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Sundance Diary: A town turned upside down

Park City, Utah's Main Street is annually transformed into a circus of sorts by the film festival, where even a strolling camel doesn't seem out of place.

January 21, 2013|By Amy Kaufman and Chris Lee, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
  • Scott "Skippy" Jessop from Orem, Ut., whose claim to fame is his virginity and photos of himself with celebrities, tries to get a picture of himself with a passing Courtney Love (bottom left in fur hat) on the fourth day of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 20, 2013.
Scott "Skippy" Jessop from Orem, Ut., whose claim to fame is… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

PARK CITY, Utah — Come to the Sundance Film Festival and there's a good chance you may never make it into a theater, because there's plenty of drama to keep one entertained elsewhere, most of it along this mountain town's Main Street.

A camel strutted up the thoroughfare Friday, joining the usual caravan of black Cadillac Escalades that ferry celebrities to and fro. The dromedary was part of a publicity stunt for a movie that wasn't even playing in the festival, and police promptly showed up to move the ship of the desert off the main drag.

Young attractive "brand ambassadors" pace up and down the sidewalks. On one block, there's the Stella Artois girls in long white coats and headbands. On another, there's a quartet of glamazons, resplendent in gold parkas, trudging to a L'Oreal event. In front of the McCafe at the trendy venue Park City Live, a trio of snow bunnies in McDonald's snuggies tries to keep warm.

SUNDANCE 2013: Full coverage

Down the block, near the chair lift that ferries skiers and snowboarders up to the slopes, paparazzi wait for their quarry. On Friday, a gaggle pursued Daniel Radcliffe, shoving women and children out of the way to get a shot of the "Harry Potter" star, who has a new movie playing in the fest.

As Radcliffe's burly handlers barked out "Step aside!" to anyone within earshot, the diminutive British actor could be heard to meekly comment: "I wouldn't want any of you guys to slip on the ice."

***

If you're hoping to track down celebrities at Sundance, a good bet is to hang with Skippy Jessop.

Jessop, 35, is a fixture on Main Street, easily spotted by his T-shirt, which he's emblazoned with an iron-on reading "Famous Virgin." The Utah native has been coming to the film festival for the last 10 years with one intention: to meet celebrities. He used to try to get into movies, but now he mostly wanders up and down Main Street and waits outside of theater venues in the hopes of adding another image to his massive celebrity photo collection. (He has a website, iamskippy.com.)

"I have a four-prong strategy," explained Jessop, a Mormon who appeared on TLC's "Virgin Diaries" last summer. "Celebrities need to see their movie, they need a place to stay, a place to eat and a place to do press. That's how I find them."

PHOTOS: Sundance Film Festival 2013 - The Scene

This year, he has snapped pics with dozens of stars, including Naomi Watts and Paris Hilton. He carries a pocketful of wristbands, stickers and rape whistles ("Thanks to Skippy, I didn't get raped," they say) to hand out. He'd most like to meet Oprah Winfrey, because "everything she touches turns to gold."

During the rest of the year, Jessop lives in Orem, Utah, where he works in a pizzeria. He says that although he's a virgin, he doesn't mind that celebrities are promiscuous. "I don't expect people to be perfect," he said.

***

Stars who trek to Sundance often head back to Hollywood with a new pair of snow boots, a high-end cellphone or fancy jewelry courtesy of the festival's notorious swag suites. Actress AnnaLynne McCord may come out of Park City with something far less glamorous, however: a lifetime supply of cat litter.

The 25-year-old, best known for her role on the CW's reboot of "90210," flew up to the mountain town for 24 hours this past weekend to host Catdance, a sideline event screening short films featuring — what else? — cats. On Saturday night, Fresh Step sponsored the first-time event at a storefront on Main Street, where bartenders (with cat whiskers painted onto their faces) served up cocktails with names like Kitten Kaboodle and Feline Fresh. Attendees got to take home knit caps replete with cat ears, made by New York knitwear designer Sunghee Bang — retail price $39.99. There were no actual felines in the event, owing to sanitary guidelines.

McCord, who often brings her cat Bunny to the "90210" set, has long been involved with the ASPCA, which also was involved in throwing the event. The actress said she prefers cats to dogs because they are more independent. She said she was not paid to host Catdance. But she looks to be coming out ahead: The actress suggested she would soon be receiving a new shipment of Fresh Step.

Staff writer Julie Makinen contributed to this report.

amykaufman@latimes.com

chris.lee@latimes.com

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