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NOTE: No lungs belonging to professional athletes were hurt in the unveiling of this shoe. The same cannot be said for the faces belonging to groupies er, female partygoers.
Sadly, it's been 14 years since I've seen a girlfight. The melee outside gym class at Amador Valley High School had its highlights, like when Beth jump-kicked Rosa with her Nike Cortez-clad feet. But by and large, it was a harmless, bloodless affair because A) the venue was school property and B) at that age, open-hand slaps were the weapon of choice.
Which is not to say I wished to see any blood. Well, sort of. It's easier to hype a fight to your buddies in the school quad when blood is spilled. But I'm getting off point here, and getting off point is a very dangerous practice for high-class sportswriters, just like interviewing Clay Aiken without questioning his sexuality is a very dangerous practice for talk show hosts. So, the point, I think, is this: Real grade-A girlfights, like perfect games and three-legged racehorses, are hard to come by. They are strange and splendid in that "I remember each and every one and wish to witness if not, participate in one more before I die" kind of way.
Fourteen years later, this wish would be fulfilled. And I have one man and one town to thank for this:
It's a brisk November night in Hollywood, where Anthony, the Denver Nuggets' star forward, will unveil Melo 3, the third entry in his line of kicks from Brand Jordan, at chic Shag Hollywood. It's the first in the line to be unveiled in L.A., so it can be said that Anthony is in new territory.
For some time, stories have circulated around the league about Anthony's unique brand of party-hosting skills. A publicist friend who'd attended Anthony's All-Star weekend bash in Denver prepped me for the Melo 3 shindig with this: "Melo's parties are awesome, but they're also super-ghetto."
From this I inferred that my publicist friend felt that the adjectives "awesome" and "super-ghetto" are foes. In my experience, these adjectives are pals. I've logged many minutes at social gatherings that some would deem to be "ghetto," from Sacramento where Crazy Horse was the malt beverage of choice, craps the game to Tehran, where Iranian partygoers in plastic sandals quaffed rubbing alcohol-based moonshine that carried with it a 20 percent chance of rendering you temporarily blind. These were good times best tackled with half a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol, some seeing eyeglasses and zero alarm clocks but good times nonetheless. So, both awesome and ghetto.
As of yet, Melo's party is showing no signs of being the latter. No plastic sandals here, just super-cool kicks in glass cases and showbiz hipsters swirling around a party themed "Melowood," with all the bells and whistles of a movie premiere. Waitresses man popcorn stands, theater projection screens play his commercial and beautiful women serve Milk Duds while donning old-school theater usher outfits if old-school theater ushers were actually Fly Girls fresh off the set of "In Living Color."
Incidentally, former Fly Girl choreographer Rosie Perez is among the first to arrive. Anthony, I'm told, won't arrive until 10:30. This gives me exactly 90 minutes to kill. Of course, there's an open bar, so that won't be a problem.
Ninety minutes ain't what they used to be. LT, my pal and tonight's trusty "plus 1," tells me it's now 10:30 and the red carpet is in full swing. I head over.
Yes, the carpet is in full swing, if you define "full swing" as "transformed into The Career Resuscitation Ward of Red Carpet Hospital." LT, who's also serving as my trusty spotter, helps me identify patients, including Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman, Bill Bellamy and Ron Legend, who I'm told is John Legend's brother. Good for him.
Apparently, I forgot to leave my glass of juice at the bar. I know this because a publicist taps me on the shoulder. Something about leaving my glass of juice at the bar.
A tall, gangly gentleman identifies himself as Paul Davis of the L.A. Clippers. Never heard of him, but before I can argue his claim, he introduces his stunning fiancée Diana. "I need to talk to Melo, because I need some size 18 shoes," he says, pointing to his monstrous fins.
The Toronto Raptors are in town to play the Lakers, so T.J. Ford and Fred Jones seized the opportunity to visit The 'Wood. Never mind that the last time the Raptors faced Kobe, the freak dropped 81 on their heads. Jones, for one, doesn't want to hear it. "I didn't play for the Raptors when Kobe dropped 81," he says with a sly grin. "But I did play for the Pacers when he dropped 19."
Jones then leaves Ford solo and wide-eyed. "In the South, we don't get a lot of this red carpet treatment," Ford, a Houston native, admits. "This is definitely new to me."
For Ford, it's a rare opportunity to plug his music label, Faith N Fam Records. One piece of this mogul's empire, however, is missing. "I don't have my own personal shoe," Ford says. "But I do have a contract with adidas, and they give me shoes." And that ain't nothing.
Clippers guard Sam Cassell, a red carpet veteran, has raised the joint's volume several decibels, mostly because the Baltimore native is positively ecstatic with Anthony's B-More representation.
"Someone from B-More has a shoe line, so I'm living my life through Melo, you know what I'm saying?" Cassell explains. "We're on different teams now, but it's one love. I'm not a hater, I'm a congratulator.
"Can I party now?" Cassell asks me.
Yes, you may. Can I? No. Anthony finally arrives, all smiles and easy confidence. This might be his first Hollywood jamboree, but he's not acting like it, partly because he's rightfully proud of his shoe.
"I had about 80-85 percent influence on the shoe," Anthony explains while holding a pair. "The streets is what made me go out there and put this shoe together, and that's what you see here."
Indeed, Anthony's streets and personality are all over his kicks, including his West Baltimore area code (410) on the heel, his jersey number (15) on the toe, his birth name (Kiyan Iriate) at the medial forefoot and his thumbprint inside the shoe, along with words that define him: Gemini, Denver and Chosen One, among others.
For Melo, the night will also allow him to flex his mini-mogul muscles as the head of Kross Over Entertainment, a music/movie/TV house. His first album, by rapper Berg, will drop next spring, and his first flick, the documentary "Prison Ball" about four Louisiana prisons that band together for a hoops tourney, is being shopped to buyers now. Anthony says he provided filmmaker Jason Moriarty with financing, creative input and his voice as the film's narrator.
Bushels of fun
World Series MVP David Eckstein will appear on NBC's new "1 vs. 100" this Friday as a member of "the mob" attempting to outwit a contestant for prize money. For Eckstein, who played on behalf of the Mid-America Transplant Services charity, it's more than a night out with host Bob Saget.
"I've had several family members benefit from organ transplants," says Eckstein, who also covered the topic in his children's book, "Have Heart" (updated edition due out Dec. 12). "I watch any game show that's on TV, so I'm helping others while having some fun."
Yeah, Saget is bushels of fun.
Congrats Emmitt! Your prize? Aiken vs. Ripa!
In case you missed Smith's appearance on "Live with Regis and Kelly" last week, here's what's what: A) Clay Aiken was subbing for Regis Philbin when B) Kelly Ripa took exception to Aiken's, um, weirdness, leading to C) the NFL's all-time leading rusher and his dance partner trying hard not to spontaneously combust on national TV.
If you think it's all water under the bridge, you didn't see "The View," where Rosie O'Donnell called Ripa's reaction "homophobic" and Ripa responded to Rosie in kind. Video for all is available on YouTube. Anyway, what did sports fans learn from this mess? That shockingly, Aiken has yet to officially come out of the closet. Also, that Emmitt Smith, friend to both gays and Kelly Ripa, spits in the face of pressure.
His business aspirations are just one sign of Anthony's maturation from a once-maligned athlete, dubbed selfish by pundits following his '04 Olympics stint, then charged with marijuana possession later that same year after attempting to board a team plane with a bag of the stuff. The charges were dropped when an entourage member fessed up, but the trials and tribulations of Anthony's up-and-down NBA career have no doubt helped shape the man he is today and the father and husband he'll be tomorrow. Anthony says he'll marry fiancée LaLa Vasquez, an MTV VJ who's absent tonight, sometime after the expected birth of their child in March.
Of course, none of the aforementioned maturation precludes Anthony from talking a wee bit of trash. Turns out, his friendly on-court competition with LeBron and D-Wade carries over to kicks. "They've got some cool shoes too, but who's got the best?" he asks rhetorically, ineffectively hiding his glee. "If I say one of them, then I'd be wrong."
With all this talk of maturity, I'm now craving some immature acts. Luckily, the red carpet disbands and the stars head for a party that has suddenly tipped towards what some would deem to be the "ghetto" end of the scale.
We can thank the artists of music for that. Styles P and Omarion are now joined by Fat Joe, who has brought along a bushel of fat entourage members. And plenty of smoke. Minutes later, the club has been hotboxed. Like a hotboxed stretch H2, this is a heckuva achievement. Talented chap, that Fat Joe.
I think I spot Lamar Odom across the club, though through this haze, it might be Muggsy Bogues. No, it's definitely Odom, and I know this because he's doing exactly what you'd expect a man who's been suspended twice for marijuana use would do in a hotboxed club: Pull his shirt over his nose with one hand and feverishly wave away smoke with the other while dancing. He might be the only man on the planet who looks cool doing this. Try it. It ain't as easy as it sounds.
When rappers pounce on such parties, rap video-type mamas are sure to pounce on the rappers. Don't know when they got here, but they're here in droves, so things are getting heavy. It's time to escape to the sanctuary of Carmelo's roped-off VIP section, but the gentleman manning the rope won't let me pass. See, I need a white wristband. Mine is blue.
But what the rope-guarder doesn't know and what LT and I learn only after pulling at our wristbands in anger is that our blue wristbands are also white when turned inside-out. So minutes later, we flip the script and display our "new" white wristbands to the same rope-guarder, who promptly lets us pass.
In this elevated VIP section, the Ghetto Factor is marginalized and the chill factor reigns. There are Hollywood hipsters, classy ladies and an in-demand Anthony, who's chatting up Regina King as his VIP pals hop to Busta Rhymes' "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See."
A Fat Joe clone white, but not quite as fat offers me the rest of his blunt. Kind man, this clone. But I pass. If I were any chiller, I'd be dead.
However, my vibe would soon be permanently jangled. A bouncer with a blatant anti-chill vibe nearly pushes me over in a mad dash to the dance floor. He's yelling what sounds like, "Hit the Lights" into his wrist mike.
Being a snoopy runt, I literally grab the anti-chill bouncer's coattail, letting him lead me towards the source of the commotion. There, I see a glorious sight: A dance floor littered with broken heels, strewn handbags and four disheveled, alluringly dressed women on their rears, pinned to the floor by bouncers.
Sweet Jesus, I'd just missed a massive girlfight. Thankfully, one fantastically feisty red-haired lass squirms free of her bouncer to sprint or limp, because she's only wearing one shoe toward a woman whose makeup is smeared with her own blood. Red yells a battle cry ("Bitch!") before pulling on bloody face's blond mop. More bouncers pounce. Sadly, the girlfight is now over.
Carmelo has seen enough. He floats out the club, looking pleased. I do the same, looking the same.
"It was f------ crazy here tonight, just bananas," he tells me. "We straight-up took over Hollywood tonight."
"I mean, a girlfight?" he adds. "I have no idea who those girls were, but I guess that s--- happens in the hood."
And, it seems, in Melowood.
Sam Alipour is based in Los Angeles. His Media Blitz column appears in ESPN The Magazine and regularly on Page 2. You can reach him at Sam.Alipour@gmail.com.