As I do every Friday night, I immerse myself in the hippest and happeningest of societal scenes – downtown Hollywood, California. This past Friday was different (mainly due to the fact that this time, I was actually welcomed). My House was the spot, Jimmy Kimmel and Page 2’s Bill Simmons were the hosts of the ESPN Magazine's After Dark All-Star Game Party. It promised to be a unique night, one so unique that the word “unique” would not do it justice. I would have to think of a more, er, unique word.
The “confirmed to attend list” featured some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment, family connections, and a stable of on-air talent from “the mothership” (as radio talk show host Dan Patrick lovingly refers to ESPN).
I knew I would have to bring my “A” game to this one and dressed as close to the nines as I could muster. (I pulled together two threes and a two.) And I made sure my new accessory, a beard, was spit shined.
My goal for the evening was to receive an honest-to-goodness Adrian Peterson handshake, known for their pure seismic activity. My second goal was to survive an Adrian Peterson handshake and to write about it. I’d been squeezing a stress ball for a week and upped my Vitamin D dosage so as not to have my bones crushed.
The first unique guest to arrive was the rain and wind. (Seriously, 4,000 special effects supervisors in town and not one could fix the weather?) A tent was set up outside covering the red carpet (which, to prove how cool ESPN is, was black) and sectional thin, wooden boards with the evening’s sponsors adorning it were set up as the backdrop for the sea of media.
Among the unique mysteries in the universe is why people suddenly forget how to drive in Los Angeles when it rains. But the first two to arrive are renowned for their driving abilities, in any sort of defensive storm. Russell Westbrook who looked like he was doing a GQ spread -– “My mom taught me how to dress and I got pretty good at it” –- and Derrick Rose, who seemed more an unassuming youth than someone who was wanted for arson after he torched the San Antonio Spurs the previous night.
“Hey, Derrick,” I started, “so how’s your life?”
Even he couldn’t help let a smile slip out right there. “Uh, my life is pretty good right now. I can’t complain.”
I admired their politeness and humility. Definitely, one of a kind, the both of them.
And speaking of which, what certain celebrity from a famous family should come down the carpet next? None other than Jon Barry, former NBA star and current ESPN commentator. (Rob Kardashian was on the list, but did not show.) I asked him JB how his brood of Barrys compared to the clan of Kardashians. He said, “That’s not even a contest.”
So I pressed him on who the sexiest Barry was. He admitted it would have to be his baby brother Drew, if for no other reason than the youngest may complain upon hearing that Jon didn’t name him sexiest.
But truthfully, the entire Barry family is matchless.
As is Maurice Greene, the former fastest man alive, four-time Olympic medalist and former world-record holder in the 100 meters. (He came in at a normal clip.) He’s currently running "The Factory,” in nearby Westlake Village, specializing in elite performance. He’s currently working with some future NFLers at the combine.
“Hey, Maurice, could you help me?” I ask.
“No,” he says quickly.
“At least consider it before you answer.”
“I’m not gonna lie to you.”
“I want you to lie to me.”
“Well, are you fast?”
“I seem to remember my time in middle school was 15.2 in the 100. Is that good?”
“I can get you down to a 14.”
“What if I shave the beard?”
“Maybe a 13.”
So there you have it. Still, it’s nice to be told where you stand by someone who knows. To once be the fastest man alive, he has proven himself to be inimitable, except by the others who have been since named such.
I had begun to run out of words to describe the uniqueness that was oozing along the carpet. It was then that I was fortunate that Brandon Molale should stride down the aisle.
Currently in “True Blood,” he’s been a stunt man, translating that into roles in “Dodgeball,” “The Waterboy,” and “Mr. Deeds,” among others. He has the stubble beard that I strive for and I asked him how I can get my facial marmoset to look so groomed.
He compliments me saying that my beard makes me look authentistic. We pause. There’s something about that word. It’s not quite right, but at the same time, it’s brilliant. It describes the evening to a tee! (And it reminds me how my parents once had me tested for authentism.)
We talk some more. “Lemme give you a business card,” he says. He dispenses his 2”x1” business cards as a magician would do a trick. “Pick a card. Any card.” And each one has one of his roles on it.
I pick Dodgeball. It has his Twitter feed and Facebook. We talk movies and my desire to write one for him. He eliminates my idea to cast him as a priest, which I found amusing because he’s 6-4, 250, but feels the gravitational pull toward a role a scientist, one that cures authentism.
Then the evening got truly authentistic …
A loud boom as something to our right, from just outside the tent had fallen, due to the wind (or perhaps it was an Adrian Peterson handshake in the distance) and the makeshift backdrop began to fall on top of the carpet walkers. Reinforcements came to hold the boards in place. At one point, Baltimore Ravens running back Le’Ron McClain helped hold the wall for about ten minutes. It’s like the press crew was Joe Flacco and the wall was a blitzing James Harrison.
Perhaps the boom was merely announcing the coming of this man – “It is said that rain does not fall upon him, but rather it merely bows in deference.”
That prose could only be in advance of The Most Interesting Man in the World, a.k.a. character actor Jonathan Goldsmith. The memorable campaign is on its fifth season and he does not stop being fascinating. He tells me how lucky he has been to have been able to meet some great people (before reaching nimbly to the wood behind me to knock upon it) during his current role.
“All my career, I was the bad guy; I’d do the killing or I was killed; I always wanted to do comedy,” he says. And now he’s got his chance. Hm, I think, maybe he’d be perfect as the scientist that cures authentism.
“But let’s be serious here,” I lean in a little closer, “how do you think I should groom my beard?
“Let it be,” he says invoking Paul McCartney. “Too many men spend too much time grooming these days. I take a little cream, run it through my hair, and I’m done. Just leave it alone.”
“But,” he intimates to me, “you’re looking too good with that thing. I should be worried for my job.”
“I’m only pseudo-interesting,” I assure Goldsmith, as I consider my own campaign –- “He is the most Authentistic Man in the World.”
I thoroughly enjoy talking to the actor who plays the Most Interesting Man in the World because he seems to embody the role. (Read about our first encounter here.) And it isn’t much that would distract you from talking to him, but Bonnie-Jill Laflin, the first female NBA scout, may be that person. She wears high-heeled shoes and a gold dress befitting someone who works for the Lakers.
I ask what he observations tell her about that Kobe Bryant. Is he going to be a player in the league someday? (She thinks he will be.) And using the eyeball test, she would like to have Blake Griffin on the Lakers someday as well. “He’s a freak,” she says of the authentistic Clippers star and future Slam Dunk champion (he won the next night).
Add to the cavalcade of these really cool conversationalists, one Columbia grad and Los Angeles native, Marcellus Wiley. Smart man. He likes my suit. Outside of sports, he likes to discuss social issues. Actually, he told me that he didn’t watch sports much as a youth. He’d watch game film, but other than that, it didn’t interest him much.
I remark how he doesn’t act like your typical football player. He isn’t a thug, but let’s not kid ourselves, if he was down in a scrum, “there were times, instead of pushing myself up with my hand on the ground, I may have used someone’s neck,” Wiley said. That’s actually pretty smart.
As the evening wore down, what better way to end it than to talk basketball with Guy Torry, actor/comedian/Lakers fan.
“Hey, Guy, I heard you say you’re a Lakers fan. I’m a Boston guy myself.”
“Boston,” I repeated.
“I heard you. I said, I’m sorry.”
Guy went on for approximately 12 minutes saying, “I hate, HATE Boston.”
When he was done, I asked him what he thought about Boston. Twelve minutes later, I asked his observation on the difference between Celtics and Boston fans.
“See, Lakers fans are sophisticated,” Guy began. “They’re passionate. Boston fans are crazy.”
“I mean, what is this?” He starts smacking himself in the face like Kevin Garnett does to get himself fired up.
Though I looked upon him with pity as all Boston fans do to Lakers fans, we managed to find common ground, a subject that we could agree upon.
For one, the Tea Party movement is bad, but the original tea party, in 1773, was good. We embraced the irony there. And also came to an agreement that, no matter how much we may despise each other, we will not poison each other’s rallying trees, as some crazed Alabama fans might do to Auburn. That’s a giant step in Celtics-Lakers relations.
All in all, there was no Adrian Peterson, but it was still an authentistic night.