In a recent attention-grabbing essay for the Hollywood Reporter, actress and activist Rose McGowan wrote passionately that her “experience on the red carpet has been a journey of defiance, then one-of-a-kind acquiescence and finally a refusal to play by invented rules passed down through an aged system."
I know what she means: I recently accidentally exposed myself while wearing an undersized suit to the Emmy awards.
I’ll start at the beginning. I was born in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois in the mid 1970s. Now I will jump ahead to last Sunday, where a nominated friend (let’s call him “Tohn Jravolta.” (It wasn’t John Travolta; I have just always loved the name Tohn) invited me to be his plus one for the evening at the biggest awards ceremony in all of telly.
Cue the sort of panic familiar to arm candy everywhere: What to wear? Fashion week just wrapped up, and I’d been reading about what was hot in the world of haute couture: “ghetto Minion”; “bottomless grandmother”; celery-as-accessory. Only one problem: I eat a lot of burritos and I can’t buy clothes in a normal person’s store. So I made a special trip to a fairly well known American formalwear chain to be fitted for a euphemistically categorised “Big & Tall” tuxedo.
A tailor named Tohn (I have changed some of the names in this piece) had his way with me using a tape measure. He sized me up, down, backwards, and forwards, jotting down figures on a well-loved clipboard. “OK,” he told me, “this is a rush order – it’ll be back tomorrow and we can tweak it as necessary.” Only it didn’t come back tomorrow. And as my busy week of eating burritos continued, I just sort of figured things would work out. Until I realised with a shock, mid-burrito bite, that I was due at the Emmys tomorrow. I called the shop.
“Mefh tushedo!,” I shouted, starting to eat another burrito.
“Yes… uh… it’s ready,” came the very obviously unsure reply.
I rushed to the store, and it quickly became clear that in their own panic, the store had cobbled together a suit using random pieces from a circus sideshow's wardrobe. They gave me size 15 shoes. A shirt that was essentially a sports bra, which left my gut hanging out the bottom. And - perhaps most amazingly - THESE trousers:
Long story short pants, there was nothing they could do. I needed to be at the ceremony before they could have any alterations made and delivered. I had to make do. After using the bathroom, I realised: I would have to make the best of things.
On the red carpet, I hunched over, affecting a sort of Quasimodo strut designed to force the cuffs of my trousers to the tops of my mammoth shoes, which clopped along like the hooves of a gawky Clydesdale. I kept my eyes down when I passed E!’s Fashion Police, experiencing that sinking-feeling-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach when you’re driving and a cop pulls up behind you.
Amazingly, I got to my seat without too much notice, and there I had a comforting realisation: It turns out – and I hope you’re sitting down; shock is better taken with bent knees – people in Hollywood tend to really only be focused on themselves!
This epiphany came at the same time as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that host Tohnny Kimmel made a bit out of. Though I would have preferred a burrito, it was a lovely gesture.
After the show, as we were waiting for our car, I stood up tall and proud – a Hollywood hanger-on in rented high-waters. I nodded hellos to Joel McHale, Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Schumer – but the only person I cornered for a pic was Gaten Matarazzo – aka Dustin on Stranger Things. A super nice guy.
Here's the pic:
I’m leaning forward a good 90 degrees. I’m trying to block my sartorial shame with a big black box containing the Emmy my friend won, but it kind of backfired: I look like SpongeBob Squarepants at a funeral. You can see my ankles, which look like tiny feet, because my trousers were riding completely up to my thighs, and my entire bottom was hanging out behind me in the cool September breeze – just in time for a passing Aziz Ansari to get an eyeful. I could have sworn in that moment I could see him momentarily consider giving up on showbiz altogether.
In the end, I’m proud of my inadvertent refusal to play by Hollywood’s red-carpet-as-red-China rules. I think I made a statement. Next year, when the glitterati show up in shorts, you’ll know where they got it from.