There were two red carpets at the Michael Douglas/American Film Institute shindig last week. I was on the B carpet, which paralleled the A carpet. A shifting wall of paparazzi backsides obscured my view of the celebrities; nevertheless, I sucked it in and worked my borrowed evening gown like an A-lister, just in case.
Seated at Table 243 on a Sony soundstage-turned-gala-room, I nibbled a grass-fed fillet of beef while the shmoozoscenti flitted around me. The only thing mitigating my good time was that, at heart, I'm not a big Michael Douglas fan.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, July 07, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 21 Editorial pages Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Michael Douglas: In a June 20 Op-Ed on Michael Douglas' lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute, the name of his character in "Wall Street" was misspelled. It is Gordon Gekko, not Gordon Gecko.
Never have been. In fact, he's something of a hackle-raiser for me, smirking and slithering his way through dozens of mediocre vehicles, the poster boy for alpha male entitlement. Not my cuppa, thanks.
But the American Film Institute, in its wisdom, deemed it fitting that Douglas should have a lifetime achievement award, and who was I to argue? They put together a lovely evening, swathing the soundstage in twinkly lights, warming us up with a clip reel of classic movie moments, plying us with free drinks. Then Douglas made his entrance, stunt-falling through a skylight and taking a bow and his seat on the dais.
As his movie clips reeled past, and the wine flowed, I relaxed and enjoyed revisiting the many scumbags Douglas has played in his career. There he was drowning Glenn Close in a bathtub in "Fatal Attraction," falling face first into Kathleen Turner's crotch in "Romancing the Stone," then pushing her off a balcony in "The War of the Roses." And what Mike Douglas event would be complete without Sharon Stone's gratuitous, shadowy "Basic Instinct" leg-crossing?
Finally we arrived at Douglas' creme de la crud, Gordon Gecko. We all knew it was coming, that famous "greed is good" speech from "Wall Street." Oliver Stone got up and said a few glowing words before the lights dimmed, and there was Gecko on the big screen, with his 1980s' white-collared shirt, his greasy hair, his smug puss, saying the now famous lines:
"The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.
"Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
"Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.
"And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A."
I heard a collective gasp, then a moment of stunned, suspended silence as the mostly over-50 crowd was transported back to those heady, grabby days of yore, when all everyone thought about was their own upward surge. That was right around the time Hollywood let the bottom line trump art once and for all.
Now here we all were, 22 years later, in our Loehmann's Back Room dresses and borrowed baubles, squeezed by Spanx, smoothed by Botox, mortgaged to our graying roots and anticipating a long valet line for our Priuses and what surely would be a diminished gift bag at the end of the evening (what, no Kiehl's? Are they in Chapter 11 too?).
Why hadn't we listened? There was Michael Douglas embodying the message to lay off the Kool-Aid, and all we did was order another bottle of Cristal.
OK, so maybe I'm wrong and the AFI is right about Douglas. Maybe he is a genius after all.