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Sunday, February 13, 2005



IN LOS ANGELES


art
BRYANT FUKUTOMI / BFUKUTOMI@STARBULLETIN.COM


My Grammy
whammy

If you think life is unpleasant,
try finding a shred of aloha
among unsympathetic
Hollywood handlers

OFF THE RED CARPET » "Aloha."

I'm standing in a small conference room in the massive Los Angeles Convention Center, where news media are receiving press passes for today's Grammy Awards. It's one of those rare sunny and blue sky L.A. February days with the temperature approaching 74 degrees, a virtual heat wave this time of year in the city of my birth.


art

Even with the right credentials, it's near impossible to get a foot on or near the red carpet.


I'm wearing shorts and an aloha shirt and standing in front of a young dark-haired woman named Nora, who's wearing a black dress and matching heels and is talking to someone on a mobile phone. There are several other young men and women in the room, all in dark clothes and looking bored.

"Aloha," I repeat.

Nora looks more through me than at me. There's a sign-in sheet on the table in front of her, on which I start to add my name.

"Excuse me?" Nora says.

"Signing in," I say.

She removes the sheet.

"I.D." Nora says.

The Grammys on TV

» "Countdown to the Grammys" begins airing at 5 p.m. on E!, followed by "Live From the Red Carpet: The Grammy Awards," beginning at 6 p.m.

» The 47th Grammy Awards ceremony, hosted by Queen Latifah, starts at 7 p.m. on KGMB/CBS

» "All Up in the Grammys," airs at 7 p.m. on MTV

Coming tomorrow

Tim Ryan's report on the first-ever Grammy winner for Hawaiian music.

I hand her my driver's license. She looks at the photo, then back at me a few times.

"Hawaii?" she asks.

"Uh yes. That's why I said 'aloha.'" I laugh nervously.

"Who's Dennis?" Nora says while thumbing through a list of pending media requests. "There's no Dennis Ryan on my list."

"My middle name is Tim. See, on the license it says Timothy?"

Nora rescans the list until she finds my name and looks up.

"So you're Tim Ryan. From Hawaii?"

"Alooooha," I say, laughing. Other workers stare at me.

Nora slides me the sign-in sheet.

"Read the media restrictions, sign it and go over there to have your photo taken," she says.

I restrain myself from saying "Mahalo."

There are several areas where members of the media are allowed: the coveted Red Carpet, where nominees, Grammy members, and guests stroll; a photographers' area, also along the Red Carpet; and the backstage media room, where award winners and nominees are led for interviews.

When I sit down to have my photo taken for the media pass, a large Hispanic man in baggy jeans and FUBU sweatshirt taps me on the shoulder.

"You're in my seat," he says, even though there are two empty chairs nearby.

I move 5 feet to an empty chair where a young woman photographer asks a work companion, "God, how much longer are we going to be here?"

"Don't know," her work mate says.

"6," I say.

They both stare at me.

"What?" the woman in front of me says.

"6 p.m. The media center is open to 6 p.m. I have the information sheet," I say.

"God, six more hours!" she says. "Look into the camera."

"Should I smile or look like a serious journalist," I joke.

Click.

"Well, that answers that," I say.

A moment later, I have my laminated press pass with my face looking like it's been blasted by a blow torch.

I'm allowed in the backstage interview room at the Staples Center, where the Grammy broadcast will take place. Unfortunately, the Best Hawaiian Album category -- my reason for traveling this far to be treated like a nuisance -- is a pre-telecast event that will be taking place across the street at the Convention Center. I want to see the Hawaii artists at least walk the Red Carpet and chat with them before they're brought to the media center, where I'll be one of 80 reporters.

I'm thinking that my reasoning is sound and practical, and because I've flown some 2,500 miles, I have a reasonable request to stand on the Red Carpet. I carefully tell Nora my concerns.

"Uh huh," she says several times before finally directing me across the room to Daisy -- her name has been changed to protect my access -- a PR rep handling media.

The 20-something Daisy, who could easily be my daughter, also wears a dark dress. Her skin is the color of milk. She is pleasant and professional but doesn't smile much, at least at me, and makes sure I notice the media prohibitions on the back of my pass.

"No cameras, recording devices, tape recorders, pagers, cellular phones," it reads.

I repeat my requirements to Daisy, who seems to be evaluating my aloha shirt. Like Nora, her stock response is "uh huhs."

"Can I stand along the Red Carpet just to observe the Hawaii nominees walking in?"

"No," she says, "and it's not exactly like the broadcast Red Carpet over at The Staples.

"The non-broadcast nominees do walk a red carpet, but ... they basically are just dropped off and walk inside," Daisy says.

"Can I hang out where they're being dropped off?" I say.

"No."

"Is there any place where I can stand to just see what they're wearing?"

"No," she says.

The non-broadcast awards are shown on closed-circuit TV, but just the acceptance speeches, no entrances, Daisy says.

"So Joan Rivers won't be there to criticize their aloha wear," I joke.

Daisy is silent.

"Can I stand in the photo line?" I say.

"No."

"Daisy, here's an idea. I'll just squeeze into the bleachers with the public."

"No," she says.

"Why no?"

"The bleacher seats were won by people who entered a contest," Daisy says.

"Is it too late to enter?" I joke.

She looks toward Nora, then back at me.

"Anything else?" she says.

I want to bring an small point-and-shoot digital camera into the media area to get a photo of the Hawaii winner.

"Nope," Daisy says.

"Trust me, the winner won't mind," I say.

"No."

"If a winner has a camera, can I take a photo of them with that?"

"No."

"Can he or she take a photo of themselves and give me the memory card?"

"You won't be that close to them," Daisy says. "You'll be sitting at a desk like all the other media."

"Daisy, I can't tape-record an interview from a desk in the middle of the room."

"No tape recorders are allowed," Daisy says.

"This is the media interview room, but reporters can't use tape recorders?"

"No," she says.

"OK, if I call the Hawaii winner on their cell phone from the desk, I could tape the interview that way."

"No," Daisy says.

"I have this device that lets me tape off a cell phone," I say, showing her. She's noticeably unimpressed.

"No cell phones in the media room," Daisy says.

"Daisy, I have to transmit my story over a cell phone attached to my laptop."

"You're bringing a laptop?" an annoyed Daisy says.

"Uh, yeah," I say.

"There's no high-speed hookup in there," she says.

"That's why I need my cell phone."

"Uh huh. Nope."

"You know Daisy, I was born in Hollywood and used to live in the house right under the Hollywood sign," I say, now trying to be an Angelino.

"Uh huh."

Daisy answers her cell phone, listening for a very long time.

"No," she says, just before disconnecting.



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