Nightwatch: No fun at the losers' table
The best backhanded compliment I've ever received came from a very drunk RTE personality. "You're a very cheerful person," he slurred, "for someone sitting at the losers' table."
Hell hath no fury like an ego scorned. There we were, guests at the sparkling jewel in the crown of Irish awards ceremonies (at least that's how the IFTA press release may have described it), but this guy wasn't having fun. And if he was going down, he was bringing the rest of us with him.
This is how it really is at awards ceremonies. Painted smiles served with a side of bitter lemon. In my tiny, highly partisan, bit of experience, the best way to enjoy them is from your couch with all the dull bits and tedious bores edited out. I won't be alone in being glued to the Oscars show on Sunday night. The best dresses, the frocky horrors, the glitz, the glamour! But it's a total spectator sport.
Angelina Jolie might look like she's having the time of her life as the bulbs pop on the red carpet, but what she's probably thinking is: "Oh Christ, it's my turn to get up in the morning with the kids." Jeff Bridges is probably wishing he was at home in his underpants. George Clooney is probably wishing Jeff Bridges was at home in his underpants so he could nab his Best Actor award. It's all me, me, me with these people.
Which brings me back to my disgruntled neighbour at the IFTAs a few years back. I've been to the awards a few times, through chance, by association -- but never on talent, let me assure you. The first time I went -- last-minute date of a desperate colleague -- my eyes were on stalks for the first hour. There's Rosanna Davison in the jacks! She's putting on lipstick! There are some people from Corrie! They're having the beef!
It took my colleague's threat to have me removed by security to calm me down.
In any case, subsequent proceedings tore the rosy veil from my eyes. A notoriously grumpy Irish director didn't smile back when I smiled at him (I found out about his notorious grumpiness later). The only bona fide star was Mischa Barton, who sat lonely as a Californian cloud while all the rest of us plebs did that Irish thing and studiously ignored the most famous person in the room lest they think we were uncool or something.
When it came time to take our seats, I got a little lesson in how to tell you're not at a VIP table. You're seated right beside the kitchen. The swinging service doors hit the back of your chair. Repeatedly. You wave and wave and wave every time a camera pans across the room but your mammy, watching patiently at home with her finger on the video record button, doesn't spot you once.
By the time of my last foray to the IFTAs -- and after this column is printed, no doubt it will be my very last -- I was wise to the old somebody/nobody ballroom divide. There were award nominees at our table for sure, but we were so far from the stage that if one of our number was to actually win something, they'd have to set a new world record for hurdling to get up to their gong in the allotted time.
Our new pal, the TV personality, clearly hadn't cottoned on to the geographical impossibility of his win. As he slipped into the seat beside me, he was all handshakes and bon mots. It was only after he questioned us all on our credentials and nominations that the truth dawned on him. A table populated by some nice but inoffensive documentary-makers, a few hangers-on and one incredibly dour comedian was clearly not the glamour table.
You could see the chagrin spread across his face like a bad case of the pox. The rest of the night was an arse-numbing blur of endless technical awards and hissed mutterings of "bastards" and "outrageous" from my increasingly wine-soaked table buddy. Kanye West would have thought he was over-reacting.
The next day, he rang into my answering machine and left an apologetic message. He needn't have bothered: I'm quite happy to be a loser if it means I can stick to watching awards show in my pyjamas in future.