February 19 2005, 4:03 PM
I think I'm ready for the next round of party hopping tonight. I'm going to be a wreck by Monday, but boy -- I'll have water cooler stories for ages from this, right? Right. Gotta keep telling myself how lucky I am. Riiiiight. It's Saturday, 3 p.m., and I'm still drinking coffee after sleeping in until noon. I realize that sounds horribly lazy, but I had only four hours of sleep the night before, and I went to bed again last night (or this morning, for you literal types) at 3:30 a.m. I needed the rest before gearing up for tonight's NBA Players Association Ice Gala, and the P. Diddy party at the Church. Last night was a strange one. I played reporter on the red carpet at two stops, wormed my way into the private VIP party with a ton of NBA players at ESPN Zone, and then ended the night at Rox in Union Station, giving Fabolous a hard time in the VVIP room for drinking Cristal straight from the bottle. One again, the breakdown. 9 p.m., Rise Nightclub. I show up for red-carpet interviews as the celebs head into Michael Jordan's private party at Rise, which he has rented out for the weekend. Jordan reportedly spent over $300,000 for the rental, and the installation of his Michael Jordan XXperience sneaker exhibit. I find this slightly insulting, but I really can't say why. We stand around and wait for someone buzzworthy to show up. I stick around for an hour, and Larry Miller, president of the Jordan company, wass the only person to show up before 10 p.m. Gotta hit the next stop. 10 p.m., ESPN Zone. Ugh. More red-carpet reporter duty. This sucks. If you've ever thought that this job is in any way glamorous, I'll tell ya right now: You are wrong. My feet hurt, the breeze is chilly (thankfully there are heaters along the red carpet area) and I feel like a total dork. Normally, I cover nightlife, music, a little dining, some fashion. But sports? No freakin' way, people. Completely out of my element, I'm reduced to leaning over to the ESPN marketing guy next to me every time a limo makes a drop to ask "So, who is this one?" The Broncos cheerleaders greet the VIPs on either side of the red carpet (yeah, weird for an NBA party, but whatever. Apparently the Nuggets Dancers had their own private party going on over at Rock Island.) and Rocky, the Nuggets mascot, runs along the red velvet rope to entertain the very cold, very bundled-up onlookers. Over the course of a chilly hour, I spot Nuggets owner Kiki Vandeweghe, rappers Biz Markie and Doug E. Fresh (performers for the night), ESPN anchor and party host Stuart Smith, and Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath walking the red carpet. Oh, yes, and a slew of sports stars, including Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, and NBA stars Ben Wallace, John Starks, Greg Anthony, and Gary Payton. Inside, I take the nickel tour for my celebrity-spotting purposes, and realize that ESPN Zone looks way more fun than most of the VIP rooms elsewhere in town. Here, you can ride a virtual racehorse, shoot 3-pointers with the actual NBA players, and check out Doug E. Fresh in a dance floor that you can actually dance on. Too bad I can't stay long. 11:30 p.m., Rox Infusion Lounge. Next stop, Rox. I check in, grab my pass, and do the once-over loop around the rooms. Union Station has been turned into a nightclub, and the main train terminal echoes with old school hip hop and pop tunes. Strobe lights and lasers beam around the room, and people are gettin' their groove on between the rows of wooden benches. It's kind of surreal, seeing the train station hopping like this. Rox Infusion Lounge is now the VIP room, but it seems that anyone who drops the extra $25 is a VIP, making it the place to hang for the well-heeled looky-loos. There are no actual VIPs here, so I zip on up to the mezzanine into the VVIP room. Yes, this is as ridiculous as it sounds, and each of the four seating areas up here are vacant, with "Reserved For:" signs propped up on the tables to keep us psuedo-VVIPs off the furniture. I find an available stretch of balcony, drop off my purse and coat and claim it as my perch for the rest of the evening. At first I'm almost lonely in my little overlook, but as the night wears on I am privy to the progression of the VVIP process. First, the clued-in guests start making their way up. Obviously someone Very Very Important is due up here soon. It's midnight, and I'm hoping they hurry their important asses up so that I can go home. Tick tock, tick tock. Nothing much else happens, so I venture down to the bar and wiggle my way throught the packed crowd to order my first, much-deserved drink of the night. 1 a.m., Rox. The natives are getting restless. I'm feeling serious bad vibes at the bar, and the highly-polished gal behind me waves her manicured hands around for emphasis as she complains about the lack of bigwigs. I duck her dangerously long nails and wait for the bartender to acknowledge my presence. Fifteen minutes later, after deflecting the angst around me as best I can, I pay $11 for a Red Bull and vodka. Jeez. Back to VVIP. People are starting to move in on my stretch of balcony, and I realize that I have a bit of prime real estate here. I plant myself firmly and ignore the occasional bumps and not-so-gentle nudges. This is my spot, and I'm not moving, dammit. Now the clued-in crowd is thick, and Mr. Very-Very Busy pushes through, cleaning up the seating areas, prepping for VVIP arrivals. He's quite busy, so please don't bother him. He bustles around in his crisp black suit and white shirt, and seems thisclose to snapping at anyone who doesn't understand the seriousness of his duties. Mr. Very-Very Busy zips down and up again, now stocking the areas with Grey Goose and Cristal. Hmm. Must be getting close to showtime? Mr. VVB zips down, zips back up with ice buckets. Okay -- the ice is here. Where are the rock stars? Aha. Superstar hip hop producer Jermaine Dupri arrives, security and all, and makes his way to the right corner. "Big Al" the bouncer, a huge man who must be six foot five and 300 pounds, blocks the way and politely fends off groupies. Reporters are particularly uninvited, it seems. Next, rapper/producer Fabolous arrives, entourage in tow. This time the bouncer seems to think Fabolous might be up for a quick interview. He checks, I wait. When I finally corner Fabolous, I ask him what his plans are for the weekend, and where the best party will be. "I'm just here partying all weekend," he tells me. "The game on Sunday is the big event of the weekend for me, that's definitely the hugest thing. And after, Sunday night's gonna be the real party." So what is that he's drinking from the bottle dangling from his hand? "Cristal," he says. The sarcastic "Like, duh" is only implied. "So, you're drinking Cristal straight from the bottle?" I ask. "That's classy." As soon as it's out, I realize that I have just gotten lippy with a superstar, VVIP and his huge-ass bouncer is right behind me. Uh-oh? But no. Fabolous is just as tired as I am at this point. He rolls his eyes at me, blows it off. When the bright lights go on to signal that it's nearly closing time, I breathe a sigh of relief. Now, all I need to do if figure out how the hell I'm getting home. Outside, Union Station is a swarm of limos, town cars, taxis, and drunken out-of-towners trying to do the same. It's a zoo, and I end up calling home to wake up my husband for a rescue-me pick up. I start walking away from the chaos on this particular block, hoping to meet him on a less busy street. My feet really, really hurt, and all I want to do is get the hell out of downtown.