Sundance & Outdoor Retailers

He is a lot smaller than I thought.

Robin Williams was heading southbound on Main Street in Park City Utah three years ago when I intercepted him. In a rare moment of being calm and collected, I simply reached out my hand and said that I loved The Fisher King. He shook hands with me and said a few things about Jeff Bridges and director Terry Gilliam. I don’t remember what he said but for a good half-minute we walked along talking about a movie rarely gets brought up in polite company.

The narrow sidewalk on Main Street was congested with gawkers spending the last day of the Sundance Film Festival hunting down celebrities, swag and last minute tickets to any remaining screenings. I am not a big game hunter but I seemed to have taken down a white rhino. Williams was gracious, polite and very cool. Living in Utah has both its pros and cons but running into Robin Williams definitely gets placed squarely in the pro column.

Sundance opens up this week. Thanks to friends, we have tickets to a couple of select movies. I am excited because the only Sundance movies that I have seen in the past have been the Waldo Salt Best Screenwriting Award. It has always been a crapshoot on what I’d see but under the rational that whatever movie wins the best screenplay has to be pretty good. I’ve been lucky in the past and seen movies that were both terrifying and thought provoking: Sleep Dealer, Stephanie Daleyand Joshua.

Not bad for living in the 801.

The Hollywoodization of the Wasatch Front is both exciting and obnoxious. The idea that movies premier in a community that routinely boycotts R-rated movies is strangely ironic. Working downtown, I see the Broadway Theatres with lines stretched along 300 South with movie goers in all shapes and sizes and I often wonder what they are going to see. The Sundance guide is a thick tome that resembles a course catalog for the U of U. Unwieldy, the guide list movies from both around the world and those shot in people’s garages.

I can’t imagine what goes into filming a movie. Sure, I have a couple of ideas for movies but unfortunately, they always end in some sort of amalgamation on Remo Williams meets Tremors with the love interest being Christine Hendricks. The fact that people can not only write a screenplay, act, film, edit and host a premier is a massive act. Because of all the hard work and discipline that goes into making a movie, I can’t think of a bigger bullying job than being a film critic. Being able to sit back and rancorously judge a huge collaborative effort without fear of getting punched in the nose must be a pretty liberating feeling.

Last year, the buzz around downtown was that Sundance was retaking its image as an independent film festival back from the big Hollywood studios. They were trying to return to their smaller, homespun roots and were turning their back on the big corporate sponsored parties. I always thought that this was pretty hypocritical. Considering that getting a room in Park City during the ski months could routinely cost over $300, the fact that the Sundance organizers thought their film festival was for the Johnny Lunchbox was ludicrous. By nature, I think that film festivals are exclusive and part of the glamour of an event like this is to keep guys like me away from the talent.

Hell, I am not even good enough to bartend these events much less rub shoulders with the stars.

To add to the cluster of activity in Utah, Outdoor Retailers (OR) opens this Thursday. OR is the country’s biggest outdoor sporting goods showcase and it brings in thousands of visitors to Northern Utah. I don’t know what it is a harder to ticket to get: entrance in to the Stella Artois party or a pass into the Salt Palace to walk around the OR showroom. OR is one of those conventions through the year that cause bartenders to start licking their chops. In years past, I’ve seen servers get tipped 200% of the tab and the host throws in a kayak to sweeten the deal.

Outdoor Retailers seems to be more in line with Utah than Sundance. For starters, the greatest benefit of living in this area is the proximity to skiing and the national parks. Utah is an outdoorsmen’s paradise. Be it snowboarding, snowshoeing, fishing, hiking or killing animals, Utah is the place for all of these activities. Sundance might leave its footprints in film making in the area but the vast majority of all the citizens spend time outside throughout the year. Besides, OR provides the necessary wardrobe for all of the filmmakers with North Face jackets and Columbia shirts.

Both Sundance and Outdoor Retailers will descend into the downtown area the next week in search of strong drink and entertainment. If history is any indication, the bar should be full this entire week and I’ll have a wealth of material for a round-up of all of the insanity and craziness that follows these people. I can already predict the amount of complaints about not getting doubles, why last call is at 1am and how 3.2% beer isn’t really beer. They might spend more money, shape independent cinema or outrig outdoor adventures but they are wildly uncreative with their complaints about Utah liquor laws.

I am looking forward to work tomorrow. Anytime the city gets invaded from people from around the world, I am excited about the challenge of trying to push out as many drinks as possible. This weekend has historically been the busiest four days of the year and I want to see if I have the mettle to sling drinks as fast as possible behind the bar. Also, I will have both eyes peeled to see if I can add any new people to the Raskin Wall of Superpals.

Who will be this year’s Robin Williams? I hope its Christine Hendricks. I have a great script written just for her.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. He’s only here for the money.

One thought on “Sundance & Outdoor Retailers

  1. Not my best effort. I was trying to write something that incapsulated both Sundance and OR but it sort of fell flat. So, I apologize for this turkey. I am excited about this week. With about 10K people coming into town, it should make for some good story telling. I hope not only do I get to witness some cool things but I also make a ducet or two.

    Anyway, there will not be any shameless plugs for this column. I will have something up tomorrow. Thanks for reading and being patient.


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