It would seem to be one of the very special perks reserved for celebrity types: being asked to walk the Red Carpet at some glamorous function.
What could be more exciting than photographers flashing their cameras saying, "Over here, look this way... one more please?" All the "celebrity" has to do is smile, pose, model and be regal. One might think they have "made it" when directed to the red side of the velvet rope.
For me, it is less a red carpet I have to walk than it is a gauntlet I have to survive. That Velvet Rope is there only to keep me from escaping. I feel completely vulnerable. I don't like the experience. I never have and probably never will. If red is the color of the devil then this carpet must be the path to hell.
There are actually two kinds of Red Carpet experiences. One of them much more tolerable than the other. The best Red Carpet is at an event with which you are directly involved. Sandi and I walked the Red Carpet when I was nominated for a Tony Award; that tops a list of wonderful experiences. It is a well managed professionally conceived high profile event. The New York press is informed. If they haven't read all the releases telling them the reason you are on the red side of the rope, then publicists walk ahead of you quietly reminding them who you are. The photographers pretend to know who you are if even for only that moment in time. As they take your picture or ask their questions they are wishing you well. It makes you feel as if you earned the right to be there. It is just one of the reasons I love New York. A city that thrives on live theater produces great live press events. The fantastic experience of walking the Red Carpet at Radio City Music Hall as a nominee for a Tony Award can only be topped by walking out of Radio City Music Hall on the Red Carpet as a Tony Award winner.
This is Halloween season, Time for scary stories. So in the spirit of Season I will tell you the dark and scary side of the Red Carpet. That side facing all those people taking pictures. Dim the lights, grab a blanket and listen to a cautionary tale. A story that proves, nothing is always as it seems.
Some Red Carpet events are comprised of predominately paparazzi. These are people who make their living selling news pictures in the bountiful digital age of social media. They're mostly hoping to catch some celebrity with his zipper down, or toilet tissue stuck to a starlet's beautiful stiletto high heal shoe. To catch the best angle on an actresses wardrobe malfunction would be a wind fall. In today's market the picture of a recognizable person is valuable, but not as valuable as the picture of a recognizable person misbehaving badly, looking ugly or both.
Along with the Red Carpet photographers there are also video reporters. Theses videographers are looking for the same sound bite or some bizarre quote coming out of the mouth of some Hollywood icon. The advantage of video is the possibility of catching a moving image of a moment of insanity.
Unfortunately for photographers and videographers, I can deliver none of their requirements for a good picture or sound bite. I am not likely to say something bizarre and I am certainly not the level of celebrity they need to sell a photograph. The best they can hope for with a picture of me is to sell it for an article titled , "What ever happened to?" That whole Red Carpet experience becomes a disappointment for them and an embarrassment for me. But this is only the beginning of the Red Carpet horrors. This is where the story turns creepy.
The following reenactment didn't really happen recently or ever ago. But certainly not recently. It's just me remembering thoses Red Carpet nightmares.
I really don't want to walk on the devil's red carpet path. I have never been very good at beating my own drum. I like to be on stage not a path. But they say, how about just some pictures. I say fine, a few pictures are okay, but just no interviews or video okay?
Right this way, and my wife and I herded toward red velvet ropes fencing off a scary path.
As I straighten my coat a bright light blinds my vision and a microphone is thrust toward my face. It is suddenly so hot from the light I catch the scent of my nose hair burning. A stranger who is now my best friend says, "Hi my name is Burton Bertock, host of my video blog entitled, "Hey look who I saw".... and you are???"
I reply, "Jay Johnson".
This is followed by some Burton Bertock rapid eye movement as his brain cells spasm trying to figure out who I am and why I am here.
"Well....uh.... Mr. Johnson. What brings you here to this gala evening?"
"This evening? Well, this evening it was that black limo over there."
"Ha. Ha. That's a good one. Are you a comedian?"
"You tell me... was that funny?"
"I ask the questions on this vlog...What are you looking forward to at tonight's event?"
"I am most looking forward to reaching that bar, just inside the door." I say.
"Oh yes all the celebrity perks, it's a lovely evening for all the celebrities. And why do you support the National Referendum on the Elimination of Genital Warts?"
"Is that what NREGW stands for?"
The video interviewer, off camera quickly checks his notes in a panic.
"Yes, " he is relieved, "Yes, that is what it stands for. Why is it that you support the elimination of genital warts."
"I have a lot of friends in the video blog business who suffer badly from genital warts. I'm here for them and you of course."
Burton's eyes seem to cross at that moment. However, having finished the obligatory questions about the charity he now switches to an actors favorite subject- himself.
"So", Looking as his notes, "uh, Jay Johnson, what are you working on now?"
I have learned that at this point in today's video red carpet video, the interviewers are not listening. They mentally check out the moment they discovered I am not Mark Hamil. There is too much noise in the room to hear what I am saying anyway. Beside the other distractions, coming up behind me on the Red Carpet could be someone they have heard of. The attention span of this new generation of reporters in measured in microseconds. In the 60's Andy Warhol proclaimed everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Today he might revise that prophecy to 15 seconds.
"What are you working on now?"
"I am so glad you asked Burton. After my performance here this evening I will be heading back to the location set of a new movie I am directing. They are holding the night shoot till I can get there. I told the crew and the actors how important this NREGW event was for me tonight and I told the studio I don't care how much it costs; I am supporting the elimination of genital warts in the entertainment industry. Especially as it seems to affect red carpet video bloggers the most. So while I am talking to you here, nothing is being done, there on the project of my life. That is how much I care about those genital warts of yours. I wrote the movie and I'm directing it. There is no physical script, I thought that would just burden the actors, and besides it saves trees when you don't have printed scripts. It's just all up in my head. So that entire project is idle while I am talking to you. I'm here just trying to help find a cure for your nasty place warts. In fact I was just on my iPhone secretly trying to google you and see what stage of infection you are in, but before that information could load I saw the time. I am out of time. It's all the time I have to give the NREGW. I have to go. You are very lucky to be the last one I am talking to here on the Red Carpet. Best wishes with your Video Blog, Burton, and for your sake I hope they find a cure."
That Might not have been..
As you were,