So up we pull up to the address the H's publicist emailed him; two big bouncers, a nervous girl in a headset and a tiny sign reading "The Silver Spoon" let us know we've found our unholy grail, the much-publicized "gifting suite." (Yes, they are really called that.) John hops out, excited like a kid going trick or treating, and nervous girl instructs me to pull around the corner to the event's valet parking--we can all go inside to see the bounty. Mind you, we're traveling in our superfly rented Ford Fairlane minivan. "Rocking the minivan", as my (childless) (superhip) brother in law liked to say any time he had to drive our old one because he was taking the kids somewhere. John's already inside by the time I gather two crabby kids and Vous, the au pair, to whom I am vainly trying to explain what the hell it is we're doing.
Inside,it's dark, but not dark enough. Have you ever been inside a nightclub during the daytime, when too much light and too little alcohol makes the space a whole lot less daring and exciting and way more done on the cheap? This place had a faux Chinese decor, kind of like Grauman's Chinese Theater, with a big bar in the center of the room,, raised ramps along the sides, a staircase up the center in the back to another loft-like bar space. In every spare bit of room, a vendor--or, rather, a gifter--had set up shop: jeans, smoothies, coffee, luggage, gadgets, make up....you name it.
The first hint that we might be not exactly the giftees the gifters were looking for came when a shrill little woman (looking remarkably like the headset-wearer at the door) chased us down, all four of us, me, the kids, and Vous, as we squinted in the halflight trying to see the H. "You need BANDS" she shrieked. Umm, ok. Probably true, in many senses. She meant on our wrists. By this point, I had spotted the H, explained that we were with him, and she wrapped us all in bright yellow bands. (This would become a theme for the week.)
The H had spotted us, too, and pulled me aside to say that all was not as it seemed. He was excited to see the cool hardshell luggage being bestowed on someone we sort of recognized but couldn't say from where--but when the H tried to horn in, he had been told that he needed a different wristband. "Should we try upstairs and see what there is?" I suggested. Downstairs seemed like a sea of clothing from designers I'd never heard of and an enormous display of Busteles Coffee.
Up we went. Dead ahead, some kind of smoothie bar, again, from a vendor I'd never before encountered, but to our left--GADGETS!. Manna from the H's heaven. The "Jawbone", the hippest bluetooth headsat around, dozens of them stacked on a table mannned by beautiful girls. Except maybe in his fantasies, the H is no Eliot Spitzer (and more on THAT in another post) so this was pretty hot stuff for him. He picked up a box, admired it, one girl started extolling its many benefits, and then, when her spiel was done, the conversation trickled off into quiet. I found myself wondering, not aloud, how this is supposed to work. Do you have to ask? Is there supplicstion involved in being gifted? Aren't they just supposed to bestow things upon you?
Meanwhile, my children were getting restless and my overwhelmed and confused au pair was having no success in distracting or wrangling them. The lady in the next booth took pity on me. She was there from the super cool (yes, I know sarcasm is the lowest form of humor, thanks) Norton Utilities company, and, as I learned, was the preeminent authority on internet safety for kids. Uh huh. But bless her, she directed Vous and the kids over to the smoothie bar, and I gratefully took the software and a copy of her book. You never know, right?
The H was still locked in awkward silence with the Jawbone beauties. Finally, one of them (after a whispered conversation with the first lovely, who said she was new and wasn't sure of the process) informed John that they were running low (oh, really? That must be because there were only four hundred or so boxes stacked behind the table) and if he wanted to leave his information, they might be able to send something (unspecified) to him at a later date. Riiiiiight.
We walked away, somewhat more confused than two intelligent people ought to have been. Another table, this one with cute little speaker sets for iPods, called to the oddly-hopeful Husband. As we walked up, another person we both sort of recognized, a handsome Latin looking guy with lovely skin and hipster hair, was being loaded down with (another) bag of swag. Maybe this would be our lucky booth.... Just as the (much kinder) rep for this company was awkwardly explaining that today they were only giving to people wearing the GREEN wristbands--he gestured with a nod towards the handsome guys walking away from us--but he'd be happy to send one to us at a later date (had we heard this before?) I realized who Mr. Handsome was.
Did you ever watch "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"? For a few seasons, I was addicted. The giftee was none other than Jai. Remember Jai? The "expert" in "culture"? He was always the one you felt a little sorry for because his expertise and accomplishments seemed so amorphous, though he was always sympathetic and kind to the oafs he was coaching. But I'm pretty sure he wasn't nominated this season for any Golden Globes, Oscars, SAG awards or Independent Spirits. I'm pretty sure. Even without that validation, Jai, apparently, is still celeb-enough to rate the green band, while the H once again is reminded that in Hollywood, nothing and no one is lower than a writer. Just when you think you've made it---all the way to the gifting suite---Hollywood--efficient in nothing else--is quick to remind you not to let your self-esteem get out of hand.
(Stay tuned for Part Three--The Blue Carpet.)