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Sundance Diary: Finally, that EW party blog

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Yul_lAll right, PopWatchers! I have gotten my jeans back from the laundry (thanks for ironing in that Mom Crease, Marriott friends!) and I’ve got time for one last blog post before I crash. It’s like 2 a.m.; I gotta be up to see Black Snake Moan at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, and I am determined not to sleep through another morning screening, dammit, because I am a professional and now’s as good a time as any to start acting like one.

Also because I am a professional, I am way late with this EW Party wrap-up. I’m really sorry about that — blame the celebrityblogging hijinks, as well as all those damn movies I keep having to see — but better late than never, huh? You knew I’d come through, didn’t you? After all, I made a promise, and I keep all of my promises, PopWatchers. Except for that one tonight where I promised I’d beat someone at Ms. Pac-Man, and then got my ass kicked. (All I can say is the crappy resolution on the machine at  Pizza Hut really threw me off. I can’t work under those conditions.)

Anyway, without further ado — and oh, has there ever been ado here at Sundance! — I present to you: Whitney’s Night Out At The EW Party Fun Time Happy Place!

addCredit(“Yul Kwon: Alexandra Wyman/WireImage.com”)

Um. It was packed. The thing I’ve learned in my two and a half yearsat this magazine (besides how to be a fine entertainment journalist andsemi-tolerable blogger) is that we throw great parties. Additionally, Ihave learned that because they are so good, everyone wants to go to ourparties — and occasionally, “everyone”‘s presence means the actual staffof the magazine has to start throwing elbows just to get a drink attheir own damn shindig. I’ll never forget a Must List party a coupleyears back where the entire edit side found ourselves relegated to thebalcony, staring in awe at the chaos and assorted shiny people spinningaround the packed floor beneath us, so how happy was I to get to theSundance party and discover they had blocked off an actual VIP-esqueroom just for us?? Yes, please!

Still, who wants to stand around talking to their co-workers when,say, Nathan Fillion is in the other room? Not I, said this firefly, andso out I went, joining EW’s Marc Bernardin and Adam “B Stands For BoxOut” Vary to take a lap. Our first sighting? Mr. Fillion himself, avery tall, dashing sort, here at the festival with Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress(which I finally saw tonight, btw; stay tuned for more on that). Behindhim sat Paul Rudd, he of yesterday’s blog dis (that’s right, Rudd: I’lljust keep calling you out until you come back and fulfill yourpromise), nodding his beard along with whatever mid-’80s song guest DJNick Cannon elected to play. I ran into the darling Elizabeth Banks (Scrubs)and made eyes at Jeremy Sisto; I spotted Scott Speedman and KevinBacon; I somehow managed to completely miss Diddy’s appearancealtogether but had no trouble picking out Rashida “Karen” Jones andDavid “Roy” Denman, two supporting Office actors (which shouldtell you something about my priorities). I think Nick Nolte’s peoplejostled me again, only this time to get to the sushi platter.

Perhaps most randomly, me and Yul from Survivor (pictured) bummed a cigarette from Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy)and headed outside where we stood under heat lamps and talked about hisplans for the future. Best I could get out of him was that he’s lookinginto a lot of “exciting opportunities,” which was kind of a lame thingfor such a smart dude to keep saying — but if you think about it, it’sexactly that sort of vague diplomacy that helped him outwit, outlast,out-etc. in the first place. And at least he cleared up my big questionfrom this season: Did the producers decide not to hand out rice to theteams in order to avoid the sight of Asian folk huddled around a pot,cooking rice? (The answer is no.)

The weirdness had really escalated to dangerous heights — I was being caressed by Access Hollywood‘sBilly Bush — when I got this text message from my coworker JenniferArmstrong, who was out in Pasadena at the Television Critics’Association winter press tour: “Sundance sounds like a really weirddream sequence.”

She couldn’t have been more right. For some reason, Cy YoungAward-winning southpaw, recent recipient of the biggest pitchingcontract ever in the history of Major League Baseball, and Whitney’sholy grail of men, Barry Zito, was also at our party. (Yes, I amtalking about sports again now.) And after slapping on some lip gloss,chugging a beer, and suffering a small stroke, I felt prepared tohandle the pressure of meeting the man with the most beautiful curveball in the game, a man whose picture adorns my office wall, and insearch of whom I watched 3 consecutive games at the Oakland Coliseumthis spring, praying I’d gotten the rotation right and could see himpitch live. Our time together at the party was brief — and at leastone of us had consumed entirely too much tequila, and was very open andhonest about this fact when not staring blankly into the screen of hiscell phone — but I’ll never forget the way he hugged me on his way outthe door, and I refuse to believe the hug was completely motivated byhis need not to topple over just then. No, I’m convinced our Sundanceconnection meant ever so much more, and that Barry and I will go on tobecome great friends, if not earth-shakingly in love with one another.

I’m also certain I’m deluding myself.

But that’s the thing, PopWatchers: The really weird dream sequenceof Sundance — in which I bum cigarettes from network TV stars to giveto reality show stars, or sit in an office typing as a Baldwin brotherdictates an essay on swag — requires a certain amount ofself-delusion. I mean, we’re deluding ourselves that the celebs aren’tusing us for our free publicity (and free booze); meanwhile, the celebsare deluding themselves that we’re not sometimes just as excited to seethem as the throngs of autograph seekers downstairs. The autographseekers — and, worse, the packs of wannabe-famous wankers who pack theparties and swag lounges and talk too loudly on their cell phones whileon board the shuttle buses — are deluding themselves that somehowthey’ve got a chance to become a part of it all. And I think ultimatelyeveryone’s just a little deluded about the actual point of Sundance.Sure, Redford can ask us to “Focus on Film” all he wants, but so far Ithink this week has really been about fighting through the dream to getto the reality… and sometimes the reality turns out to be just alittle drunker than we’d like.

We shut that party down, us EW staffers, and then 10 of us piledinto an SUV for the ride back to the hotel. We’re not sure who thoughtthat kicking it clown-car style would be a good idea; we’re also notsure who started the massive “And I Am Telling You” singalong that welaunched into halfway home. I lay horizontal across the laps of myfriends in the back seat and laughed so hard my head unlocked thepassenger side door… and even though I was back to just hanging outwith my un-famous, un-glamorous, already-exhausted co-workers, thatmoment was my real festival highlight so far.

Best of all: That story requires no name-dropping whatsoever.