I was recently asked to attend the Life Ball in Vienna, my second year in a row. It's quite simply the most astonishing event I've ever been to. Add to that it's a huge annual AIDS fundraiser and you feel even more excited by it. Throw in the mix some of NYC's nightlife crazies and hot male models on Austrian Air, and you have the makings of a really good trip.
The Life Ball is as Mary Kate Olsen said to Kathy Griffin, "a celebrity fuck fest." It's nothing to walk into your hotel to see Antonio Banderas talking with Milla Jojovovich, or Brigitte Nielsen galumphing down the street.
Having known or been friendly with celebrities for awhile now, I don't get too excited anymore about any one famous person. That was until someone told me on the way to the airport that Paulina Porizkova would be on our plane.
I found myself immediately freaking out inside. As a homely gay boy in Ohio, I had followed Paulina's meteoric rise: her marriage to Ric Ocasec, her outspoken way of expressing herself, her underdog quality as a supermodel. She seemed like a model with something to say.
She was quite simply, my teenage gay boy muse. And she would be on my plane.
Years ago, I spotted Paulina shopping near the Flatiron District, and I lost the nerve to go up to her. I was working at a corporate events company, a failed actor, drowning in the quagmire of working for someone else doing something you don't believe in, and I felt like such a failure in my life, I didn't have the balls to do anything. So I just stood in the store and watched her.
But this time, something was different. The moment I saw Paulina, in line at security, I made a beeline over to her before she could even get her boots off security's conveyor belt, and told her how much I thought of her.
And that was monumental. It wasn't as much about her. It was more about me feeling ok just going up to someone and speaking to them and not feeling less than.
She was adorable, and gracious, and really quite funny. She made a joke about being upstaged by the drag queens at The Life Ball and about not being noticed on the red carpet. Isn't it refreshing when a public person is exactly what you expected them to be?
My friends laughed at me throughout the weekend because I had just met President Clinton, but I was more excited meeting Paulina.
In my weekend with Paulina, I heard her make really funny self deprecating jokes, kiki with drag queen Peppermint, and saw her walk down the runway with panache that was only rivaled by Naomi (yes THAT Naomi walked the runway). I even found myself shouting to her as she went thru customs on our arrival in New York: "Bye Paulina!" in such a geeky way, but I didn't care, because the whole experience was such a great one for me, I wasn't going to let Paulina get away without some closure!
The whole experience was such an odd one for me. I started thinking about that 19 yr old gay guy living in rural Ohio, and how he had idolized so many people, felt less than so many people, and now he had access to many of those people he had fawned over.
It made me realize that yes, if you persist, and you work, and you focus and keep your sights on the prize, everyone gets their Weekend with Paulina as some sort of cosmic sign that you've in a small way, made it.