Caught between rap royalty and a real prince
At Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, the most comfortable seats are high above the action in “sky boxes”.
That’s where the very rich, very powerful, but mostly unrecognisable people sit. That’s where corporate titans and politically connected lawyers lounge on cushioned club chairs, feast on exotic snacks and watch the game far, far below. Often they don’t even bother to sit on the open-sided balcony to watch the game in person. Mostly, they stay inside the sky box and watch the game – which is being played about 100 metres away in vibrant, noisy, three-dimensional real life – on giant television screens.
The least comfortable seat in the house are courtside, on folding metal chairs. This is where the actually famous people sit and watch the game unfold at eye-level, often just a few metres from the sweaty action.
Two days ago, two of the most famous married couples in the world – maybe even the two most famous – sat courtside at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York and watched the Nets play the Cavaliers.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (that’s Will and Kate to you and me) and the Duke and Duchess of Pop Music (otherwise known as Jay-Z and Beyoncé) sat courtside together for most of the game and even though I was watching the game on television I have no idea who won.
The whole time I was riveted to the peculiar sight of the pinnacle of British aristocracy chatting amiably with a woman with a made-up first name and a man whose rap lyrics are mostly unprintable in a newspaper.
“What do you think they’re talking about?” I asked my friend who was watching with me.
“Being famous, probably,” he said. “And how cool it is.”
“But they’re acting so natural,” I said. “Like they’ve known each other for years.”
“Of course they know each other,” my friend said. “All famous people know each other.”
I’ve heard that before. It’s the same logic people use when they assume that everyone in Hollywood knows everyone else.
“Can you please tell Martin Scorsese,” someone once asked me, “when you see him next, that I want to see more movies like The Departed?” As if he and I wave merrily to each other at the local Hollywood clubhouse.
“I don’t think all famous people know each other,” I told my friend.
“Then who do you think they know? Famous people don’t have anything in common with anyone else. I’ll bet Beyoncé and Kate are going to get together tomorrow in some amazing penthouse with Diddy and Hillary Clinton.”
“That’s not the way it works,” I said.
“How would you know?” he asked. “You’re not part of their crowd. If you were, you wouldn’t be watching this with me.”
Which is, unfortunately, true.
The snob in me still clings to the idea that there’s a difference between the heirs to the British throne and a couple of pop stars.
The next-in-line of a proud lineage really shouldn’t be just another celebrity nestling somewhere between Neymar and the composer of Big Pimpin’. But the courtside seating chart doesn’t lie, and there they were, the two most talked-about married couples on earth, chatting amiably. I now have to accept how cool it is to be famous.
And it’s true: at any gathering I’ve ever been to – an awards show, a Hollywood premiere, a swanky entertainment industry party – the famous people tend to cluster together, like doves in a covey.
Maybe it’s safety in numbers, maybe it’s because they really do know each other. But at any Hollywood gathering, the celebrities are together, walking the red carpet in a blizzard of camera flashes, greeting each other like old friends.
There are always exceptions, though. There are, of course, some very famous people who prefer to sit courtside because they are deeply fanatical basketball fans – Jack Nicholson, the most famous Los Angeles Lakers fan, is often seen there, following the action with a crazy, transported look.
And three days ago, when Kate and Will double-dated with Jay-Z and Beyoncé, there was a fifth celebrity next to them. Larry David, the famously dyspeptic and cranky executive producer of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm was stuck between the quartet, trying to take in the game, and looking about as miserable as a person can be who also has $100 million in the bank.
On one side of him, Jay-Z and Beyoncé looking glamorous and trendy. On the other, the future King and Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In the middle, Larry David, glum and irritated and utterly unimpressed by the royalty on either side.
I pointed this out to my friend. He shrugged.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” he replied.
“Courtside is no place for true fans of the game. If you really want to watch some live basketball, you should head to one of the sky boxes and watch it on TV.”
For the record, the Nets lost. Not that anyone was keeping score.
Rob Long is a writer and producer based in Hollywood
Published: December 12, 2014 04:00 AM