PARK CITY, Utah -- It's appropriate that Southwest Flight 381 would stop in Las Vegas before touching down in Salt Lake City, a short 30-minute drive down Interstate 80 East to Park City, home of the Sundance Film Festival.
Park City's Main St., a quaint strip of road in the center of town lined by 64 Victorian buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places, may not be as striking as the neon lit strip in Las Vegas but each year those old buildings and store fronts serve as nothing more than a facade for the activities hidden inside. As fake as a Vegas' versions of New York, Paris and Venice, this conservative ski resort town transforms into an adult playground overtaken by gifting suites, lounges and every hot club and restaurant from Los Angeles to New York. It's the only time of the year where you can grab a bite at Tao, do a shot at Marquee, dance at Teddy's and get kicked out of Hyde on the same night without getting on a plane.
Each charming pizza parlor, clothing boutique and mom and pop drug store has been taken over by a Park Ave. company paying top dollar for the privilege of claiming a piece of this tiny street that is, for one week anyway, the equivalent of Sunset Blvd, Broadway and Ocean Drive all rolled into one.
Our tour down Main St. begins at "The Lift," which is not surprisingly located at Park City's Town Lift Center. Normally the center serves as the hub for skiers and snow boarders but on this weekend it has been converted into a commercialized hub of activity complete with a Fred Segal boutique, MySpace Café, Heineken Green House and Teddy's Lounge.
The only thing I kept thinking while wondering around The Lift was how much I missed The Village at The Lift last year. It almost felt like going to a Clippers game after watching the Lakers play at the Staples Center. I know it's the same venue, but something was just missing. The only redeeming qualities of the venue this year was the return of the Fred Segal boutique and the debut of Teddy's, the storied lounge at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Now I don't know anything about fashion but my local celebrity tour guide couldn't stop talking about how much she loved the new products at Fred Segal, which read more like failed female cover bands - GlamRock, Precious Moments and Le Mystere. Meanwhile I spent most of my time at The Lift inside the two-story oversized tent, which not only housed Teddy's but on Sunday held ESPN's viewing party for the AFC and NFC Championship games hosted by Reggie Bush, where I got to talk to the "Tarnished" Heisman Trophy winner and his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian in their first sit-down interview as a couple. Click here to read that exclusive interview.
Village At The Yard
So what happened to the incomparable "Village At The Lift"? Well, it became the "Village At The Yard," a 100,000-sqaure foot Hollywood inspired Winter Wonderland centered on Kearns Blvd. between two main Sundance screening facilities. The location was formerly a lumber yard that was converted into the Village within a month, hence the name, Village At The Yard. I guess Village At The Lumber Yard wouldn't have sounded so chic.
The only real drawback to the Village was its location which forced you to take a cab or shuttle to the premises if you were on Main St.; although that didn't seem to stop many from making the 2-mile trek up town to check out the hottest locale at Sundance. The Village featured, among other activites, the T-Mobile Diner, a "hot spot" (literally) that served breakfast, lunch and late-night fare with popular DJs spinning in the background and the Amstel Light lodge where Chef Jake Linzinmeir cooked up outdoor barbeque while inebriated patrons sleded down a two-story hill next to an open ice bar. Easily the most interesting addition to the Village this year, however, was Hyde, the ultra exclusive Hollywood club best known for turning away C-listers to grab the attention of the paparazzi. You see, no one cares if John Doe get in or not, but if David Beckham gets in and Kathy Griffin gets shut down, you got a "hot spot." Think Studio 54 in it's hey day, sans the costume wearing freaks and psychedelic drugs.
Boost Mobile Lounge At Marquee
Hands down my favorite gifting suite at Sundance. No, not because I got anything. Seriously, the only thing the press gets at these lavish free-for-alls is a handshake and smile and sometimes you might not even get that. That's certainly been my experience, although I'm sure that's not always the case. At least I know it wasn't for one television personality I saw promising to wear a certain watch on a certain wrist while she held her microphone. (Oh, wouldn't you like to know.) No, this topped the list because it felt like a club, complete with a doorman and a list lady standing behind a steel barricade underneath the Marquee canopy. It took me back to the good old days when I would get shut out of the venerable New York club with the doorman sipping on his coffee and telling me to, "move it along." That was before my old friend Jordan was nice enough to give me a look but don't touch tour of the quaint club. It was a quick and slightly different tour than the one given to Bushdashian who raided the place, which was (repeat "was") filled with product ranging from Klipsch speakers to New Balance sneakers.
MySpace Nights At Tao
Easily the hottest club in Park City during Sundance is Harry O's, a two-story nightclub on Main Street which was transformed into Tao, the popular club and restaurant in New York and Las Vegas, during the busiest weekend of the festival for MySpace Nights, where celebrity DJs and performers take to the stage amidst the assorted Buda sculptures and Zen ornaments set up around the club.
Much like its sibling clubs this satellite Tao had massive crowds around the barricades trying to get in while arrogant bouncers and doormen transported from New York for the weekend ignore anyone not on their mental list and break the hearts of countless snow bunnies wearing next to nothing hoping to get in and pay for the New York priced drinks and gasp for air in the crowded club.
While the power went out on Main St. on Friday night, those who made it through the dark at Tao were rewarded with a performance by Maroon 5, who tore it up for a good hour, highlighted by Sunday Morning, This Love and Makes Me Wonder. I somehow managed to sneak into the roped off pit in front of the stage and took in the show alongside Paris Hilton and Leah Thompson. If that seems like an odd juxtaposition check out the WireImage page where half the "celebrities" rolling down the red carpet are simply identified as "Guest," and I don't mean Christopher.
Lexus Project GreenHouse
The coziest spot on Main Street was the Project GreenHouse, formerly Cisero's Restaurant and Nightclub. Aside from the aroma scented candles, organic cocktails and therapeutic hand massages there was a constant buzz in the house about an invite-only performance by John Legend at Star Bar, a small pub adjacent to the GreenHouse. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the "Lexus & Legend" show and it was probably the highlight of my time at Sundance. Watching Legend belt out tunes such as Ordinary People, Let's Get Lifted and Save Room was one thing but seeing him grind up on my friend, Lucky, a 4-foot-11 bundle of joy standing next to me in the front row was quite another. "I don't know about you," she said. "But that was worth waiting in the snow for."
Green Door Mansion
One of the pleasant surprises at Sundance was the Green Door Mansion, a 12,000 square feet, 11 bedroom pad in at the Deer Valley Lodge. This private haven for celebrities and VIPs, secluded up in the snow-capped hills behind a gated community offered guests everything from an indoor basketball court, heated pools and Jacuzzis in front of flat screen televisions and enough open bar to keep all three DJ infused dance floors throughout the house happy.
The Film Media Lounge Center
The most bittersweet venue at Sundance. While The Film Media Lounge Center had an amazing set up for interviews complete with a photo studio, make-up lounge and an AK Sport lounge, it came at the expense of our favorite pizza parlor, Main St. Pizza & Noodle Company. Oh well, we can always get the famous "Cholesterol Hiker" Pizza later.
Nintendo Wii Lounge
Situated in the comfy confines of the Kevin Mazur Portrait Studio on Main St., the Nintendo Wii Lounge was the place for celebrities and other invited guests to unwind with some hot chocolate while playing the new Wii Fit, which offered up such games as the Slalom Ski Challenge. While I came in just behind Freddy Rodriguez and Colin Hanks in the challenge, I was the only one of the group that got to cozy up next to Kat Mara afterwards and talk about the Giants with her afterwards so I was fine with my bronze medal finish. You can check out my conversation with Kate by clicking here.
Well that's about it from Sundance this year, click here for the round-up I did on SI.com and check back here throughout the week as I head to Phoenix for the Super Bowl on Sunday.