Late last week we received an unexpected call from our New York-based correspondent Simon Moya-Smith: He had obtained press credentials for the $1,000-a-ticket gala premiere of The Lone Ranger at Disneyland in Anaheim, outside of Los Angeles. He attended and was one of a few Native journalists on the scene for an event tied to a film that has sparked nearly endless debate in Indian country. We didn't know what to expect — would he speak to Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto in the film and who has proven unresponsive to ICTMN's invitations? Would he get to see the movie? Would anybody even talk to him? "Give it a shot," we said. "It's going to be a crazy circus. Get what you can."
This is his first report:
At about 4 p.m., some slippery lookin’ reporter with a double chin and gigantic sweat beads on his brow asked me which outlet I was working for.
“Indian Country Today,” I blurted.
“Hoping to interview Johnny Depp then?” he buzzed.
“No, man,” I said. “I’m here for the Ceremony. There’s going to be a fire later, and tobacco and spirits and all kinds of goodies. So keep the camera ready. They’re bringing in the wood now.”
My conversation with the portly camera handler was quick and ugly. Good, I thought. Talking to him was a waste of my time; I needed to watch this whole scene take shape. We, the journos, were huddled together like cattle ready for the slaughter. And any musician-turned-reporter will tell you that there’s very little difference between a press pit and mosh pit: throw your elbows. Avoid the wiggy drunkard in the middle. Gain the upper hand by staying low beneath the frenzy. Occasionally you may suffer a knee to the mouth, but it’s all in the name of The Story.
On my way out of the red carpet area, I caught a sudden glimpse of the film's producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. He was straggling far behind the herd of ticket holders; the B-list celebrities and even the stars of the film had long made their way to end of the path, which, it occurred to me, was the exact shade of blood. Jerry B. was talking to an gesticulating show host who seemed too jittery in her posture not to be doped up on caffeine or coke or Red Bull. A moment later, I swooped in like a vulture hoping to steal some last scraps of meat (or at least nibble on the bone) of what looked like a rich interview. The Disney gods favored me that day, because as soon as I walked to the metal partition separating Bruckheimer from myself, the interview between Jerry and the frazzled reporter was over.
“Sweet Jesus, Jerry, do you have a second?” I shouted. “Indian Country Today. Can I ask you a few questions?”
My curious cry caught him off guard (as you want to do as a reporter in high-octane, red carpet situations like this — if you don’t grab their attention, they’ll keep on truckin’ and you’ll miss some seriously good comments or wisdom).
Bruckheimer obliged, and then I went in with the business that mattered to me. I asked the question that has been gnawing at so many of us from day one: Why?
“Why should Native Americans support this film? Why should they watch it?” I asked.
“It’s a retelling of a tale from a whole different perspective,” he said. “… From a Native American telling of the tale.”
Then zip. He was gone.