Saturday, January 06, 2007
Exclusive Arenas Express Soiree Incites!!
PRELUDE A LA NUIT D'UN INTERNE The invitiation turned up at Wizznutzz Central a couple days before the party. Like a good intern, I swiped it. Strindberg can have his own shindig with a black silk handkerchief and an album of Grieg's Lyric Pieces, I reasoned - this was Rex Immensae Majestatis Chapman's time to step out and shine. Little did I imagine.
I took the bus over from 9th and I, just as the website prescribed, and spent an awkward fifteen minutes trying not to make eye contact with Susan O'Malley, who had already started recruiting for her "G-Wiz Speed Dating" thing. I managed to shake her off as the bus pulled up to Love.
"I never leave home without it," I replied, whipping it out in one smooth motion.
"Congratulations," the bouncer replied. "Being the hundredth person to make that joke tonight allows you to upgrade to another level of security assurance. Please step behind the curtain."
After a half-hour of security-guard mothering, I was walking funny as I stepped into the club to celebrate a quarter-century of the world's most famous Arenas.
CHILLIN IN THE BACK LIKE CALVIN BOOTH The vibe on the first floor was: crowded. Ike Austin and Jahidi White towered over a crowd at the buffet table. Alana Beard towered over a persistent Muggsey Bogues. As I drifted to the bar, Ludacris chatted with Chris Webber about the forward's abortive hip-hop career. "So, as a rapper, you took a timeouuuuut?" Luda cackled. C-Webb looked hurt. (Later I saw him trading twos with Nas for a brief while. "Truly, hip-hop is dead," Nas muttered as he strolled to the bathroom. "Cop the album.")
The bartender rebuffed my vodka-and-tonic order: "Naw, man. All we got tonight is Giltinis. Tequila, PowerAde and a splash of cranberry." I drank it down, swore, and got in line for the buffet.
Two hours and one plate of lukewarm sweet potatoes later, I drained another Giltini and headed up to the second floor, where the stage was set up. T.I. was being introduced by Diddy, our host for the evening. "Big up to Biggie Smalls," Diddy shouted into his mic, as the spotlight wandered off T.I. "Every beat I jack, I jack for you! R.I.P., playa!"
An audience of scantily clad women and tall men nodded appreciatively or continued their conversations. I think I saw Michelle Tafoya trying to get Bambale Osby's number. Rod Strickland worked game on some women toting trays of hors d'oeuvres in the back of the room. Christian Laettner was leaning close to the Reliable Source, trying to shove some pamphlets in her purse while his hands attempted to wander. Alex Ovechkin and his girl tried to dance a little.
Eventually T.I. managed to wrest the mic from Sean Combs. I had a third and fourth Giltini, served to me by (I think) LaBradford Smith. The synths of "What You Know" rolled mighty like a river across the room, with occasion-appropriate lyrics over top:
What you know about Gil I know all about Gil
Gil, shrinking as much as a man of his size can, came onto the stage to accept the accolades.
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES C'MON As the song ended, a birthday cake began descending slowly from the ceiling, in the shape of a "0" and twenty feet in diameter. People ran to get out from underneath while men in Arenas masks and G-Wiz-style blue spandex swarmed the cake with spatulas, plates and napkins, cubing and serving it almost as it fell. A replica of the ring of advertising at the base of the Verizon Center's upper deck lit up with revolving chaos-theory paisley blobs, running at top speed around the room and chasing instructions to "Wish Gilbert a Happy Birthday."
Everyone who had been on the first floor had now crowded into the second. Strickland was forcing his way towards the cake, with Kevin Duckworth in tow. Agent Zero somehow emerged in the center of the cake and got a giant piece. He held it up for us to see. It was chocolate with chocolate frosting. After downing the whole thing in three giant mouthfuls, he threw the empty plate 35 feet towards the corner of the room, where it crashed into a trash can. "Swag!" Gil yelled, and the crowd exploded.
Diddy held up a finger that cued a massive organ note. The ring of advertising suddenly showed the lyrics to "Happy Birthday," and we all sang as best we could. "I though I told you that we don't stop!" Diddy proclaimed when we were done. "Unh. Unh. Bad Boy. Unh. Yeah. Come with me. You can hate Gil now, but Gil won't stop now. Me either. Unh." On stage, The Game tapped his foot impatiently.
The Gil-masked, spandexed waiters were remarkably efficient and somehow managed to get a piece of cake and a glass of champagne in everyone's hands. The cake was good. A little too good. Clinton Portis spent the next fifteen minutes going around to various thin women telling them there was no way they'd want to ruin their figures by eating cake like this, so give it to him.
I didn't react quite so positively, suddenly becoming very afraid of the ring of advertising, which now showed an animation of Gil riding Bambi through a forest. I sidled towards the nearest stairs I could find, using Peter John Ramos' dirigible-like head as a beacon. As I left, Gil was gathering plates from the guests and using them to make even more ludicrous shots into the trash can. Everything was going in, just like it had been earlier that night.
STRANGE BUT APPETIZING INTERLUDE Midway between the third and fourth floor on the security staircase, a hand tugged on my sleeve. "Would you like to come into the VIP room?" a honeyed female voice said. Nodding reflexively, I was yanked into a yard-high hole in the wall, which led to a chute that in turn led to a pillow-covered floor. Thankfully, it was a soft landing.
In the center of the room was a massive rotating sculpture of Arenas's head, a luminous ovoid on which his features were rendered using strips of bacon that had been cooked just to the point where the fat becomes translucent. Two men in monk's cowls replaced individual strips when they began to slip off or turn brown. Tyra Banks sat on a nearby ottoman, staring blankly at the structure. "How does Gilbert glow?" she said in a dazed tone. "How does Gilbert glow? How does Gilbert glow. How does Gilbert glow."
The walls shimmered, reflecting the light of the Gilsphere. It was tough to tell whether there was anyone else in the room.
Awvee Storey emerged from the shadows and sauntered over, wearing a smoking jacket and brown leather sandals. "Welcome to the VIP room," he said. "Bacon?" He pulled off a strip and proffered it.
"It's not done," I said.
"Nothing ever is," he replied. "Nothing ever is." He then scooped a handful of bacon off the sculpture and shoved it all in his mouth, chewing ferally. The monks assiduously replaced the strips, looking at the floor the whole time.
"Which VIP room is this?" I asked.
"All will become clear later," he said, and wandered into a dark corner.
I suddenly saw a tray of pills to my right. I looked up to see Connie Unseld holding the tray. "Take one," she said. It was the same honeyed voice I'd heard in the stairwell. The pills were labeled "Hibachi" and "Quality Shots".
"One pill makes you hot," she said, her fixed smile and even voice betraying no emotion whatsoever. "One pill makes you small."
It didn't seem like a good idea to disobey her, though I spent a moment thinking about whether I could. I couldn't spot the aperture through which I had entered the room. The tray didn't waver. Her smile didn't either. I took the "Quality Shots" pill and gulped it down.
"An excellent choice," Connie said. Then her lower body seemed to dissolve, and she floated up to the ceiling, and then away. The light from the Gilsphere became brighter until it flooded the room.
CODA The next thing I remember is being poked in the ribs with a broom handle. "You! New noodle boy! Make the noodles!" I was on a kitchen floor. It turned out I was in Chinatown Express on 6th Street - apparently I had been promised to do a day of indentured servitude. Also, I was wearing a potato sack. This was disorienting, but I snuck out an hour later and took the 70 bus back to Wizznutzz HQ, from which I write this.
Overall, it was definitely the second-best party I've been to as a Wizznutzz intern, right next to Ledell Eackles' going-away party at Cluck-U. Those scars will never heal. Anyway: Happy 25, Agent Zero!
--posted by intern Rex Immensae Majestatis Chapman