This past weekend really just spanked me.
Our name guy at Buzzine – Emmanuel Itier – was invited to watch the UFC 104 fight at the Staples Center this past Saturday. Emmanuel’s been in the celebrity interviewer business for years and has racked up over a thousand interviews by now, so everyone in the industry knows who he is, which is why he gets invites to big events like UFC. He couldn’t make it this last Saturday so the drippings were offered to the poor and I was lucky enough to be first in line with my tin plate fully extended.
Lost in Los Angeles
For a while there I thought I was doing pretty well with my Los Angeles navigation skills. Unfortunately, it turns out that if I haven’t been to a particular part of LA, I’m going to get lost my first time through it. Such was the way with getting to the Staples Center. I think I’ve been there before, just not on my own. It’s not like I don’t go prepared or anything, either. I always make sure to Google Maps my route to a new place, especially because it helps me scout out parking lots. The problem for me is that as I’m nearing crucial interchanges I start second guessing Google. After all, it’s not always up to date and I’ve personally experienced incorrect driving instructions before. Of course those times are few and far between – maybe as low as 3%. When you’re in the moment and a possible freeway exit is coming up on you at 75mph, however, it feels like 50%. In the case of Saturday, I picked the wrong side of the coin in the toss and got dumped somewhere just east of the Staples Center, which apparently is a maze of one way streets. On the way home, I’d get lost in the same maze trying to find an onramp to the 10 freeway east.
Nevertheless, I got there on time, especially since I had to wait in the Press Media line with all of the sports journos. It’s interesting to note that sports journalists seem to be a little more matter of fact about their jobs than entertainment journalists. Their questions appear to be less fluffy and less clever. They’re not trying to elicit some kind of response that’s going to make for good copy; they’re just looking for simple, direct answers.
Security is also much tighter for sporting events than it is for film junkets. It’s not as harsh as, say, TSA. They don’t make you take off your shoes or anything, but they do rifle through your bag and sweep the handheld metal detector over you a couple of times. Also, they really pay attention to your media credentials. They don’t even let you eat at the hospitality buffet until they get a good look at it. At film junkets you pretty much just walk in and grab whatever you want, though the spread isn’t as nice.
One thing that’s similar in both camps is a certain level of professional courtesy and eagerness to walk newbies through the process. One journo I met was more than happy to give me the skinny on how everything worked and where to go. It was very reminiscent of my first roundtable interview with Wes Craven. All of the veterans at the table acknowledged me as the new guy without being condescending.
Might as Well Watch It at Home
I don’t know why anyone would want ringside seats at an octagon match. It’s sometimes difficult to see anything. When the fighters fall on the mat and grapple – unless they’re near the fence that you’re near – forget about watching anything in the ring. I think I spent at least a third of my time watching the giant telecast on the screens around the stadium just so I could follow the fight. Also, Press seats for sporting events like this are (as the journo to my right cleverly pointed out) the equivalent of flying coach. Not only is there literally no elbow room, but the guy in front of me might as well had been sitting on my knees. Then of course there was the fat dude who had to get up and take dump every ten minutes, forcing everyone in my row to scrunch up in their seats to let him by each time. The one upside is that I got a great view of Natasha Wicks – the new UFC round girl – every time she circled the ring. She’s easily one of my favorite models and I’d never heard of her before Saturday.
Everyone’s Got Two Jobs These Days
As a guy who does the entertainment journalist thing part-time, I’ve always felt just a little deceptive in telling people that I’m a journalist. Sure, I go to events and I write features and editorials and reviews, but I don’t do it for a living, which is how I think people take it when I tell them I do it. For my part, I go ahead and let them believe it, because sometimes I need them to. Other times, I just like people thinking it. In any event, I thought I was alone in my part-time capacity, but it turns out there are more journalists with separate day jobs than I thought. The guy to my right during the fight does BSD for an animation company. The woman to my right during the Press conference – a beautiful, red head Brazilian lady who kissed me on the cheek to illustrate how affectionate Brazilians are – is a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas. The woman to my left during the fight was a full-time journalist, I think. I only mention her now, because she had an Australian accent (big plus for me) and stunning legs (another big plus).
After the event, I was put on the list for the after party at Club Nokia across the street, but I was nursing a growing headache and I was exhausted, so I just drove home. All in all, it was a great experience. Look for my feature soon.