Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Cultural Expedition To Observe Celebrities In Their Natural Habitat

Warning: this post is picture intensive.

Earlier this month I was invited to attend the Cosmo Swimwear fashion show, which was held at a new establishment in the city, Wembley Square. It is supposedly the new "in" place in which to be seen if you' know...not me....


Above: 6:19pm: The VIP seats, and the altar of cocktails on the far right.

Upon arrival - and we were unintentionally early - we were presented with gift bags, which we all found rather odd as one is usually only handed such things after an event, and only if you've stayed at the event late enough to warrant receiving a gift. However, this turned out to be a bonus as they ran out of gift bags before all the guests had arrived and, later in the evening (while I was standing on a table, but more on that later), I noticed a number of women eyeing mine with great jealousy (and one woman even asked me where I had obtained mine), so I held it close at all times for fear of being a victim of fashionista pilfering.

We were greeted by a hostess and offered the option of a cosmopolitan or a maverick (Absolut vodka with granadilla juice; I mention "Absolut" because it was one of the sponsors, along with Wembley Square and Cosmopolitan, so now I've completed my brand-name dropping requirement for this report. Seriously, though, thank you Absolut vodka, you always make my day). My journalist friends, tossing their allegience to all things Cosmo out the window, opted for mavericks, while I had a cosmopolitan.


I swear, three seconds and it was gone. I was highly disappointed. And those cocktail glasses are deceptive, because they look as if they hold a lot. They really don't. I can state that with firm, confirmed conviction. If you inhale twice you'll empty them. Yet, miraculously, my friends all managed to make their drinks last much longer. I don't know how they did it. Cocktail flair, perhaps. I guess I should sip more and gulp less.

Since it was early in the evening and we had nothing better to do, we ended up at the bar, which turned out to be the smoking area, so that wasn't particularly pleasant for me. Within about an hour the venue went from busy to packed, and we became increasingly squished in the corner as rude people intruded on our space and forced us to retreat. We conversed idly and I met a couple of new employees from the Cosmo offices. The talk turned to rumours of which celebrities were supposed to be attending. We snacked on hors d'oeuvres doing the rounds. I couldn't identify most of the food, so I sampled a carrot stick.

And then the celebrity parade suddenly began.

Can you say "deluge"? Well, you don't have to, but it would be appropriate.

My digital camera doesn't take particularly good pictures in dim light unless I use the flash, which I didn't want to do as it's incredibly intrusive, so many of my shots are, unfortunately, a little blurry. And the rest are completely blurry.

In retrospect, it might have been a good way for me to get everybody out of my personal space, so I will keep that in mind for the future.


Above: 7:09pm: Mark Bayly, the host of Survivor SA, appeared at the bar right in front of me. I'm not particularly a fan of his - I find him wooden and boring, and think he would have been better utilised as a host for The Amazing Race, except we don't do that show (dammit!). One of the Cosmo staff members is a huge fan of his and we spent the next five minutes going: "Is it him? I think it's him.'s not him, it's just some guy who looks like him.... Wait, no, I think it is it?"


Above: 7:09pm: Mark Bayly's feet, for those with a shoe fetish, foot fetish, or size fetish. It occurred to me that no one else would be taking this photograph so it could be my exclusive. I hope it answers any questions you may have had. They never show his feet on TV so I presume it's been a topic of discussion among single (older) women all over the country.


Above: 7:12pm: This is Andrew Mac, the lead singer of the band Flat Stanley, at the bar. Unfortunately the picture is very blurry because I was so surprised that he actually paused to smile at me, while I was obtrusively shoving a camera in his face, that I couldn't hold it steady. By this time I had also had a second cosmopolitan so that may possibly have been a contributing factor. Nevetheless, thank you, Andrew, for being really cool.


Above: 7:13pm: Andrew Mac's feet (on the left). I thought I'd continue my research while I had the opportunity. And noooo, this is not creepy at all.


Above: 7:14pm: Sam Allerton from Survivor SA chats to Mark Bayly. They wouldn't keep still so this is as good as it gets.


Above: 7:16pm: Sam Allerton, near the bar, looking uncomfortable. Proof that it was him, in case you didn't believe me after seeing the previous photograph. I saw him a few weeks before this at YDE in Cavendish Square, so he and I are old friends (he just doesn't know it). Sam wasn't particularly keen on having his picture taken and tried his best to look away without being rude, while I was unsubtly snapping away with blogger glee. What I should have done was shout: "Do not move, I'm trying to take your photograph!" I'll remember that for next time.


Above: 7:30pm: Feeling claustrophobic, we drifted away from the bar and then met up with some more Cosmo staff members. I noticed Colin Moss on the other side of the room but this was the best picture that I could get. Honestly! Celebrities are completely unable to keep still.

Soon after this the battery symbol on my camera started to flash and I began to panic because the fashion show hadn't even started.

More waiters drifted by. We snacked. I decided I had to try a maverick (for research purposes), so I did. It lasted about as long as my cosmopolitans, so I was forced to have a second one a few minutes later.


Above: 7:51pm: Former Miss South Africa and TV host Jo-Ann Strauss at the bar. This is the very last photograph that I was able to take that evening, as my battery then proceeded to die*. Rather spectacularly, in fact: my camera lens got stuck in the protracted position and I couldn't get it to retract until I had a chance, hours later once home, to charge my battery. I'd rather not have that happen again.

Sometime around this point we decided to get closer to the action, as the fashion show was about to start. We, unfortunately, had been instructed not to sit in the seats around the runway, which had been reserved for the VIP guests, so we were stuck with the plebs behind a huge glass barricade. At least we were close to the bar.

Being of average height among tall people, I couldn't see much. A couple of people in a similar predicament decided to stand on the glass tables that were in this area and, as no one came by to dissuade them I also clambered up on a table and was glad I did, as I probably had one of the best views of the fashion show.

So there was I (having come straight from work), dressed like a combination of journalist, geek, and blogger (which, I'm sure you realise, is apt, if not - possibly - completely appropriate), surrounded by fashionistas, celebrities, and models, standing on a table, with a notebook and pencil, because I was actually doing work. (Blogging is work.)

Surreal things such as this happen to me all the time.

A reasonably accurate re-creation of the runway

Above: A reasonably accurate re-creation of the runway.

Since at this point I could no longer photograph celebrities, or the fashion show, I have had to draw a picture - with perfect perspective, since I was taught to do that in multimedia school** - of the models on the runway so that you have the complete picture. I am nothing if not a thorough journalist (except when I'm required to do unnecessary or complicated research, in which case I just make stuff up***).

All the models were tall and thin and did their modelling work in very high heels. I have trouble walking without falling over in sneakers and my smart flat shoes (and I'm talking about when I'm sober), so I have deep respect for this skill that they have had to master in order to be People Who Walk Professionally.

To be fair, though, models are just like normal people. Some of them suck and some of them are really warm, smart, interesting people with a sense of humour. You have to remember that modelling is actually an art form. Trust me, it can't be easy being a male model in nothing more than a Speedo with instructions to pause on an assigned spot on the runway, three feet from the crowd, crotch level with the mostly female (and occasional gay male) guests. It takes stones to do that - I mean, beyond those already visible, save for a thin veneer of stretched lycra.

I'm glad I was 10 metres away on a table.

A reasonably accurate re-creation of the models

Above: A reasonably accurate re-creation of the models.

The runway was shaped like a P and a camera was set up at the end of the longest section to project the action onto a large screen on the wall behind the runway. There was one male model in particular who I'm sure wanted his penis projected onto the big screen (presumably for obvious reasons) as he kept gyrating in front of the camera.

Smaller screens displayed pretaped promotional material of the brands as they appeared on the runway. Most of the clothing can be seen (if you happen to own it) in the November issue of Cosmo in the special swimwear section at the back of the magazine. The models wore swimwear and beachwear from Speedo, Sportscene, Woolworths, and JBS, among others, but the most interesting, and weird, brands were Tropitone and Bonaqua.

Tropitone is a range of sun-care products. How do you model sunblock? I'm still not sure, and I was there.

Bonaqua is a range of flavoured water. The models walked around the runway carrying their bottles of water. That was the extent of it. It was rather amusing. At the end of the Bonaqua segment, an enterprising model drenched herself in her bottle of water, to the delight of the audience.

Elana Afrika appeared on the runway with a microphone near the end of the show, but I was too far way to hear what she had to say, and my camera was dead so I couldn't take a picture, so I have nothing more to say about that.

After the show had ended and people were once again milling around, talking, and being served snacks, I saw etv's Nicky Greenwall (although I still find it hard to think of her as a celebrity as I know her from way back when before she was famous: high school - she was in the year after me, along with Louise Carver. I've now completed my "back in the day" name dropping requirement for this report, as well as my "celebrities that I have been in the same large, open-air area with" name-dropping requirement).

Mark Bayly reappeared near us and one of the Cosmo staff members, who knows his girlfriend, introduced him to a couple of his Cosmo fans. I stood back because I didn't have anything to say to him, so being there for no reason, hovering, gets a bit weird. At that moment one of the professional photographers happened to be passing by, so they asked him to take a photograph of them with Mark. It was at this point that I did something really, really stupid: instead of stepping into the photo, like any normal person would do, I stepped out of the way, because...I don't know. I wasn't thinking clearly. Must have been all those carrot sticks.

After that they said their goodbyes but it had become crowded again so Mark had to squeeze past me as he tried to get by and, as he did so, he apologised and smiled at me in such a sweet way that I was instantly won over.

A Note About Mark Bayly
Since I had a couple of close encounters, here's everything you need to know:
* He is much better looking in real life. I can't emphasise that enough.
* He is much smaller in real life. This may partly be due to the oversized Cape Union Mart shirts that he wore on Survivor SA.
* He was wearing a Winnie the Pooh T-shirt, jeans, and sandals.
* He is very unassuming but very charming.
I went away from this event liking him a lot and I regret stepping out of the photograph instead of into it. Honestly. What the hell was I thinking? Mark: do-over, please. One day. I'll wait. I mean, not in a desperate way, or anything. Or in a stalker way...seriously.

A Note About The Carrot Sticks
By the end of the evening I had consumed nine carrot sticks (as well as a mini smoothie provided by Crush).

Soon after this we went home, so you've now read pretty much everything I observed while observing and know as much as I do about celebrities.

*Because I forgot to charge it.
**I said "multimedia", not "remedial".
***I am joking, of course. I always check at least some of my facts; that's why everyone's names are spelt correctly.

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Anonymous Jase said...

More feet pictures! Not because I'm creepy, but because it's... interesting and unusual. Who is Colin Moss, for us non-Africans? I'm too lazy to look it up (like most Americans)

Thursday, November 30, 2006 9:10:00 PM  
Anonymous kyknoord said...

More dark photos with red circles on them!

Jase: Colin Moss is South Africa's answer to the question, "How bad can Hell really be?"

Friday, December 01, 2006 8:56:00 AM  
Blogger Mandy J Watson said...

Jase: Kyk's opinion would be one answer. I'll be a little more neutral and say he's primarily a TV presenter and actor. If you visit his web site you can learn all things Colin. The site says more than I ever could. Really.

Kyk: I will try next time. (Must. Charge. Battery.) My new hobby is stalking celebrities in dark areas with the ultimate intention of making circle graphics.

Friday, December 01, 2006 10:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Katt said...

This was a fantastic piece of blogging journalism. Thanks, MJ! I had a good laugh.

Oh, and stepping out of the photo, don't worry about it. I do it too, don't know why either.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 9:10:00 AM  
Blogger Mandy J Watson said...

Katt: For me, I think it's the "I'm sure I will blink because of the flash and ruin everyone else's photo!" fear.

Either that or not wanting to land up on the heat magazine celebrity pages along with the celebrities.

You know, while in mid blink.

Thursday, December 14, 2006 5:57:00 PM  

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