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South X Southwest 2011: Day Four

There’s a lot going on at SxSW besides the movies, and official panel discussions. There are also lots and lots of corporate-sponsored venues where they give away free food. Now for the most part, these venues are not all that well publicized, since food and drink are expensive, and the lines can go on for miles (I’m not kidding).

I’d like to talk about two of them for a minute: The IFC Lounge on Seventh and Brazos, and the CNN Grill on Third and San Jaquito. Now the former was great last year. There was free beer and pretzels, easy access, and a couple of large bathrooms with short lines.Facebook F

This year, it’s almost the same, but Facebook screwed it up when they decided to interview a bunch of celebrities, and in order to make it even cooler, decided to prevent most of the people who would ordinarily go there wait out on the street for hours.

The first afternoon was fine; I got in with little or no trouble, but then the next day, I got an invite from the Facebook people announcing that a movie star friend of mine was going to be interviewed. Now without naming names, she and I only get together about twice a year, when she’s doing something at a large event which I was going to be at, and since I had no idea she was going to be in Austin, I decided to go over and give her a howdy doo.

When I got there, there was a huge line. The thing wasn’t supposed to be open until 3 pm, and I showed them my press passes (never leave home without them), and mentioned the celeb in question -- who wasn’t there. She’s a celebrity, they said, she gets here when she gets here.

So they pushed me aside, and soon enough a limo with the celebrity and her boyfriend -- the basketball player -- showed up. She recognized me, and when they pushed her and him in, I went in as well… She went to the green room…. And I didn’t.

Here’s when things get weird. I had to go to the bathroom and I knew where the bathroom was, but they wouldn’t let me use it. It was not that anyone else was in it. In fact, PeeWee Herman was already in the “studio” and there was no one anywhere near it. But for some reason they thought that those of us who were actually inside the building were somehow going to do something insane there, like pee and I had to leave… I had a movie to go to anyway.

Now the next major lounge is a lot better. It’s also a lot harder to get into because its run by CNN’s entertainment division and is only for high mucky-mucks and people with press passes. I managed to get in and discovered that everything, food and liquor both, were totally free. The Canadians had a place at a local bistro where they were giving out free sliders and scrambled eggs, though not together. Also, Pepsi was giving out free samples and hot dogs.

Definitely worth the price of admission.

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