Tales from the red carpet with Richard Gere, Bradley Cooper

I’m a little miffed at La Quinta Councilwoman Linda Evans.

I read her Palm Springs International Film Festival star sightings list this morning with disgust. Naomi Watts, Helen Hunt, Alan Arkin, Tom Hanks and Dale Chihuly.

Who the hell is Chihuly?

Anyway, her Facebook list goes on and on. I didn’t see near as many stars from my vantage point. To be fair, Evans did post a picture of herself in a black dress on the red carpet, so, unless she also got arrested that means her star sightings came with a ticket. Me? I didn’t get no stinking $1,000 ticket. But I did get the next best thing. That was a red-carpet spotters place across the street behind the fence and security.

By Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

Richard Gere yells to Diane Lane on the red carpet Jan. 5. By Jay Calderon/Desert Sun

I was in great company, too.

I got to meet Vera Brock, also known among carpet goers as “Palm Desert Vera.” She’s a retired school teacher who taught kindergarten 28 years at Desert Sands Unified. This was Brock’s first red-carpet trip. She came because of the Connecticut massacre.

“I thought, that could have been me; me and my kids,” Brock said. “It’s just a time to wake up and start living my life.”

So, she called some old friends she hadn’t spoken to in years. And she packed a folding chair and lunch to camp out with a couple hundred strangers Saturday.

And then I met Billy Ceilo, a red carpet pro. He had a bag full of movie posters from Argo, Gangster Squad, Les Misérables and Lincoln. A Michigan transplant who lives in Northridge, Ceilo had hopes of snagging a couple of autographs and pictures. But I’ve got to tell you, the pictures were a long shot. I saw a self-portrait Ceilo took of him and Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston. Ceilo cut his own head off.

“I suck, absolutely suck at taking pictures,” Ceilo said.

Well, duh. He can laugh about it, though. I have to remember to check out his failed photo attempts at http://www.miketehfanboy.com.

Me and my god daughter, Aracely Herrera.

Star gazing with god daughter, Aracely Herrera. By Wade Byars/Desert Sun

I also met Steven Markin and Sandy Jones. The two friends met on the red carpet last year. Jones called her red carpet friends “family.” Markin, who
lives in Cathedral City, found himself a prime spot right next to the KESQ camera area. But he had to get there at 4 a.m. to get it. Me and my little crew weren’t that gung ho, this year.

Jones was a hoot! Apparently she met Ben Affleck on the red carpet here last year and threw herself at him. She got a photo, which she made in to a t-shirt she wore Saturday, and a kiss. Well, Affleck got the kiss.

“It wasn’t true that security had to untangle me from him,” she said.

I laughed. And then I realized she wasn’t joking. That’s what a media outlet had reported. Jones brought newspaper clippings of the exchange with her.

I also briefly met Joy Chuang from Fullerton. But we didn’t speak long because she was busy making a poster that read, “Happy Birthday Bradley Cooper.”

In all, it was a very friendly group. And then the limos carrying movie stars started rolling in.

Who is it, people began to ask. Richard Gere? Sally Field? Helen Mirren? No, too early. The big stars always arrive later.

Just hanging out with Bradley Cooper. By Annie Torres

Just hanging out with my good pal, Bradley Cooper. By Annie Torres

It ended up being 16-year-old Tom Holland, who played Lucas in The Impossible, which tells the true story of a family’s experience during the devastating 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. The young Brit only has two movie credits to his name, if you count a voice over for an animated film I’ve never heard of that he did two years ago. It hardly gives Holland film star status, but this is the red carpet and things were about to get crazy.
The crowd inched closer. Some waved their hands. Others waved movie posters.

“Tom! Tom!” someone shouted. Then others joined in the chorus. One guy yelled, “Tom! I have something for you!”

People pressed and pushed each other straining for a peak. Even a 90-year-old woman – who had dragged a broken leg and her walker to the red carpet – got caught up in the celebrity madness and shoved me.

What really got the crowd incensed was the short man with an enviable spot against the railing who wore cowboy boots and a smug smile. No one had noticed him, though, until he stood on a stepstool.

The crowd’s reaction was swift and immediate.


“What a selfish asshole.”

“It’s so rude. It’s not enough that he’s in the front row.”

And a threat that sounded more menacing in the German accent, “You better be careful.”

Mr. Smug pretended not to hear until he didn’t. Then he shot back, “You get here at 8 (a.m.).”

Well, OK then.

To be sure, there were some funny moments, too. Like when the Spanish-American comedienne and flamenco guitarist Charo turned up. “Who invited her?” someone asked to laughs.

Then came the chant “Hey, ho! Charo!” followed by “Cuchi-cuchi!”

And there was the birthday song wars between our side and those obnoxious bleacher fans across the street. “Late, late,” the German accent said. “Nice try. Stop copying us!”

Ah, what a night. The stars we managed to coax over – Gere, Cooper and Mirren – were close enough to touch, but not so close to get spittled on.
I’m guessing a red carpet trip is on many a bucket list. Now I can cross it off mine.


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