(DEER VALLEY, UT – Sunday) At least half the people I meet at Brenda Sexton’s Windy City West party are neighbors of the couple that owns the condo in which the former Illinois Film Board’s president is hosting 200 of her nearest and dearest friends. I suppose there are genuine friendships being rekindled. But it seems that a lot of guests – including me – are here for the experience or, on the other hand, to make something happen.
Several dozen similar parties are raging in Park City on this first weekend of the Sundance Film Festival. Some visitors to this smart Western town never get to see a movie. Nobody seems bothered by the nearly two feet of fresh powder that has fallen, making driving the mountain roads treacherous. All is good. Hope is high. Pour another of those Mormon-inspired weak cocktails. I’m all in.
There’s no question about why Brenda’s been good at any job she’s held. She looks like a rocket ship in a black, one-piece knit dress with belt adorned by a chunky silver and rhinestone necklace. Other women at the party appear chic, but none like her, and her appearance – the look of a woman hanging on to her youth in a sexy way that is nonetheless appropriate – bespeaks of her escape to California where the fashion is glam-ier than Chicago.
It is difficult for me to sample the Swedish meatballs, crudités and Eli’s Cheesecake while holding Mike’s urn in one hand and a Stella Artois in the other. “What’s that?” I am asked by a hopeful filmmaker from New Mexico who suspects that I have brought a cherry wood box to the party on purpose. But, surprisingly, the people you’d most expect to exhibit a curiosity – Chicago news anchors like Linda Yu and Diane Burns – pass me by, proving clearly that they are merely readers of the news and not discoverers of it.
Brenda’s is our second party of the evening. The one before was hosted by the kind folks at Garrett Popcorn. I’m remiss by calling them only kind. They are obviously smart, too. Nine months ago, someone at Garrett Popcorn made the wise decision to support Our Longest Drive financially. We played our trailer at the Garrett Popcorn party. It was the first time that anyone outside of family and very close friends of the producers has ever seen the footage. I didn’t hear a “Bravo.” But I did hear, “I can’t wait to see the whole movie.”