I was a recent high school graduate in the south of France, absorbing every ounce of Cannes Film Festival. It was a week into the festival and I was living a young filmmaker’s dream, but getting damn tired of waiting in hour long lines for movies. After being turned away from a ten o’clock documentary screening, I began moping about the city, alone and jet lagged. I thought a hamburger would cheer me up. No, gelato. No, a casino. Never mind, gelato is cheaper and less addictive. I was stumbling around in search of a cheap cup of gelato. There was none to be found. Only empty, littered streets. But amongst the trash and sadness, a bright, red flier caught my eye. A flier for a party. I read “Kanye West’s Premier Party for CRUEL SUMMER.” Holy shit, a Kanye Party, featuring every GOOD Music Artist?! Yes, please.
Nearby casino bouncers pointed me towards Gotha Club in Palm Beach, all insisting that it was just a fifteen minute walk. Bullshit. I walked for about forty minutes, running for part of it; scared I might miss the whole party. After a dark walk along the beach, I was there, at Gotha Club. There was audible music, but just a light bass melody, nothing that would indicate an actual GOOD Music Party. I wanted to know more, so I held up my flier to three big-ass bouncers and pretended like I knew what I was doing. They hesitated and started to stop me, but seemed to be in a very serious French convo, probably about cheese, or the Eifel Tower. Regardless, I had made it. Time to party. But where was everybody? There was just one old dude standing inside, and a lot of busy club hostesses. Was it over?
I walked towards the old dude, who also sported a camera around his neck, similar to my own. As it turned out, he was from a French television station and was planning to wait a few more hours until the party started. Hours? Damn. The flier at least could have said the starting time, maybe then I could have napped, or found gelato. So instead, I sat and patiently waited for about two hours until people started filling up the dance floor. Douchey guys dressed in really expensive French brand labels that I can’t pronounce, with trashy women on their arms. Bottle service left and right. But I wasn’t there to make friends or get drunk, I just wanted to see Kanye, and the rest of his rap entourage, so I patiently took my place by the stage. Beside me were a couple tipsy teenagers that luckily spoke English. We began to talk about Cannes, their favorite liquors, the women around us, and how the hell we ended up there, as the youngest people in the club. They only got in because of their father, a well-to-do man around Cannes who knew the owner of the club. They asked how I got in and I held up my red flier. They jumped back and laughed, informing me that I was not holding a flier, but an actual invitation, which for some reason or another was just lying on the sidewalk that I happened to be walking past hours ago. Some miracle got me here, and past those bouncers. I couldn’t stop smiling and now had big plans to celebrate this miracle.
The next thing I knew, the lights began to dim. Big Sean came on stage, to his hit song “Dance (Ass).” As one of the only other English speakers there, I joined him in shouting “ASS, ASS, ASS, ASS.” It felt good. This good feeling only got better when more GOOD Music artists took the stage, including the lovely Teyana Taylor, Pusha-T, and of course, Kid Cudi. I felt like a goddamn celebrity, or at least a professional photographer, as I took close up shots of all these lively rappers gracing the stage. I turned to my right, to see Big Sean’s fist, holding a half-full (not half-empty) bottle of Cristal, an oh so sweet liquid my lips could never afford to taste as a broke high schooler. So of course I took it, had a swig, and passed it behind me, to people foaming at the mouth, desperate to sip a famous rapper’s alcohol. I then looked up to see Teyana Taylor in front of me, holding a glass of even more Cristal. Yes, I took it, obviously.
As the concert continued, so did the flowing alcohol. Bottle service was abundant, even for those who didn’t order it. Club workers brought out cases of Cristal to the stage, a total of fifteen bottles. That was my chance. I pushed myself up a little, so my belly balanced the rest of my body on the stage, and reached for a bottle, with a flaming sparkler attached to the top. I was holding a bottle of Cristal, which I wouldn’t even be able to legally purchase back in the states, much less afford. So I did what I had to do. I loosened my belt, but not to take my pants off. I simply slipped my bottle behind the waist of my Levis. And there it sat for the rest of the night, patiently waiting for a more opportune time to be opened, when I wouldn’t be harassed by everyone that surrounded me.
I had my Cristal, but not my full experience. I wasn’t ready to go home. Hell, I hadn’t even seen Kanye yet, at HIS own party. That’s when the lights went off. People went crazy as the bass dropped in the dark, which just allowed me to complete my next mission: getting to VIP. I hoped over the velvet rope, in complete darkness, DSLR camera in hand. From there, I started my pursuit to get to the top. (Think of the giant mountain in the 90s TV show “Guts,” that’s what this VIP lounge was like, complete with three, increasingly exclusive and expensive levels.) People actually believed I was a legitimate photographer and asked for me to take their picture, probably thinking they could see themselves on the club website. I just did what I was told, which allowed me to get to the second level. I held my camera up to the bouncer, enough proof to him that I deserved to be there. However, this little trick didn’t work for the third level. The bouncer forcefully pushed me back as I tried to walk past him. Whatever, Mr. Bossy, I’ll just walk across the stage instead. This stage-side area was much more congested, with beautiful people, and had less security. So I climbed the stairs to the top, most exclusive level of VIP. I had made it. But where was Kanye? Or even Kid Cudi?
All the performers had disappeared, leaving only self-absorbed, French club rats. What was I doing there? I realized I didn’t belong. I was a lonely, American kid about to enter college, on the vacation of a lifetime. I was in Cannes to see films. Everyone else was there to show how rich they were and get blackout drunk. I couldn’t take the loud music any longer. The sun was rising as I finally left the club. The walk home was long and too tiring, but made worthwhile with a coastal sunrise, a personal bottle of stashed Cristal, and one hell of a story to tell.