Now in its 11th year, the CineVegas Film Festival is still trying to establish its identity in the festival world. Should it be glitzy and glamorous (and gaudy and tacky) like Vegas? Or should it be a champion of up-and-coming indie films with no stars and no Hollywood connections? Either way, CineVegas has already settled on one point: Its parties are every bit as dazzling and boozy -- and numerous -- as you'd expect from a Las Vegas-based fest.
Cast in point: Friday night's official 10th anniversary party, held poolside on the roof of one of the Palms Resort Casino's buildings. The DJ-facilitated music was thumpin', the bars were giving out complimentary vodka drinks courtesy of sponsor Grey Goose (they stopped just short of filling the pool with the stuff), and there were plenty of tasty snacks and desserts. Everyone was there, including the film critics and reporters (who tended to be under-dressed), the filmmakers, and the CineVegas pass-holders (who tended to be over-dressed, which is the general rule in Vegas).
And you know who else was there? Britney Spears.
CineVegas parties have seen plenty of other big stars -- Dennis Hopper, one of the festival's godfathers, is a regular fixture -- but I believe Britney sets a new record for general notoriety and media saturation. Of course, she wasn't mingling with the hoi polloi. The pool area has several private-ish covered booths where VIPs chill, and Britney mostly stayed in one of them. It honestly looked like a zoo exhibit, with everyone standing around gawking at Britney Spears in a re-creation of her natural habitat. ("Female North American Pop Star, pantyless trainwreckus.") She was kept company by two guy friends, a girl friend, and plenty of Grey Goose, and she never really looked at the crowd.
You've never seen such a flurry of text messaging as when word spread that Britney was at the party. Even those of us who consider ourselves above such foolishness have friends who are not above it and who would be delighted and/or jealous to know that we were at a party with BRITNEY SPEARS!! (OMG OMG OMG!!)
I happened to be standing near her zoo exhibit when I texted someone, and one of the burly, black-clad bodyguards who stood between her and the crowd said, "You better put that away." His tone indicated that he knew I was only sending a text, but that I better not get any ideas about taking pictures. Goodness knows the last thing a reclusive, timid creature like Britney Spears wants is for someone to have a photographic depiction of her likeness, to join the 13,829,387,225,177,981 other pictures of her that already exist. (Eric Kohn cracked, "No technology within 10 feet of Britney." I added, "Britney is a serious Luddite and wants no electronics anywhere near her, please.")
I hadn't considered taking a picture anyway, but of course now that I knew someone didn't want me to, I wanted nothing more. But I didn't want to have my phone confiscated by an ogre, so I refrained. Soon enough, everyone forgot she was there and went back to their partying, like it was just a typical night at CineVegas. Which it kind of was.