I knew I would lose it eventually, but truth be told, I had hoped it would be sooner. But I never thought it would happen the way it did, on a hot summer's night in New York City to none other than Mr. Danny Zuko himself.
We were introduced by an older gentleman named George, a veteran -- a man who had done it a million times before. He looked at Mr. Travolta and said, "John, you have to meet Niki. This is her first time."
John Travolta looked at me, and approached with a warm smile. I smiled back, memorizing everything about him: his jet black suit, cool crocodile loafers, and hairline which looks far more confusing in photos than in real life. He took my hands in his, and with his bright blue eyes staring deeply into mine he softly said, "Am I really going to be your first time?"
"Yes, John," I replied, with as much confidence as I could muster in a room full of seasoned reporters, television crews and photographers. "Please be gentle."
It was my first time covering a movie premiere. Sure, I've interviewed celebrities before. This blog and its extracurricular activities have gotten me a surprising amount of traction for reasons unbeknownst to me. Heck, I was even on Entertainment Tonight in an insinuated relationship with Mark Salling for about 3 seconds! (It was a great three seconds though.) Nevertheless, I'd never interviewed someone as famous as John Travolta, and I'd never done a chaotic red carpet event before.
John Travolta and daughter Ella Bleu at the "Killing Season" screening in Manhattan. Photo via @nikiblasina on instagram.
This, however, was the special New York City screening for John Travolta and Robert De Niro's new action flick, "Killing Season," which is a cat and mouse chase between two soldiers trying to live with their demons from the Bosnian War. It's violent. Very violent. I had my eyes closed for a lot of it and stress ate about 5,000 calories of buttery popcorn to cope. The red carpet, however, wasn't as scary.
Each news outlet has a spot marked on the red carpet for the reporter to stand on, labeled and behind a velvet rope. That way the celebrity knows who they are talking to, because if you're me, for example, they have no idea who you are, and so the celebrity's publicist can work his or her way down the line, see who you are, and set up interviews while said actor is chatting with someone else. Also, if you don't actually want to interview that person, you can say it to their publicist and not to "the talent" to avoid bruising any egos. And of course, the labeling keeps things organized and people in order.
Anyway, I'm standing in my little spot, contemplating whether or not wearing a neoprene skirt with tropical fish printed on it was a bad idea (it wasn't the best idea) and talking to the reporters around me who are all very nice to me because I'm sure they are nice people and also because it was my first time, so they were giving me advice and tips. Generally, on a red carpet, a reporter only has enough time with a celebrity to ask one or two questions. Some celebrities don't answer any questions at all (like Blake Lively in a circumstance I'll save for another story). So as I waited for JT, I memorized the two questions I knew my editor wanted me to ask and snuck a few pictures on my iPhone because how could I prove I was there without an instagram, am I right?
The tropical fish skirt by Clover Canyon. Also wearing BB Dakota blazer, Manolo Blahnik pumps, Rebecca Minkoff purse. Photo via @nikiblasina on instagram.
John (I'm just going to pretend we are on a first name basis here) makes his way down the line and is being very polite and gracious with everyone on the carpet. I immediately regret tweeting about his massage parlour scandal from the tabloids last summer. When my turn comes up, we are introduced, I ask him to be gentle per the above anecdote and he is very, very nice to me because A. I'm not totally naive: obviously he wants me to write nice things about him, and B. because he may just actually be a nice guy and gave me extra time because it was my first red carpet.
He let me ask him plenty of questions, even though his publicist was signalling that it was time to move on. He let me ask so many questions I ran out of questions! I needed to come up with something else, and I figured my editor would kill me if he found out I was like, "So what's the deal with Xenu?" so I dug through whatever brain cells I have left at the ripe age of twenty... whatever, and said, "I know you are a pilot, and I was wondering if you have any advice for terrified flyers."
His eyes lit up. I'm sure taking about his number one hobby was clearly more interesting to him than answering the same question over and over about how he got into character for the film.
"Are you a terrified flyer?" he asked. "Yes," I replied. "I'm an awful flyer." (Case in point.)
"At what point do you become scared?" he asked, in a manner so concerned I respected his acting chops more.
"Basically from the time I step onto a plane, read the safety manual, and start sweating profusely," I answered. There's no shame in my game.
Determined to get to the bottom of it, he asked, "Is it claustrophobia?"
"No," I said. "It's just an irrational fear of crashing."
"During take-off or landing?"
"Start to finish," I answered, sounding more like a wiener by the second.
"It feels like knowledge is what you need," he replied. "You have to get a better understanding of what the plane is doing. I say if you just educate yourself on how a plane flies, how things function, you will get immediate relief. Go to a cockpit, talk to a pilot." Well, I am talking to a pilot, John.
"Are you single?" he said. "Talk to a cute pilot.”
Noted. So if there are any cute pilots willing to show me their um, cockpit, please do because John Travolta told me it will help. And I can't afford therapy, folks.
Anyway. The red carpet wrapped up and we all go into the theater for the screening where Travolta and director Mark Steven Johnson say a few words, and watch the movie that makes Saving Private Ryan look like Disney, and then mosey on to the after party which was held at the Jazz Room in The General on Bowery. The party was sponsored by Jagermeister because Travolta and De Niro get white girl wasted on a bottle in the film.
The only photo I took at the after party. For reporting purposes, of course.
At the after party, Travolta hung out with the cast, Johnson, his daughter Ella Bleu, and James Lipton (!) and graciously took photos with party goers, like the pretty young things there to look good and be seen. I people watched and ate all the food. All of it.
John left the party early, around 11 p.m., while I was interviewing an up-and-coming young filmmaker who was far too drunk to be on the record (or speaking at all) so I did not have a chance to thank him and say goodbye. I doubt this is something people do anyway, since we're all playing the game and to a certain extent, using each other. But I would have liked to sincerely thank him for being sweet and making my first time painless.
Now if only he'd call.
The Story: "Travolta and De Niro Faceoff in 'Killing Season'", Variety Magazine