RadioNow’s Wank works the green carpet
In every fictionalized account or filmed re-enactment, in every docudrama or infotainment special, the producers take certain liberties with their primary character. Good guy or bad girl, the central figure is shaped to fit the script — flaws are modified or even erased, character traits are warped and distorted to fulfill our expectations of what a Heroic Hockey Coach or a Hooker with a Heart of Gold ought to act like. The exception that proves the rule is the city of Los Angeles.
Are those some of Hef’s entourage checking out Ed Wank?
L.A. has been the central character in dozens — make that hundreds — of TV shows and movies. The reality is just as advertised. L.A. will break your heart, take your money, get you shot, make you famous and then leave you cuffed in front of the local police station, ready for your close-up — sometimes all in the same week. L.A. builds the American cultural landscape and then rips it into pieces. L.A. is the place where “Gov. Schwarzenegger” isn’t a punchline, it’s the residents’ reality; it’s where the Michael Jackson scandal is a local story. The Grammy Awards came back to L.A. this year. I went along. My radio station — RadioNow 93.1 — sent me, Dave O’Brien, our producer Kassie and our promotions guy/engineer/troubleshooter Chris to Los Angeles to lurk the red carpet, watch the show and report back to our listeners on Monday morning. (The “red” carpet was green in ’04 — thanks to our corporate sponsor, Heineken beer.) Additionally, WISH-TV 8 had set us up on the arrivals rug as correspondents for their evening news. We’d done the same thing in ’03 outside Madison Square Garden. We’d heard a lot of theories as to why the awards came back to the West Coast. Some said that the folks at MSG charged too much for the right to set up on their turf or were just plain too hard to work with; others thought that NYC in February put a damper on the plunging necklines so popular at awards shows. (The decision to move the Grammys to a more cleavage-friendly climate was made long before Janet and Justin decided to show America how a “nipple shield” was to be correctly affixed to the human female breast.) O’Brien and I arrived on the rug at the appointed hour — 1:30 Pacific — as the celebrity treadmill opened for business. I was nursing a hangover (from an actual night at the actual Roxbury, thank you very much) and O’Brien had stayed up late carousing as well. Bootsy Collins strutted by early. The bassist from P-Funk was wearing a three-piece leopard skin suit with a matching top hat and his trademark shades. The woman he was with had on a similar outfit. They were joined by the silent Buckethead, who sported an inverted KFC tub on his noggin. Bootsy and the boys were joining Earth, Wind and Fire, Outkast and more for a tribute to funk during the evening’s broadcast. We asked Bootsy if he talked to the Outkast crew about anything other than music. “Yeah,” Bootsy said, “we talk about everything. But you know what we talk about most? The fact that the aliens are among us! We’re here, baby! Ahahaha!” Sharon Osbourne told the cameras that Ozzy was feeling much better after his ATV wreck. (Ozzy shocked everybody with his speedy recovery when he appeared on stage later that evening.) Jay-Z slid by the media, answering no questions, trailed by a bodyguard that looked to be roughly the size of Nebraska. 50 Cent arrived amidst a phalanx of cops. Sting talked to a few of the national outlets and dashed inside. I noticed that unlike my first trip to the Grammy Awards — New York, last year — I was more annoyed than excited. I was fighting a dozen other media outlets just for the privilege of shouting, “WHO MADE YOUR GOWN?” at Ashanti. We snagged Michael McKean and Eugene Levy, who’d just won a Grammy for their work on the title song for the mockumentary A Mighty Wind. Levy seemed bewildered by the entire notion of receiving a Grammy, but informed us that he was working on a project with Sam Jackson, a movie called The Man. I turned to McKean: “Bill Murray’s got an Oscar nod and now Lenny’s got a Grammy. My childhood heroes are really making good.” McKean smiled. “You’re from the Midwest?” I nodded. “Laverne and Shirley always had a big fan base there,” he said warmly. JC Chasez from N’Sync answered questions about being booted from the Pro Bowl after his bandmate Justin exposed Janet Jackson’s right tit to an audience of 89 million. Chasez expounded haltingly about the sad state of affairs that Nipplegate had brought about: “A few, um, very important, er, um, powerful people can decide what’s tasteful or what can be looked at for — uh, by the rest of us.” Hmm, I thought, it’s when politics become personal that activists are born. If the kid can master the language a bit better, he might just be a force.
No invitation to Hef’s
Quentin Tarantino walked by. O’Brien told him he was responsible for more unintentional laughter at violence than any filmmaker before him. Tarantino cackled. “I’ll take that!” he beamed. Hugh Hefner and a literal harem of enhanced female 20-somethings strolled through. “What’s it take to get an invite to the mansion?” I inquired. “You have to morph into a beautiful blonde,” Hef replied. “Have fun tonight,” he said, giving us the brush-off. “We won’t be having as much fun as you,” O’Brien said. Hef chuckled lecherously. “No,” he snicked, “no, you probably won’t.” A guard yelled that the doors to the Staples Center would be closing in five minutes — everyone with a ticket needed to get inside. We wedged into our seats in the rafters of a basketball stadium among the tens of thousands of other spectators who’d shown up dressed to the nines in their gowns and Italian suits. (Mind you, this probably isn’t the getup commonly worn by the Lakers fans up in the cheap seats.) We saw 50 Cent being escorted from the building after crashing an acceptance speech for Best New Artist by Amy from Evanescence. We saw the Foos and Beyonce and the amazing White Stripes and the equally amazing Outkast. We received the funk when it was brought, we waited for commercial breaks to use the can, we squirmed for three and one-half hours in our tiny seats. Justin apologized for Janet’s boob. The only tense moments seemed to come when Christina Aguilera nearly fell out of her dress and when Celine Dion’s mic went dead. At 2:30 a.m., we plugged our gear into a backup studio at another station owned by our company (Emmis) and broadcast our goodies, gossip and dirt back to the people of Indy, who were looking at the clock and seeing the digits 5, 3 and 0. After the show ended for us at 7 Pacific, we went walking down Hollywood Boulevard looking for breakfast. We trod past the names of hundreds — thousands? — of stars who’d been immortalized at our feet on the Walk of Fame. I glanced down and noticed that Gene Autry’s star included a special plaque. It informed me that Autry was the only celebrity to be honored on the walk with a star in every possible category: film, TV, recording, broadcasting and so on. Autry — the name was familiar. I paused as my compatriots strolled on in the pale early light and the cool breeze that blew the trash across the faded and worn names on the walk. The guy was before my time, but the name sounded as if I should have some indication of what the man had made. I could not bring to mind the single title of a single work that Gene Autry had created. L.A. remembered him. I couldn’t.