Monday, December 27, 2010

Roaring Twenties

Cannes, France, during the festival

God, the holidays are exhausting!  Mentally I think I need a little vacation, and since my mind has been on traveling ever since my last blog, I suppose I'll revisit my overseas exploits in my twenties, particularly when I worked at the Cannes Film Festival.  Let me preface this by saying I graduated college early, at 21 (I have no earthly idea why), and immediately went to work in public relations at a company in Los Angeles called Rogers and Cowan.  Somehow I ended up in the International Film Department, working for the only two straight men in the entire firm.  Actually this was probably because I wore a short skirt and thigh-high socks to my interview.  Interestingly enough, at the time I thought that ensemble was totally appropriate, professional even (!).  Of course, I must also mention that I had gotten the job on the following prerequisites: 1) I had a passport, and 2) I spoke fluent Italian (this slight exaggeration only further clarifies how truly unprofessional I actually was.  I did know a few phrases, namely "Ciao," "Buon Giorno," and "Vai via!" ("Go away!"), the last of which was particularly useful when I studied in Florence and needed some space from the lewd yet charming Italian men who probably still lived at home with their mothers).

After a couple of fairly uneventful years of working for Michael and Lance at R&C, they suddenly asked me to work for the company at the Cannes Film Festival, as Lance had a conflict and couldn't go.  It was 5 PM when they asked, could I be ready to leave in the morning?  I, of course, immediately started shitting myself and internally screaming, "What?! Oh my God, what am I POSSIBLY going to wear?!"   Need I say more?  I was in.

I ended up attending three Cannes Film Festivals, and they were and are unlike anything I have ever experienced.  First of all, the city itself is BREATHTAKING!  There are hundreds of palm trees, pebbly beaches with striped umbrellas, and majestic, sprawling hotels.  During the 10 days of the festival, there are celebrities everywhere, throngs of paparazzi, and hords upon hords of tourists.  My job was to book and get interviews for our clients.  Sounds simple enough, but it wasn't.  It was fucking insane.  I would have a line of 50 journalists long standing at my desk waiting to schedule an interview, as they impatiently tapped their feet and berated me in strange foreign languages.  Then, of course, our clients would be whining over their lack of recognition (they were usually pretty minor in terms of celebrity status) and/or demanding more press.  I would literally sleep four hours a night every night for 3 weeks.  I almost always got incredibly sick, and even got food poisoning so badly one night that I probably should have gone to the ER.

But here's what made it all worth it: the intense, surreal, amazing parties.

There is so much adrenaline during the festival that even though you aren't sleeping and are working like a steroid-fueled racehorse, at the end of every workday, around 11 PM, you go out.  The parties are tented on the beach, or on a yacht, or even in a castle.  This one party I remember distinctly (and that's saying a lot, considering how much champagne I was drinking at the time) was The Moving Pictures party.  (By the way, Moving Pictures is an international trade publication, and they would always host elaborate fests.)  So this party I am talking about was at an enormous citadel on a hill in the old part of Cannes.  I remember getting out of the car in, like, slow motion, walking in, and seeing this gigantic courtyard all lit up in pink, with literally 1000 people all swaying in time to music.  There were Grecian statues everywhere, and hidden nooks where couples were making out, and so much liquor (and other stuff) it just completely blew me away.  It was like all these beautiful and sophisticated people had morphed into one joyous and frenzied mass, and the energy was absolutly amazing.  It was probably one of the most magical nights of my life, and I stayed there until 6 AM, when I went straight to the office with a pounding headache and a mysterious necktie around my neck.

At the parties in Cannes there is always a VIP section for the celebrities, which I was able to sneak into about 50% of the time.  At one of the VIP parties I met David Schwimmer and he asked me to back to his room at the Carlton with him, but I turned him down, as I had my eye particularly set on Remy, the chauffeur driver (don't even ask).  Anyway, David started pouting and whining, saying, "I can't believe you're telling me no.  That's sooo uncool!"  I think I half-expected him to tell me he was going to go and tell his Mommy.

At another VIP room, I met Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, who were in Cannes promoting Swingers (does this date me or what?!).  They were hilarious and adorable, and when we all got back to L.A., a girlfriend and I even went on a double date with Vince and another friend of his.  Here's the really embarassing part:  Vince completely ignored me all night long.  He and his friend had taken us to the Dresden room and led us to the best booth right next to Marty and Elaine (the club's famously kitschy singers), but Vince immediately turned his back to me and started talking to EVERY other girl in the room.  Talk about humiliating!  Anyway, it was an experience at the least, and one I'll never forget -- especially since my dear friend, Amy, reminds me DAILY how I totally blew it by letting Vince snub me.

Cannes, and the escapades I had there, inspired me to continue traveling by myself, and I subsequently went to Prague, Budapest, Milan, and Paris, each trip completely by myself.  Trekking as a woman on my own, I have never been so open to meeting new people and to saying yes to surprising opportunities as they arose.  In Prague, with some new-found bohemian friends, I drank two bottles of this half-fermented wine one night and got the WORST hangover of my entire life that lasted three horrific days.  I also had a cab driver steal $500 dollars from me there.  Budapest was especially terrifying as I ended up staying on the wrong side of the river with the heroin junkies that were on every corner.  Additionally I didn't speak the languages or could even read the alphabets in either of those cities, so just getting around was a complete nightmare.  Paris and Milan were amazing, as one would expect, and all four of those cities were and are so beautiful that they are almost fragile in their exquisiteness.  As if their beauty is a transitory state, and could slip away at a moment's notice -- like most beautiful things, I suppose.

The travel experiences in my twenties created a fervent independence in me, and subsequently I knew I could handle anything that this unpredictable life could throw my way.  Even a journey into the wild wonderfulness of my very own family.  And, really, that's the craziest and most gratifying adventure of them all.


  1. Sarah, this was great! You need to do a sequel about the alone trips, and another about your office in LA. I be there are so many stories there, and eveyone loves those tidbits. Keep them coming!!!

  2. Who knew you led such an exciting life!

  3. Sarah,
    You really have led quite a life so far and there is so much more ahead! I am so impressed with your independent spirit to travel alone!! I agree with Ali and want to know more about what you learned on your solo treks. Todd

  4. Wow--you continue to amaze me! More stories, Sarah, please!!

  5. God you blew it w vince. where were those damn thigh highs then?