Back in the Saddle



Normally, the sight of Britney Spears in a public venue warrants a frenzy of such Oh-my-God-I-need-to-text-my-Myspace-top-24-right-now proportions that it risks taking the fun out the event itself.

The Thursday before last (belated, I know), the VIP lounge at Arena glowed from the screens of multiple Motorolas and Sidekicks as clubgoers alerted their friends, who alerted their friends, that the former Mrs. Kevin Federline was kicking back in a corner booth with her new beau.

My little cameraless Nokia remained in my pocket. It wasn’t until I was outside, passing the paparazzi on the sidewalk, that I pulled it out and left a cool and collected voicemail for Molly, scolding her for possibly missing the final opportunity she’ll ever have before leaving L.A. to be in the intimate vicinity of the idol she worships above all things on earth.

This surreal evening had started with a little bullshit.

For the past year I never had to pay admission to Arena. I was spoiled by the several occasions during which I’d have a friend or acquaintance get me past whatever Generic GQ Wannabe was holding the guest list at the VIP door.

Tonight was no exception. Even though I knew no one inside, I was determined to talk my way into VIP for free. Plus, I had neglected to contact DJ Ray Rhodes to be put on his list (“I’m with the DJ.”). The age-old trick never fails; act like you belong there. Matt, Andrea and I walked up to Mr. Gatekeeper…

Me (changing names for security purposes): “I’m here with Jay Radcliffe.”
Gatekeeper: “What’s your name?”
Me: “Mitsuzuka.”
Gatekeeper rustles through his papers, coming across nothing.
Me: “We’re supposed to be with Jonathan Q’s party.”

For a quasi-second I imagined the ploy failing, being exposed as an imposter, forced to brave the cold with the rest of the "commoners" in the long line that snaked through the parking lot.

Gatekeeper: “Okay. Are you gonna stay in the lounge?
Me: "Sure."

I knew that last name had to work. Jonathan Q was a name everyone knew. There’s no list the guy hasn’t been on.

We climbed the stairs to the top floor and were greeted with a thumping bass and dizzying flashes of light. My little act of deception with the doorman earned me a free vodka Red Bull at the bar, a thank you token from Andrea.

The lounge had yet to fill up. Tables with "Reserved" placecards were ready to be occupied, buckets of ice ready to be stocked with bottles of Cliquot. Drinks in hand, we made our way to the main room downstairs, where I was able to get a first listen on several new British imports: Jamelia's "Beware of the Dog," which awesomely samples Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," the latest 80s cover from Girls Aloud, "I Think We're Alone Now," and another cover, "Party All The Time" from an obscure artist named Sharam.

They already have a home in a playlist on my iPod.

By 1am we were ready to exit back through VIP, but security was beefed up near the ropes. No one could get in from within the club, even those with yellow VIP bracelets. We were shut out and directed to leave through the main lobby.

Shivering from the extreme cold (so un-L.A. recently), we made our start to the car which was parked two blocks away. A camera flash took me by surprise. Several members of the paparazzi were hovering near the driveway to Arena's lot, waiting for...someone.

The three of us agreed to try again for the VIP lounge, this time reentering the way we first came in.

A flash of our bracelets and a flight of stairs later, we were back in. The occupancy had doubled since we were there last. We tried to make out who was who in the dimly lit room. I separated from Andrea and Matt, hoping to spot a famous face on my own.

"Hiko!"

The name I had used at the door, my free ticket to VIP, was standing in front of me. Jonathan Q. In the flesh. Who'da thunk it?

We exchanged belated Happy New Years and obligatory How Are Yous. Apparently he had one of the "Reserved" tables overflowing with Grey Goose and Brut.

Nonchalantly I asked, "Who's here?" He, of all people, would know.

Nonchalantly he replied, "Britney and Lindsay."

"Ah," I nodded.

Cut to: Me immediately making a beeline for Andrea and Matt to inform them.

We spotted her in the corner chatting with some guy who, I later learned, was Issac Cohen, the latest loser she's schtupping. Their little corner was roped off, and everyone wanted in on the action. I saw the mop of blond hair. I saw the unusually pale face. I saw the white-trash T-shirt. Ladies and gentlemen, Britney Spears.

I was over it within a minute. True, a part of me was tickled by the fact that I got to personally witness the former teen pop princess return to her panty-less party habits after popping out two pint-sized princes. But a part of me was also tired and ready to escape the chaos. The crowd, the loud music, the elbows jabbing into hips - it was all too much for me to handle at that point.

I was sure I'd read about Brit's shenanigans on Perez Hilton or replay videos of her stumbling out of the club with Issac on TMZ. In this day and age, the Internet never fails to deliver the gaudy goods.

Nevertheless, I told everyone at work the next morning.

As for the rest of my life, it's now back to its regular schedule. I have gradually gotten my L.A. groove back during these first few weeks of the new year. There is gossip to spread (Lindsay...rehab...big surprise). There are Oscar predictions to make (J. Hud, I'm talking to you). And there are TV shows to welcome back after weeks of repeats and preemptions (I need a Hiro...and Apollo).

2007, you know how to make an entrance.


Welcoming Posh and Becks to the neighborhood,
H.P.M.

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