Walking into the event, the men at the escalators were quick to ask, "Do you want to do the red carpet? Because if you want to do the red carpet, you must go downstairs." Down an escalator and through the hall, the red carpet—a thing one might do—sat in between two sliding glass doors. It looked like red Astroturf and was flanked by cheap lattice covered in faux moss. The rug seemed ashamed. The reporters lining the carpet were largely of the "local news" variety. No one cares about the Writers Guild Awards.
When guests approached the carpet, the event coordinators again asked if they were sure they wanted to "go down." A dare for narcissists; a warning for the terrified. At this point a guest could enter the sad 30-foot long gauntlet while the reporters asked questions, or turn around and run out the sliding door. Or, for the particularly anxious and cornered, there was a third option: run forward beyond the carpet and shamefully slink behind it, thus avoiding the embarrassment of both "doing the carpet" or going outside and being asked again if you wanted to "do it."
All while wearing a gown you've already ripped.
On to the cocktails. Like a sad daytime reception where the wedding party is off taking pictures, everyone stood inside drinking cheap wine, eyes peeled toward the entrance, hoping to see a familiar face, wishing they hadn't arrived so early. A few waiters walked around with a tray of watermelon covered in a dollop of white sauce, an appetizer so uninspired even a group of writers couldn't muster enthusiasm for free food.
On occasion, a cameraman would approach a group and ask, "Nominee?" When you shook your head no, the camera disappeared quickly.
The bars never got too crowded, but the signs made it clear that "Host Bar Ends at 5." A year spent writing, a year of guild dues, and only one hour of open bar. Right before five, like most of the other men in the lobby, Alex Trebek ordered a glass of wine at the bar and Drew Carey grabbed a drink for his much younger date, her breasts playing peek-a-boo behind straining sequins.
Most people in the room looked unfamiliar, vaguely normal, and ready to go home.
Inside the ballroom, everyone moseyed to their assigned seats. Salad, rolls, two bottles of wine, and typical banquet fare crowded the round tables. Issues of Variety and Written By (a terrible magazine written by and for writers) covered the seats.
As the normal people shoved carbs and butter into their mouths, the slightly less normal people made the rounds. Spike Jonze was the only person in the room who looked good, really good, in his suit. The Parks and Recreation tables seemed to be having the most fun. David O. Russell posed for pictures, lots of fucking pictures. Everyone else ate warmed-over chicken.
When Russell finally sat down at table 26, someone next to him busted out a bottle of Tequila Fortaleza and laughingly told a tablemate, "You think I'd drink the shwag they serve here?" (Oh, the laughter!) Russell knocked back his table's entire bottle of red, and spent the entire ceremony texting, whispering to Megan Ellison, and getting back rubs from his partner Holly Davis.
Awards were given. Speeches were long. The winners were mostly male and white. The tiny handful who weren't were an occasion for a general sense of pride in progress and embarrassment at its lack. The wine bottles ran out and were never re-filled; the chairs got harder; the man next to me was playing Candy Crush. At some point, it was obvious Nikki Finke knew all the winners and was tweeting them out early.
With 30 minutes left in the ceremony and an empty bottle of tequila in front of him, everyone in the room but Russell, who spent more than a few minutes napping in his chair, knew he'd be losing to Spike Jonze.
And only four hours after cocktails began, it was all over. The more famous people stayed after to mingle and take pictures, but everyone else left as soon as possible, going down escalators, through lobbies, past groups of men in hockey jerseys, and outside into the year's first night of rain in Los Angeles. But no one cared because anywhere, even walking through rainy downtown LA Live looking for your $25 parking spot, was better than being back inside the Diamond Ballroom.
[Photo by Getty]