Back in 1972, 37-year-old librarian/educator/author (Robert Redford: A Look at his Films; The Vampire on the Screen) Dr. Donald A. Reed quite elegantly thought, “‘there should be an organization which pays tribute to the films and filmmakers who work in the genre fields of science fiction, fantasy and horror.’” And thus the Los Angeles-based Saturn Awards were born. The vision of the now-deceased Dr. Reed lives on 39 years later in the form of an annual gala award ceremony that features interesting B-level-and-below celebrities who hand out planet-shaped Oscars to colleagues and peers alike.
Last week, Cinedelphia attended the 37th Annual Saturn Awards ceremony…here’s what happened.
My good friend and fellow former longtime T.L.A. Video employee Dean Galanis and I arrive at Burbank’s resort-like restaurant and special events center The Castaway right before the scheduled 6pm red carpet event. Dean, who is covering the event for ForcesOfGeek.com, a difficult to navigate website run by an alumni of Temple University, has an encyclopedic knowledge of American film history. He specializes in 70s TV movies and justifiably forgotten mainstream gems; during our T.L.A. days I’d name a film at random from the Videohound and Dean would instantly identify its cast, crew, and plot. Together we won the final film-themed Quizzo night ever held at the Khyber, every one of our answers was his with the exception of one (Almost Heroes). He’s been living out in L.A. for the past few years working as a PA on Hallmark films, which is heaven for him as those are his types of stars (he told me the other day that Susan Lucci enjoys Brisk iced teas…and now that’s forever in my head). Thus he is much more excited than I about the Saturns (though I’m pretty excited), the major guests of which include Michael Biehn, John Noble, and Brad Dourif. Not familiar with the names? I wasn’t either, but their major works are impressive according to the “tip sheet” that the award show’s publicist hands us at the check-in table. The sheet features thumbnail images of the night’s presenters and award recipients alongside handy biographical information. The paparazzi is hard at work studying the sheet when we join them at the velvet ropes.
The photographers, videographers, and web show hosts are firmly planted in their claimed spots along the entrance to the red carpet. I’d guess that all of them are bloggers, eager nerds happy to feed the Hollywood machine in a manner every bit as loathsome as TMZ. In exchange they get site hits, which equal advertising dollars…not the worst job when you think about it. I stand between a friendly UPenn student on summer break who’s there with Collider.com and an aggressive older woman who’s covering the event for the atrociously named OMFGeek.com (ugh). The crowd gets worked up when a cameraman is granted exclusive access to the other side of the rope. “Who’s that?” “Where’s he from?” “Probably CNN,” I answer. Dean is the only one who laughs. A publicist shouts “Michael Paré!” announcing both the identity and arrival of the Streets of Fire star/first red carpet walker of the night and the festivities begin.
The cameramen bark orders at the parade of stars like hard-nosed directors. “Over here, Mr. Emmerich!” “To your right, Mr. Stewart!” I text Katie, “You’re way prettier than French Stewart’s girlfriend.” The paparazzi go just as crazy over former Superman Brandon Routh as they do for Bert I. Gordon, the 89-year-old director of Empire of the Ants though the announcement of Mr. Gordon’s name is appreciated by all. When a “celebrity” appears whose name is unfamiliar to all, a publicist or handler will precede them on the carpet with a sign that lists their name and credentials. My favorite is a Snooki-like Temple University graduate whose credits include Slime City Massacre and Dahmer vs. Gacy. A preteen actress with a makeup-caked face whose tip sheet bio simply reads “Actress” walks the carpet to little applause. She beelines towards a nearby female member of the press who is armed with a simple consumer-level camera. The press woman escorts the young actress back down the line and asks random outlets if they will interview her. It takes me a few minutes to figure out that the press woman is the young actress’ mother. I eavesdrop on her interviews, but learn little about her blossoming career other than the fact that her favorite movie is Avatar and she hopes to see it in an actual movie theater someday. It’s not long before I’m squeezed out of the line by the OMFGeek lady who takes up enough room for three people and has no idea who any of the celebrities are. She relies on the tip sheet and a nearby cameraman from OK! magazine’s Red Carpet Revue who arrived earlier with fake cuts on his legs and burns on his face that he ceremoniously removed while loudly remarking that they were done by an “Oscar-winning makeup artist” while “on set earlier today”. No one seemed to care, these things must be common ’round these parts. The flashbulbs explode as a random guy holding a Yoda puppet strolls down the carpet and I decide to retreat for the time being.
I follow some tuxedoed types through the courtyard, which is decorated with life-size statues of astronauts and mythical warriors, and into the reception area. These gentlemen are excited about the presence of their friend Doug Jones, an actor best known for playing creatures like the fish from the Hellboy films and the thing with eyes in its palms in Pan’s Labyrinth (IMDb tells us that this creature is called Pale Man and that “The Pale Man, ironically with its name, is not human. It is an obscure creature.”) I find the bar and make quick work of three sweet tea bourbons courtesy of event sponsor Firefly Sweet Tea. I’m underdressed compared to the presenters and nominees that surround me. I overhear things like “I won the B-movie award for Best Scream Queen last year” and “I don’t know, I feel like the Saturns have gotten too mainstream”. The room may be a who’s who of nerddom, but I’m helpless without the publicist’s announcements.
Back outside, I chat with an aspiring actress from Bethlehem, PA who has only been in L.A. for a year, but already has the lingo down. I walk by the young co-star of Breaking Bad and do my only double-take of the evening. Dean is still going strong with his interviews, as I approach he’s speaking to the star of the Syfy Channel show Being Human. “Well when I read that I was going to be playing a vampire…” I catch Robocop‘s Kurtwood Smith give a seemingly self-reflective sigh as he slowly makes his way down the line. 7pm rolls around and the theme song to Doctor Who fills the air, signaling the start of the pre-ceremony dinner. We’re supposed to head to the press room, but opt for the bar instead. I pause to speak to a group of nerdy types by the entrance that we passed by upon our arrival. They’re star stalkers and autograph hounds, armed with bags of glossy 8x10s that they hope to get signed and then turn into profits on eBay. There are about 15 of these people, none of which are very talkative aside from one guy who immediately launches into a long recap of a recent encounter with Kevin Smith. The guy with the Yoda puppet is standing in front of his Star Wars-themed car nearby, which is actually rather impressive. Turns out that it’s the car he uses to drive to work as well as the numerous charity events that he attends, not a bad guy at all.
We head to the press room after a failed attempt on Dean’s part to chase down surprise guest Mel Brooks after he walked by us in the bar. Saturn host Jeffrey Ross delivers his monologue on a flat screen television. “Have you seen that AIDS documentary on Fox called Glee?” Presenters and award winners are marched through the room in predictable fashion where they’re exposed to a series of inane inquiries. “How many Hit Girls did you see at Comic Con?” “How does it feel to have Avengers finally in production?” A reporter for some horror blog that I’ve never heard of struggles to come up with a question for Mel Brooks, “Do you…still…have good ideas for funny movies?” A woman from a video game blog called GoGamer.com (which doesn’t seem to be in operation) asks every celebrity if they will be doing any voice over work for video games in the future. Important stuff. A deceptively mild mannered reporter from ScreenJunkies.com gets yelled at by an event publicist for bothering celebrities immediately upon their entrances into the room. I find his vulture-like tenacity to be slimy and embarrassing. This whole thing goes on until around 10pm when show closers Frank Darabont and Thomas Jane pass through the room. Jane stops in front of where Dean and I are sitting at the exit. “Show’s over?” he asks his publicist. “Let’s hope so,” I mutter. “Yeah, let’s hope so,” he agrees.
The after party in the courtyard is a dark affair, the only lights are those that illuminate the statues of warriors and giant rats. We strike up a conversation with the great Larry Cohen (pictured with actress Laurene Landon), a director that both Dean and I are quite fond of. He tells us stories about working with Andy Kaufman on Gold Told Me To until a local film programmer with a knowledge of classic Hollywood cinema that rivals that of Dean’s interjects and scares Mr. Cohen away. Shortly thereafter we grab our gift bags and head for the nearby Del Taco. On the way out we pass by the crowd of autograph hunters that has since doubled in size. “Later, losers!” I yell to them and immediately feel guilty as odds are I’ll be doing the same thing after the Sparks concert two days from now. But Sparks are cool…
And thus a good time was had by all. Who won awards? No idea. If you’re curious then you can check out the winners here.
Can’t wait ’til next year!