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Red Carpet Reflections

A Somebody Becomes a Nobody—And Likes It


Sunday, March 3, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that I had become a Nobody. It was at the Directors Guild Award gala where I had gone to support my husband, a Best Director nominee — and former actor — who, unlike me, is as comfortable in front of the camera as behind it. As we stepped onto the Red Carpet, I clutched his arm and wobbled in my too high heels and unaccustomed undergarments, praying that the hors d’oeuvres I had inhaled weren’t stuck between my teeth. Bulbs flashed, people screamed, photographers gesticulated — not for me, as I soon realized, but for the gorgeous young woman walking behind me who happened to be Jennifer Lawrence. I stopped to stare at the new “It” girl, and she smiled, as if to say isn’t this nuts? Then one of the handlers quickly whisked me out of the way so I wouldn’t ruin the shot.

I remember a time when this particular caste system was not quite so rigid. It was 20 years ago, and I was a young producer attending Canada’s version of the Oscars. I had a hot date, a short, tight dress that I had the wardrobe department make shorter and tighter, and a martini glass as my predominant accessory. I felt like a Somebody and had a great time. Nowadays, I still walk the occasional red carpet, but my fashion criteria is something with pockets, my hot date is now my husband, and my cocktail of choice is a cranberry spritzer.

So what has changed (besides my waistline)? How did I go from feeling like a Somebody to a Nobody? Maybe it’s because two decades ago everyone felt like a star; it didn’t matter if you worked behind the camera or in front of it. Today, with our instant tweets, if you’re not a famous face, you’re deleted. But can you really blame anybody? Today’s beautiful people have become even more so, armed with their team of stylists, spray tanners, makeup artists, and botox experts. (I hate to admit it, but Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway are that stunning in person. Rats. Hugh Jackman, Jamie Fox, George Clooney. All gorgeous).

The paparazzi have become voracious, perhaps due to the proliferation of competition. Their insatiable need for The Get has turned the red carpet procession into a gauntlet that is not for the faint of heart. To witness it in person is a quick lesson in human evolution. You have the troglodytes, snapping and yowling; and you have those who walk upright, albeit on five-inch heels. I marveled at how these beautiful people were able to negotiate the ropes so effortlessly, doing the Walk, the Turn, the Hip-Check, flashing that “I’m looking only at you” smile.

Don’t get me wrong. I still like the red carpet—from a spectator’s point of view. It’s all about anticipation, palpable excitement, everyone’s a winner (till they’re not). The gowns are jaw dropping, the jewelry eye-popping, with baubles that could support a small country for years. Ordinarily, this kind of excess is morally reprehensible to me, but somehow I get caught up in the fairy tale of it all and politics be damned.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed the stuff of tabloid dreams: snide remarks, frosty air-kisses, toilet paper trailing Leboutin shoes, sore losers, and snoringly long-winded winners. Intoxication (polite word for stinking drunk) runs high, and I watched in horror as a famous Hollywood producer performed a faceplant into her food halfway through the awards. It’s a good thing her film didn’t win that year. The women’s bathroom is a hubbub of narcissism and insecurity, and the calisthenics necessitated by the couture outfits in a tight cubicle is impressive.

A funny thing happened at the DGA Awards. I discovered I loved being a Nobody, not having to worry about panty lines or fashion faux pas. Instead, I hung out with the rest of the riff-raff. I still had a great time. And no hangover.

Billy Collins & Aimee Mann

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