Two cities, One Direction
By Dave Stacy
For the Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few weeks ago, my old friend, Morgan Spurlock, asked me to liven up his dull life by accompanying him to two premieres of his latest directing venture, "One Direction: This Is Us," chronicling the meteoric rise of the band One Direction. This would involve traveling to London and New York City, hobnobbing with stars and inhaling near toxic quantities of vaporized female pheromones.
I signed on for this "Tale of Two Cities," thinking, "It is a far, far better thing I do now than I have ever done, etc.," (apologies to Charley Dickens).
It wasn't so noble according to my 7-year-old daughter, Emi, a major One Direction fan, who referred to me as "the worst daddy ever" upon hearing she wouldn't be coming along for stop one in London. Instead, my wife, Aileen, would join me for the film's world premiere there last week.
One Direction, for the uninitiated, is a boy band mentored by Simon Cowell, a modest fellow who has guided them to international fame and 30 million in record sales in less time than it used to take him to say, "If I'm being honest..." to "American Idol" contestants. He chose these lads from the UK edition of his "X Factor" show. Now, they're the number one selling artist in 35 countries.
From the moment we arrived in London, we found it completely taken over by One Direction fans. The band's memorabilia was everywhere and rivaled Union Jack flags, royal family and typical British landmark trinkets.
Fans began camping outside the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square days before the premiere. This level of commitment has been demonstrated all over the world, including in the States: on Aug. 23, 18,000 people broke the record of largest crowd to ever attend a taping of "The Today Show" when 1D performed on it.
In London, we met with Morgan and arrived at the theatre, where Aileen and I quickly made our way across the red carpet and positioned ourselves to witness a resurrection of Beatlemania upon the band's arrival. We witnessed girls fainting and requiring paramedics.
I chatted with a British musician named Ronnie, who claimed he'd seen his share of appreciative crowds but that this one was the craziest. He used a four-letter adjective to describe how unbelievable he found the spectacle. I would have thought he'd have a high threshold of belief, given that he'd spent the last 37 years playing guitar with The Rolling Stones. Nice chap, though, that Ronnie Wood.
Morgan, from Beckley; Simon, from London; and the boys in the band, from England and Ireland, spoke to the frenzied fans, and then we entered the theatre. The movie was well received, and we made our way to the afterparty.
The party was surprisingly small and intimate with the band, their families and Sony Pictures executives. I made my way directly to meet band member Niall Horan as my daughter had informed she'd marry the handsome blonde Irish lad one day.
I agreed with Morgan that the guys in One Direction were genuine and truly humble. The band members' parents were mystified at the overnight success they had achieved. I texted the family back home photos of Aileen and me with Morgan and the band.
One city down, we flew back the following day, and I informed Emi that she'd be attending the U.S. premiere in New York City with me.
On Monday morning, we began a 24-hour whirlwind trip to New York. Emi's date for the event was Morgan's 6-year-old son, Laken.
We arrived at the red carpet, which was actually black, and made a beeline to see the band. We spoke to Harry and Niall and then took a few photos and followed them as they made their procession past the batteries of cameras.
Morgan and the band again addressed an adoring crowd. Emi moved from thrilled to stunned when the band sat directly in front of us. The proximity heightened the experience. The audience was more lively and raucous than the appreciative but relatively quiet British audience.
Following the screening, we made our way to the afterparty at the Gotham Hall ballroom. The party was much larger than the London party; however, we were able to hang in the private section with the band, their friends and families and the Sony Pictures folks. I spoke to the folks that I had met in London and explained that, no, I wasn't a transatlantic stalker -- just a friend celebrating with my buddy from elementary school.
On the way back to the hotel, Emi told me I'd been upgraded to the "best daddy ever." The finest thing I have ever done, indeed. "One Direction: This is Us" hits theaters Friday.