My Conan Adventure: Part Four
In the theatre lobby it’s pretty easy to spot the actors and then folks you think are actors. You see faces you recognize but can’t place as being part of your life. Then it slowly dawns on you that you’ve seen them on TV or in movies. It felt like trying to reconcile vague memories of a dream with waking reality. The whole sense of dislocation is aided by the fact that I imagine actors to be physically large than they are—which makes sense when you have just finished seeing them projected twenty feet tall on the screen.
One of the first people I run into in the lobby is Fred Malmberg, and he’s over the moon with the final film. I introduced Milynn and after we assure him that they did a great job with the film, Fred starts saying, “I was talking with Rose about your book…” Before he can finish the sentence, however, a bunch of folks come by to congratulate him.
At these events, Hollywood seems to function almost totally with 7-8 word stock phrases that have a ritualistic quality to them. It’s all code. I heard folks say things like, “Bask in it, my friend, bask…” and “It’s a winner, a winner…” What was even more fascinating was watching faces at the same time as the words were being spoken. Half the time body-language and facial expressions matched the words in meaning and tone. The other half, not at all.
Milynn later commented, “Welcome to LA, where no one says what they mean.” It really did strike me as being very formal and ritualistic, like feudal Japan without seppuku. I got the sense that no one needed to kill themselves, others would be happy to do it for them. Still, no one could afford to be impolite because when the sun came up again, they’d be working with these same folks on new projects. I guess that’s not 100% different from the way things get done in the rest of the world, but LA and Washington, DC have refined the ritual to high art. This is why, for those of us who can’t fully appreciate the nuances, it all appears vapid and meaningless. Despite all that, however, business does get done.
Fred did manage to tear himself free to complete his story. He’d told Rose McGowan about what I’d done with her character in the novel and, after a moment’s reflection, said she liked it. Okay, so that was a cool geek moment—not as cool as if she’d read the book and liked it, of course, but it still works.
Off to the after party we went. The party was being held at WP24, which is Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton. Folks got packed like sardines into elevators and ushered upstairs. We surrendered our party passes. I let Milynn be my guide once inside. I followed her from room to room—she walking straight, me slipping sideways through the same openings in the crowd. We snagged some champagne midway through the journey and made it to the back room where we found Jordan, Dawn, Pete and Olivia at the Paradox table.
So, what is a Hollywood party like? In this dark, rectangular room with tall windows overlooking the city, various tables had been marked with placards reserving them for the stars and others who had worked on the film. People packed the room—pretty much like every other room party I’ve ever been to, save that they were much better dressed and, in comparison to the same party at a convention, much thinner and better looking. Air-kisses abounded, people circulated, hands got shaken and trays of appetizers made the rounds.
Actually, the food didn’t really make it very far. Milynn was very good at spotting it and getting it moving in our direction. It was really good stuff: Beef on skewers with a Thai sauce, some tiny spring rolls with some mango in there, some chicken drumsticks in a thick sauce that I actually didn’t try, and some chocolate thing with a gooey center that I could have gorged on and died happy.
Jay came over and repeated to me the story about Rose. He said he’d been just talking to her, so I said, “Oh, then can I meet her?” Jay smiled, turned and we were off. He found her quickly, she offered me her hand and said, “Rose.” I shook it, introduced Milynn and then leaned in as Rose said that she’d been on Charmed for three years, had died numerous times and had been brought back to life, so her character Marique could easily come back for the next Conan film. I agreed that this was a very good point, we all smiled, and she was off.
That was another Hollywood style of conversation, and one I’ve had before. Miss McGowan was being very polite. She gave me a big smile because Jay felt it was important to introduce us. I fully understand and appreciate that, and admire how gracious she was.
I’ve noticed—and I’ve met my fair share of actors because of Star Wars®—that you generally have to meet celebrities three times before you actually begin to register. This is not a knock on actors. Professional athletes do it—heck, I even do it. I recently read a study that indicated that human beings are wired to only remember 150 individuals. After that, it’s really tough without teaching yourself mnemonic tricks to recover names. It’s not that the information isn’t important, it’s just that it gets overlaid so quickly with yet more information.
Oddly enough, I’ve found I can usually recall folks with more context. That’s why, if you see me at a convention after we’ve met previously, and I ask you to “help me dial it in,” I’m just asking for more information. I think human beings tend to file a lot of stuff away geographically—which makes sense, since that would be a survival trait—so understanding where and when is so important to putting stuff back together.
After that we circulated a bit. I met Sean Hood, the last script writer on the film. We exchanged greetings. When sequels get done—and I dearly hope they will—I’m sure Sean will be in the thick of things. I’m hoping I’ll get the novelizations, of course, so I’ll be working from his foundation again.
There was, in this vast room, a quiet corner where I took refuge for a bit before leaving. Curse of the writer, going from participant to observer. I watched everything, folks mixing, smiling, laughing; their body language and how they watched others. The sheer glamor of it was enticing, but the show was pure primate. For a moment for two Trick Molloy even slipped into my head, giving me color commentary that I’m sure I’ll use in the future.
And then the clocks struck midnight and, as with all good faery-tales, it was time to turn into a pumpkin.
All in all, the Conan adventure was a wonderful time. It was great to get caught up with old friends and to make new ones. Milynn was a fantastic companion and guide for the evening. As we left, we got to say our goodbyes to everyone, and saw Fred on the way out. We thanked him, congratulated him again and, smiling, he said, “We’ll talk soon.”
So wonderfully Hollywood!
(Thus endeth this chronicle of my journey to the Land to the West. Just in time for you to hit a midnight premiere of Conan The Barbarian!)
This series of posts about my Conan experience stems directly from my involvement with writing the novelization of the new movie. You can snag the book for your Kindle or as a physical copy just by clicking those links. The novelization expands on the movie, including original material, cut scenes and a lot of scenes shot from Marique’s point of view.
If you like that, you might also want to try
Tricknomancy, my braided, urban noir fantasy novel. That’s author for a serial story told through a number of shorter pieces that all come together as a novel. Think of it in terms of a television series. This is series one, consisting of seven episodes. The stories feature Trick Molloy, a magick-using, ex-cop who left the force because he was framed for being a dirty cop. He now works as a bouncer in a strip club, helping friends, solving murders and dealing with an insane family, most of whom would like to see him dead or worse. It’s available for the Kindle, and for sale directly off my website for any epub compliant ereaders.