"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
Sneaking past the officials into the restricted press area with my new photographer friend, turned out to be a breeze. Tima Nahad did not have an official press pass, but at 4' 9'' (in built-up heels) he fell way below the radar of the hulking security guards. He may have been short but his zoom lens was huge. Perfect. My own camera had been confiscated two days ago at the Volver press conference.
I actually came to make Nahad's acquaintance after almost tripping over him outside Roy Thomson Hall. Along with thousands of other people, we were both there to watch the stars walk down the red carpet before the gala screening of Babel. I was having difficulty in my new gold strappy sandals on account of their six-inch stiletto heels. I had spotted the shoes earlier in the brand new Canadian edition of Hello! Magazine, which is now on display in the press office. An actress named Paris Hilton was wearing them. I have never seen her in anything personally, although at the information desk, a young gentleman volunteer informed me that videos of her work could be ordered over the Internet. I realized she must do Art House cinema, which I have always appreciated, even before becoming a film critic. I loved the idea of emulating the look of an Art House actress-a French one at that.
Back to the evening's main attraction, Babel concludes Mexican director Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu's trilogy, which began with Amores Perros and 21 Grams. The film features pale-skinned beauty Cate Blanchett, the bronzed and even prettier Gael García Bernal, and a number of non-actors from the many countries in which the action is set.
I wasn't there to see Nobodies though; I was there to see Brad Pitt-or "BradPittBradPittBradPitt" as the girls lining the red carpet were screaming.
As I led Nahad into the press-only zone, we were dismayed to see that upwards of 70 paparazzi got to the tiny cordoned-off area first. From his position right at the back, Nahad's test shots showed only the posterior of a gentleman from Reuters.
Exasperated, I realized that he was jolly well going to have to wriggle through the crowd of photographers and get to the front. He could probably even crawl past their ankles without anybody noticing. He was down on all fours and making his way into the scrum when a security guard looked over and caught sight of his feet. I tapped his derrière and urged him to make haste, but the red-faced guard ran over and scanned my bosom area with his piggy little eyes.
"Where's your camera?"
Two minutes later, at the back of the crowd and approximately 200 yards from the red carpet, Nahad and I could not see a thing. I tried lending him my gala shoes to take the photos, but even with an extra six inches, the ten-year-olds in front blocked his view. Nobody in our area could make out much, and there was a general mood of depression. But then a father hoisted a small child up onto his shoulders and held her by the ankles, so she could see way above the crowd.
"I can see Brad Pitt! I can see Brad Pitt!" she yelled out gleefully.
"What does he look like?" called out some Japanese teenagers.
Everyone in the crowd laughed good-humouredly, except the middle-aged man to my left.
"I paid $30 on the Go-Train to get here and I can't see a damn thing," he grumbled.
Just then I had a brainwave. I put my gala shoes back on and offered the curmudgeon his train fare home and a Polaroid of Brad Pritt if he would help little Nahad up onto my shoulders.
We had a deal.
Minutes later, I was shaking perilously in my vertiginous sandals and grasping Nahad's calves, as he zoomed in on Brad. Within a couple of seconds, alas, my ankles buckled and I toppled, skinning my knees painfully as I landed on the red carpet. Nahad landed on his head, but on the way down, to my relief, his flash went off.
We only got one shot, but it was perfect-Brad Pitt, his jaw set and his eyes narrowed, gazing heroically in our direction. Nahad promised to send the image by electronic mail the following day. I kissed my diminutive new friend on the little bump on his forehead and whispered "goodnight." As I hobbled off, I reflected on all that had come to pass. I had a picture of Brad, but had not seen him with my own eyes. I had my Paris Hilton shoes, but also the carpet burns. It was all so bittersweet.