Sunday, September 6, 2009

magical memories - AIDS Walk at Paramount Pictures

An AIDS Walk fundraiser is held every year in many cities, and Los Angeles is no exception. The course changed after 2001, but previously, the start and end of the course was the Paramount Pictures studio lot in the heart of Hollywood since Paramount was the major sponsor of the Walk. My sister convinced me to do the walk with her one year, which was a huge mistake on my part, because she's actually a runner, and even though she said she'd let me go at my pace, and I was fully planning to just walk the route, she pretty much wanted to run the thing and got impatient at my slow pace, and there was no way in hell I was going to be able to keep up with her. It was not a good day for me. After walking that one year, I started volunteering for an organization that would help at various AIDS fundraising events, including AIDS Walk, so for several years, I helped to set up things or do things along the course during the event - the actual task would vary from year to year.

The most memorable year, though, was actually also the easiest time and most fun I had. Paramount has several entrances onto the lot, and the main entrance was obviously closed to street traffic since that's where all the runners started and ended the course. There was a side entrance on the west side that they decided to use as the one for VIPs and other invited guests to use to get onto the lot. There were some celebrities who had agreed to come to the event to speak to the crowds and cheer on the runners, and it was people like them that needed to drive onto the lot, as well as vendors and other staff working the event itself. Paramount had their own security guard at the entrance, but they needed someone from the staff there as well. There was a list of names of people associated with the event who were cleared to drive onto the lot, but in case a problem arose, they wanted someone who had the ability to contact event staff management. I was someone who had a radio and headset anyway, so they decided to assign the job to me. That really just meant that all day long, I sat in the nice cool guard shack, and I didn't really have much to do. The guard on duty was the one to talk to all the people arriving at the gate, and he was pretty nice, and in between visitors, we chatted about this and that for the couple hours I was there. The Walk is usually held in September, and sometimes, it can be rather warm out, and during prior years, I was out in the heat and sometimes doing manual labor and otherwise working hard during the event. That particular year, I totally got a cush job. I just monitored the conversations coming over my radio so that I knew what was going on and in case anyone was trying to get a hold of me. I think they asked me about specific people a few times, to see if they'd come through the gate yet, and I think there were a couple other people who I had to radio to let them know had arrived. I don't recall any particular problem coming up of someone trying to get through the gate who wasn't on the list.

My favorite part of the whole day was when Robert Downey, Jr. came up to the gate. He was one of the celebrities who was there for the event, and I had been particularly enamoured of him at that point in time. It was after his really bad bouts with drugs, and he was clean and sober then and seemed to be enjoying life again. He drove up in a Jeep-like vehicle, and both the guard and I recognized him so it wasn't like he was asked to present ID. The guard knew that he was on the list of people coming to the event, so he just asked Robert if he knew where he needed to go, and Robert said yes, so the guard opened the gate and Robert drove through. I never said anything, but I smiled at Robert as he drove by, and he smiled back. He had three friends in the car with him, and they all seemed to be happy and enjoying the nice day - it looked like they were just going to enjoy a day at the beach.

It was the easiest job I'd ever been assigned in all my years volunteering for that organization, and then on top of that, I had the added benefit of seeing the various celebrities as they came through the gate. I hadn't really thought about that day in a really long time, but since I've seen Robert Downey, Jr. in so many films over the past year or two, the memory of seeing him that day was triggered, including remembering how cool it was to see him.

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