Secrets From Red-Carpet Reporters
At its mythical best, entertainment reporting involves dressing up for parties, receiving messengered envelopes with Governors Ball tickets, and schmoozing celebs over a glass of champagne. While red-carpet reporting has its perks, it does not always live up to that fantasy.
"While some reporters get the same luxuries as stars, like extravagant gift bags and tickets to sit inside the Oscars, that is more the exception than the rule," says celebrity-media expert Vanessa Diaz, who interviewed more than 50 entertainment journalists for her anthropology research at the University of Michigan. "The reality is we're talking about a job where you stand outside for hours, often in the cold since most events are at night, hoping that at least one A-list celebrity actually shows up and then talks to you."
Beyond the spray tans and teeth whitening, real-life Hollywood reporters reveal what work is really like when your office is an Oscar afterparty.
Celebrities are not always polite, and they don't always like small talk. "I remember my first assignment for People magazine, and I got yelled at by Kid Rock," says one reporter. "I asked about the party, and he said 'Why aren't you asking about my music?' and threatened to have me thrown out of the party. And I asked Russell Crowe how he was feeling at his movie premiere, and he started yelling that it was the stupidest question." Another reporter confessed to Diaz that she once asked an actor how he was doing. "He said, 'How about I give you a big can of shut-the-f***-up?' and then walked away from her."
Even legends can have an off day when asked a mundane question. Lauren Bacall attended the premiere of "Beyond the Sea," where an Us Weekly reporter asked her, "What brings you out tonight?" Bacall chided back, "What do you think brings me out? I wanted to go to the movies, and that's why I'm here!" An entertainment reporter who observed the exchange added, "She may as well have added 'duh,' for the same effect."
Journalists are not posing for the cameras. On the carpet, reporters are separated from celebrities by metal barricades, says Diaz. "It makes the reporters look like caged animals that need to be restrained," she says, adding that once inside the event, reporters can come across as "well-paid stalkers who need to track the celebrity's every move."
Red carpets may look glamorous, but they can be absolutely uncomfortable, especially in the winter. One reporter covered an evening premiere in Manhattan, where it was 40 degrees outside. There were no heat lamps, and the wind chill was brutal. The film's stars finally showed up,posed for photos, and walked in without stopping for an interview. "I stood for two hours in the bitter cold for nothing," the reporter said.
Red-carpet reporters often have to ask ridiculous and intrusive questions. Diaz recalls interviewing Justin Timberlake right after his split with Cameron Diaz, and she knew she had limited time to bring it up. "On the red carpet, you often have just two seconds for a question. If that's the biggest thing going on with a person, and your job depends on the news, the only thing I could do is be straightforward and ask the question about the breakup. I knew he was offended, but my job is on the line in that situation."