Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The View From Table 57

All right, all RIGHT already.

Here’s the lowdown on the highbrow world of the 33rd Annual Eclipse Awards, which shall be enshrined in fable and song as One of the Best Nights Ever In the History of the All Mankind.

As previously mentioned, the Eclipse Awards are the Oscars of the Thoroughbred racing world, only way, way better. No shrieking fans, no shrieking Joan Rivers, no Julia Roberts pretending to act surprised or Julia Roberts pretending to act, period. You trade your George “Too Bad My Aunt Rosemary Lived Exactly Long Enough To Behold What a Colossal Asshat I Turned Out to Be” Clooney for your Jerry “Seven” Bailey and you like it that way. Less tofu, more whips: That is the Eclipse Awards.

Basically, here’s all you need to know about how the night went down.

1) I met Gary “Can Handle a Pony, Can Handle a Podium” Stevens

2) who kissed me

3) in front of his fiancée.

4) Thank you and good night!

The whole thing was all very professional and chaste; I do some writing in the T-bred world, and some of that writing is on Gary's behalf. It’s an honor to do it and I’m tracking his mounts anyway, but still. That’s twenty, twenty-five hours a week I could otherwise be staring into space, contemplating Wheat Thins. “Kiss her or start paying her,” is probably what Gary Stevens was thinking.

I can't wait for my Kentucky Derby party. Cannot wait. It. Is going to be. So. Awesome. I am going to hold my peace until everybody’s loaded in the gate and in that gentle hush just before the bell I’m gonna sit back with my mint julep, gesture to Gary’s post and announce with royal nonchalance, “Fine jockey. Damn fine kisser.”

Well. On the cheek, anyway.

The kissing, the awarding, the whipping, everything went down at the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hallandale Beach. The Diplomat, which actually employs a person called a “Dock Master”, is the sort of place in which the bathroom stalls alone are larger than most European nations. (The handicapped stalls? Are visible from space.) You walk in the lobby, you’re expecting liveried servants to take you aside all, “Clearly you shop at Target on a regular basis. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

So I was completely in my element when I rolled in with my Corolla and my dollar-fifty hairspray.

The night was revving and wonderful from the second I swept out of the lobby of the Holiday Inn. (Yeah. Because I can afford to stay at a hotel with a Dock Master.) The two naked toddlers and the ninety-seven-year-old with the neon pink Miami Beach sun visor standing around the pay phone-- they were totally impressed with me.

I have to say, as galactically thrilled as I was about attending the Awards, I was not in a good mood as my pewter evening gown and I glided past the ice machine. I did not like the way my hair or my makeup or my thighs turned out that night. Your very first black tie event at which you’re going to be in the same room as the movers and shakers of an industry that you very closely follow, movers and shakers you really admire… well, you’re going to want to get out your glitter and walk away from the bathroom mirror with the ability to alter air traffic patterns in a single glance.

I have had better hair days for oil change appointments, people. I look hotter sitting here typing in my “Ballroom Dance Like a Champion Today” than I did wearing the most expensive article of clothing I’ve ever owned on the biggest night of the Thoroughbred year.

Many of you have asked for a picture—probably because you have not yet truly grasped the fact that there truly is in this world such a color as “pewter”-- and you can find one here, but even bearing in mind how very German, how very pale, and how very unphotogenic I am, I have got to warn you that the in-person effect was worse.

(This photo, by the way, was emailed to a National Guardsman in Iraq with whom I have been conducting an email flirtation. “You look stunning,” he told me, which made me all fluttery until I remembered that this is a person who was dropped off in the middle of a desert some 380 days ago and the closest thing to an actual female form he’s seen since is the business end of an assault rifle. So I’m going to look pretty damn good to him. Helen Thomas is going to look pretty damn good to him.)

If I didn’t know the Eclipse Awards were a Great Big Deal, I figured it out as soon as I approached the cocktail party and saw the backdrop. They actually had one of those Official Awards Ceremony backdrops going on—a huge sheet of the NTRA logo up against a wall with about four thousand lightpoles bearing down on it. Up until that moment, the closest I’ve gotten to one of those things was seeing pictures of various New Kids On the Block crammed up against one after collecting yet another VH1 Cultural Void Award. And now I was seeing one Live! In person! A real, live official awards ceremony backdrop!

I… really need to get out more.

Also I need to stop admitting that I used to look upon New Kids on the Block without immediately thereafter gouging my eyes out.

The attendees were handed a seating booklet listing who was sitting where. This thing reads like The Daily Racing Form. Everybody who is anybody in racing is there. Plus me. There's my name. Right there. For some reason. When I found myself I kept looking for an asterisk ("*Admitted by clerical error. The perpetrators have been fired and beaten.")

There were sixty tables. People like Gary Stevens and Davy Jones and God are at Table Two. I'm at Table Fifty-Seven (and what a rockin' table it is-- simply set aside the cheap-bastard watermark and focus on my breathtaking cleavage instead) with the rest of the media scum. Which begs the question: Who in the hell is sitting at Tables Fifty-Eight through Sixty? The guys who shovel after Zippy Chippy? People who panned Seabiscuit? Merv Griffin?

More later. Kissing Gary Stevens exhausts me.

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