Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stalking Ben Affleck & Justin Timberlake at the Runner Runner Premiere

Sarah Grant and myself on the red carpet.
Sarah Grant and myself on the red carpet.

I am a cinephile, so to have the chance to attend the world premiere of Runner Runner, the new film starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, was a surreal experience. I’ve written an extensive piece on the adventure for PokerNews, but I wanted to supplement that with a fun little story on how I followed my instincts and almost got into an exclusive meet and greet with the stars.

As you can imagine, I was giddy with anticipation on the day of the premiere. I decided to head over to Plant Hollywood a few hours early to scope things out. For those who’ve never been there, Planet Hollywood is a hotel and casino in the heart of the Miracle Mile Shops. To put it another way, it’s a casino surrounded by a shopping mall.

I was set to meet PokerNews hostess Sarah Grant and cameraman Adam Brown at 5:30 PST, which was the call time for the press. Despite being a full two hours before the scheduled premiere, Planet Hollywood had transformed from housing a hundred our so Wednesday afternoon slot players to swelling with hundreds of fans lining the red carpet hoping to catch a glimpse of a star or starlet.

The red carpet actually began on the casino floor, ran through the gaming pit, and incorporated the aforementioned escalators into the path. After meeting the team, we utilized a secret elevator that helped us avoid the throng of enthusiasts while delivering us to the end of the red carpet, which was atop the mezzanine.

After setting up on the red carpet, we still had plenty of time to kill. As we’d soon find out, things rarely start on time at a movie premiere. While Sarah and Adam had to remain on the red carpet, I wasn’t so constrained.

Workers setting up the red carpet.
Workers setting up the red carpet.

“Maybe I’ll go to the Diamond Lounge,” I thought to myself after seeing the exclusive club was on the upper level across the way. You see, every World Series of Poker bracelet winner is also awarded a Diamond Card for a year, which provides numerous perks.

As I was debating whether or not to leave the merriment, a thought crept into my mind—not only are we waiting for this thing to start, but the famous folks were too. That meant they had to be waiting somewhere, and what better place to keep them than in an elite lounge? It seemed like a long shot, but I didn’t really have anything better to do in that moment. It was off to the Diamond Lounge.

After presenting my card and gaining access I was pleased to see that my suspicions were true. In the back of the lounge there was a doorway roped off an guarded by two hulking security guards in black suits. Beyond was Runner Runner promotional material and it was apparent something was going down.

Sure enough, a quick check with my waiter revealed that an private meet and greet with the film’s stars was taking place. My Diamond Card had gotten me that far, but I doubted it would get me where I wanted to be; however, I did have my media credentials for the premiere draped around my neck. My plan was simple – walk as confidently as I could toward the security guards and see if they’d notice my media badge and open the ropes.

I down the rest of my drink, tipped the waiter (who told me my plan probably wouldn’t work), and began walking down the short hall. Within seconds it became apparent my attempt was futile. I was only about halfway to my destination when one of the guards stepped forward and asked, “Can I help you sir?”

I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but in fact it had. “I’m just looking for the…” I began to say before noticing the restrooms were to my direct left. “I was just looking for the bathroom,” I said before ducking in to reevaluate. I may have been stonewalled, but I hadn’t gone that far only to give up. I decided there must be another way in.

Sarah doing what she does best.
Sarah doing what she does best.

I washed my hands, exited the restrooms and went back the way I came. I left the Diamond Lounge and began to search the grounds. Sure enough, there was a roped off area with a much more friendly-looking older lady holding a clipboard. I think myself a charming guy, and I liked my odds a lot better with this tender woman than the statuesque security guards.

“What’s going on back there?” I innocently asked even though I already knew the answer. The sweet old lady then told me about the meet and greet. “I’m a member of the media,” I said while flashing my credentials. “Does this get me in?

“Unfortunately it does not,” she replied, “you need to have a bracelet.” Obviously she didn’t know about my WSOP gold bracelet. I’d been denied twice, but I was determined to gain access. I began to wander the area scoping out people’s wrists to determine what color bracelet I would need. I also kept an eye on the floor to see if any had been discarded. I was getting desperate, and I wonder how far I would have gone had the red carpet not begun.

The roar of the crowd and announcements over the P.A. let me know that I needed to get back, so I abandoned my futile quest. I never did get into that room, but it wasn’t from lack of trying.

Even though I failed in my mission, I was pacified by the fact that I would soon be rubbing elbows with Affleck, Timberlake and company on the red carpet. I hurriedly made my way back to our spot, but to read about that you’ll have to check out my feature on PokerNews.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ChadAHolloway for more poker articles, stories and musings from the tournament trail.

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