Tonight’s Derek Strong party was the only reason that motivated me to come out to LA on such short notice, and boy, what a doozy of a day I’ve had already! It was all going down at The Kress on Hollywood Blvd with red carpet happening from roughly 9:00pm to 11:00pm. Moments like this were just dreams even as recent as 5 months ago when I walked away from my corporate job to pursue my passion, so forgive me if this journal series is a bit self indulgent. I get so excited to see event invites starting to come my way with more frequency now, and I try to attend as many as I can to become established as not only a blogger but a journalist, too. Throw in words like “red carpet” and I become that little girl holding a hair brush, jumping on my bed, and singing into my mirror imagining moments like this; or the countless times I’ve used the loft area leading to our current bedroom as my stage. No more make believe. This is real!
Here’s a little snippet of the Press Release put out by Quintessential PR for those of you who want to know a bit more about Derek Strong, the event, and the venue…the reason that I booked a last minute trip to LA.
About Derek Strong
Drafted in the second-round, Derek played for the top teams in his successful twelve-year career, including the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers. During his tenure in the NBA, Derek was an avid NASCAR fan and remained committed to pursuing this childhood dream when his playing days ended. Since becoming a professional driver and owner of Strong racing, Derek has continually had successful race finishes. Derek is the first NBA player to successfully transition into stock car racing as a driver.
About Strong Racing
Strong Racing is a multi cultural Stock Car Racing Team competing in ASA and NASCAR Racing events. Based out of Los Angeles, CA, Strong Racing is managed by Stuart Lycett, veteran stock car driver and owner of the acclaimed Competition 101 driver development program racing school.
About The Kress
Known for his innovative and unique style, successful restaurateur and nightlife guru Mike Viscuso has created The Kress as the next Hollywood landmark. The Kress is an upscale dining and entertainment venue which boasts a full service restaurant with a carefully crafted cuisine menu with an Asian flare; a basement level lounge offering live entertainment and dance floor; a third level banquet and event center offering food and service, live entertainment and dance floor; and finally a spectacular design-driven rooftop lounge with cabanas and a 360 degree view of Los Angeles including the legendary Hollywood sign. In 2005, The Kress took over the Frederick’s of Hollywood flagship location and through many delicate phases of unveiling and refurbishing, The Kress maintains the original 1930’s marble stairway, brass railing, ornate Italian-designed ceiling and art deco facade. The Kress is located at 6608 Hollywood Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90028.
Total awesomeness, right?
What happened to the alarm?
We left off where I went to take a power nap before going to this event. I set the alarm on my cell phone to wake me up in 90 minutes, but instead I woke up 3 hours later. Who knows if I set my alarm correctly or turned it off in my sleep.
Normally, on a night where I feel like this, I would have rolled right back over in my bed and closed my eyes, but that was not an option. I had to talk my body into getting up and getting excited. As Diddy would say, “Let’s go people!” I couldn’t let a moment like this pass me by. I freshen up and put on my outfit I bought just a few days earlier and start tossing my camera gear and purse into my backpack. My hubby was also sound asleep and I gave him a pass on this event if he wanted one, but he got up to support me. I was making him my assistant for the night, and my driver. 😎
Backing up a bit…
I’m still getting my bearings when it comes to attending to events as press. A year ago, I was a practicing logistics/supply chain engineer in management just blogging for kicks. I pretty much get the press part now, but adding in the red carpet piece was somewhat new to me. Seize the opportunity, learn as you go, hope to find some genuine mentors, and hope to catch the attention of some key people who like what you’re doing and feed you opportunities.
I also had no idea how people from the press dress for these events, how long red carpet portion lasts, if I would be allowed in the event as press or otherwise, if I was being invited as press or a guest of the event (that was not crystal clear until after I confirmed), etc. Luckily, a few people gave me some pointers and, by the time this night arrived, I was a bit more prepared.
Back to my story…
I’m packing my camera equipment, still kicking myself for not making a trip to buy a wide angle lens (been on my to-do list forever), but knew I could compensate with the smaller point and shoot digital camera <– my hubby’s job. Then I hit my first snafoo, I didn’t have my mounted flash. Shit! The days leading to this trip were so packed, especially having just returned from Boston the weekend before that I was not as thorough with getting my bags packed for this trip (to be honest, i hadn’t even unpacked from the weekend before). Also on my to do list is to buy an upgraded camera bag with lots of slots for lenses, cameras, and such so I can be ready for action at a moment’s notice. Oh, and a recorder for on the spot interviews, and a video camera. Really, with all that gear in place, I’d be ready for anything. Traveling becomes a beeyatch though and trying to juggle between the different formats as an often one woman show becomes a bit tricky, too.
These things alone would normally send anal retentive, anxiety ridden, perfectionist, Type A me into a frenzy, but sometimes I take on things clear and calm. This was one of those moments. I accepted this would be memorable yet still a learning experience, and not everything would go right and potentially all kinds of wrong. I was honored to be here and would do my best with my current capabilities to capture the moment, network, and learn. My goal is to keep attending these events so I’ll be ready for big time moments like the Emmy’s, MTV Music Awards, Grammy’s and the like. It’s all about honing my craft at the moment and becoming a jack (or a jill, really) of all trades in the process.
We grab what we have and jump in the car head for The Kress. I’m running a little later than I want to, but I’m banking on celebrities tending to be more fashionably late. I was right. It was also an NBA playoff game that night which probably affected some of NBA former/current player turnout that were on the guest list.
My hubby dropped me off in front and went to find parking. As I walk up to the front entrance, per the address on the invite, a bouncer directs me around to the back of the building where I would find the party entrance and the red carpet area.
It was like the heavens opened out of the darkness. The hot spotlights (they are hot, I stood under one for a few seconds and thought I was going to melt into a pile of caramel with an afro), the cheesy white pin up backdrop with all the sponsors names (makes ugly pictures to me from a photography purist perspective, but it’s part of the setup for these types of events), a replica of one of the stock cars, and…the red carpet! Ok, so it wasn’t exactly like the Grammy’s, but it was real and I was actually there.
I check in as paparazzi on their list and join the cast of flashing lights. It wasn’t overcrowded with paparazzi so I didn’t have to fight to get photos which is good for a newbie like me. Plus, the fellow press folks were very polite with getting their shot then moving over so shorties like me could get in and get mine. Eventually, my hubby comes around and informs me I need to get my hand stamped. See what I mean when I say I just need a second body at these things? We go to get our hands stamped and I spy Kerith. She greets me politely, even in the throws of her event, which I know from experience is not a guarantee from publicists (they tend to be untouchables when they’re in “game on” mode). We hug and she makes sure that my hubby and I get purple armbands to join the party up on the rooftop once the red carpet closes. My first Hollywood party! I was so excited!
I handed my hubby the point and shoot digital and ask him to take photos. He’s not a photographer, per se, in the least but he’s kind of learning some of the ropes by default through moments like this one just helping cover more territory. I took a post over by the white backdrop where celebs lined up for their photo moment and he stood over by the stock car for celebs who wanted a photo opp in front of the car, usually with Derek Strong. I was just a couple of weeks fresh off my last press event, so I did remember to bring a notepad to capture names of people and other details that I might forget. Celebs were generally announced so us paparazzi had a heads up about who was coming through.
That part of the celeb entrances was interesting to see. Some shied away from the spotlight and headed straight inside. Some made a big deal out of you noticing them, and I obliged although I know other seasoned paparazzi didn’t bother if they weren’t a big name. That’s just how I roll. At the same time, I kind of felt sad for those who made a big deal (one guy in particular) because it was as if he needed this moment for self validation. Overall, everyone was approachable, but we were talking about mostly C list celebrities and what I figured were Hollywood socialites who just knew people or knew people who knew people. The latter are the more snotty ones. As if…
Maybe 2/3 of the way through the red carpet time, I met up with the cast and director of the film “The House That Jack Built” produced by Four Two Five Films (http://www.fourtwofivefilms.com/). For some reason, I caught the attention of the director Bruce Reisman who engaged in enough small talk to learn I was here from Ohio. I quickly became that sweet little midwest gal in the evils of Hollywood and he wanted to give me a “break” by meeting his cast and getting an interview. Sometimes rocking the midwest schtick works to my advantage, although my real roots are on the east coast. Little did Bruce know, the only type of video capability I had was on my point and shoot camera and I knew that memory space was likely limited. Again, I just winged it, and added another note to have extra memory sticks. I haven’t looked at the footage yet, but if any is usable, I’ll put it in the event recap. I was also trying to get my hubby to take some pics with me and the cast, and that’s when my digital SLR batteries died. Chalked that up to lesson learned and kept moving. The interview was definitely impromptu and I made the mistake of asking the members about their past work. Kris Black (http://www.myspace.com/officialkrisblack) admitted he was new to the game and quickly pointed me over to Gail O’Grady (http://gailogrady.com/) who was a veteran. I’m sorry, I didn’t know her, and she looked at me offended that I didn’t recognize her. She rattled off some of her resume like “Boston Legal” (a show I don’t watch) and “American Dreams” (another show I don’t watch). She finally said something that faintly connected, but by then she was not a fan of me in the least. I understand her disappointment, but really, unless you’re an A-lister, you can’t expect that everyone is going to know you. My few moments on camera kind of got weird at that moment and we wrapped up the on camera interview shortly thereafter. Bruce, the director, was a little upset that I didn’t want to talk to him, but what they all didn’t understand was that I was not there with a video camera set up. I was mainly taking photos and notes so I could write up a post event recap on my blog. Soon, my friends. I’m inching my way into more capabilities…which comes with more hours of work. Afterward, my hubby gave me some good coaching advice on how I could have posed questions that let them talk more about the movie and stay away from their previous roles. Again, more learning on the fly.
Bruce and I exchanged info and he seemed interested in having me follow up which I shall be doing now that this journal series is nearing completion. Kris Black was in the cast and originally from Wisconsin and he stopped to have some more small talk with me, relating as a fellow midwesterner about life in Hollywood. I said something about I’m not a fan of all the pretentiousness and he understood and followed up with a recommendation of a small dive bar that’s a bit out of the spotlight. I kind of smile inside because I feel like they’re talking to me like I’m in the “club.” Perception is reality, right?
After that whole scenario, we did a few more things on the red carpet and I was ready for it to be over. I love the interviewing, the writing, but the hustle photography associated with event photography is just not fun for me. I mean paparazzi are hustlers. They want that one great moment to sell for cash. I’m not in that business and really don’t want that to drive why I cover these events. Down the road, I hope to enlist some help from folks that are more content in this function so I can focus on my strengths.
Red carpet over, time to party!
We head inside to the elevators. I think there may have been parties on the roof and another floor because I know if you got an orange armband you got one of those gold Gucci swag bags that were nowhere to be seen on the roof.
It was a beautiful night and we had a beautiful view of the LA skyline. Hubby and I definitely soaked in the moment, ordered some drinks and mingled. The people watching was fantastic! The DJ…not so fantastic and ultimately led to us not staying longer. All of the ladies were in these skin tight dresses that went just past their booties. I pictured many of the single ladies looking to land that man with some loot, at least for the night. Some of you will hate on me for saying that, but that’s how it looked to me. It was a straight up tits and ass fest from the ladies standpoint with a few exceptions. The men were in various levels of casual with flare. Some in jeans and a dress shirt, some threw on some slacks. It felt very LA, style-wise. No linen outfits or zoot suits that remind me of midwest and eastern cities. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a few guys in flip flops.
Actually, my most memorable moment was upon exiting The Kress. We’re coming off the elevator and none other than Tiffany “New York” Pollard accompanied by a white gentleman (don’t have name or who he was, but will fill it in once I get it) were waiting to get on the elevator. My eyes opened wide, and I said something like, “Is that New York?” The guy with her said “yes” and I knew I wanted a pic with her! How awesome was that?!? I asked New York if she didn’t mind taking a picture with me and she was cool about it. I leaned in, feeling her hair extensions over my right side of my face and smiled. The guy she was with took the picture and said it was great. Hmmpff! I should’ve checked it out, but I didn’t want to be a burden. The picture was not the most flattering of me, but it’s going in my collection.
You see, while my job is to be a journalist, I am still a fan. I’m sure I’m breaking protocol, but I want to scrapbook this journey and will shamelessly take fan photos with celebs as I get the chance. Part of my job is also a blogger personality type and I want to share my journey in this format as well. Kind of like a reality series or documentary via my blog. Let me tell you, I thank God everyday for this. In such a short period of time, I feel like I’ve had more memorable experiences than I had in a lifetime trying force-fit myself under the corporate umbrella. I work just as hard now, maybe harder at times, but I love it. I want a scrapbook to share with future generations (not likely my own offspring) as a reminder of the journey. So my New York photo will join my Cheech and Chong, Common, Bill Leslie, Teddy Riley and others I’ve met live in the past few months. Maybe I’ll share that will you all one day, too.
We ended the night at Mel’s Diner off Hollywood Blvd for some late night breakfast. I was a little twisted by then (drinkng on an empty stomach + being a lightweight = instant drunk) so some late night breakfast would hopefully soak up some alcohol and put some good stuff in my belly.
Oh what a night!
LINKS TO OTHER POSTS IN THE “MY LA JOURNAL” SERIES…
My LA Journal- Wednesday May 27, 2009 eyebrows waxed and outfit shopping
My LA Journal- Thursday, May 28, 2009 travel day and red carpet eve
My LA Journal- Friday, May 29, 2009 (Part 1 of 2) immortalized in bronze by renowned sculptor Peter Harper