About Utah: Finding the best kind of 'celebrity' at film fest

Published: Thursday, Jan. 28 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

PARK CITY — I managed to pull off a feat many might consider impossible.

For two hours walking up and down Main Street, in the evening, at the very apex of the Sundance Film Festival, I managed to see exactly zero celebrities.

There goes the paparazzi career.

Worse, I brought a certified experienced star searching expert with me, my daughter Tori, who is 17 and knows celebrities like Webster knows words.

This was like bringing Lassie to the well. It was like cheating. Since she was 12 Tori has walked Main Street during Sundance, hunting down celebrities like Dog the Bounty Hunter.

She saw Paris Hilton when she was 13. Both of them. The Paris Hilton who snubbed her and her friends when they first asked for an autograph, and the Paris Hilton who lit up like a Vegas marquee and smilingly signed their autographs when a camera crew came by and turned on its lights.

You meet all kinds out there on Main.

But not Tuesday we didn't.

It's not like the town was shut down. There were parties spilling out onto the street. Limos crept along. Music blared out of Harry O's. A caterer outside a building said Joan Rivers was hosting a party inside. I wasn't even sure Joan Rivers would count.

Tori was confident we'd hit paydirt at the New Frontiers exhibit at the mall, where Joseph Gordon-Levitt has set up hitRECord.org — a make-a-film-on-the-Internet thing he's doing.

"Joseph Gordon who?" I asked.

He's the star of "500 Days of Summer," Tori explained, again, which is why she saw that particular movie three times last year, and he is her favorite actor of all time. At least for now.

So Joseph Gordon-Levitt would count. And he was there, we were informed, but he was in the back.

We — well, to be fair, mostly Tori — decided it would be worth it to stalk, er, wait him out. We went across the street to Red Banjo Pizza and ordered a slice.

But a half-hour later New Frontiers closed — and Joseph Gordon-Levitt never showed.

We walked back down Main toward the car. I had a movie to catch.

Tori announced it was her first shutout. Ever. She said it was my fault.

I met my wife at the library for the Townie Tuesday showing of "I'm Pat Tillman."

Townie Tuesday is a Sundance tradition where Park City residents get in free as long as you show them a utility bill with your name on it.

The place was packed. Finally, I saw someone I recognized — and not wearing a scarf.

The film recounts the double tragedy of former NFL star Tillman's death by friendly fire in Afghanistan and the resultant coverup by the government.

The film's director, Amir Bar-Lev, was there to answer questions afterward. Plus, he had a special guest: Dannie Tillman, Pat's mother and the star of the documentary as she doggedly determines what happened to her son.

The audience rose and gave her a standing ovation. I couldn't imagine how that mother must feel, after all she's gone through, but she was someone I admired. Not the kind of celebrity I had set out to find at the start of the night, but someone I was definitely glad I got to see.

Lee Benson's column will run throughout the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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