New York? Shall I compare thee to a witch’s teat? Perhaps a gravedigger’s ass? Or should I just say it was colder than a mother$%*er?
Thanks to everybody who offered to hook up with me and show me around the city, unfortunately plans changed and it just wasn’t possible. FOX Studios was pretty disorganized with the whole press junket ("ghetto" was how all the other seasoned journalist described it). They reserved my flight to return to Austin on Sunday night, but they only reserved to hotel room for FRIDAY night. Rather than extend my stay another night, FOX chose to move my return flight to Saturday- which which didn't gave me time to follow through on any previous plans.
I got there and barely had three minutes to drop my bags in the room when I was hustled onto a bus tour of Biggie Smalls’ old Brooklyn neighborhood. It was packed with journalist form all over and we gasped for air as we rode for what seemed an hour through stop-n-stop traffic with the heater cranked to 80°. But when they had us get out to stand on the corner where he used to sling dope in the 20° winds I was anxious to get back on the bus.
From there they drove us to watch a screening of NOTORIOUS.
What can I tell you about the movie? It’s not bad. I liked it. It’s not nearly as good as RAY or even WALK THE LINE. Not as good as 8 MILE either, but definitely more enjoyable than GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN'. It’s really a small movie with several earnest (and the best) performances by the lesser known actors:
Jamal Woolard in his first role ever as B.I.G., made Ms.Voletta Wallace say, "That's my son!"
And Naturi Naughton As Li’l Kim and Anotinique Smith as Faith Evans. I can’t find the pics to do them justice, but in person these were two of the hottest (in very real way) chicks I’ve ever met.
Thing I couldn’t figure out was...“WHY?”
Why did FOX go to so much expense to get us all there for such a small movie? What made B.I.G. so big (no pun intended) that he was spoken about like a messiah?
According to the filmmakers, the characters, the actors and plenty of the younger journalists, “When BI.G.’s CD dropped it changed everything!”... “Jay-Z would’ve never made if B.I.G. hadn’t died".... “He changed the world!!”
I listened to all this and thought, “Which world am I living in?”
In my world (which up to now I referred to as Earth) Biggies Smalls was another rapper who rapped over songs I grew up with and was hailed as a ‘genius’ after he was shot and killed at a young age. Outside of that I can’t think of how he affected my world (let alone THE world) besides being indirectly responsible for my free trip to New York.
And the movie NOTORIOUS doesn’t answer that to my satisfaction either. There’s much talk about how they wanted film to show his flaws too, but really it shows nothing BUT his flaws. It’s all about how he was a smart kid who decided to sell drugs (to a pregnant woman in one scene) to buy new sneakers, let his best friend go to jail for him, abandoned his pregnant girlfriend, cheated on and beat his women and then decided to stop being a shithead right before he got shot. Granted, RAY, doesn’t paint a rosy picture of Ray Charles either but you get a very specific view of what he struggled against and his long lifetime of major accomplishments. Unless I'm presented with new evidence I gotta figure the Notorious B.I.G. phenomenon is generational and/ or regional. It seemed to speak to and about the people of Brooklyn. And let's be honest, New Yorkers do tend to see themselves as the center of the universe.
...But to be fair, I felt the same way about Kurt Cobain. I liked the guy's work but didn't get all the passionate hero worship.
After that, I played phone/text tag with a few Spilldos to try to meet up but only got through to Kenami and HardcoreSouma, and even then my phone died (and I’d brought the wrong charger). Luckily, HardcoreSouma came through with her awesome friend, Kat, and took me to eat the best sushi ever . From there it was a fun night of riding the subway, walking up and down Time Square with two babes on my arms and drinking Crown & Cokes at an Irish pub. They really saved the day for me, I was all ready to write the trip off as a bust before they showed up. Thanks ladies!
The next morning we were bused to a recording studio for the interviews. I needn’t have bothered preparing questions for Angela Bassett, Derek Luke or Anthony Mackie. Because of the amount of journalists packed into such a small space it was all roundtable interviews. This is basically 10+ journalists in each room trying to squeeze in their questions to one or two of the “talents” for 20 minutes. Since everything was running behind schedule (some of journalist got stuck in an elevator for nearly an hour) we only got twelve minutes and sometimes only eight minutes. In a situation like that you pray that no one crowbars in multiple questions or repeats something that’s already in the press notes, but it inevitably happens. Over the course of five interviews I squeezed in TWO questions and a comment.
The most rewarding was holding hands and talking to my new crush, Antonique Smith. When you see her in person she looks like cross between Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl, and she's got a Jennifer Hudson-grade singing voice.
She’d probably deny it but I felt we had a real connection going there. It was a very special 30 seconds, let me tell you.
Once that all done, I spent the rest of the day wearing out my shoes walking all around Rockefeller Plaza and back through Time Square. Downtown NY is like every downtown I can think of: Dallas, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas...and by "every" I mean ALL of them, all at the same time. All crazy-glued together and crammed into one area, with bits of the New Orleans French Quarter shoved in-between the cracks. And all the people are there, too.
On a Saturday afternoon all the cool stuff to do was sold out or I didn’t know how to get to, but I still made the most of it and had a good time exploring. I could've seen more but my buddy, ‘Greg the bass, scared me so badly about the horrendous traffic and long airport security lines I hopped in a cab 3 hours and 40 minutes before my flight.
Of course there was NO traffic on the road and absolutely NO ONE in the security line at Jet Blue, so I spent 2.5 hours sitting at the airport trying to get through Steven Soderbergh’s ‘CHE’ (it's 4 hours long!) on my portable DVD player...until I gave up and watched a Simpson's rerun.
My trip to New York was kind of a mixed bag, overall enjoyable, but I was happy to be back in Austin’s 65° winter.