FEAR & LOATHING @ SUNDANCE PART 2: Leaving Park City
The moment you reach the entrance of the Salt Lake City airport, the first thing you realize is that you truly are out in the middle of nowhere.
I look around at the Wasatch Mountains surrounding the small air strip on all sides and see that there is only one road leading out of here. I've been told it'll be a 40 minute shuttle ride into Park City. I already feel like Jack Nicholson at the beginning of The Shining. I already feel a foreboding sense of dread.
How long will it take for this place to drive me mad? It seems to me that Park City is the ultimate rich white man fantasy land. This is where money comes to get away from minorities and that pesky middle class.
I'm instinctively picking up a habit spitting everywhere as some primordial animal instinct like a skunk spraying its death stench.
All of the young would-be celebrities are fighting for taxis and shuttle vans, pushing their way into any available vehicles like they were clown cars.
I see three or four hip neophytes taking self portraits with cell phones, announcing to their followers that they've landed in Salt Lake City. In an hour, they'll be tweeting what they're having for lunch as if anyone could possibly give a flying shit.
I'm thinking I'd like to make a twitter feed of my daily bowel movements, show the world the different colors of my shit based on what I eat. I can make paper cut illustrations of mustaches and monocles that I can glue to the shit in the picture, maybe even add a cupcake in there somehow too.
This is what a famous person's turd looks like after they've gorged themselves on fois gras washed down with Stella Artois. And hey, it has a funny old timey mustache too. Isn't that just so god damn ironic?
I somehow score a taxi to the scorn of a small group of documentarians working on some self congratulatory piece about Chip Tune music, you know, one of those hip docs where semi famous musicians sit around jerking each other off talking about how influential each other are. It'll get a lot of press before fading into obscurity. In 5 years, no one will really remember their doc, or even the genre of music that doc was about.
The driver asks me where I'm going. This is a problem because I don't know. I haven't planned this far ahead.
He asks me for my hotel, but I don't have one. I tell him to wait a minute. I try googling hotels on my phone but I can tell he's getting impatient.
I announce that, "I'm Uzi Silverstein, and I'm a very important producer."
I catch the taxi driver looking at me through his rear view mirror. It comes to me that he carries an uncanny resemblance to Travis Bickle; Mohawk, sunglasses, and sporting a German WW2 coat.
Before I can even form an opinion about this, a fat man in a dirty suit has aggressively thrown his way into the backseat with me, taking up enough space that I'm now pushed up against the door.
He takes a moment to stare me down; his scrutinizing eyes meet mine before scanning the rest of the body.
If we were wild dogs, I feel as though this would be the moment where I'm supposed to stand my ground and make a defensive attack and go straight for this fucker's throat.
He speaks to me. Actually, that's not the right word; he's shouting every single one of his words, his eyes beaming hatred straight into mine with every word.
"You a fucking director? A fucking writer? Some fucking artist of some other type?"
I don't answer, I just meet his gaze. I now recognize him, Harvey Weinstein. He continues yelling at me.
"You're not going to fucking give me your fucking film here right? You better not be so stupid to think you can give me your shitty fucking script either cause I'll toss it right out of the fucking window. I don't fucking want you to talk to me, so for now, just know you should keep your fucking mouth shut for this taxi ride."
I'd like to make chiclets out of this blabbermouth's teeth but I'm sure his crack team of high priced attorneys will sue me back to the Stone Age.
Without waiting for my response, Harvey turns to the cabbie and simply barks out, "Stein Erikson Lodge!"
The cabbie glances over at me for my destination.
Harvey's fat head whips to the side. I read the suspicion on his face. I reach my hand out to introduce myself.
"I don't fucking know you, Uzi, and I know everyone. Who the fuck are you?"
"I finished my time with the IDF 4 years ago, I immediately moved to Tokyo, lived in Kabuki Cho for two years and got into the importing Japanese pink films."
"You distro porn?"
"Soft-core, weird shit that's actually getting picked up for a lot of festival play lately. Used to be a lot of money in it but the Japanese fad is dying out fast and the internet killed my business. I now run small office out of Philly, cheaper rent than New York and still close enough to do business there. I run a film temp agency that employs college students on commercial shoots. I get them on set as accredited interns while I collect their daily pay, I'm using that cash flow to fund a production arm where I'm developing feature films exclusively for online streaming viewing. In addition to this, I'm working with Red Box to develop a pay to play service where indie filmmakers can pay a nominal fee to have their unlicensed films rented out of every box in the country for a cheaper price than regular films in order to build brand name recognition."
"That's fucking smart, Uzi. But I also think maybe you're not fucking smart, cause if you were fucking smart enough to come up with that idea, you should be fucking smart enough not to tell me about it cause I'll have that shit go live tomorrow."
Harvey immediately goes to his cell phone. I try not to eavesdrop, there's a lot of motherfucking this and motherfucking that.
Suddenly, the cabby starts talking.
"All of the animals come out at night, whores, skunk pussies, buggers, junkies. Sick, menial. Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets. I go all over; I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem. Makes no difference to me. "
I notice that Bernard Hermmanby's score for Taxi Driver is playing on the radio while the cabbie continues to quote the film doing his best DeNiro impersonation.
Harvey slowly and silently mouths out the words, "What the fuck?"
It's the calm before the storm. Harvey looks me and then starts looking around the car as if searching for something.
"Hey, stop the fucking car!"
I can see his face literally turning red; I half expect to see steam shooting out of his ears.
"Is there a fucking camera in here?"
The cabby breaks the act and I hear his voice trembling.
Harvey continues yelling, "Is this some publicity stunt? Huh? What is this, some stupid film geek prank for some shitty cable show or the internet? Is this some fucking viral marketing ploy? Where's the fucking camera you faggot!"
For whatever reason, it just hits me now that I'm still slightly high from the flight and this is possibly the funniest thing I've seen in weeks.
"Where's the fucking camera, pencil dick!"
Harvey tries to kick the back of the cabbie's seat but there's not enough room for him to maneuver his chubby legs high enough to get at him. He's struggling to position himself in a manner where he can get at the driver but I won't be surprised if he gives himself a heart attack in the process.
"Who the fuck are you? What the fuck is this? If I end up on fucking YouTube with this shit I'll sue your ass all the way back into your mother's cunt, you fucking hear me, film geek?! Do you know who I am?"
Travis Bickle tries to apologize; his voice is meek and trembling. It's an odd sight, someone dressed as cinema's most iconic sociopath on the brink of tears. Whatever he was trying to pull, he fucking blew it.
"Sir, I do know who you are, I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to mess with you. I just wanted to get your attention, please, sir, I'm a filmmaker and......"
"Aw, goddammit, you mother fucker. I haven't even got to my fucking room yet!"
I start laughing a wild uncontrollable laugh, a deep, maniacal, evil genius laugh.
Harvey goes silent for just a second again. He looks me with reservation this time. If he believes at all that I served in the IDF, then he's going to refrain from lashing out at me. I make an effort to puff my chest out, I work out enough that I can pose as a former soldier, and the deep olive skin tone helps to solidify it.
Weinstein snorts and gets out of the parked car. There's already another taxi waiting for him along the road.
This is rather perplexing as we're now parked along a highway out in the middle of nowhere and I never saw him make a call for another taxi.
Harvey grabs his bags out of the trunk and waddles away.
Travis is trying to keep his shit together after completely humiliating himself with some silly stunt that I don't even understand yet.
I calmly ask him what all of this is about.
He tells me that he took a job as taxi driver here six months ago. He came here after a stint in L.A. He's been doing this, waiting for the chance to be here during Sundance, hoping he might be able to make an impression and strike a connection.
He hands me a DVD and tells me it's his first feature film and he's just trying to get it to the right people.
I tell him he's doing it in the completely wrong way, but that driving around drunk celebrities and aspiring industry folk posing as Travis Bickle is kind of awesome.
I ask him if he has a .44 in the glove department by any chance.
He says, "no."
That's a shame. " You should see what that'll do to a woman's pussy."
He asks me if I'm really going to the Stein Erekson Lodge, he says that I don't look like I can afford it.
And now I know this is where I have to be.
Travis asks me if I thought his Robert DeNiro impression was any good.
I respond, "Are you sure you're a director and not an actor?"
Naturally, he plays the lead in his own film.
CHAPTER 3: TELL SOMEONE YOU LIKE TO SKI IN PARK CITY, IT MIGHT NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK.
The Stein Erikson, a fortress of solitude for the rich and elite and kryptonite for this jaded writer. I've never seen anything like it before, but then again, I've never been to any ski resort before. Really, who the fuck skis anyhow?
I know that this must be one of the most happening hotels for the fest because it's over a half hour drive outside of the heart of the city, away from all of the festival activities. You'd need a personal driver to be able to conveniently travel from your room to the screenings to be here.
I look around the lodge's huge communal area and it's a who's who party of everyone who's anyone in the film scene.
Lena Dunham and an entourage of obvious Brooklynites are in one corner of the room soaking up as much attention as they can like sponges being dipped in a toilet.
I can't wait for someone to wring it out.
The quaaludes are actively doing their job. A hypnotic yet discomforting psychedelic synth score is playing in my mind as everything unfolds in front of me. But then again, I can't be sure if the music is something that I'm imagining, there's a possibility that there's a DJ somewhere spinning. And I think it's the soundtrack from Miami Hotline, an popular indie video game where you play a mass murdering serial killer on a serious drug binge in the 1980's.
But I honestly can't tell.
The ground is pulsating to the beat of the music. I scan the scene around me, Stella Artois is flowing like water, beautiful well dressed people are wearing their fake plastic smiles, pretending to laugh at shitty jokes as they pitch products and talk about the future of the industry.
The only future is that there is none.
No one actually looks at each other in the eye anymore; everyone's gaze is fixed downward at whatever electronic device they're using.
The decadence of the 1980's are alive and well, it comes here to party once a year.
There are tables with gift bags full of tacky ass promotional materials for some new environmentally conscious offshoot of the Sundance Channel. In order to promote a channel dedicated to sustainable living, festival goers are being given useless plastic compasses and coffee mugs made in some factory or sweatshop in Singapore.
Everything about this festival is a lie.
I'm still spitting compulsively every few minutes or so, and even though I'm now indoors, this strange new found tick still hasn't left. I'm just casually spitting on the ground of the hotel's reception area like a Yankee player in the dugout.
Sure enough, I find myself setting down at the main bar. I already figure that the Stella Artois is free but I ask if the festival has any whiskey sponsors, unfortunately, it doesn't.
I have no doubt that by the end of the night; I'll be just like Linda Blair early in the beginning of The Exorcist when she pisses herself at her parent's dinner party.
And that's when someone taps me on the shoulder calling me, "Butt Muffin."
I turn around to find Michael Cera staring at me. He's all wide eyed with his mouth hanging agape in between sentences. He's clearly drunk, but judging from how much his eyes keep blinking; I'm thinking he might be a little more than just that too.
I respond, "Excuse me."
Michael laughs. "C'mon, Ass Muffin, I thought you hated these things, I thought you were back in New York this week."
Again, I say, "Excuse me?"
"I thought you were going to spend some time with your family before we picked up shooting again."
He laughs without giving me an answer, but it instantly becomes clear to me what's happening.
He thinks I'm David Cross. I get it all of the time actually, for the life of me, I don't understand it. All too often, I find that incredibly attractive women will come up to me flirting at Film Festivals, or at least, I think they're flirting with me, until they ask me for my autograph.
I always ask, "Who do you think I am?"
And they always say, "You're that guy from Arrested Development and Mr. Show right?"
Ugh. People might think David Cross is funny, but no one wants to fuck him.
Once, at a film festival in Boston, an Asian woman had asked for my autograph, when I told her that it was kind of insulting to be physically compared to David Cross, she asked, "Why?"
When I responded by telling her that she looked like Margaret Cho, she slapped me and called me a racist.
And as I've been recalling all of these memories, I haven't really noticed that Michael Cera is still talking to me. I didn't catch anything he said, but then again, he seems so smashed that I don't think I missed too much.
But I'm well on my way to catching up with him, so I might as well play along.
"Some fucker robbed me. I think I know who. At least, I think I know who. Well, I have 5 or 6 suspects, but one really sticks out. I stepped out of the room for a just a few minutes and someone totally ransacked my bag."
He doesn't even wait for me to say anything.
"I got to get my phone back, Dave..."
I remain silent, waiting for him continue.
"Dude, I was having like, an impromptu orgy in my room an hour or two ago. Ya know, picked up some groupies at the airport, couple of hipster bitches form New York who flew in for the fest. I think they're part of Lena Dunham's entourage. I don't know. But they're like, huge fans of Arrested Development and Superbad and all, ya know? There were 3 of them I think. And then I ran into Seth Rogen in the lobby and somehow he got in on it. But once it was happening, I think it freaked him out. He really is the nice guy goof in real life. He got all weird the dirtier those girls got. He ended up just hanging out in the corner of the room and he may have been crying in the bathroom."
Somehow, the now bombing drone of the synth music is complimenting Michael's perfectly.
"I swear, you just know if a girl is going to take it in the ass by her tattoos. The one hipster girl, she had a tattoo of Krang on her chest."
I shrug my shoulders.
"Ah, you know, Krang, the talking brain thing from Ninja Turtles. She had him tattooed on her chest, like, with its little brainy tentacle arms stretching out across her titties. Who the fuck does that? Who the fuck wants to date or marry a girl with that shit drawn on her tits? I hope she likes being a festival groupie cause she ain't never gonna go much further. You're like, looking into her eyes while you're fucking her, and you're thinking she's beautiful, and you're thinking you might love her, and then you see a fucking Saturday morning cartoon character villain on her tits giving you the stinky eye. And then you just want to cum and leave the room before your brain starts processing it. I knew she'd be real dirty. Dave, I had no idea just how dirty she was going to get. It really freaked Seth out. "
I try to keep my posture but it's getting harder with every further detail that spills out Michael's mouth.
"So, I'm fucking this girl in the ass, and she's yelling out that she wants to be a star. She says she can't wait to write about this on her tumblr page. She's telling me that she wants me to yell Sex B-bomb when I'm cumming, that none of her friends are going to believe that she porked Scott Pilgrim. So I tell her I'll make her a star and I started taking pictures with my I-phone. I ask her if she wants to make a sex tape for her reddit page. The things she said, Dave. The things she said, you wouldn't believe. So, I'm taking all these pictures and Seth Rogen comes back into the room, and there's this other girl who's got a Belle and Sebastian tattoo covering her entire back, and she's now taking pictures with her phone too. Seth fucking loses it, he goes ape shit, screaming and yelling, trying to grab the girl's phone and all. It was totally uncool. Even the girl with the Krang tattoo gets turned off, and that's that. So I go the bathroom to wash off and when I come out, my phone and wallet are gone."
I try really really hard not to laugh out loud. I'm supposed to be David Cross, I'm Michael Cera's co star, and I assuming, a good friend, close enough to be affectionately called Butt Muffin.
I'm afraid to open my mouth and speak, but someone does it for me when I hear someone calling my name.
An old colleague from Philadelphia named Dan approaches us, like everyone else here, he's also drunk.
Michael Cera turns to Dan and then faces me. He repeats Dan's question to me.
Dan sits at the bar next to me, addressing Michael Cera.
"Good for you, Greg, looks like you're already making some good connections. I didn't think they'd let you into anything anymore."
I see a look of terror wash over Michael Cera's face.
Again, he says, "Greg Christie?!"
Dan, still talking to Michael while waving the bartender over for another drink, responds, "Who did you think he was?"
Michael's facial expression goes form terror to complete and utter defeat. He mumbles something incoherent before stumbling away in search of the hipster girl with a Krang tattoo on her titties that may or may not have stolen his phone.
Dan orders a Johnnie Walker Black straight and drinks it down in a single sip. Impressive, but stupid.
"Did I interrupt something, Greg?"
I shrug my shoulders.
Dan is a former festival programmer based out of Philadelphia. I used to volunteer for the festival he curated in high school and college. He's responsible for single handily opening me up to a lot of great films. He was iconic within the film scene in Philadelphia and I have always admired and looked up to him.
But he faded to obscurity over the years due to self destructive vices. A smart man with some real problems. I can relate obviously.
I often wonder if this is exactly what's in store for me with my future. Then I realize I'm no longer in my twenties and I'm already living "that future."
"So, is this your Leaving Las Vegas, Greg?"
"Oh, you know, the pool's still going, and I'm waiting to collect."
Yeah, the word did eventually get back to me that a group of peers within the film programming, and criticism scene have developed a betting pool on when and how I'll eventually lose my shit altogether and off myself.
I stare Dan in the eye. I could say plenty of horrible things to him as well.
"Well, Dan, I'm glad you've gotten over your agoraphobia and finally made your way out of your parent's house."
He looks me in the eye and I wonder if he's going to break the glass over my head. That's right, Sundance, we're bringing Philly to Park City here.
But I break the tension before things can take a turn for the ugly.
"Aw fuck it, the next round's on me."
I order two whiskeys even though the beer is free. I don't even want to know how much they're going to cost; I doubt I'll be able to get through tonight without blowing the entirety of my weekly budget, a massive $300.
"You know, Greg, people around the office are still talking about your Philly Film Festival write up."
"Yeah. I can't believe the fall out wasn't worse than what it was. I can't believe you're here. You're going to be blacklisted in Philly from here on in. Everyone thinks you're out of your mind. That was really stupid what you did."
"You were encouraging me from the start and kept telling me how great it was."
"Yeah, I just wanted to see you do it."
"Some friend you are. I guess I've always been an unaware geek show act."
"I wouldn't go so far to say we're friends, Greg."
"I know. We don't have friends in this business. Being in the film world is like being in the mob."
"Well said. And to that, I toast you."
Here we are, two bitter, broke ass drunks getting a taste of the life we previously thought we wanted but knew we could never have.
"Look at these people, Dan."
"I would but I'm starting to get the spins."
"Don't close your eyes."
A man wearing a cowboy hat, sunglasses, and a blonde wig approaches me and hands me a small plastic bag. I can barely make out his face but I still recognize him as the man from the airplane, Mr. Barton Monarch AKA Terrance Malick.
He holds his finger up to his lips motioning me not to say anything.
He disappears back into the crowd just as quickly as he appeared.
I open the bag and find another McRib sandwich and an Iphone. I swipe my thumb across the screen to unlock it and immediately know whose phone it is by the picture that instantly comes up.
A shit eating grin spreads ear to ear on my face and I feel my prostrate infection tingle as I thumb through all of the snap shots from Michael Cera's hotel room orgy.
Dan looks at me confused.
I tuck the phone into my back pocket figuring this should come in handy later.
CHAPTER 4: GHOSTRIDER SNOW MOBILE HERO
I can't be sure just how long I've been time traveling tonight, but I know things must be bad because I've somehow found myself driving a snow mobile, dead drunk, in the dead of night.
I look over my shoulder to find that Dan is behind me for the ride. He's laughing, yelling, and speaking in tongues In between taking swigs from a handle of cheap whiskey.
Sporadic memories flash in my mind but they leave me just as soon as they come like a match light flickering in the wind.
I think I remember Dan throwing up at the bar.
I think I remember that I stole that bottle of whiskey while the bartender escorted Dan out of the Epstein Erikson Lodge's bar.
I think I remember stealing the snow mobile that I'm now driving.
I don't remember when or where Dan came back after being thrown out of the lodge.
But here I am. I usually don't know where I am most of the time. I've grown accustomed to playing the fucked up cards I've been dealt, even if it's usually my own shaky hands that dealt them.
I see the lodge far off in the distance, fading to white.
The brisk wind against my face feels almost enlightening as I push forward into the night.
Driving a stolen snow mobile shitfaced in Park City at 2am really is something of a religious experience.
I can hear the swirling orchestral crescendo of a Godspeed You Black Emperor song playing in my head.
The violins and distorted guitars are building to their denouement. I close my eyes.
I hear Dan laughing like a mad man.
Maybe he was right. Maybe this is my Leaving Las Vegas. Maybe I came here to die. Or maybe I need to get more control over my drugs.
When I open my eyes, I'm disappointed to find that I'm heading straight for a paved road towards an oncoming vehicle and am going too fast to maneuver away safely.
I'm far too drunk to handle this right. I don't panic or fear the inevitable accident that's about to occur, but my cognitive abilities are too fucked to do anything about it. I wish I could be like Denzel Washington in Flight, I wish I could claim that my high is making me brave and steadfast.
Instead, I dump the snowmobile to the side, losing Dan. For whatever reason, I hang on, allowing the richboy toy to drag me a solid twenty yards before rolling over and letting go.
I can't be entirely sure that I'm conscious or not as I think I watch the snowmobile shoot forward, smashing directly into the side of passing car.
I feel wetness in my pants. For a moment, I think it's my prostrate infection. This may be one of the few moments in my life where I'd be grateful to have pissed my pants. But judging from the pressure I feel in bladder, I know that's not the case.
I feel a heaviness in my eyelids and for the third or fourth time tonight, I black out.
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