'Hairspray' stars stick together at L.A. premiere

Times Staff Writer

There were some impressive showbiz veterans strolling the round-about red carpet in Westwood for the "Hairspray" premiere Tuesday night: Queen Latifah in a platinum blond wig, John Travolta in a ton of foundation (why does he do that?), and Michelle Pfeiffer, at 49 still one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood.

"Michelle! We can't wait for 'Stardust!' " yelled someone who I swear wasn't me.

Their confident, mellow presence was a welcome relief to the sparkly eagerness of the young stars such as Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron and short and pudgy newcomer Nikki Blonsky, who brace themselves for each question posed by the red carpet press corps by nodding and plastering wide-eyed expectant smiles on their face. (Ed note: I'm generalizing. That was just Bynes.)

Once everyone had made their way inside the theater and settled into their seats (after only three loudspeaker urgings), New Line Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Shaye said a few words. It turns out Shaye was the executive producer of the John Waters original, not-technically-a-musical film version of "Hairspray" back in 1988, which according to Shaye had no premiere at all. Then he lamented that Waters hadn't arrived yet.

"It's tough to get from Baltimore to anywhere else," he said.

The film's producers rose and told a story that ended with "So if anyone tells you dinner is not important, it is very, very important."

Finally, "Hairspray"'s charming director, Adam Shankman, took the mike.

After announcing to the crowd that "if anyone doesn't like it, you totally have to lie to me!" he gave the real man of the hour his due praise. "In the universe of 'Hairspray' there is one God, and that God is John Waters," he said.

Vast applause.

After the film ended, those with a pink detention slip boarded school buses to the premiere party, and the experience took a seriously olfactory turn.

The bus had the acidic scent of little kid sweat mixed with sticky green plastic seats. The party itself, held in the student union building at UCLA, smelled like a middle school cafeteria because of the "theme food"--soggy burgers and beans served up on Styrofoam lunch plates.

Waters, who had finally arrived, was the only celebrity truly circulating. The others sat glued to their reserved seating areas. When I finally got up the guts to say, "Excuse me, Mr. Waters" to the equally creepy and lovable hero of my childhood, I couldn't help but notice his old-man breath.

"I'm just leaving," he said, clearly tired, but still pleasant. "I was on 40 canceled flights today. I haven't even gone to my hotel. I changed in the car."

He was dressed in a jacket painted with red and pink swirls, dark pants, pointy white shoes, and a tightly knotted purple tie.

"You look great," I said.

"Thank you," he said and spread out his arms. "I'm dressed as Mr. Pinky tonight."

Then he went to collect his date, Johnny Knoxville.

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