Jason Biggs, you jerk! I was hot on the trail of a lead -- chasing a truer star than you -- when I had the misfortune of running into your tired, drunken ass. Outside. The Skylight, West Side Manhattan, on Hudson between Dominick and Spring streets. Sometime between 11:30 and midnight. At the T-Mobile Party for the G1 phone, Google's first product launch ever.
We almost collided head-on, and would have, had I not deftly moved aside. But you! You stumbled forward, nearly collapsing into me, then reeling 180 degrees, catching your heel on the tips of my right foot, grinding a pivot directly on my pinkie toe before lurching forward to address the security guard who blocked your way back into the party. As I hobbled out of your way, I wondered, Did the guy who got famous for screwing a pastry really just break my foot? Heather Rosenthal of 4Kids Entertainment confirmed it. "American Pie is so over," the twenty-something comely blonde told her friends, a pair of any-mom-would-approve brunettes lamenting your departure. "You're not going to f**k him, so it's not worth it."
We all lower ourselves a little by attending these launch parties. Media, celebrities, and wannabes alike take advantage of the free booze and finger foods; companies get a chance to create early buzz for their product. But this party -- hosted by T-Mobile -- held particular allure, if only by association. Google, the tech darling poised to take over the world, is coming out with its first consumer product, the G1 phone (actually, the phone itself is made by HTC, but still). And yesterday's earnings announcement indicating Google had beaten analysts' expectations meant it was one of the few companies that truly had something to celebrate in this nail-biting economy. Maybe, just maybe, Sergey and Larry, the Google guys, might show up.
Outside, standing in line for a half-hour waiting to get in earlier in the night, a rumor floated that Lindsay Lohan might appear. Instead, I ended up getting Juliette Lewis dancing away to a cut of AC/DC's "Shook Me All Night Long" and Alan Cumming slipping past the velvet ropes for easy entrance later in the evening, when the party was two hours old. And of course there was you, Jason Biggs, whom my swollen pinkie toe hates right now.
What does a Google launch party look like? For starters, it features a live performance by the Raconteurs, who did not disappoint. There were plenty of exotic drinks like the "Pomegranate Kumquat Crush," a mixture of vodka, honey, and hibiscus that tastes like syrupy cranberry juice. The finger foods were fancy but also accessible enough to include a hot dog station minimally outfitted with ketchup and mustard. I was told the cavernous space could hold 500 to 600 people, but the party peaked at about 400, most of them wielding BlackBerries and Razrs.
T-Mobile flacks would insist the G1 phone was the real star of the party. Stations were set up at the far end of the warehouse-like space, complete with reps to show how to use the phone. Mine had an asymetrical haircut and a neon-green polo. Security detail stood by, ready to "tackle someone if they run off with the phone," as one guard, Martin, put it. There were about 15 guys hired for the event, he told me, as he adjusted his square rimless glasses and toggled his earpiece before setting his gaze to the middle distance, Secret Service-style.
"This is the biggest phone launch in T-Mobile's history," spokesman Tom Harlin told me. "It was important that we come out with a bang." The Google guys, I was informed, would not be appearing. In the middle of the interview, with nary an introduction, the Raconteurs took the stage. I asked Harlin if he was a fan of theirs. "I like the White Stripes," he offered. Had he the chance to talk to Jack White? "I saw him doing a sound check earlier, but I didn't want to bother him. It was better to stand back and let the man be creative."
The real creative wouldn't emerge until after the Raconteurs parted stage right. It was 25-year-old Mike Pearlman, a New Jersey native dressed like he just stepped out of a 1980s time capsule. For a good 20 minutes, he had a crowd circling him as he danced out a routine that incorporated pushups, jumping jacks, and chicken-wing flapping, among other unexpected moves, set to Journey, Daft Punk, and a track from Grease. By day, he works for InfoSync World, a trade reviewer of all things handheld; after hours, he's doing whatever he can to "provide a spark, to help other people get outside themselves. I want to be the person they wished they could be." Later, while he was pantomiming a phone call against the images of the G1's QWERTY keypad relayed by a light projector onto a huge wall, I introduced myself and he agreed to come with me outside to talk.
So what did he think of the G1 phone? He does, after all, fit into the G1's demographic "sweet spot" -- twenty- and thirty-somethings who have a 24/7 mobile lifestyle and want increasing options to staying connected. "It's okay," he shrugged. "The phone itself is not spectacular. Android -- that's definitely mentionable. It is a contender to the iPhone. But I'm not entirely impressed. The phone itself could be better. But I'm not a phone guy. I don't like fancy phones. I would rather use a Zack Morris 1980s phone that gets a 3-foot radius."
But if he had to choose, would he get an iPhone or a G1? "I'm getting an iPhone soon," he replied. "But really, I don't need anything more than a cheap phone. I just want to live out in the country, with dogs, tools, motorcycles, and the girl of my dreams. I'd be happy relatively close to the city, have a room with a trampoline floor, a magic bounce castle, a motocross and dirtbike trail, a vegetable and herb garden. Animals everywhere, kids, happiness -- I want it all." He stops in mid-reverie as if he suddenly remembered where he was, sitting on the sidewalk talking to a reporter. "In fact," he started again, "I have to get back in there because there's more dancing to be had."
He headed back inside while I hobbled off to hail a cab.