(What follows is a list of rules and observations about covering the A-list celebrity scene that was the St. Louis premiere of The Longest Yard. One thing that is obvious but needs stating anyway is that not all celebrities bother showering their hometown with glitz or giving their time and money to worthwhile charities. For that I must agree with Burt Reynolds when he told me that Nelly is a "class act.")
Where the Red Carpet Ends
1) Print is in the ghetto
The expanse of red carpet that was laid out on Delmar was flanked on one side by media types of every ilk. If this scene was a map of St. Louis, then the print reporters were in Kinloch: The red carpet literally ended just before the bare patch of asphalt where were assembled the reporters from the American, the Post-Dispatch, the AP and, natch, the Riverfront Times. On the ground were pieces of paper laid side by side, designating where the reporters were to stand. While Kevin C. Johnson is admirably svelte, some local reporters are wider than a piece of paper. Suffice to say it was a squeeze. To add insult to near-injury, Adam Sandler evidently doesn't speak to print reporters.
2) Bring a book
One lesson learned through several trips through the high-fashion world is that mostly it involves waiting around. Events like these happen very slowly, and never on time. While most celebrity bashes are book-free, slipping one in your satchel for the dull spots is a good idea.
One good book to put you in the right mood is Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon. Full of gossip both true and untrue about the golden age of Hollywood, the 1981 tome fills your head with tales of Clara Bow sleeping with an entire football team, Fatty Arbuckle's rape trial and Charlie Chaplin's teenie tastes. It puts you in a speculating mood when the A-listers commence walking Spanish down the rug. What will we know about them in twenty years?
3) Don't bring more than one book
If, when slipping Hollywood Babylon into your book bag, you forget to take out the two other, heavier books, you could be hurting. Standing in the hot sun for hours is torture enough without lugging around the Library of Congress with you.
4) Hollywood glitz = Hollywood douche-bags
It was easy to tell the difference between the St. Louis promoters working the event and the ones who flew in from Hollywood. The St. Louis folks were pretty nice, no matter who they were talking to. But the Hollywood PR folks needed PR men themselves -- barking orders, yelling and basically confirming every Hollywood asshole stereotype you may have heard.
5) Entertainment reporters are strange
If you went wandering among the Hollywood TV types further up the red carpet (at least until a douchebag yelled at you), you got to see the weird creatures that make up the on-air talent of celebrity cable. Taking time off from speculating about Michael Jackson's penis, they were so tanned they glowed with excess UV rays. In see-through blouses and spike heels that were painful just to look at, they couldn't have looked more out of place on the Loop if they'd been in full kabuki gear. It's hard to tell if they're human.
6) Burt Reynolds may be a cyborg
The Hollywood talking heads looked positively normal compared to Burt Reynolds. Reynolds is, of course, The Man. But is he a man? He looks like he's still in the Cannonball Run, in that his features look swept back by some unseen g force. Also, although the day was sweltering and Reynolds was wearing a leather jacket, not a bead of sweat was apparent. Perhaps he had his pores removed.
7) Arvin Mitchell is funny
While everyone slowly roasted awaiting for a glimpse of celebrity flesh, St. Louis stand-up comic Arvin Mitchell kept the crowd entertained, conversing with fans and poking fun at everything around (including himself). He was also unabashedly happy about meeting the famous folk who walked by.
8) At 1 mph, nothing is exciting
When Chris Rock arrived, he first went to the barricades to shake hands, drawing cheers from fans and reporters alike. He is, after all, perhaps the funniest man alive. But when his handlers steered him down the red carpet proper, where he had to talk to reporter after reporter, it was hard to maintain enthusiasm. For one thing, perhaps we remembered that this wasn't hilarious standup comic Chris Rock, but his evil twin, mediocre actor Chris Rock. But more important, it is impossible to maintain excitement at anything that is coming at you at three-toed-sloth speed: "Oh, look, here comes Chris Rock! He's coming! Here he comes! Yeah, he's still coming. He'll be here any minute now."
9) Don't learn how sausage or celebrity is made
In your mind, the red carpet is a place where celebs sweep by as flashbulbs pop and fans scramble for a little scrap of glamour. In real life the red carpet is a public-relations assembly line, providing sound bite after sound bite. I heard Reynolds give the same answer to the same question three times while he was in earshot. It made being famous look like a big bore.
10) Nelly needs to buy a watch
I mean, come on. I know rappers are famous for showing up late, but Nelly could shoot for showing up less than an hour late to a movie. Sure, he's already seen it, but still.
11) Meeting celebrities is cool
It was hot, sticky, crowded and fake, but it was still hard to beat the glow that some stars give off. Ozzie Smith was on hand, still looking good -- and nice as hell. Yes, you had to meet those people from American Idol first, but any day when you shake hands with Smith and Rock is a good one.