14
Jan
08

The Art of Elysium & of Meeting Celebrities

img_3161.jpgOn Saturday night, Sam and I attended easily the most glamorous black tie charity event in the city this weekend: Heaven, a benefit for The Art of Elysium. This great organization was founded 10 years ago by the inimitable Jennifer Howell, is strongly supported by Balthazar and Rosetta Getty (wonderfully kind people), and brings actors, artists and musicians together with critically ill children to teach and encourage artistic self-expression as a therapeutic exercise: art, acting, comedy, fashion, music, radio, songwriting, and creative writing. Heaven was not only their biggest event, one of the only remaining “Golden Globes parties” given its proximity to the (canceled) Globes, but also a celebration of the charity’s first decade.

Sam and I walked the red carpet, snapped here and there, passing Roseanne Arquette, and Jason Bateman, until we got to the entrance where we walked down a path formed by twenty gorgeous servers lining the path on either side, holding silver trays of every conceivable cocktail libation one could desire. We opted for the Moët splits, and proceeded to the star-studded lounge area where we circulated and took it all in. There we were – a couple of scattershot hyphenates and prodigals of many stripes – sipping champagne under the stars, and among them: Callista Flockhart, Harrison Ford, Sally Field and the rest of the cast of Brothers & Sisters, Ashley Olsen, Rumer Willis, Ali Larter, a heroin-skinny Jared Leto, Scotty Caan, Roseanne Arquette, David Arquette and Courtney Cox, Sophia Bush (who is staggeringly beautiful), and hunky, charming Howard Bragman, father of Fifteen Minutes. And those are the ones I can remember. Sam and I marveled at it for a moment, and toasted. We’d never been so grateful, and frankly, we never felt more in our element.

Soon thereafter, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi arrived. Sam and I stood twenty feet away, within eye-shot, and taller than most anyway, so she looked directly at us, and as we later learned, right about the time that “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire” was playing overhead and I was singing it into Sam’s ear. I’ll never forget that moment. Sam’s going to blog about the meeting, and I’ll post a link here when he does. We met some really nice people here and there, including a fascinating young artist, Emma Ferreira, whose show we’ll be taking in next weekend. As we finished the salad and moved on to the entrée, I reflected on the evening so far, and how much like a overblown high school prom it really is. It was probably the Moët and the .25mg Xanax that started me thinking in this quasi-philosophical space, where I put together my comportment manifesto for exclusive events and encountering celebrities.

  1. People go to these events to see and be seen, support the charity, or to support their friends who support the charity, or to get the tax deduction and send someone else in their place who would enjoy it more
  2. There are lots of very, very brilliant and important people whom others don’t recognize, so if people don’t recognize you, they assume you’re one of these fabulous unknowns. Don’t demystify them by acting the fool.
  3. rachelcannon.pngCelebrities, no matter how famous, sit and grunt through difficult bowel movements just like the rest of us, (except for my friend, the scorchingly hot and talented actress Rachel Cannon, who does not poo, confirmed) and the result smells just as bad. As crass as it sounds, to re-humanize even the biggest celebrity, nothing beats imagining them on the pot with their drawers around their ankles: people just like us, except their jobs are more visible.
  4. People fawn endlessly over celebrities, and as nice as you may believe that is, they get sick of it. Think of how people with intensely blue eyes ALWAYS hear how beautiful their eyes are. They appreciate the compliment, but would love to hear something else – anything else. Celebrities crave what they get the least of: to be treated ‘like everyone else’, living ‘normal lives’. So if you must engage celebrities, ignore who they are, and where appropriate, make small talk. If you’re do-or-die compelled, “Thank you for (the stand they took on a political issue, animal rights, Bush impeachment, or any other cause of importance other than entertainment) is a GREAT start. “I loved you in…” makes you a fanatic.
  5. Follow your gut. If you get a chilly reception, don’t push – move on. If they look intrigued, go for it.
  6. You can have fun, meaningless, brief interactions with stars without being star-struck by simply acting as if you know them. Celebrities can’t possibly remember everyone they meet, and will assume that they probably have met you. So if you stroll past, and they make eye contact with you, touch her gently on the arm and simply say, “Oh, Hi Callista,” and smile, and keep moving. She’s most likely going to turn to you, smile and say hello back with similar warmth, not knowing who you are, but too busy to ponder it.
  7. If by some chance she has a moment, you can’t keep moving, and you look familiar to her, she may ask your name and where you’ve met. Vagueness and tempo are key here: move it along and bounce it back to her at every opportunity. “Oh, some party last year, but anyway…” and then introduce yourself. She’s not going to press for specifics. Shake her hand and follow immediately with “So I didn’t know you were involved with (charity)”. If she confirms that she is a donor, “that’s fantastic” should keep her rolling some. If she gives of her time, she’ll tell you what she does, and “how do you find the time?” is the follow up. Listen intently and then follow with 25 words or less on how you support the charity. Poof! You have something in common. If you’re good and lucky enough that she’s still engaged in the exchange and relaxed looking, pat yourself on the back and go for, “so how’s the (not-too-personal thing other than her work, like her baby, or new endeavor of which you know she’s proud, but NOT divorce, sex with Harrison, rehab, etc.) coming? If it’s babies, you might be in luck. Mothers (even celebrity Mothers) love to talk about their children, which (if you have children too) will give you an opportunity to briefly relate/commiserate your experience in relation to hers, “Oh I remember the terrible twos…” or “Well, mine are in college, so it’s a lot more peaceful now…”. Ta da! Two things in common, which will result in more conversation. As a good friend of mine once said, “Ask for what you want, and the second you get it, jump out of the window.” You wanted a personal interaction and you got it so show respect for her time and wrap it up with a, “Well, listen I don’t want to keep you, it’s just great to see you again, and you look fantastic.” She will most likely thank you and echo the sentiment to some degree. If either of you are women, and you’ve related in some way, don’t be surprised by a lite hug and air-kiss near the cheek, but at very least another handshake but this time with your second hand clasped on the other side and a look right in the eyes goes perfectly with your warm smile and, “have a great night.” With that, you have had a much cooler experience if only briefly, because you didn’t turn into some freaky, autograph-starved stalker.
  8. If you see a celebrity whom you believe to be single and eligible (and apparently unaccompanied) at a party, and you might be their type – go for it. Flirt. If you’re an attractive, confident, charming woman and you see an apparently solo, eligible George Clooney (and you’re genuinely attracted to him; not his celebrity status or money) it’s nobody’s fault but your own if he leaves the party not having met you. Celebrities don’t just date each other, and in fact, often date and marry non-famous people from other industries to alleviate the immersion of their careers, and make dinnertime conversation more interesting. Think about it.
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9 Responses to “The Art of Elysium & of Meeting Celebrities”


  1. Monday, January 14, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Amazing insights, Bronson. I don’t know what I will be able to add.

    HOWARD BRAGMAN, my friend who you mentioned in the post, wrote the following on his firm’s website: fifteenminutes.com — it seems to be right on point with your insights:

    “[At a red carpet event] check your ego at the door for a few minutes and listen. This media game isn’t easy and it’s not always pretty. I don’t care if you read the ‘New York Times,’ watch the ‘MacNeil Lehrer’ report and subscribe to ‘the Nation,’ you’re not ready.

    “Most of all, don’t be an amateur. It doesn’t matter how you got in the club–once you’re in, you’re in—-at least for the next 12 or 13 minutes. And once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you’re Henry Kissinger or Kato Kaelin, the rules are the same”

  2. 3 Kristin
    Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 9:48 am

    for the record– i dont poo either. x

  3. Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    ha, I’ve never seen such a concise “operating manual” for a celebrity party. nice! sounds like y’all had a great time. sorry I couldn’t make the fundraiser on saturday afternoon, btw, but trust it was a success.

  4. Friday, February 22, 2008 at 11:28 am

    God, I love this story. You hit the nail on the head by saying celebrities crave to be treated just like everyone else. Gushing? Fuhgeddaboutit. The real way to connect is through real conversation. Bravo!


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