I thought Bryan Adams was going to be here. He's not. Instead, the Velvet Bar at the new Hard Rock Hotel is sputtering about in an hors d'oeuvres, open-bar industry haze, as the less attractive end of the music world self-aggrandize at round tables and wait for importance to pop out of a pig in a blanket. I couldn't be happier.
"You should try the potato salad," hiccups a Hard Rock PR princess. "I never eat, but I love the potato salad."
I look to the bartender, who's wearing facial hair like a neck-brace and hiding tattoos appropriate to the Hard Rock's corporate-junkie standard.
"What's going on? When did it start? Where will it end?" I mouth in desperate camaraderie.
"Schmooze, schmooze, schmooooooze," he replies, as if from on a rock & roll high.
Decidedly low -- although the drink is helping -- I take a stab at the mystical potato salad (literally, with a martini-olive sword) and gather some giggles from the nervous know-nothings in my barstool periphery.
"That must be how rock stars do it," pigs the PR blanket, to which I can only muster a nod and an "I never eat, either" nudge.
What we're all here and queer for is the formative launch of a rock photography exhibit, titled with nudgingly demonstrative misspelling, "Rock X-Posed." Only there's not a whole lot exposed here, short of the egos and track marks of people who should have given up this racket with a 20-something overdose. Ten "approved" photos that may or may not appear in the actual exhibit (set to hit Universal CityWalk in January 2002) lie as color copies on a barely noticed foldaway table. Christina Aguilera preens flat (again) and giggly next to luminaries like a ragged-out Debbie Harry and a fagged-out Pete Townshend. Somebody adjust the focus, please.
"Hi, who are you?" rasps a nose-rubbing rock babe from behind a daunting set of Chrissie Hynde bangs and a soothing club soda. I explain myself. She doesn't listen. "What's your favorite photo here?"
Alas, I'm clued in. Said Hynde-lite (Virginia Lohle, founder of StarFile Photo, thank you) is one of 13 industry folk who have submitted photos for the exhibit. The catch is, none of these people are photographers in the artistic sense -- but then, neither are many of their subjects musicians in the artistic sense (Christina!). Appropriately, I'm square in the middle of where overstated intentions meet their ill-fated exploitations ... and my drink is getting low.
Assembled in the Velvet Bar are the glitterati of the snobby music world's editorial board. Over there is the art editor from England's posh Q magazine; over here is Laurie Kratochvil from U.S. glossy In Style. Everybody's got a face from above the 30th floor, and nobody really has a clue. And yet their clueless services are being proffered for interviews in the corner, in lieu of the promised attendees. My potato princess keeps referring me to a bearded publicist for the real facts, so I hop over.
"Well, Bryan Adams, who would definitely prefer to be called a fashion photographer (!) over being called a pop star, is on tour," he offers like a substitute teacher, "and Mick Fleetwood -- y'know, the art collector `er, pop star` -- is auctioning John Lennon's piano at Sotheby's this week ... but I can arrange interviews on the phone ... or if you want to fly ... ." Whatever. I just wanted to stand next to somebody who slept with Stevie Nicks.
A question about the origin, meaning, genesis, context of so obvious a spectacle is pinballed over to some bearded khaki hack from Britain, whose explanatory approach reminds my rear of a grandfather's lap. "What we have here," and so on, details some loose premise of an exhibit that relies neither on artists nor individual photographers. These people are broad-based industry representatives, you see, and they like to take pictures, too!
I head back over to humor Madame Lohle, whose press-kit bio proclaims, "Her cameo appearance with Eddie Murphy on the MTV Awards is repeated every year in highlight reels," and attempt a pry into her paparazzi head.
"You're my favorite, hands down," I coo with a wink to her nose.
"Really, you're so sweet! What's your favorite photo?" she asks again, her eyes beginning to glaze back over into her bangs, but not before she drops the fact that she was ASKED to be here by no less than KODAK, who has been watching her, and she didn't know ANYBODY was watching her. "Do you like this one?" She points at the press-kit cover mug of The Beatles in a truck bed, making sure to wink that it was HER company (um, not HER) that procured the image.
"Yeah, it's pretty good. Y'know, 'The Beatles'," I glow. "But have you tried the potato salad?"