The Junketeer

Posted: Nov 28, 2005 12:01 AM

“I love doing physical comedy,” comments aging heart-throb Dennis Quaid as we discuss his new film, Yours, Mine and Ours. “My dad turned my brother [Randy Quaid] and I on to the Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy at a young age.” I nod appreciatively, and we both take a sip of our Perriers.

“I love your dress,” I can’t help exclaiming to America’s current sweetheart, Reese Witherspoon, as she enters the interview room. I’m there with six other reporters who are intent on horning in on the quality time Reese and I are supposed to be sharing. “I know, isn’t it great!” she gushes in return, “It’s vintage.”

From there, I stroll down Rodeo Drive, taking in the stream of thin, sullen-looking young things passing by, wondering if it’s the fact that they’re so hungry that makes them all look so angry. And why, I ponder, don’t they buy $2975 handbags instead of $3000 handbags and spend the extra 25 bucks on lunch? Maybe then they would gaze on their shopping bags bearing names like “Gucci Jewelry Boutique” and “Versace” with love, instead of apparently thinking, “I hate you, new pink diamond cocktail ring, I hate you!”

But these thoughts drift out of my head in the balmy California air when I reach the imposing, unmarked glass doors of my hotel, The Regent Beverly Wilshire (you know the one--where Julia Roberts seduced Richard Gere in Pretty Woman). The doorman clears my path, and I stroll in as though I have lived in the lap of luxury my entire life.

Later that evening, indulging in a chocolate soufflé in my ultra-cozy bed made up with linens that probably cost more than my car, I mentally begin constructing the reviews and reports that make these junkets--all-expenses paid trips film studios provide critics, so that we can watch their movies, interview their stars, and, hopefully, recommend their product--necessary. When it’s all over, I am sent home with a commemorative t-shirt, a pre-release soundtrack, and an evening’s worth of stories with which to dazzle my friends.

And while this all sounds terribly glamorous (and it should, because I, of course, am very, very glamorous), believe it or not, like every profession, it has its downsides.

First, there is the issue of knowing when and when not to follow studio directions.

For example, as one might expect on a business related trip, studios advise journalists to attend interviews with actors and filmmakers in business-casual attire.

When I hear business casual, I think nice tailored blouse paired with pinstripe pants and a pair of low-heeled sling-back shoes. Or something along those lines. So, naturally, this is what I wear.

However, when Hollywood hears “business casual,” they think hobo-chic--shredded, overly long jeans; thin-strapped tank tops commonly referred to as “wife-beaters”; and artfully scuffed suede sneakers (evidently the more impractical the material of your athletic shoe, the more it shows you have athletic shoes to spare).

Walking into the press hospitality suite at the Los Angeles Four Seasons, surrounded by urban streetwear-clad reporters from such outlets as Access Hollywood, US Weekly, and MTV News, I feel like the guest speaker at a high school on career day, here to tell the kids about the joys of accounting.

“Well, thanks a lot,” I think, silently cursing Paramount. I too would have worn the clothes I typically reserve for painting my house if only someone had suggested it. But on closer inspection, I realize there’s a trick to dressing poor while still looking wealthy. To achieve the hobo-chic look, your ensemble must be ill-fitting (either excessively tight or excessively baggy) and possibly even stained, it must be accessorized with Cartier watches, two-carat diamond earrings, and other outrageously expensive accoutrements.

These people look like hobos who have just robbed banks.

So though I imagine I’ll be able to find one of my husband’s old undershirts for my next trip, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have any Rolexes hiding anywhere, so I resign myself to looking like a Wall Street in a bustle of Sunset Boulevards.

Then there’s dealing with the staff, or as I like to call them, the studio girls--attractive, vacant-eyed young women somewhere between the ages of 22 and 32 who are officially employed to help you navigate the chaos of the press junket, but unofficially employed to make you feel as if you have no business being there.

“I’m sorry,” says studio girl number one in a slow, modulated cadence as I attempt to enter the press screening of the film I am there to review, “but we don’t have you on the list.” After seeing that this pronouncement is not going to be enough to make me go away, she then finishes suspiciously, “Are you sure you’re supposed to be here?”

“Yes, of course I’m sure,” I reply, “since I can’t see why Paramount would give me this mini-vacation without expecting me to see their movie.” Studio girl number one then looks at studio girl number two who rolls her eyes and shrugs. Studio girl number one then hands me production notes and lets me pass with an exasperated sigh as though by permitting my entrance she is knowingly allowing me to scam her.

And as they glance wearily up and down at me while escorting me to the proper theater, I just know that this is all the fault of my horrible, embarrassing, businesslike Ann Taylor pumps! (Why oh why didn’t somebody tell me that rhinestone-appliqued cowboy boots are really the footwear that screams “journalist!”)

Finally, there’s the issue of dealing with the celebrities themselves, many of whom understandably abhor the whole film promotion process and will only bother hiding that fact for the likes of Mary Hart.

In front of you, lowly internet reporter, they will display noticeable irritation at having to answer any questions remotely related to their actual lives even though these are the same questions they cheerfully answered for Vogue magazine last week and will cheerfully answer again tomorrow for Entertainment Tonight.

“So, such-and-such star of such-and-such movie, I notice your character in this movie has a mother, do you also have a mother, and were you able to use that for your performance?”

"I’m sorry. The question of whether or not I have a mother is too personal. I can’t answer that.”

A good portion of the interview will continue in this manner unless the question is, “How was it for you to work with so-and-so?” And then the answer is always “Brilliant! He/She is just brilliant.” Apparently everyone in Hollywood is “brilliant” and I think how wonderful it must be to work in an industry where everybody’s work is brilliant and no actor is just okay.

So you see even though it’s not digging ditches, staying in five-star hotels, hobnobbing with celebrities and carrying home free goodie bags of movie memorabilia can sometimes be a tough job--at least it can give the old ego a beating. But I’m happy to do it for you, readers, because if we conservatives want to have an influence on Hollywood, we’ve got to be willing to enter the belly of the beast--even if the beast is laughing at our shoes.