Rubbing SXSW elbows with the stars

Southby is all about the secret shows. While it’s cool to check out new bands and catch big performers at the biggest stages, everyone’s real goal is to somehow find the underground, cocaine-fueled after party filled with spec scripts and celebrities from the AMC channel. I unfortunately did not find this hedonistic Texas playground, but did manage to elbow my way into a few parties I should not have gotten in to.

My girlfriend was visiting for the first few days of the festival and on Saturday night we met up with my friends downtown. We didn’t RSVP for a party at an art gallery so instead wandered toward a tent playing Clique. The tent was being hosted by an app called Yappum which we had to download in order to be let in.

We left the tent because a hula hoop competition was beginning and I checked Twitter from the sidewalk for something else to do. In the building behind us, a man left from a side-entrance door. My SXSW-veteran-friend tried the door to see if it was still open, which it was and we walked inside past security guards into a large-exposed brick hall with a bar on on side and monitors on the other.

Paul Rudd, fully fu-man-chu’d stood at the bar talking to pretty ladies and a short dude who I knew was famous (Emile Hirsch) walked my way. We looked back at the poor security guards, probably bussed in from San Antonio for a week, unsure if we were supposed to be there.  My girlfriend suggested we leave. It would have been really embarrassing to get kicked out in front of Paul Rudd and the other famous guy whose name I couldn’t place (Emile Hirsch).

The guards were especially bad and couldn’t even remember what my 6’3” red-headed friend looked like five minutes after spotting him.  We ventured into the party, which turned out to be the Samsung Galaxy Sound Stage. Band of Horses and The Roots were rumored to be performing.  A woman asked us to shoot a video and it ended up looking like this:

We were official.

In the back room you could print your own ¾ sleeve SXSW Samsung Unicorn Apocalypse shirts. We took seats outside and I was the only one in our group who recognized Judd Apatow who seemed as drunk as he was beardy. I went to the bathroom and when I returned Alex Karpovsky was standing near our table. My girlfriend and I had seen him before getting on a Brooklyn-bound L train at 3am, so we found his presence particularly funny.

I was in pure bliss when Rembert Browne from Grantland sat down with us after I recognized him standing alone near-by.  He confirmed that The Roots were in fact playing since he would be interviewing them post-performance. I could just die at this point.

Band of Horses is almost an emo band. Almost. I didn’t even watch because Paul Rudd was visible to my left and he was jamming the fuck out, slappin the bass with long hair and a fu-man-chu.

Between sets I met a dude who worked at the Hollywood reporter who said “the guys on Girls are the kind of guys that would have sex with Lena Dunham.” My girlfriend and I argued with him for a second didn’t really get the point. He gave me his card and told me girls from San Francisco are crazy.

While I got more free drinks an older guy approached my girlfriend. He was Gary Michael Walters, producer at Bold films, Jeopardy winner and friend of the stars. From the bar I saw him introduce my girlfriend to Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Screen shot 2013-04-04 at 10.09.42 AM

Gary Michael Walters turned out to be a nice guy when my girlfriend revealed she wasn’t at the party stag. He suggested we hang out the next day so we took down his number. My girlfriend received a text the next day asking what are plans were. We tried to play it cool, hoping he had another VIP event to attend. He did.  The Spring Breakers premiere was happening and Gary wanted us to come to the after party.

At midnight we stood outside The Ranch Austin and met up with Gary. He walked us right in. This time we were prepared; our goal was to look like we could have been from something. Everyone at this party could have been from something. In attendance was the cast including Selena and Jimmy Franx. I wanted to talk to him about growing up on the peninsula but he seemed busy. Though Franco is pictured here with co-star Ashley Benson, I can report that she was not with him. In fact, I witnessed her go home hand-in-hand with a Pretty Little Liars co-star, as reported by my girlfriend. This is insider information.

Christopher Abbott who plays Charlie on Girls moped around the party in true Season 1 Charlie form.  Alex Karpovsky was at this party too, and I can also report that Charlie and Ray’s real life relationship seems as strained as their on screen one.

Nev Schulman from Catfish was having the most fun at the party. He danced on tables, kicked beach balls around and asked my girlfriend if she was in the film.

It’s totally silly to gawk at celebrities, and the superficial nature of stardom is hard to get past sometimes, yet this two-night experience was altogether very satisfying and full of excitement. If the SXSW dream is to see something out of the ordinary, I think we accomplished that.

It seems really cool to be a celebrity or even a non-celebrity who does celebrity-like things. It’s hard not to just stare at people you’re accustomed to seeing on the cover of magazines and webpages, and it must be really hard to be Ashley Benson who can’t walk around a private party without security guards standing nearby. I felt bad for Ashley, but mostly the security guards because the space was really tight.

Also, of note: the marketing team for the party hired some girls to dance in bikinis while wearing masks (apparently this has to do with the movie), and I scoffed at the body commodification happening IRL, which turned into a feminist debate with my girlfriend which lasted a week.  SPRAAAAANG BREAK!

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About Andy Verderosa

Andy is a writer and copywriter in New York. Follow him at @andyverderosa.
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