With Leather reader Alex, whom I've known since college, is a semi-employed actor in Los Angeles who landed a gig helping out at the Espys last Wednesday. Fortunately, ESPN doesn't screen candidates for ties to the blogosphere, so he was able to spy on everyone and file the following behind-the-scenes report.
A friend of mine who has ESPN ties hooked me up with a job working this year’s Espy Awards. It’s not at all surprising that a network that’s gradually replaced most of its sports programming with mock MLB drafts, made-for-TV movies about the Yankees, and weeks of "Who’s Now" would dub a night totally devoid of actual athletic competition "The Greatest Night In Sports." Regardless, I was pretty fired up to rub shoulders with the best athletes in the biz and rub other things with their jersey-chasing girlfriends. I was told I would be one of a bunch of "talent coordinators" and "show assistants." Basically, it was my job to make sure the athletes and celebrities were in the right place at the right time and that the backstage goings-on of the show were on schedule. The perfect job for a With Leather mole, hungry for the best behind-the-scenes action…
By early Monday morning professional photogs and autograph-seekers had staked claim to the sidewalk in front of the Mondrian Hotel and by early Monday evening professional groupies and franchise sperm-seekers had begun milling about the lobby in dresses that looked thieved off the wardrobe racks of Snoop’s “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” video. Monday night at the SkyBar was pretty low key. Peyton Manning, his wife and a bunch of other Colts players holed up in the upstairs bar drinking for a bit. Drew Gooden, his hair patch, and a couple other guys who looked like athletes were drinking by the pool for a bit, too. Most of the athletes got in Tuesday in time for the big Espy pre-party at the Roosevelt.
That night a buddy of mine who played college ball met me for a drink and, being a 6’6” black dude, he was loving the looks from all the girls and photographers who assumed he was "somebody." We hung out in the lobby while some of the athletes were waiting for cars to take them to the party. Dwyane Wade lookin’ thug and minus the wifey, Gooden, TO, Oden, Michael Phelps, etc. We couldn’t wrangle our way into the Roosevelt but I heard word from others that the party was pretty crazy. TI assaulted a fan, Greg Oden prepared for his upcoming tonsillectomy with a couple dozen cocktails, and Amanda Beard, in what appeared to be a dressed-up rain slicker, was overly touchy with her boyfriend (most likely because he’s overly touchy about his girlfriend posing in Playboy). My new favorite pair of best friends, Maria Sharapova (looking leggy and luscious) and Camilla Belle (looking like my future ex-wife), forced me to set up a whole new savings account at the spank bank while Bai Ling showed up looking like a Vegas prostitute. And just to be clear, I mean that in a bad way.
Wednesday the athletes really started pouring into the Mondrian. During the day, some visited the "Style Studio" to pick up free stuff, get a haircut, or, in Peyton Manning’s case, order a custom-made pair of Mom Jeans. Seriously, my ten-year-old cousin has more stylish jeans than that guy. By about 2:00 p.m. everyone started to gather in the lobby for a champagne reception and pictures. Highlights included Danica Patrick’s hooker dress, the rack on Gary Payton’s wife, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler’s everything (I’ve never really been a fan, but in person, in that purple dress… oh yeah). While waiting for the cars, the Colts players and their wives made like it was prom, taking couples pics and group shots. Greg Oden had a couple more drinks for those sore tonsils, and the unlikely duo of Ryan Howard and Wayne Gretzky chatted it up like old friends.
By far the best arrival was that of this site’s favorite lush, Chris Berman. Around 4:00 p.m. when most of the athletes were ready and dressed and about to leave, Berman stumbled in the front door wearing a blue Hawaiian print shirt, sweating profusely, hair sticking to one side of his forehead with two white trash, barely twenty-something blondes in tiny terry-cloth dresses on either arm. He looked just like Nick Nolte’s mugshot.
As athletes got to the red carpet, Howie “Stump The” Schwab would announce them to the bleachers of fans and radio and TV shows would pull them over for interviews. For obvious reasons, I hovered near Erin Andrews’ interview area, pretending to direct athletes but really deciding how many children we’ll have and what position I’ll put her in to make them. Not only did she look bangin’ in a long black dress, but she was extremely friendly. Dozens of douche-y blogger crushes are justified. And to be honest with you, I’m pretty sure she was undressing me with her eyes.
One-third of Hef’s girlfriends, Kendra, didn’t disappoint in a little gold dress that proved just how self-supporting and immobile a pricey set of fake tits can be. Meanwhile, Kate Walsh from Grey’s Anatomy (uh, my girlfriend makes me watch it) looked like she might have wandered off the corner of Hollywood Blvd. after a long night turning tricks. Her patent-leather leopard dress just wasn’t doing it for me. maybe she had better luck with Eddie Murphy or Hugh Grant. Understated as always, TO was rocking a white blazer with a sparkly blue Dallas Cowboys star on the back, while Vince Young’s suit looked like something Arsenio Hall might have worn to host his show in the '80s. Common represented for the stylish men, James Blake looked like an uncomfortable European gay man [Editor: a tennis player? No!], and Baron Davis wore what can only be described as "Hamptons Hobo." Dario Franchetti and Jimmie Johnson’s wives (Ashley Judd and Chandra Johnson) reminded me that I should have been a racecar driver and Maggie Q’s minuscule saran-wrap dress reminded me why I love mixed Asian chicks. Besides the hand jobs.
Unfortunately, despite trying to draw attention to her legs with a barely-there fluorescent orange dress, Amanda Beard couldn’t help but look like the lovechild of Fire Marshall Bill and Skeletor. And he's a nice guy, but even when he’s dressed up Shaun White looks the lead guy from Mask. Lesbian lovers– er, best friends, Maria and Camilla were back, but this time Camilla was getting all the eye-fucking. She looked incredible, while that leather dress Maria had on looked like something A-Rod would buy his wife for their anniversary. If you’re 6’4” in heels and you have absolutely no tits, and I mean none, you don’t need to butch yourself up with a brass-studded leather dress. It looked like she jacked Rosie O’Donnell’s outfit from Exit to Eden [Editor's note: HOTT!]. Speaking of leggy ladies, Candice Parker looked so hot I don’t mind that I’d have to nestle my head midway down her back while spooning, but nothing could have prepared me for Lisa Leslie. While standing next to her husband Leslie looked very tall, but still human. The sight of her standing next to another woman, however, scared my testicles all the way up into my neck. Sarah Silverman inexplicably arrived in a baggy jeans and oversized t-shirt combo. But if I were the chick who had settled for Jimmy Kimmel, I guess I wouldn't bother, either.
The only major chaos during the show itself was created by Serena Williams. She not only showed up an hour and a half late, she also brought 4 different publicists and a huge entourage with her. (It became apparent quite quickly why she might need 4 publicists). Backstage there was an "athlete’s lounge" – basically a big room with chairs, two bars, some food, etc. for the athletes and their ONE guest to hang out in before, during and after the show. Serena showed up just before the show began, already drunk and refusing to go to her seat unless her entire entourage was allowed in the lounge. As the show went on she eventually managed to get all 11 or 12 of her friends and publicists in, then started slamming drinks like it was last call. Nearing the end of the show she decided she was over it and left early (with some help walking) to a car at the back loading dock. Once at the hotel, I was told she couldn’t even hold her head up or walk on her own. Guess she isn’t taking Venus's big Wimbledon win too well. Besides Serena, backstage was pretty much one big love-fest. All the athletes and wives (some newly acquired, some obviously old flames from before-they-were-stars and looking like it, too) drank together, took pictures in a mini photo booth and just generally sucked each other off.
The show wrapped and LeBron got a standing ovation for his first real foray into comedy (later I heard Andy Roddick lamenting that his seat behind Shaq meant he watched the back of Diesel’s head all night and then the back of his ass during the ovation). Everyone poured into the lounge for drinks for a bit, then headed to the enclosed courtyard of the Hollywood & Highlands complex for the official after-party. Unfortunately, the planning committee underestimated the size of the party and the fire marshal stopped allowing entry for a little while until things settled down. At the same time, the private pathway to get from the awards to the party was shut down so athletes had to walk through the mall full of regular shoppers to try to get to the party entrances. Vince Carter asked me to help him find the entrance and I had to push back random people the whole way. Meanwhile I saw the aftermath of someone trying to get to Shaq as he cut through the mall—handcuffs and a beat-down from security. Once things cooled down and everyone got in people started to let loose a bit. There was a live boxing match in the courtyard, drinks were flowing, Oden was still medicating those tonsils and Mike Tyson (with a very frightened looking white girl who appeared to be his date), was desperately trying to chat it up with people who still make the "Who’s Now" list.
As R. Kelly would say, after the party it’s the hotel lobby. And for a lot of people, the lobby was it. More poor planning meant getting back into the Mondrian took me 45 minutes—even the Espy athletes, trophy girls, and celebrities like Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, etc. were held up at the door for awhile. While everyone was pushing and shoving, trying to get in, the paparazzi were having a field day crowding everyone for pictures. During all the craziness, some self-appointed bodyguards for Rumer Willis (probably the person who needed a bodyguard the LEAST) started a fight with paparazzi that led to this. It's always a sad day when the paparazzi get injured for doing their noble work.
Things didn’t get any easier inside the hotel. Special tickets in the shape of CDs were included with the athlete’s awards packet. These tickets were absolutely necessary in order to get into Lebron’s after-party at SkyBar. The security for the party had no ESPN ties whatsoever so they didn’t care who they turned away, including Linda Cohn, The Schwab, James Blake, Vince Carter, Vince Young, the list goes on. Even Erin Andrews couldn’t convince them to let in her friend without a ticket. Erin, by the way, had changed into a short white lace dress for the after-party and looked even more outstanding. And she was still very nice. Too nice. She wants me. Bad. A lot of people milled around the lobby trying to find a way to get in but eventually gave up and went to other parties. I’m not sure where Michael Phelps was going but I saw him leaving with the hot little ESPN escort that had been working with him all day. Those two were attached at the hip from Day 1 and I must say to Phelps: well played, sir.
While LeBron’s party raged I went across the street and wandered into some open bar video game party at Saddle Ranch. Not a good crowd, but the open bar served me just fine. I pounded drinks until the bar closed, bitter that my work connections hadn’t gotten me in to groupie-fest 2007. Unfazed (and mostly drunk), I was determined to get into the after, after party in the penthouse of the Mondrian, so I headed back over. I heard that you had to have ANOTHER ticket to get upstairs through the freight elevators to the penthouse. Ticket-less and about to give up, I suddenly heard someone calling my name and turned around to find an old friend I used to work with a couple years ago. He had an in with someone working the backdoor entrance so we headed up to the party in an elevator with LeBron himself.
Once we got upstairs there were 5 or 6 different party rooms. The one in the back was filled with waffles, eggs, sausage, biscuits and all sorts of breakfast fare. A smaller side room had the bar, so the bulk of the people hung out there. Next to that was a bigger room with a DJ spinning and people dancing. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the back room with the karaoke machine until late in the party—bet I missed some seriously bad Keith Sweat covers. The whole party was small—I would guess only about 80 people were up there–including Lebron, Chris Berman, Devin Hester, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Serena Williams (who apparently woke back up at 3am to start drinking again), Maria Sharapova (who unfortunately hadn’t changed out of her dominatrix-gone-wrong ensemble), and Jamie-Lynn Sigler and her boyfriend (DAMN!). Berman was there with his “date,” one of the two gals from earlier in the lobby. Somehow I still held out hope that he’d throw the leather line at Maria.
Sometime after I got up there Paris and Nikki Hilton arrived with Kevin Connolly—E from Entourage. [Editor's note: that show is fucking stupid.] In my drunken haze it looked as though Nikki and Kevin might be back together. You heard it here first. Paris was totally hammered. At one point she was sitting with a girl on her lap, eyes glassy and unfocused. Word on the street that night was that she and Suge Knight were making out at the SkyBar party. LeBron and Jimmy Kimmel confirmed the rumor the other night on Kimmel’s show. Looks like Paris earned herself some street cred in the pen. I don’t remember much from about 4:00 a.m. on… around 5:45 things were slowing down so I called it a night. All in all, it was a good time. If only I could have lured one of the groupies… or Jamie Lynn, or Camilla, or Maria, or heck, even Berman, back to my room. Ah well, there’s always next year.
UPDATE: The original story included information about Sarah Spain that made it seem as if she had helped with this post. When I contacted her to verify parts of Alex's account, I didn't make it clear that I would be publishing her thoughts. As such, even though her appearance in the post was a coincidence, I've removed any mention of her to protect her relationship with her employer.