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THREE ON THE TOWN

SOMEWHAT SIGNIFICANT OTHERS : If You Have Too Little Clout to Rate Your Own +1s, You'd Best Arrange to Be Someone Else's

July 18, 1993|Jonathan Gold

It's almost axiomatic within the entertainment industry: The more able you are to pay for a ticket to something in this town, the more important it becomes to get in free. That is why a six-figure record-company guy will make a dozen calls from his Lexus to get on the list for a $4 Tiger Trap show at Jabberjaw, while an unemployed coffeehouse waitress gladly pays full price. It's why a studio dude would rather truck across town to a screening at the Directors Guild than walk around the corner to a bargain matinee.

I am on the list, therefore I am.

(Well, not always. Sometimes you just think you are on the list. The door attendant is likely to take special pleasure in telling you so.)

If you are not on the list, the next best thing is to be the guest, the +1, of someone who is: Axl +1; Shannen +1. Being a +1 carries most of the privileges and few of the corollary social responsibilities. Robin was Batman's +1; Boswell was Johnson's. When Ricky got to go to Hollywood and meet John Wayne, Lucy was his +1. A clever and resourceful +1 can work his or her way into a different event every night of the week.

Some people have a full wardrobe of +1s: a favorite cousin for emotional support; a colleague to bounce good lines off; a witty, semi-famous friend with Madonna's beeper number and dependably catty commentary on almost everything. Others have used the same +1 for years.

Of course, the concept of +1s is by no means confined to the world of entertainment: If you find yourself tagging along to a Gloria Molina fund-raiser or a Rotary banquet with your spouse, you are probably a +1 too.

But the calling can be quite demanding. A good +1 must never be picky--"It's a 4 1/2-hour film about what ?"--and must always be available on the shortest notice. He or she is savvy enough to know that it's bad form to insist on going home 10 minutes into the set of an awful industrial-disco band from Belgium but also flexible enough to split halfway through a subtitled romantic farce that's just getting good. Worse, the +1 must shoulder all the blame for the exit: "I'd stay," says the bored one, stumbling past the producer's best friend in the dark, "but Mel's not feeling that well."

The +1 will not sigh testily when his or her companion insists on schmoozing backstage after an Equity-waiver performance of "Timon of Athens." When a +1's bon mot, repeated unattributed, elicits roars of appreciative laughter, no cry of protest--nor claim of authorship--should be heard. At the Silver Lake nightclub Dragstrip 66, the properly dressed +1 wears a vinyl miniskirt complementary to, but never upstaging, that of his boyfriend.

In short, some people believe that the perfect +1 is not unlike Jane Jetson: deferential, impeccably groomed and, above all, a good sport. The relationship is not exactly progressive.

If you are one of those persons who is always on the list, it can be dismaying--and instructive--to spend some time as a +1 yourself. Suddenly, new acquaintances forget your name when they feel obligated to introduce you; the guy at the rope smiles condescendingly as he stamps your hand. All conversations begin: "So how long have you known Bill?"

It is not particularly difficult, contrary to what some surmise, to shed a +1 status and to become a person with +1s of your very own. In a best-case scenario, a +1 relationship is reciprocal, a +1 at gallery openings having a +1 herself at wrap parties.

But if the +1 is an actual romantic partner, all the rules go out the window. When accompanying her spouse to the third heavy-metal show of the week, she is allowed, if not expected, to sulk when the conversation turns once again to Metallica's new deal with Elektra. If dinner at a colleague's house stretches into the fourth hour, the +1 may be excused a broad yawn at the details of the new Infiniti campaign. Love is a special thing, and a good +1 is too hard to find.

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