Written by, Rebecca Lubin
This past summer, July 22nd to be exact, (I remember as it was my younger brother’s birthday) I was at the tennis club with my then four year old charge, taking a break while he had his swim lesson, and scrolling through Facebook on my cell phone. There was a contest announcement on the Take Part page that caught my eye. “Win a trip for two to LA to attend the Celebrity premiere of “The Help.”” I glanced over the rules. I would have to submit a home made recipe and the story behind it, and the contest ended that day, at midnight. Now, like so many of us Nannies out there, I was incredible moved by “The Help.” I couldn’t read it fast enough, even though I wanted to read it very very slowly and make it last. I was so touched by the story of these women so in love with their charges, and how Skeeter described her enduring love for her former Nanny/Maid. I have always hoped to have such a lasting influence on my numerous children from over the years, and could really see myself in some of the characters, as a women so very invested in raising children I did not give birth to. I knew immediately what I would write about: My Goat Cheese Lasagna, and Parents Weekend at school with my former charge Sierra.
I had helped raise Sierra from the age of four, and when she was fourteen, her father had passed away, right before she left to attend a boarding school in Santa Barbara for her High School education. I had been driving down twice a year to attend her Parents Weekends over the years so she would feel supported and not as sad at the absence of her Dad. We had, over time, made some very fun rituals out of Parents Weekend. I cooked my Goat Cheese Lasagna, we poured through the old family albums and talked about all the good old days. I thought that my recipe/story could be a good contender in the contest. After work was over, as it was a Friday and I knew that once I arrived at my boyfriend’s house I would forget to write my entry, I quickly wrote it out on my laptop before leaving for the weekend, and submitted it, with fingers crossed. The following Wednesday I received an e-mail from Participant Media, who along with “The Help” also produced “Waiting for Superman”.
“Congratulations!” It began. I had won. I couldn’t believe it. I had never won a contest in my life, and now I was going to be flown to LA, put up in a hotel for two days and get to attend the premiere of the movie adaption of a book that I felt touched me to my very core. And, they wrote, if I received her mother’s permission, I could bring Sierra with me. I didn’t stop jumping up and down for five minutes. I was beyond excited. And the entire trip was only a week away. I stopped jumping. What the hell was I going to wear to a Hollywood premiere?
“Should I wear my prom dress?” Sierra texted me.
“Can I take two and a half days off?” I asked my employers.
The next few days were a flurry of excitement as I overnighted to LA release forms for me and parental consent forms for Sierra so that our names and photographs could be used in promotion of the contest. I tore through my closet looking for a fabulous dress. I bought really expensive shoes. I grew giddy with each update that Jonathan, my contact at Participant Media sent me about the trip. We would be staying at the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills. We would be treated to dinner at Spago. We could actually WALK THE RED CARPET at the premiere. It all felt like a fairy tale.
The flight from San Francisco to Los Angels is only an hour, but I had butterflies the entire way. The driver who met me at the airport to take me to the hotel was of course, also an actor. He gave me his business card which actually read, “Voice artist - Driver.” Sierra met me at the hotel, and we checked into an adorable, sleek, cool, modern little room that within minutes we had covered with outfit choices for our big dinner at Spago. We had a little over an hour to groom and change and catch up with each other on all that had happened to each other since our last visit together over Parents Weekend in April. Sierra was just heading into her senior year of high school, and getting ready to apply to colleges. We were still discussing the pros and cons of Bard when we arrived at the restaurant and gave our name to the hostess. She led us to a huge, comfy banquette and smiled warmly at us as she handed us our menus.
“Have a wonderful time,” she said.
I think she knew we were the country bumpkin contest winners. As did our waitress. She poured over our menus with us, suggesting her favorites as well as the signature dishes that Spago was famous for. I ordered the goat cheese and beet cakes (Oh boy!) and the Sonoma Lamb (Oh my God!!) and a sinfully decadent glass of Pinot (Holy Crap!!!) There was no check presented at the end of the meal, only another warm smile and well wishes for us to have fun on the rest of our adventure. I had been briefed by Jonathan that there would be no check and that the gratuity would also be taken care of, but I still slipped two twenties onto the table before we left.
After a brief hangout at the rooftop pool back at our hotel, with a soda for Sierra and another glass of Pinot for me - not bad, but nothing like the wine at Spago - we crawled into our cozy beds back in our room, falling asleep with visions of hollywood premieres dancing in our heads.
We had an appointment the next morning at Participant Media as we actually going to be interviewed for their online blog about the relationship between the nanny and her charge, just like the relationships in “The Help, ” as we were a nanny and her charge, and we had won the contest to see the movie about the nanny and her charge. Jenny, the staff writer set a tape recorder down on the table between us and asked us questions for over an hour. Seriously, it was like therapy.
“Rebecca, have any of the families you’ve worked for ever been really difficult?”
“Sierra, was it strange for you to have an adult have a hand in raising you who was not a parent?”
Afterwards, we cabbed to Melrose for brunch and reflected that being interviewed was totally cool, and that we should definitely go back to the rooftop pool and hang out in the sun until it was time to go to the premiere. We had been walked through the schedule while at Participant Media. We were to arrive at the theatre no later than six thirty to pick up our tickets at will call, and yes, we could walk the red carpet. And yes, we could bring our cameras and have a picture taken. On the red carpet!
“It’s called step and repeat,” we were told.
“Oh yeah,” I said, “Like on reality TV!”
I planned that once inside the Samuel Goldwyn theatre I was going to become a fly on the wall - literally - I was going to glue myself to one good viewing spot and people watch as if it were an olympic sport. Sierra however, being a typical seventeen year old, was positive I was going to humiliate her, and had her own plan to enter the theatre with her head down and scoot to our seats like she was in witness protection, lest I throw myself at Emma Stone screaming my undying love for her. She also wanted to sneak into the theatre around seven. I showed her the email from Disney that reiterated our schedule and she relented. And off we went.
There was a huge crowd in front of the theatre, simply mayhem, with police barriers set up with the cheering fans and paparazzi on one side and the storied red carpet set up on the other, except it wasn’t all open as I had imagined. It was draped with a huge covering, so it looked like a city block long canvas tent. We picked up our tickets - our seats were assigned - and we were waved towards the opening of the long canvas tent. I don’t know how Sierra was feeling, but I was so excited I was having trouble taking deep breaths. As we walked up to the red carpet, we could see camera flashes, and see incredibly thin women dressed in incredibly amazing outfits posing and smiling. I didn’t recognize one of them. Our toes were practically on the red carpet when we both suddenly glanced at each other and shook our heads no, and veered sharply to our left and bypassed the entire circus. It was the best moment of mental telepathy of my entire life thus far. We were the contest winners. Red Carpet? Who were we kidding? We made our grand entrance via side door, and it felt entirely appropriate. In the lobby we ran into one of the producers from Participant Media who asked us if we were having fun, and offered to take our picture, so Sierra and I posed in front of a huge poster for the movie, and then went upstairs, picked a good people watching spot, and looked for movie stars. We were sorely disappointed. We saw several actresses from television shows that we recognized, (Look - it’s that girl from that thing!) but seriously - not one cast member from the movie! The lights were flickering to let us know it was show time and we had yet to see anyone. I even walked incredibly slowly to the ladies room and back in hopes of a star sighting, but nada. We took our seats and I immediately craned my neck to case out the back of the theatre. (We were seated in the second row, stage right. All the way right.)
“I see Sissy Spacek!” I whispered to Sierra.
“Turn around!” She said in her best you-are-embarrassing-me-seventeen-year-old-tone.
“Bryce Dallas Howard just walked in. And she’s pregnant!”
“Everybody is staring,” I pointed out, and it was true. Everyone in the front rows were watching the back of the theatre.
“Mary Steenburgen!” I hissed.
“Oh, God,” Sierra groaned.
Then the movie started, and I was riveted. I was moved. I was laughing. I was crying. I was.... really really hungry. We had only had brunch earlier in the day and in all the excitement of grooming for the premiere, eating had never crossed my mind. Now, at almost ten pm, as the credits began to roll and the audience cheered for their friends and contemporaries my stomach began to growl like a pissed off tiger. I comforted myself with the thought that judging by the less than zero sizes of the majority of the actresses I had seen as we walked in, most likely everyone in that room was very hungry.
“Let’s go downstairs and check out the food!” I said to Sierra.
We had been told that there was to be an after film buffet.
We descended the huge staircase back to what had earlier been the lobby, only now it was totally transformed into an epic Hollywood party. The room had quadrupled in size as they had broken down several walls while we watched the movie, and huge buffets dripping with food lined the perimeter with an enormous one stationed smack dab in the middle of the huge space. Music from the movie soundtrack blasted, and the walls were lined with mannequins wearing the actual costumes from the movie. I looked over the buffets, salivating at the spread of the poached salmon, friend chicken, cornbread, salads and desserts. I spied a wine tent with a huge banner that read “Wolfgang Puck” and let out a little sigh, remembering that unbelievable Pinot from the night before. I nudged Sierra towards the closest buffet.
“Let’s get in line!”
She said, “Actually, we could we, uh, like, leave now?”
I said, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?”
She said, “It’s just that we don’t know anybody here.”
I said, “of course we don’t know anybody here. It’s a hollywood premiere. Oh look - Jessica Chastian is standing right there!”
And she was. Dressed to the nines with a torso the size of a toddler’s and perfect hair and impeccable makeup. She was a picture of perfect intimidation. I immediately understood exactly why Sierra wanted to leave.
“Twenty minutes.” I said. “One plate of food, I get one glass of wine, we do one lap around the room and then we go. Okay?”
She said, “Can we do that in ten minutes?”
Here’s the thing, I understood exactly how Sierra felt. My teenage intimidation moment was not at a hollywood premiere at seventeen, but at a Long Island Bat Mitzvah at sixteen. I knew very well that adolescent feeling that you just don’t measure up. Of course in my opinion, Sierra at seventeen, almost six feet tall, blonde and a total badass was decades hotter than any size minus starlet could ever hope to be, I could completely comprehend what she was feeling at that moment. So in spite of the fact that Ted Danson was standing right in front of me scoping out the buffet I said, “Let’s go.”
I had won the contest by writing about having Sierra’s best interest in my heart, and I left the party with her best interest in my mind. And I felt totally fine about it, even if I never saw Emma Stone.