Abigail Cahill O'Brien

Not Exactly Camping

In Fashion, Flotsam on September 22, 2009 at 6:36 pm


We went to the Emmy’s this weekend. A perfect storm of extreme shyness, refusal to admit They’re more interesting than Us, and a general paranoia about getting thrown out resulted in only one celebrity picture. And even she would say I’m using the term celebrity liberally. Also, I’m pretty sure I called her “Kathie Lee Griffin.” Whoops!

Long story short, an education industry association Greg is involved with kindly invited us. On hearing the nature of our connection, a world-wise Los Angeleno groaned “Listen, you have to be prepared for the fact that you may be in a back room watching on a large TV screen, OK?” Apparently the education industry doesn’t top of the totem pole in LA. Hunh.

We weren’t relegated to Siberia as feared, but the weekend wasn’t without teaching moments on LA’s singular version of the haves and have-nots.

The Hotel Scene

We arrive at the Four Seasons’ Beverly Wilshire late Saturday morning. The Four Seasons service always strikes the chord of attentiveness, warmth and efficiency without straying flat (obsequious) or sharp (haughty). They graciously upgrade us from two double beds to a king suite and dug up a yoga mat for my post-flight stretchy needs. When I open the door to receive the mat, the concierge notices it matched the colors in my yoga shorts, and she is genuinely delighted. These people care about the little things, and I mean that in the best way possible. The sliding doors bifurcating the suite mean I can heat half the space for yoga and Greg can hang out in the other half without melting.

Here’s the view from our balcony.


After unpacking and workouts, we meet poolside. In the (long) wait for our salads, we sip wine and feign boredom while scoping the scene. To our left are two tables of SNL people. Seth Meyers is with a quiet, pretty, normal looking woman. Andy Samberg arrives with a charming gamine straight out of the Lower East Side. She wears a chambray work shirt rolled up to her elbows and tucked into a high-waisted bright blue full mini. Her waist-length wavy dirt blond hair is pulled into a ponytail. Big seventies shades, no makeup. No one bothers Seth or Andy with autograph or picture requests. Writers and cast members greet each other with half-handshakes, half-hugs and pecks on the cheek. They mingle between the tables and nearby bar, seeming tight knit in the way deadline-driven groups usually are. The mood is celebratory, with lots of high-fiving and back slapping. They’re clearly psyched for a Saturday off. Anyway, they seem normal, like you could meet them at a bar in New York and have a funny conversation. Though somehow it’s clear that’s entirely off limits here.

The only other point of interest around the pool is an overly made-up woman of a certain age dripping with logos and flash, wearing heels with her bathing suit, who keeps walking laps around the perimeter, over to the gym area, across the mid section, and back again.

Later Greg spies the actor who plays The Office’s Toby on the balcony next to ours. Emphasis on “spies,” given the seven-foot barrier between the balconies.

Dinner at SLS and the Emergence of the Clonelets

We join Greg’s friends for a meandering meal at Philip Starck-designed hot spot SLS. The food – a willfully indulgent tongue-in-chic interpretation of tapas – deserves it’s own post (coming soon). After the food, what stands out the most is the emergence of a particular Type, which I’ll call the Starlet Clones, or Clonelets for short. I first notice a stream of young women passing by, all carrying the same Chanel 2.55 chain bag. Now, Chanel bags are indisputably classic. But to see so many women carrying one at the same time is odd. I can’t imagine this happening in New York; among those friends who care about bags, there isn’t any overlap. Other similarities emerge beyond the requisite frailness: Clonelets prefer bodycon mini dresses and curvy heels. Some might temper the curves of a dress that tight with a tough, this-will-hurt-when-on-your-trachea heel. But these girls go high, thin, and almost traditional with their stilettos. Their hair marches to a monotone drummer: mostly blond, shoulder-length with dark roots, tousled, not much styled. There are two Clonelets in front of me in line for the ladies room. They chat about the comped champagne and how well they are being treated. Oblivious to the open stalls until someone else points them out, they eventually stumbled into one together. An old story, that one.

Something about the Starlet uniform says, “This is what’s important about me and it’s nothing new.” It’s a strange combination of “Look at me! And be bored.” It’s a style that draws the eye only to find everything’s blurry once it gets there. There’s nothing wrong with short and tight. What was utterly lacking was personality. It was almost impossible to tell them apart. We are at a very high-end restaurant, which didn’t draw the vibrant creative crowd, and that certainly has something to do with the Starlet’s bewildering prominence. I know several LA gals with more style in their pinky fingers than a whole room of Clonelets, style that nods easily in the direction of substance.

After dinner we go to Skybar for one drink. It’s a relatively relaxed vibe with a gorgeous view of the city skyline, lit pool, and, yes, more Clonelets. We leave early. After all, we’re jetlagged, married and fearing imminent pumpkin-hood.

Here’s my dress.


A Narciso Rodriguez on loan from a very generous friend, the great Lindsay Hamlin. Several people at the restaurant tap my elbow to ask about the dress. Good design is often stunning in its simplicity, and the craft involved here is evident to (at least some) strangers on first glance. I love the ingenious way the black darts cut in at the ribcage. And yet the silhouette is appropriate for a professional dinner. A pleasure to wear.

Day-of Prep

Skip ahead if hair & makeup aren’t your bag.

We have a long, lovely hotel breakfast. Then it’s the mad rush of yoga and self-applied hair and makeup. Allure has great videos on how to do you hair. I use the Beauty 101 video on soft buns. I’m not a hair perfectionist but it gets a little better with each attempt (so far two). For makeup I went to Kimara Ahnert in New York for a lesson the week before. Their makeup artists design a look, help you fill the holes in your makeup bag, and write down step-by-step instructions. Tina recommended some products besides Kimara’s (yay Tina!), like Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder, a tap or two of which keeps under eye concealer from creasing (which mine had been doing a lot of lately), and drug store makeup quick fixes. She recommended saving on drug store black shadow and blending it with higher quality metallics to create smoke. White shimmery shadow for highlighting the inner eye corners? You use so little of it, the drug store stuff is fine. I also recommend perfectionist Christopher, who taught me how to apply my wedding makeup a couple years ago. I’d much rather have a lesson every great once in a while than pay for a one-time application. Teach a woman to fish, yadda yadda.

The Dress


Another Narciso Rodriguez stunner on loan from Lindsay. I am honored to wear this dress. It’s one of a kind. From the first zipping, the construction gently hugs in all the right places. Narciso’s designs achieve architectural greatness without obscuring the woman wearing them. Again and again strangers stop me to admire and inquire.

The Red Carpet


Our bus stopped around the corner from the red carpet. We stalled by the curb and saw a few people arrive, notably Kathie Griffin and Kate Walsh. Kathie Griffin threw one arm up and one down: “Take my picture! Don’t I look fabulous?”


After a perfunctory trip through security, we begin a slow shamble down the Regular People Red Carpet. The carpet itself is divided into at least three lanes, the one furthest to the right for celebrities. The TV channels are raised on platforms to the far right. Greg swears we can easily entered the celebrity lane, and he probably could pulled it off, but I’m terrified.



The leader of our group advises us to linger as long as we can on the carpet itself and avoid eye contact with security, or risk being swept off the rug early and plunged into a two-hour wait in the lobby. It is very odd to walk so slowly, and unsettling for a rule-follower like me to ignore security’s bleating pleas to “Please move on, don’t crowd the carpet, we need you to move inside, trust us you look too good to be out here!” We somehow stay out there for 45minutes. On our way we see the actor who plays Sal on Madmen. He graciously stops for a picture with a fan. Naturally, I decided not to trouble him for another. Oh, and we see The Office’s Ed Helms too. Greg owes him a Cornell fist pump.


Once inside, we’re in a movie theater lobby. The concession stand sells pretzels and candy and all manner of drinks in plastic cups. Everyone mills about, checking out the get-ups, until the doors open at 4:45. The bar closes from this point til 5:30, to the crowd’s consternation. Greg somehow wrangles two champagnes out of the closed bar. That feller sure is persistent. We walked into the theater with them, and later find out drinks aren’t allowed inside. Security must be majorly fatigued with crowd control.

The Ceremony


Here’s a view of the stage from few rows behind our seats. Anyone who saw host Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number knows he knocked it out of the park. I’ll focus on the things you couldn’t see at home.

During the four-minute commercial breaks everyone rushes to either the bathroom or the bar. We did that a couple times before Greg grew antsy to take a walk, otherwise known as Restless Greg Syndrome. Over protests he dragged me all the way to the front row. From what I saw out of the corner of my eyes, Drew Barrymore is winnowy and lovely looking. Everything else terrified me. Kevin Bacon, John Stewart, Kevin Spacey, Tina Fey all pass in a blur.


After a couple of front row tours we headed to the orchestra-level lobby, which was clearly the site of all the action. The SNL crew was back, mixing it up as usual. Conan’s head poked over the crowd like a scarecrow. Rainn Wilson’s forehead kept Conan company in the stratosphere. As a non-industry person, it was momentarily surreal to see the usually disembodied heads walking around actually attached limbs, and in close proximity to each other.

We sneak back in to watch the last couple awards. Cameras started rolling before we got to seats (we’ve intermittently “borrowed” empty seats during the second half of the show), so we stand behind the cameras next to an impassive Kevin Costner. Sarah McLachlan sings her song, everyone claps for the deceased, and Mad Men wins Best Drama. Everyone who hasn’t already left rushes the doors.

The Governor’s Ball

Psych! We grab dinner at nearby Katsyu with recently engaged and glowing friends, Marissa and Jesse. While glimpses of other worlds may entice or alarm, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were right: ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

Which reminds me I need to post on my sister’s chicken pot pie.

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