Of late, I have fallen off the social wagon in preference of getting enough sleep and avoiding further consumption of the Redbulls that have already probably taken their toll on my liver, kidneys, heart, etc. On special occasions, I will peek my head out of my little hermit hole and make a special appearance, but those instances are rare. Last night my friend threw a party for Samsung featuring a performance by Katy Perry, but this alone wasn’t enough to pull me out of my house and into a throng of partygoers. I needed a particular push to get me over the edge.
That push came in two waves. First, I’ve known Katy loosely for a few years, starting back when she was my best friend’s roommate and not “Katy Perry.” The last time I saw her perform was in a bunny suit in front of a bunch of humorless A&R executives at some random venue on Canal Street in New York. That was in 2007. It would be nice to see her now that she’s a legitimate pop product circa 2009. Secondly, my thirteen hour day yesterday ended with a trunk show in Beverly Hills. I will explain why this motivated me into actually socializing during the late night hours.
The owner of this store that will go unnamed was a spunky, 85-year-old woman of some Eastern European descent. When I first arrived to the job she was getting her makeup done and she made some thick-accented crack about me sitting in her lap in three minutes. It took my brain multiple moments to actually process what she had said, being as I hadn’t expected her to be funny, coupled with the process lag time involved in trying to find the English within her Polish/Russian/Ukrainian accent. My linguistic skills were working overtime.
She had been in this Beverly Hills location for over forty some odd years. I asked her if she had ever remodeled and I think she said no, but the store looked distinctively 80s quasi-glam. Maybe she was just way ahead of her time back in the 60s, who knows. Myself and two other girls wandered around the store while people were served sushi h’orderves and white wine. The crowd was kind, and they were kind for one reason: most of them were my grandparent’s age. Impressing little old ladies is easy. No matter what, they treat you like you are family. Old people are the most liberal with compliments, most likely because they’ve given up harboring any jealousies towards the new guard of the living.
So I twirled and demurred and made ridiculous comments about how “lovely the collection” was, or how much I adored navy and black together. This is why I respect people in retail: the amount of bullshit you need to spin in order to convince someone to buy your product, whether or not that bullshit actually works – it doesn’t matter, you still have to try.
Once my feeble conversations had burned out, I stood along the side watching the crowd a la wallflower style. The wiry gray hairs, the deep-set grooves in everyone’s faces, the unnaturally taunt skin of people who didn’t want deep grooves. One day, I would be here. Drinking wine and eating crappy sushi, watching young models have bad conversations with older men who still think “they’ve got it.” And after this event ended at 9 PM, they would all go home and fall quickly to sleep, exhausted from all of the talking, the socializing, the standing up.
At this point, I decide I’m only 25, my back and feet only hurt after an hour of standing, and I’m still relevant enough to get invited to these Katy Parry/ Samsung type things. I leave the job, go home, put on the tightest pair of black pants I can find, and head out the door.
Cars line up for blocks waiting to valet their cars. We find a meter. There’s a press line but that’s for the famous and almost-famous and we bypass the carpet entirely. I doubt most of them actually miss their anonymity. Inside the crowd is predominately male and predominately of the button-down, collared shirt variety. I can’t tell if their “suits” or what, but our group feels like the least common demonimator.
The drinks are free and girls with giant breasts pass around trays of grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken skewers. There’s an ice cream bar “bar” where you can dip your ice cream on a stick in vanilla or chocolate and then dredge it through any number of toppings. The place is littered with Samsung phone paraphernalia; the point of the party actually being to market their phones and not just serve as a high end soup kitchen to hipsters and taste makers.
A few drinks later and Katy Perry’s band takes the stage in black and white suits, followed soon after by Katy herself, wearing a sparkling ruby-red mini-dress by Brian Lichtenberg. She jumps right in, singing “Hot and Cold” a few feet above a bar still serving drinks. She hops around while simultaneously attempting to not flash the crowd. It is a most dangerous angle for dresses.
Now, you’d think that part of the draw of this party was actually getting to see a live performance of Katy, but looking around the room you wouldn’t be able to tell if these people were enthused about anything, anything at all. Nothing is good enough for people in Los Angeles. Free booze, free food, and free music are not enough to keep any of us appeased. Katy dances and sweats, and everyone surrounding me stands, staring blankly forward as if to say, “You’re here to entertain me. Now, dance monkey, dance.”
It’s not that Katy isn’t putting on a good show; this is how all concerts of this variety turn out in Los Angeles. A talented artist (maybe not your favorite) takes the stage, puts what I would imagine to be a damn lot of energy and work into a show, only to be received by an audience that behaves as though they’ve just undergone some serious anesthesia: eyes barely open, drink in hand, essentially not of the living.
I’m not talking about shows where dedicated fans pay good money to see their favorite artist – though sometimes even this isn’t enough to rouse enthusiasm from the lackluster LA folk. I’m talking about corporation subsidized, promotional events disguised as “fun.” Don’t get me wrong; these events would be fun if the people who actually got invited to these red carpet type things would have fun. I’ve been to quite a few shows like this. I’ve seen The Shins play in the living room of a mansion to an audience of thirty people, while the remaining two-hundred-and-eight stood outside refilling on free vodka. Weezer played earlier this year to a group of people who were too dim to understand that when he did a cover of a Lady Gaga song, he was mocking us and the entire event. When he croaked out “My Poker Face” with his monotone voice and his dead pan stare, for the first time the entire show, everyone emoted mild enthusiasm, which was precisely his point.
The only way to survive these events is to make sure you follow a couple of rules. One of them is to drink heavily. That way the d-bags all become a blur as benign as the badly painted walls. The second is to make sure to dance violently whenever the opportunity arises. This is a sure fire way to con yourself into thinking you’re at a place with liberated humans: move so much that it appears everyone else is moving with you. Once static, you’re as dead as the rest of them.
Mid-way through “Waking up in Vegas”, red and silver confetti explodes over the motionless crowd, raining in a Mardi Gras kaleidoscope. This is the high point of audience participation: thirteen people pull out their iPhones and take a snapshot. This way they can go home and post something on Facebook to make friends in high school jealous and brag about how much fun they had last night. Documentation has superseded actual existence.
We leave as “I Kissed a Girl” is being belted out. I imagine that the crowd continues on their too-cool-for-school antics and I’m not missing anything, no offense to Katy. I think about how just three hours earlier, I was discussing beadwork with an eighty year old man with an undetected fleck of blood on his glasses and feeling badly on how near the end of his road he probably is. Now I’m leaving a group of able-bodied twenty-somethings, blowing their lives being apathetic cool kids, charging forward and away from the opportunity to dance and move and live. What a waste indeed.