Burn Out

Yelling “Fire” in a Crowded Internet

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably heard mention of the fires that are engulfing Southern California. If you live in Southern California, then that’s all that’s on the news right now. It’s nothing new for us. Fires seem to be more frequent then earthquakes these days — at least memorable ones — not counting the one we had a couple of months ago that was epicentered right below Chino Hills, where I live. Anyway, I’ve always viewed California fires the way I imagine most non-Californians do: with a certain level of detachment since it’s just happening on TV.

This most recent blaze got pretty close this time. It shut down freeways I use and reduced places I pass to cinders. It was one of the few times that I was thankful that my apartment complex requires renter’s insurance as part of the lease agreement. Yet, despite my mother calling me every five minutes to make sure I was OK, I was never in any immediate danger. I am grateful, however, to the friends who checked up on me.

Thanks for that.

Three Days of Los Angeles is Three Days Too Many

As I predicted, I was in a state of perpetual zombie-ness throughout the first half of last week. By Tuesday night, I was driving home on auto-pilot and almost missed my freeway and exit home. Although, I had a great time insofar as I wasn’t bored. New experiences are typically fun — or at least fun to reminisce about — and these events were no different.

Sunday, I drove out to the Hollywood & Highland Center, which is where the Kodak Theater is located. The Kodak Theater is where the Academy Awards are held every year. The center is pretty cool. It’s multi-storied as many levels up as its garage is down and crowded with tourists. Out front you’ll find people dressed as popular film characters, like Jack Sparrow and Iron Man selling photo-ops to the rubes from the country (or a foreign country, for that matter). Are those characters hired by the center? I wonder.

Anyway, the event for the evening was the Behind the Camera Awards, which was held at the Highlands nightclub located at the top of the center. So I get there and make my way up the thousand escalators from where I’m parked next to Satan in the Ninth Level of Hell. Unfortunately, the Hollywood & Highland Center is one of the few outdoor malls that has no directory — or at least not one that was in plain view. So I muddled around a bit near the front where they stock all of those “things to see and do in Los Angeles” pamphlets until finally looked up and saw the club. Once there, I checked in with the event management and picked up my credentials. I was supposed to meet Richard Elfman there for cocktails at 6:30 pm before the ceremony, but he was running late. So I passed the time out front with a cigarette and casual conversation with one of the bouncers.

I was a little worried, because the PR contact said to dress in “cocktail attire” and I wasn’t sure what that was, so I threw together something and hoped it was close enough.

I was disappointed to find that most of the attendees were dressed in suits. I did my best to look nonchalant in order to pull off my getup, waving away servers as they explained the careful construction of whatever appetizer they were carrying as they drifted around the bar area. At length, Richard arrived and he explained that his wife had his phone (That’s why he didn’t respond to my MMS!) and that she was with his brother, Danny at some family thing. Richard, himself, had just come from a church event celebrating Obama’s election, so it was a full day for everybody. We went inside, elbowed our way through the red carpet and downed a couple of cocktails. One nice thing about open bars is that they automatically water down your drinks, which is perfect for a lightweight like me.

The actual event was alright. Richard and I got relegated to the back tables, but we were sat with Corinne Kaplan from Survivor Gabon and her boyfriend. She’s much nicer in real life than some of her interviews I’ve read would lead one to believe. One thing I will add about the Behind the Camera Awards is that whoever ran the technical side did a fabulous job. It was perfectly paced, the clips captured the honorees’ work well and the overall presentation was adequately ritzy while being subdued. Afterwards, we all went upstairs for a quick bite catered by Wolfgang Puck. I typically don’t like to eat when I’m on assignment, so I just sat there and provided polite company while Richard enjoyed his meal. Anyway, you can read my coverage of the Behind the Camera Awards at Buzzine.

The next night was nearly a disaster when I had to be in Westwood for the Quantum of Solace screening. I got off work around 4:30 pm, picked up my buddy in South Pasadena by about 5:30 pm and that left us roughly an hour and a half to get to the movie theater. Even on a Tuesday, driving around and in LA just sucks. The traffic engineering really needs to be updated. I drove down the 110 for the first time in my life and it was leisurely enough, but I have no idea whose idea it was to put stop signs on on-ramps to the freeway. You literally have to go from 0 to 60. Nothing in between. Then, of course, the off-ramps are no better when they share the same lane as the on-ramp traffic, forcing people with no motor- or decision-making skills to deftly weave their vehicles through each other in rush hour traffic. Of course it’s going to fail every time.

Once I actually got into West LA, I thought I was going to be early with 30 minutes to spare, but no! There’s no parking to be had in Westwood! I was literally pulling up to a public parking lot that was open when the attendants plopped down some orange cones to tell me that the car before me just got the last spot. So I was forced to do a frantic outward spiral from my destination until I found parking. It was a clockwise spiral, no less, since you can’t make left turns between certain hours. LA driving is awesome when you have appointments to keep! Luckily for me, parking lot businesses try to build lots wherever a lot will fit, so I was able to find parking on top of some other building where you wouldn’t expect a lot to be. So my buddy and I hot-footed it to the Mann Village Theater while the Mission: Impossible theme song played in our heads. (Sorry James Bond theme song!) We got there just as the movie started.

There’s one thing about watching movies with journalists that I’ll never understand: They clap and cheer in the theater as if it’s a live event, like the actors can hear them or something. It’s one thing to clap reflexively, but to actually give applause is just inane. When I was a kid and George Lucas released Episodes IV-VI redux in the theaters, I remember the commercials for them on TV. The Deathstar blew up and the fake audience clapped. I think that’s where this whole clapping-in-the-movie-theater started, because when I inevitably saw the Star Wars movies in the theater, the audience clapped, presumably because they saw other people just like them clapping on TV.

Anyway, on the way home, my buddy treated me to carne asada fries from a late night Mexican food joint around my old apartment in Fullerton. This monstrosity of food, lathered with sour cream, cheese, refried beans and sundry other artery cloggers probably shaved off a good two years from my end-life.

When I got home, I had a few hours of shut-eye before dragging ass back to work. Then after that, I hit the road again back to LA and to a nightclub on Sunset called Boulevard3. I’ve actually been there before and it’s a pretty sweet club. They outdid themselves this time around. Since the event was for the launch of Shaun White’s snowboarding game (which isn’t getting good reviews) the club was decked out in ice and the girls were all scantily clad snow bunnies, none of whom fell below a mid-9 on the Looks Scale. I kid you not.

Minus the girls, the event was kind of ho-hum. I don’t think any of the confirmed celebrities showed up until after I left, which was around 11 pm or so. I did run into Corinne again and she said that she enjoyed my article on the Behind the Scenes Awards. It’s always nice to know that someone reads my work. 🙂 Speaking of which, you can read my Shaun White Snowboarding launch party coverage at Buzzine.

My favorite part of the evening was eavesdropping on the photographers who got there early like me. Even though they’re from different publications, they all know each other and are friendly. So when they get together, it’s like coworkers gathering around the water cooler to gossip about officemates; except the officemates happen to be celebrities. “So Brad walks in and he stops by the door to talk to someone, but then the Brazilians just rush inside. And Armando’s trying to hold them back, but there’s just too many. So Brad is like going left and going right and he’s not sure where to go, so finally someone takes him to the back.”

Or something like that. It must be a real trip to be so big that people know that other people are talking about you just by your first name.

After all my assignments were completed and articles turned in, it was a relief to stay home this weekend and spend time with family. My niece was born this Saturday. 🙂 But enough of this relaxing! It’s back to LA for me to cover another video game event. This time it’s for Need for Speed Undercover this Thursday. Following that, I’ve got an A-list press junket for an upcoming movie in the works, but details are still sketchy there. I’ll let you all know when I do.

Until next time.