Red Carpet Dreams

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I have dreamed of appearing on a red carpet much of my life.

Every awards season – from the Golden Globes to the Oscars to the Emmys – I have curled up on the couch with Rotel dip, chips and chili to watch the stars walk the red carpet.

"Who are you wearing?" Joan Rivers would ask, as cheese dripped from my mouth.

Even in college, I watched the red carpet, much to the horror of my fraternity brothers.

"Why would Cher wear that?" I would wonder aloud, although I secretly admired her screw-you attitude. "Dear God, please let Shirley Maclaine win!" I would scream.

In those youthful days, I dreamed of being a writer. It seemed so far-fetched. Who makes a living as an author? Who writes books for a job?

But I never stopped believing. Or working toward that goal.

And then it happened.

An author always dreams that one of his or her books will be turned into a TV show or movie. We dream that we will get to write the pilot or screenplay, and that work will be nominated for an Emmy or Oscar.

We shouldn't, I know – my focus is always squarely on my current manuscript – but we do. It's human nature to dream.

When I started writing for PEOPLE, I never dreamed I would work a red carpet, as most of my work for them – like nearly all of my writing, book or magazine – is done in coffee-stained sweats or a pilled robe that is from the Carter years that I refuse to part ways with.

Gary and I escape the harsh Michigan winters to Palm Springs for a couple months each year. While one would think I would be more prolific in the winter – what else is there to do when it's a nonstop blizzard? – I do better in the sun. I need the light as inspiration. I need to be outside, running, hiking, getting some vitamin D.

Each year, Palm Springs hosts its international film festival: It's quite a huge event now, along the lines of Sundance, and it draws thousands and thousands of film lovers along with A-list celebrities.

"You should cover it for PEOPLE," Gary said last year. "You're already out here."

He made the dream sound so simple, and yet I never even considered the possibility.

So, I asked my editors, who supported the idea. And then I applied for media credentials, not only for the festival, but for the red carpet and gala event.

I was approved.

"Black tie," the checklist stated. "HIGHLY suggested."

I had never owned a tux. I had rented quite a few in my day – for weddings, mostly – but had never owned one.

When Gary – who had signed up to volunteer for the event once I'd been approved – inquired about tuxes, a stylish friend ( Bella da Ball, hostess with the mostest, social ambassador & fashionista), told him where to find the best buy. 

So who did we wear?

Jacques Penney.

Wade Rouse

Believe it or not, the tip was great: JC Penney not only had the best deals and nice styles, but also it turns out that the J Ferrar slim fit brand fit like a dream and was a steal (I got a gorgeous tux jacket with a very subtle glen plaid for added pop, and Gary looked very handsome in his black tux and purple-and-black bow tie).

I was very nervous as the red carpet approached, stomach-clenching nervous, in fact: What would it be like? Would I get to ask questions I had spent hours preparing? Would the stars be nice? Would I be eaten alive by the other reporters?

That's when reality settled into the dream: Media had to arrive for check-in hours before the red carpet arrivals. Hours.

I found my few inches of space on the red carpet – between PopSugar and US Weekly, and only one down from the wonderful PEOPLE magazine reporter who I met for the first time – and waited. And waited. And waited.

All at once, I heard the crowd scream in the distance, and I knew the stars were on their way. Suddenly, publicists came rushing down the line: Who would like to talk to J. K. Simmons? Does anyone want the cast from Gone Girl? How about Robert Duvall?

Umm, yes, please.

I was able to talk, largely working alongside and with a larger group of reporters, to Julianne Moore, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Laura Dern. Reese Witherspoon and Rosamund Pike rushed by late on the red carpet, after spending most of their time talking to fans. And, sadly, Brad Pitt didn't walk the red carpet.
 Laura Dern

Impressions? Because I know that's what everyone wants to know:

Julianne Moore: Whip smart, sensitive, beautiful, lovely, kind, funny.
Julianne Moore

Laura Dern: Stunning and radiates an inner peace and beauty. (Photo Far Right)

Benedict Cumberbatch & Eddie Redmayne: Intelligent, soft-spoken, sweet, youthful but grounded, piercing eyes and thin.

 Benedict Cumberbatch

Shirley Maclaine: Everything and more I could have imagined.

Mary Hart: Looks good. Real good in person.
 Mary Hart

I was able to chat with the cast of Gone Girl (Go and Detective Boney) about their spot-on Missouri accents, and Eddie Redmayne shared what it was like to be a newlywed.

And the one question we got to shout at Reese? "Who are you wearing?"

"Michael Kors," she smiled, waving.

The gala was long (speeches by Duvall, Pitt, Maclaine went on to their hearts' content), but entertaining. I learned a lot from the other PEOPLE reporter about nuancing questions and then going in for the one thing everyone wanted to know.

I had one glass of wine only over four hours, because at the end I had to file my notes to the editors.
And then? Gary and I got to go the after-party at the Parker. Where I had many glasses of wine.

It was fabulous, over-the-top and star-studded: Though we couldn't get close to Reese and Rosamund, who stayed only briefly, we did get our pictures taken with JK Simmons and the Gone Girl cast (who were a hoot).
        Selfie with "Gone Girl" cast members Carrie Coon (Go) & Kim Dickens (Detective Boney)

 Selfie with J.K. Simmons from, Juno, OZ and Oscar favorite for his newest movie "Whiplash"

And we met lots of new people.

What did I learn the most? People are people, be it celebrities, publicists, media or fans. We all have a job to do, and do our very best every day. 

I also learned that it's good to be nervous. It keeps you excited, on your toes, learning, ready for more exciting adventures.

And we all dream: Dream our movies will be blockbusters, our clients will get get a feature in PEOPLE, our writing will touch people and that we will meet our favorite celebrities.

And now? Now, I dream of something even bigger. Not covering the red carpet, but actually walking the red carpet. As a nominee.

Because who knows?

Isn't that why we dream? Because we must?

And because, every now and then, dreams do come true.