“I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays.” (Oscar Wilde)
But that's the thing - it's not about being clever. It's about being genuine, particularly in a town as jaded as this. Being a nice guy in Hollywood is like a hot knife through butter - everyone expects you to be as cynical as they are. When you aren't, they're disarmed. The glory of being a Hollywood outsider is that you have no idea who you're "supposed" to talk to so you talk to everyone.
Which is how I ended up chatting with one of the publicists responsible for bringing celebrities to red carpet events one night in April when I was shooting for APLA's Broadway gala (http://www.apla.org/). I plied him with questions about who he was bringing, what it was like and shared some laughs during lulls. I scooted back over to the red carpet when people arrived and continued shooting and didn't think much of it. I was making the most of the novelty of shooting red carpet AND the downtime by chatting with the people around me and didn't really think anything of it other than that I was having a great time and this was a genuinely cool experience.
So when my APLA contact, Kristen, asked me if I could get some shots of the celebrities under the marquee of the Saban Theatre I was all for it. But we had to get permission first. She approached the publicist and asked if it was okay. He hesitated at first, saying their obligation for press had been fulfilled. She then gestured to me and said "And this is our house photographer."
"Oh, that guy! Yeah, he's cool. Do whatever you want."
That's how I ended up with Brett Lockett of the New York Jets
Mackenzie Bourg of The Voice
And this dude from the Disney Channel (whose name eludes me - I'm sorry, I suck with names! I'm an introvert masquerading as a photographer!)
Actually, bolstered by the good will I received from shooting Mckenzie and Brett, I approached Disney guy while he was waiting for Jo Anne Worley to wrap up on the red carpet (she told me profile shots were not acceptable!). He was all "Me?"
I'm all "Heck, yeah. Let's do this!"
I walked away from this event having learned several lessons:
1. Those in the limelight can be just as nervous and insecure as you.
2. Most people just want to connect with other people. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, driven by ambition, ruthlessness, severe insecurity, neurosis, a need to pee ... but really most people are just looking to connect or - at the very least - not be used by people. A sincere voice and a ready smile are potent things.
3. Just be ... nice. Even Perez Hilton will smile for you. (Yeah, he's looking the other way, but the one I got of him looking at me I screwed up. Shut up.)
I also had the great pleasure of meeting Greg Hernandez of Greg in Hollywood (<--- that is a link. Click on it.) who helped me corral Broadway stars and who I felt I'd somehow known for years within minutes of meeting him.
Here he is interviewing Alex Newell of Glee.
The point is this: it's easy to get caught up in the hype. It's the simplest thing to get sucked into the great coruscating thing that Hollywood pretends to be, but really all everyone is looking for is validation, a listening ear and someone to talk to.