OK, so it’s time for a true confession: despite the fact that I lived in Los Angeles for a while and now reside in New York City, I have never in my life been to a movie premiere - not even in the role of someone who was just there to do a little stargazing.
So when I was told that I’d be heading to Albuquerque, N.M. to attend the world premiere of “50 to 1,” the movie about Mine That Bird’s remarkable victory in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, I was beyond enthusiastic. When I found out that I’d be playing the role of Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet, interviewing stars and asking them all kinds of questions, I was like Jessie Spano from “Saved By the Bell” when she was all hopped up on caffeine pills: so excited, yet so scared.
So I hopped on my JetBlue flight from New York City to Albuquerque with my heart in my throat, but also with a lot of determination. This was going to be an adventure, and I had my microphone, my Nikon, a list of interview questions and a killer pair of heels with me. I was prepared.
Once I was in Albuquerque, I realized that this town is fast food heaven: in addition to Jimmy John’s, Chipotle, Panda Express and more, the place also has Chick-Fil-A. If you’ve never had it, Chick-Fil-A is delicious fried chicken from the gods with heaven-sent sauce and I needed it.
Seriously, if they also had In-N-Out I would probably be looking at real estate in downtown Albuquerque. Let’s face it: my taste buds rule my life choices.
Anyway, back to work. When I arrived at the premiere that evening with the amazing and talented Greg Charkoudian - the man behind the camera and editing board for many of our videos - I was pretty sure that we’d have a big crowd on our hands; but I was totally unprepared for the number of fans that showed up to see the spectacle.
I learned an important lesson right then: I do not have nearly enough cowboy boots in my life. Everywhere I looked, there were amazingly beautiful examples of the craftsmanship it takes to make such incredibly tooled footwear. From the decadent and ornate to the simple and well worn, there were so many beautiful boots on display.
It was a good thing that fans were in their finest, because the guest list to this event was seriously star-studded. In addition to the two-legged celebrities, the hero himself made an appearance: Mine That Bird, winner of the 2009 Kentucky Derby and the centerpiece of the movie.
When he arrived, the crowd gave him plenty of room to get off of his custom trailer that had movie placards and Kentucky Derby insignia decorating it to proclaim the little horse’s achievements.
After he emerged from his van, Mine That Bird and his entourage made their way to his temporary enclosure, where the Bird would meet and greet fans during the lead-up to the movie premiere.
Once he arrived, Mine That Bird underwent a brief beauty treatment to make sure that any detritus picked up in transit was removed from his lush bay coat; and with that, he was ready to meet his public.
And believe me, this is a horse who knows he’s being watched. As the cameras came out and fans and press approached him, Mine That Bird stuck pose after pose to make sure that he was showing off his best angles.
As Mine That Bird’s fans were meeting him, the “50 to 1” tour bus pulled in. This thing is amazing: it’s massive, and the stars and crew of the movie are going to travel cross-country in it to promote the production. All I know is this: it is much bigger and comfier-looking than my little studio apartment, and I am willing to trade if anyone from the movie is up for it.
And with that, the human stars of the show had arrived. When I say that there was a ton of press there, let me assure you of this: the word phalanx is not too strong for this occasion.
It was, to be honest, kind of a thrill to be swept up in the riptide of photographers, videographers and reporters that pulled me toward the celebrities with cameras and microphones jostling as everyone tried to get the same image or quote at the same time. While it’s probably not something I’d like to do all of the time, it was pretty exciting as it happened.
Of course, because I’m a giant horse racing nerd, one of the people I was most excited to see was Calvin Borel; he was Mine That Bird’s jockey in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and he plays himself in the movie. Borel is one of those guys who is completely and entirely genuine, and anyone could see that he was tickled to be at this movie’s premiere. He’s also not a man who takes anything for granted, so when he caught sight of Mine That Bird’s co-owner Dr. Leonard Blach, Borel swept the big man up in a giant bear hug.
And Calvin wasn’t wasting too much time with the whole “pose for the cameras” part of the evening. He wanted to go see Mine That Bird, so he cut his way though the press scrum and headed to his old friend. When the two saw each other, the first thing Calvin did was drop a kiss on the Bird’s nose. It was utterly charming.
By the way, see what I mean about the amount of cameras there? Geez, I hope that guy’s shot worked out … because mine sure didn’t after his little maneuver.
Then Calvin and Mine That Bird had a few funny moments together – Bird got a little nippy with Calvin, so they had a face-off:
But then Calvin remembered Bird’s Kryptonite: peppermints. Borel hastily produced one from his pocket and offered it to the Bird:
After that, peace was restored between jockey and steed, and the two had a big hug hello.
All of a sudden, I realized that I had to boogie. I had interviews to do on the red carpet, and there I was still taking photos of the pretty horse and his jockey (extremely typical behavior for me, by the way. I cannot resist horses.) So I literally hopped over the velvet ropes in my giant high heels and got ready to pretend to know what I was doing vis-à-vis red carpet interviews. (You can let me know how I did in the comments section after you watch the video above. Please be gentle.)
Since I was busy asking questions and not showing off how much I was fangirling internally, I wasn’t able to get many photos from this portion of my evening. I did get this over-the-shoulder one via my cell phone of Skeet Ulrich, though. After all, he was the star of “Scream,” which is an amazing movie, and I won’t be made to feel badly about my fandom of it.
After we wrapped up the red carpet interviews, it was time to head inside and see the movie. Producer and writer Jim Wilson opened up the evening with words about making the film and thanked the cast, crew and backers for their faith and hard work. And after his speech, it was time for the show to begin.
And while I obviously can’t tell you too much about the movie, I will say this: I really, really liked it and I will definitely see it again. I would recommend it to anyone, whether they’re a horse-racing fan or not. The film is often funny; but it also has moments of poignancy and introspection, and there were memorable scenes galore. I will say this, too: keep your eye on Christian Kane, the actor who plays Mine That Bird’s co-owner Mark Allen. That guy stole scenes like a bandit. Oh, and any scene with Calvin Borel in it was gold; he has some seriously impressive acting chops!
The movie and its characters truly connect with the audience – I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that there were moments that the entire theater began yelling and cheering at the screen, which is something that I’ve never experienced before.
When the lights came on and the film was over, I was so impressed by how well “50 to 1” was able to translate the inexplicable yearning and desire that is at the center of the road to the Kentucky Derby – the need to prove that you and your horse belong with the best of the best. The struggle to prove one’s worth in the face of adversity is universal; and “50 to 1” captures that in the context of the road to the roses perfectly, whether it’s from the perspective of an elite owner or from a downtrodden broken-legged New Mexican trainer with a little horse who no one had faith in. I hope you have the chance to see this movie, and please let me know what you think of it when you do!
Thanks as always for stopping by, and I’ll be back next week with my diaries from the Florida Derby.