DIARY: Red Carpet Blues

Written by | Columnists and Letters

Wade finds that covering the red carpet isn’t quite the glamorous gig he’d envisioned — then, along comes a legend with some very good advice.

By Wade Rouse

DIARY: Red Carpet Blues

For decades, I watched stars walk the red carpet from my favorite spot: the couch. However, I always dreamed that one day I would actually be there.

A few years back, I started writing for People magazine. That may sound like it would grant me insider access, but my earliest red-carpet coverage never required me to leave my favorite living room front row seat. However, when I told my editors that I wintered in Palm Springs, they asked if I wanted to cover the Palm Springs International Film Festival. I said yes faster than I would to a free cocktail.
For months, I dreamed how the night would unfold — me standing next to Ryan Seacrest, Giuliana Rancic and I fussing over each other’s hair. I obsessed about what to wear and ultimately even invested in a new tuxedo. I prepped questions for the many stars slated to be in attendance, including Reese Witherspoon and Brad Pitt. I could hardly sleep for weeks.

Reality began to intrude on my dream when I learned that media had to arrive for check-in four hours before arrivals. On the day of the event, I joined a line that rivaled that of an American Idol audition. Then, when I finally got to the red carpet, I found roughly six inches of space reserved for me. Even the carpet itself didn’t look so ritzy up close. It reminded me of an old stair runner we used to slide down in our fraternity house.

“What do we do now?” I asked a reporter near me.
“You wait — and then you wait some more,” she said. “Hope you brought a flask.” She wasn’t joking. As the sun dipped behind the mountains, the temperature dropped 20 degrees, and I wished I had a little nip to warm me up.

Finally, the crowds began to scream in the distance. Flashbulbs popped. A phalanx of publicists rushed down the line. “Would you like to talk to Robert Duvall?” said one.
“How about Rosamund Pike?” asked another.

“Yes!” I screamed at women with too-tight faces and pantsuits, and men with man buns.

But as an actual Bond Girl approached, I quickly realized that getting a question answered would require the killer instinct of Bond himself.

High heels trampled my feet. A microphone clobbered me in the head. One woman who had seemed dainty as a sparrow full-on shoved me in the back in an effort to get at Benedict Cumberbatch. Thirty minutes in, I’d barely asked a single question.

Then, as Laura Dern approached, I mentioned (OK, yelled) how much I admired the memoir Wild and how much depth she’d brought to her role in the film adaptation. She zipped toward me, looked me in the eye and began answering questions. She was smart and stunning, radiating peace and beauty. This got me into the groove, and soon I was talking to smart and lovely Julianne Moore, then handsome and surprisingly tiny Eddie Redmayne.

Finally, it grew quiet as we waited for the evening’s marquee stars: Reese and Brad — who entered at the last minute and marched in without answering questions.

I rushed into the “dinner” and took a seat at the table with other journalists, where I began to write furiously as awards were presented. I was so busy that by 9pm, I had yet to eat or even have a glass of wine. However, eventually I was forced to answer the call of nature and dash toward the bathroom where I ran directly into Shirley MacLaine.

I was dumbfounded. I adored Shirley. She reminded me of my mother, in looks and personality. “Terms of Endearment,” I babbled at her. “Give my daughter the shot!”
She looked at me in that way Shirley MacLaine does, and said, “That’s me.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m tired. And I miss my mom. She was a nurse.”

“She’d be proud of you,” she said, looking at my ID. “Are you having any fun? Go have some. That’s what life’s about. And write something big!”With that, she was off.
I went to the table, ordered a glass of wine, sent in my stories, and — despite being exhausted — took my husband to the after-party, where we danced and got selfies with J.K. Simmons and the cast of Gone Girl.

I hope I did Shirley proud.

Wade Rouse’s debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, is now available under the pen name Viola Shipman. For more about his books and workshops, visit waderouse.com.

Last modified: January 17, 2018