The Date: July 22, 2008
The Venue: Gramercy Hotel, New York
The Crowd: Studio execs, "Brideshead" stars Matthew Goode and Hayley Atwell, New York media staples like Richard Johnson and Amy Sacco, "America's Next Top Model" judge Nigel Barker and a whole bunch of Brits.
The Food: A uniquely British (if rather unappetizing for a late-night cocktail party) selection of roast beef, assorted steamed vegetables and other side dishes. We half expected to find figgy pudding or trifle for dessert.
The Drinks: An open, well-staffed bar, from which guests seemed to enjoy cooler summer drinks like vodka-cranberry sodas and white wine spritzers.
The Swag: A flashlight from Victorinox, "makers of the original Swiss Army Knife," according to our commemorative tin. Freeloader is still not entirely sure about the significance of the flashlight, but perhaps we'll find out once we actually watch "Brideshead."
It's around this time every summer that Freeloader's party invites begin to dry up and the social calendar begins to look a bit thin. Oh sure, we have more time to catch up with our actual friends and engage in glamorous evening activities like laundry and dishes, but there's always that nagging feeling that we should be at some cocktail party, eating someone's mini burgers.
Therefore, we occasionally have to go outside our traditional boundaries of party-going and resort to party crashing. Take Tuesday night, when Freeloader accompanied our party-crashing pal -- Friendloader, we'll call him -- to the premiere party for the Weinstein Co.'s big-screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" and tried every guest-list maneuver in the book, to no avail.
"Is my name under a different spelling?"
"Could you call upstairs to see if the person who I registered with is here?"
"He's not here, sir."
"Are you sure there's not a more recent version of the guest list? I could show you the e-mail with my confirmation on it if only I could access my account..."
"If you're not on the list I can't let you in, sir."
Just as we were about to dash all hopes, out from the elevator walks Daniel Battsek, aka president of Miramax Films, the Weinsteins' Disney-owned movie studio.
Friendloader, a fellow journalist, instantly recognized the exec from interviews he'd done for a British publication and flagged him down on his way out to see if he could kindly verify our worthiness to attend the "Brideshead Revisited" party. Not only did Battsek leave his wife and private car behind to help us out, he made sure we didn't have to go through any more guest-list hurtles by the time we reached the party on the Gramercy Hotel's top floor. It was the most glamorous entrance Freeloader has ever made into a party, and we didn't even have to resort to bribery or sexual favors.
Getting in the best part
Of course, as with most "Exclusive" downtown parties, getting in proved to be more exciting than the shindig itself. Freeloader secretly hoped we'd spot the film's biggest star, Emma Thompson, tucked away in some corner booth, surrounded by Brit movie executives begging her to adapt another Shakespeare play or Jane Austen novel for them.
Alas, Thompson was a no-show, and it took a thorough examining of the room to find any stars at all. Our first spotting was Matthew Goode, who plays Charles Ryder in the film and is best known, if at all, stateside for his role in "Match Point" as Jonathan Rhys-Myers' tennis-playing brother-in-law and as Mandy Moore's squeeze in "Chasing Liberty." We were both ordering drinks, otherwise we would've tapped him on the shoulder to tell him how our heart went out to him for losing his girlfriend to another woman in the little-seen Brit comedy "Imagine Me & You."
Next we spotted Hayley Atwell, who, like Mr. Goode, has recently worked with Woody Allen (in this year's "Cassandra's Dream" with Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell), and from what we can gauge from the trailer has the film's most fun role, as Julia Flyte. She was also the party's most stunning guest, resplendent in a Grecian-style draped dress, so she was easy to identify among the scenesters and studio types.
A case of Anglophilia
It was also at this point that Freeloader realized we must have a serious case of Anglophilia to be so excited over recognizing up-and-coming British actors with a cumulative box-office gross of $10 million between them.
Nevertheless, that didn't stop us from chatting up the party's biggest star, Alicia Witt, who got her start on TV's "Cybill" and is now familiar for her role in "Two Weeks Notice" and her extended guest role on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
Friendloader complimented her on her performance in "Piano/Forte," a play she did in London that she's supposedly been trying to bring to the states. Alicia was so excited to be praised for her work in the play she hugged Friendloader, and took the opportunity to invite us to her gig at Joe's Pub next week. Apparently she's following the route recently taken by fellow ingénues Zooey Deschanel, Scarlett Johansson and Jena Malone, and pursuing her love of music, an increasingly popular side gig for credible actors these days.
Only a Freeloader would begin their evening crashing a party and end it fielding concert invites from an actress-cum-singer. It's going to be a productive summer party season after all...