Hazards of Sundance: Partying with celebrities is awkward

A party with celebrities is like any other party, except you don't know anyone

Published January 23, 2014 11:59PM (EST)

There are just a few times at the Sundance Film Festival, a campground for the Hollywood elite, when you don’t feel like you’re being sized up: sitting on a public transit bus, eating at Subway, and waiting in line for a party to which you have already RSVPed. Aside from the few stars everyone is presumably there to see, the line is the great equalizer. After an hour of waiting, I was one of the first people siphoned into the after-party for “Life After Beth,” a zombie rom-com starring Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan that premiered at the film festival earlier that day.

Like all corporate-sponsored parties at Sundance (this one by Grey Goose Vodka), I was greeted by models in curve-hugging sweater dresses and black platform heels, wearing fuzzy hats indoors because at Sundance, winter is not just a season -- it’s a theme. They carried trays of hot spiked cider and frosted flutes of champagne, lime fizz and vodka.

The lounge was set up like a friend’s living room, if said friend was Tom Haverford from “Parks and Recreation.” The comparison became more apt when I noticed that Jerry/Larry (Jim O’Heir) had parked himself behind one of the couches, resting on the top of a seat cushion. O’Heir, who was either unaware of coat check or opted to not use it, was dressed exactly as his frumpy, bumbling character would be dressed, bundled in silver thermal insulation a puffy silver jacket. It was oddly patriotic, with “U.S.A.” emblazoned on the back and an American flag embroidered on the left sleeve, and his jacket made me feel slightly more at ease about having come to a star-studded party with the large backpack I’d been lugging around all day.

When I turned around, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon walked in. Reilly and Shannon laughed with some friends, while DeHaan had the tunnel-vision stare instinctive to celebrities, and to any woman who lives in New York or Los Angeles. He soon went upstairs. Behind him, a lone photographer snaked through the crowd.

I sank into a plush chair, submitting to my only friend in attendance, iPhone 5, just when one man attempted to save me from myself. “So what’s your affiliation with the movie?” he asked, as I practically sprang up to shake his hand. He was “in finance” and his sister was a producer for the film, as well as an extra. He introduced me to his brother. His brother is in eighth grade. Soon, finance guy and the 14-year-old had more friends present than I did, however, and I began to feel as though I might be imposing. After lingering for a few minutes, I allowed myself to fade away, losing contact with the only person who'd be friendly to me that night.

“What’s upstairs?” I asked a model. “It’s another lounge, like this one," she said, "but with a DJ. You should check it out. It’s cool.”

When I went upstairs, I saw DeHaan and Shannon and Reilly hanging out at a table with some non-famous folks. A guy in skinny jeans with long hair was waving his arms and legs, fake-dance dancing, through the crowd. I spotted finance guy and 14-year-old in the crowd, and upon realizing that I could not insert myself back into their conversation, I walked to the opposite end of the room. This task took me a good 10 minutes; then I went back downstairs.

Another man, who owned a sound design company, began talking to me. “What you hear at this party, for example,” he explained, “isn’t as simple as it seems. When someone walks in the door, we have to make a special sound effect just for that. Then we need to equalize all the sounds.”

“Here, let me give you my business card,” he said. Just before he turned back to his colleague, he pointed at the business card and said, “Maybe there’s a story there.”

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Aubrey Plaza Celebrities Dane Dehaan Film Life After Beth Partying Sundance 2014