears that we have experienced a genuine moment. That’s our currency in the entertainment world. So, scrumming just doesn’t cut it.

Instead what happens, after 5 or 6 of us are indignantly lumped together in some random grouping of outlets, is that we must rise to the occasion and be the first one to get our own content. It’s every reporter for themselves. Who can get Julia’s attention first; whose question will she answer; who can make sure that their microphone is most prominent in the shot? People get loud. They get pushy. Things start to get ugly and gross.  You’ve seen a scrum. You know.

The uglier and louder and more frantic it gets, the more attention it seems to deserve. Onlookers must think something really exciting is happening! What could be going on that elicits so much energy and commotion?! It becomes an event in and of itself – all this fuss.

I hate this part of my job. Julia doesn’t like it either. People are craning and contorting into Matrix-like positions to shove their mics even closer to her face. There’s an elbow in my side and a few cameras hitting the back of my head as I begrudgingly shout a question towards her (in the most natural way I can muster).

“This is insane!” I remark and then ask her what she finds most strange about this whole situation.

Like a tentative, beautiful lamb who’s forced to endure this ridiculous display of desperation, Julia smilingly recoils from the flashy masses of cameras, lights, microphones and overbearing reporters and tries to give quick, polished yet seemingly genuine sound bite to any person who makes eye contact first.

IMAGE 6 _my mouth_ Julia Roberts

At this moment, it was me and she exclaimed: “all these people trying to shove things in my mouth!”

A scene like this makes an impression in the media of the media.  Picture it, a bunch of grown-ass professionals, cordoned off by a rope, careening and lunging towards another grown-ass person on the other side. It is the most bizarre thing to behold. And, so, I understand that if you’re caught off guard you might slip into the mindset that these celebrities are the most important people in the world and the press – just vacuous barnacles trying to attach themselves to such greatness.

Like I said, up until now, I assumed that this impression was held in the minds of spectators only. I assumed that only fans and TV viewers might get caught up in the illusion of it all.

That is, until the day after the Julia red carpet when a colleague and I ran into a well-known Canadian actor/celebrity/red carpet walker outside one of the festival hotels. We struck up a conversation and talk quickly turned to the Julia carpet from the night before. He had seen it on the news.

“That was insane,” we all agreed.

“Amen,” I thought! He feels our pain. He experiences it from a whole different vantage point, but he “gets it”.

But then he remarked how crazy it was that the media was acting as if Julia Roberts was the most important person in the world and ‘how weird was that’?

What? Wait!…He didn’t get it. I felt my chest tighten.

He’s an actor. He’s in the biz. He’s walked plenty of red carpets and he’s smart and I LIKE him. But, he somehow assumed that this red carpet insanity was due to the fact that the media are all glorified super-fans with microphones.

Wow. How disappointing.

I could have let it go, but felt compelled to clarify in a friendly attempt to defend my own honor.

The reporters are simply doing their job, I said. It has nothing to do with our personal feelings about any actor. We have to hustle and jostle and shout because we’ve been sent there to get content for our specific shows. We didn’t just wait in a line of hundreds of other press, squeezed into a 6-inch spot for hours so that we could let the biggest “get” of the night whisk by us in a scrum situation and answer some OTHER reporter’s question. That would be like going all the way to the bank and not putting the deposit in. We would have missed the point. We would have been defeated.

“Ya, I guess,” he pleasantly acquiesced.

I’m not sure my point even registered with him. He might not have thought about any of it past his cigarette break. He was there to promote his own new project to the press after all, so I’m sure the last thing on his mind was what might be going on in the minds of the press. But maybe the next time he’s walking a red carpet he will remember that all us suckers on the other side of the rope aren’t there for the good of our health or to get off on some sort of fantasy interaction with the rich and famous. We’re there to do a job.

So, whatever side of the rope you’re on or if you’re watching it from a distance, don’t be fooled by all the commotion. Its just part of the whole strange fame machine.

We all know that, right?

If you want to check out a little video I made that night click here:

http://www.theloop.ca/living/kim-deon/article/-/a/2728402/The-strange-business-of-being-famous