Kirby: Sundance stars may be all over, but it's still your show
On the wall above my desk is a photograph taken at my First Sundance Film Festival in 2000. In it, I'm arm in arm with RuPaul Charles and Tammy Faye Baker.
It's hard to tell which of us is more uncomfortable with the arrangement RuPaul because he's got his arm around a known Mormon, Tammy Faye because of all the mascara, or me because I'd clearly rather be at the zoo.
The photo was taken just before I interviewed Tammy and RuPaul about the film they were promoting. Oddly, I ended up liking them a lot.
Tammy turned out to be more articulate than I'd been led to believe, and RuPaul gave me some cosmetic tips on what to do about the bags under my eyes.
Me: "Really? I've been using Super Glue on them."
RuPal: "No, no, hon, you want something that tightens AND moisturizes."
Over the next 10 years, I encountered hundreds of celebrities at the festival, including John Cusack, MC Hammer, Queen Latifah, John Malkovich, Paris Hilton, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes and Robin Williams.
I opened a door for Cuba Gooding Jr. One of Gwyneth Paltrow's bodyguards pulled me out of the path of a bus. I held an elevator for John C. Reilley. And in a moment I'll always treasure, I washed my hands at a sink just vacated by Al Gore.
Sometimes the encounters were more personal. I once took a 200-millimeter Nikon lens in the head while helping Katie Holmes get into a Suburban.
One year I gave James Woods directions to the same coffee shop twice. I expected him to say, "Thank you very [flippin'] much, buddy," he just said, "Thanks, man."
Then there was the time James Gandolfini thought I was a doorman and tried to give me $20 to let him. When I explained that I was just loitering in the doorway of a vacant building, we both had a good laugh. He kept the tip, though.
I expected celebrities to be huge pains at Sundance, but the truth is they always seemed to be the most reasonable people there. When I loaned Wesley Snipes a buck for a vending machine, he made sure I got it back.
All the years I've been going to the film festival, I've yet to see a single celebrity urinating in public, punching anyone over a parking spot, or so drunk they climbed into the back seat of a police car thinking it was an airport shuttle.
That was always the people who came to see the celebrities, specifically the paparazzi and even regular members of the adoring public like you and me.
OK, not like me. Being a member of the media, I have just enough paparazzi stink on me to keep me from ever being normal again.
But I've never parked my car in someone else's driveway for eight hours in order to wait for Lindsay Lohan. I never punched out a window because I couldn't get into a club. And I never had sex with a parking valet because he "totally" looked like Casey Affleck. That was always you.
But that's OK. Sundance is really all about you. It's your festival.
Hey, there wouldn't be a Sundance Film Festival without celebrities. But they wouldn't be celebrities without you.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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