With private jets parading overhead into Dallas like homing pigeons, Friday presents three opportunities for encounter with elite visitors. Super Bowl insiders say the real crush of celebrities will start today. The hunt is on! But it is a hunt in a world covered with inches of snow. Schools and businesses are closed like liquor stores on a Sunday. “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,” is the MySweetCharity mantra.
2:30 p.m. — LOOK at Mi Cocina in Highland Park Village
First stop is Mi Cocina, where the Jerry Jones family is hosting LOOK to showcase Richie Sambora‘s White Trash Beautiful “couture line” of clothing. A couple of hours before the event, checked in with Dallas Cowboys pr champ Joe Trahan. He dutifully reports that despite the closing of most schools and the warning by media outlets to stay home, the party is on.
Great! Since it is still subfreezing, it is doubtful many of the beautiful people will chance getting their Christian Louboutins snow soaked. Perfect! Will be able to kick back and have some quality time with the Bon Jovi guitarist and compare fashion notes with Richie’s co-designer Nikki Lund. But surprise! The HP Village parking lot around Mi Cocina is packed. Only a half hour into the party and the place is also jam-packed with guests who look like they made the final cut at a Kim Dawson cattle call. No split ends, bad complexions or last season’s casual wear for this bunch. Heck, no. These are the folks who have makeup artists on retainer and house accounts at just the right shops. After checking in with the girl greeters/guest list auditors, a security type is asked how many people are there. He says, “They say 300.” Tell him that it seems like there are more than 300. He winks and smiles.
It is a little hard to tell that the main dining room has been converted into a Miami-themed South Beach party world. No, it isn’t due to the windows showcasing a snowy HP Village. It is just too darn hard to see anything with all the beautiful people gathered. Long-legged, blond Nancy Rogers huddles up with her gal pals like Leisa Street, Sonia Black and Kris Johnson on a white couch. Despite the snow-covered streets on the other side of the window behind them, the girls look as snug as a litter of bunnies.
When asked about her dreamy Dennis Basso beige and white coat, Nancy sheepishly says that the clerk had forgotten to remove something. Lifting the edge of the jacket, she shows an EAS security tag.
Over in a side room, Brill Garrett looks as welcome as a cup of hot chocolate. She knows no strangers. Someone tells her that next year she’ll be in Indianapolis with husband/Dallas Cowboys coach Jason for Super Bowl XLVI. She smiles and blushes. Stephen Jones is chatting it up with Barry Andrews. Lana Andrews looks itty bitty all in black and admits that despite the weather, they’re having a great time. Yes, it had taken a bit of time to get home the night before from the NFL owners’ party at Cowboys Stadium, but it was well worth it. Fergie was adorable and had brought her father. Jamie Foxx was great and Jennifer Hudson was wonderful. This evening she and Barry are headed to the Coors Lite big hoop-la at Billy Bob’s, but she is concerned about the drive home since the roads might be icier.
Just then Troy Aikman, whose second home is Mi Cocina, passes Lana on his way out. When asked if he’ll be at the Samuel Lynne Galleries party tonight, he says, “Maybe. Don’t know.” Interesting, since he’s hosting the event.
Then live music from the upstairs balcony grabs everyone’s attention. All eyes go to the top of the staircase as a Caribbean-styled drum band parades down, with Richie in the center. The tallest member of the marching band has no instrument and looks a bit out of place in his brown and white sweater. Is he a guest who’s gotten into the party mood? Nope, his one job in this whole world is to keep the path clear for Sambora — even if it means shoving people aside. Guess he didn’t major in gentility. The good thing is that there are so many people packed in, there is no room to fall down.
As the sunglassed Sambora passes Nancy’s couch, he high-fives her waist and she gives him one of those “Nancy smiles.” Somebody asks Nancy, “How do you know Richie?” She looks startled and replies, “I don’t know him at all.” Evidently Richie knows how to pick out a face in the crowd.
Then more long-legged gals appear on elevated platforms modeling WTB designs that Richie and co-designer Nikki have created. iPhone salutes reward the designers as people photograph the clothes. . . and/or the models. Somebody passes the word that the models are Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Didn’t recognize them without their uniforms.
Outside, PaperCity editor-emeritus Brooke Hortenstine walks by Mi Cocina looking spectacular and admitting that she had just had her makeup done for the night’s lineup. Even her hair looks sun-kissed. “Are you going in to see LOOK?”
She laughs in a girlish fashion, raising an eyebrow at the windows filled with people and saunters on. She has miles to go before she sleeps, too.
Just as the sun is coming out, Jerry Jones arrives. After handling the problems of ice sliding off of Cowboys Stadium, he’s probably relieved to be in his home ZIP code among friends and family.
7:00 p.m. — The Giving Fund at Samuel Lynne Galleries
Driving up to the Samuel Lynne Galleries, a line of car parkers are joined by Cecil Martinez, who is shoveling snow from the street. On the way in, Troy is seen leaving the party. Guess he’s headed to another event. He smiles and waves. Troy’s become the moving target of celebrities this week.
Once inside, a bevy of pr gals in the uniformed black dress and black, painfully high heels are front and center to offer assistance. Over to the side is Dallas Morning News‘ Christopher Wynn tweeting away while his photo sidekick Courtney Perry is lining up shots.
While the list of VIPs is impressive in length, it is predominantly football types. But heck! Troy is hosting the party, so that makes sense.
The problem is, who is who? A group of fellows grab one media person and asks, “Who’s that guy? He looks famous.” The media type responds ignorance, but adds, “Yes, he did look important.” “The guy” turns out to be former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Ky Hebert.
Samuel Lynne owner JD Miller admits that even he isn’t quite sure who is who.
Fellow gallery owner Phil Romano is talking about plans for the Saturday night party at his home benefiting The Giving Fund, his Hunger Busters and other organizations. He is looking forward to Hilary Swank‘s hosting the dinner at his home on Strait Lane. Sunday he’s taking her in a touring van along with 20 others to his box at Cowboys Stadium. “I hope she has a sense of humor!” Phil says.
8:00 p.m. — Audi Forum party at the Rachofsky House
Arrive early to impress the handlers. Greeted by the pr munchkins who are checking names. They look cold from the wintry temperatures and the wind. But still they smile and try to make everyone feel right at home. . . even the people whose names aren’t on the list and must be turned away.
Run into host Howard Rachofsky, who says it is 50/50 whether he’d be attending the Super Bowl. “We’re going to have so many guests in, and they all want a tour, you know, of the house. When you have a (hopefully!) interesting collection, that’s what you (have to) do.” Then he adds, “I’ve never seen so much security!” But, you’re having big names coming tonight. “That’s what I understand,” he replies. All the while Jeremy the Security Guard looks on.
Across the way, ever-upbeat Cindy Rachofsky is asking, “What did Dallas do in a previous life to deserve all the snow?” She’s also thrilled about her new Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise puppy, Sophie, who has found the snow to be just terrific.
To accommodate the elite members of the media in their dealings with the much-vaunted boldfaced guests, two options are on the table — be part of the party crowd with no cameras and chancy VIP access, or the media bullpen for a red carpet interaction. Some opted to float between the two worlds of media opportunities.
The bullpen is a small room on the second level. With cameras and media types, the room gets even smaller. Against one wall is the on-too familiar sponsors’ backdrop, where the interviewees will be lined up as if facing a firing squad. Whoever makes the backdrops is a very happy camper.
First to arrive is Chord “Glee” Overstreet, who serves as a warm-up act for the media players including Extra!, People Magazine, AP, WFAA, the Morning News and the Audi home team. He’s cute and shy. Asked about the Super Bowl, the blond Packers’ fan says, “I’m pumped!” This is my first Super Bowl. . . Awful, awful Super Bowl weather. I want some sun.”
Then there’s a bit of a lull that allows the media to check smart phones and compare notes on their pasts. The media gets sorta endearing when they go through this period of work. Like a first date, they ask each other get-to-know-you questions like “Where did you go to school?”, “Did you know. . .?” and “The worst assignment I ever had was . . .” They never get into anything too deep like religion, politics or sex. These relationships just fill time until they have to hop into action. There are some among them that are the “loners.” They stay to themselves because they’re just too darn shy or they regard themselves above the common hoi polloi.
Upon venturing outside the pen to test the waters, PaperCity associate publisher Margaret Stafford is in the hallway laughing at PC Editor Rob Brinkley (aka Everyone’s BFF). “Someone” has spilled champagne or water on his camel-colored jacket and the floor. They are now advising guests of the slip and slide condition leading to the bullpen. Good thing, because this is the hallway that the holy VIPs will take to get to the bullpen.
The second-level living room looks scary jammed. It might be safer back with the rest of the media. Good decision. Upon returning to the bullpen, the head pr wrangler gives a warning signal that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are about to be served up. Conversations are dropped and places taken. The wrangler, who is losing her voice, explains the ground rules. Demi and Ashton will first have still photos taken. Once that is done, it will be time for the video. At that time no more still photos are to be taken. Something about the twosome not liking flashes. No one says what will happen if the rules are not obeyed.
The duo enters the room like children who have once again been called to the principal’s office. Walking in single file with eyes slightly downcast. they promptly take their places in front of the Audi backdrop. Bundled up in knit cap, scarf and winter jacket, Ashton looks like a tall kid who’d been on his way to build a snowman. Demi, on the other hand, is itty bitty. A pr insider from across the room mouths, Yves St. Laurent, pointing to Demi’s black cocktail dress. She looks adoringly at Ashton, while he warily checks out the surroundings like a Secret Service agent for the Bushes. As he loosens up, he teases the media about their being so quiet. Little did he know the advanced coaching that the media has received.
Just then Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen opens the door and enters letting the music from the party in. Media, especially those with headsets on, shudder. PR team cringes, but they’re not going to “have a talk” with Johan.
Someone asks Ashton if he’s seen the new Audi Super Bowl commercial. He counters, “Is it funny?” Standing on the sideline, Johan says, “It is German. It cannot possibly be funny.” Big laughter emerges from celebs, handlers and media. Whew!
When asked why they’re in Dallas, the celebrities both agree, “Football, always football.”
But the hand-holding couple doesn’t agree on everything. She’s for the Packers because of Aaron Rogers, and Ashton is rooting for the Steelers.
Demi, Ashton and Johan exit.
Rumors start circulating that the Prince concert that had been cancelled earlier in the day and then rescheduled is once again canceled. Media perks up. Super Bowl concert crisis. Dallas Morning News writer Jason Sheeler is texting nonstop. WFAA’s social media guru Jonathan Betz is monitoring situation. Says WFAA has a crew checking it out. But before further developments can be reported, the chief wrangler appears and announces that Justin Timberlake will be arriving in a second. Same ground rules. Gee, does he have a problem with lights, too?
A covey of young gals has arrived in the room and directed to the far walls. They have cell phone cameras all ready for action. Don’t see any notepads. Guess they have very good memories.
Justin, looking a bit wan and in retro Salvation Army attire, enters the room, followed by four or five beefy bodyguards, who look like successful undertakers. Somebody mutters, “Bet the president of Egypt wishes he had type of security.” The head of the escorts is a woman who would scare Kathy Bates. She immediately starts complaining about the arrangements. Pointing fingers at members of the media, she is giving the head wrangler a piece of her mind and other things, too. Wrangler announces that personal cameras and cell phone cameras are prohibited. Yeah, sure. Insiders know that the beefy security guys are soup if they come between the covey and their ‘N Sync boy-man.
Justin tells the crew that he’s a Packers’ fan. When asked by Extra!’s AJ Calloway if Justin’s willing to make a $5 bet on the outcome of Sunday’s Super Bowl, Justin wonders why the bet is so low. AJ responds, “I don’t have Justin Timberlake money.” One of Justin’s beefy security guards snorts and laughs quietly, “None of us do.”
Justin exits followed by entourage. Covey also departs. They came; they shot; they left.
Before the media could return to checking their cell phones or get updated on the Prince situation, the wrangler barely has time to announce the arrival of Hugh Jackman or the restrictions. With almost no fanfare, Hugh saunters into the room like he was returning to his favorite pub. Standing in front of the backdrop, he amiably answers questions. Then he does the unforgivable. He leaves the zone of safety and ventures toward the media. Was this some test that the wrangler has devised to see if the media would overstep their places? Evidently not.
He nonchalantly makes friends with one and all and talks on any topic —
Super Bowl — “My heart says the Packers, but my head says Steelers by five points.”
Weather — “I don’t mind it. We’re inside now, in a beautiful place. As long as we don’t have to go swimming. ”
Living in the states — “We’re living in New York. I love Texas. I’ve never seen it with snow. It’s magnificent.”
Advice for Oscar emcees — He recalls the advice that he got from Steve Martin: “Focus on the first part and just get it going. Have fun. Keep it moving. I took out some cookies. These A-list actors just mobbed me for cookies.”
Bulking up for his next role — He’s eating 6,000 calories a day. “Ten ounces of steak, chicken, rice, beans, very boring.” He got the diet from Duane Johnson and is trying to put on 30 to 40 pounds. Is working out an hour a day.
One of the wranglers gave the signal that it was time to end the conversation. Hugh leaves. Media members exchange looks signaling “He’s the real deal.”
Finally decide to emerge from the pen and see how the party is going. The once-open living room is jammed with people. Complain to a friend that it’s impossible to see where the celebs are. Friend makes a painful face. Look over shoulder to discover Demi and Ashton giggling with locals. Turn around to see another media type asking Jackman if he ever gets tired of “all these women slobbering over you?” Hugh gives him a big grin and says, “No,” then introduces media member to the lady standing next to him — Hugh’s wife Deborra-Lee. Awkward!
Decide it’s time to leave before another casualty moment takes place. Pass event planner Todd Fiscus on the stairway. He’s happy, happy. Has handled 50 events during the week. Is especially happy not to be associated in any form with the Prince debacle. Evidently word inside the bullpen had been right. It’s a mess.
Outside, the pr munchkins are now taking turns doing cold-weather duty. The parking lot looks as crowded as the living room upstairs. The slush makes the whole scene feel even colder. Demi and Ashton walk across the driveway to their car. Looks surrealistic. In the freezing temperatures that have even the hardiest valet turning NFL blue, she’s without a coat or anything to keep her warm. . . not even Ashton’s arm.
Chat with Morning News bold-face expert Alan “Dimples” Peppard. He chuckles at the idea of being a part of the media herd. That’s so not cool. Waves good bye as he gets in his SUV and drives off to another swell event. Someone says, “Your car is here.” Head to vehicle, open the backdoor and ask friend, “When did we get a fur coat?”
Oops, wrong car. Drat! Wait another 15 minutes for the right vehicle to be found. Except for the chill, it isn’t a problem. Have fun talking with arriving guests like Laura Hunt, Brendan Higgins and Jenna Turner. Feel very in the know. Tell them to look up Hugh and Deborra-Lee and Justin. Sorry they just missed Demi and Ashton. Don’t you know we’re all on a first-name basis.
* Hugh Jackman photo credit: Audi/WireImage.