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May 19, 2009 2:28 PM

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Cannes Party Circuit Blues

CANNES -- Since the start of the Cannes International Film Festival on May 15, sales of earplugs have spiked 80 percent, according to the French Institute for Aural Pollution From Euro-Techo. OK, I made that up, but even an offer...

CANNES -- Since the start of the Cannes International Film Festival on May 15, sales of earplugs have spiked 80 percent, according to the French Institute for Aural Pollution From Euro-Techo. OK, I made that up, but even an offer to strut the red carpet on the arm of Johnny Depp for the premiere of "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" could not persuade me to part ways with my pack of squishy, neon, sound-blocking ear pellets.
Like many of the puffy-eyed festival regulars here, I share my street with a nightclub whose bongo beats crescendo into blaring house music at sunrise. It's popular with the locals, apparently.

Those working the party circuit are beginning to look a little worn around the edges, including blink-and-you-missed-her Penélope Cruz at the Hollywood Domino party Monday night.

Watching the head valet at the celeb-packed Martinez hotel is like observing a manic basketball coach -- whipping out onto the Croisette to whistle down a cab for somebody one minute, then parking a vintage American car for some young peacock the next. But I feel the most sympathy for the p.r. minions who are working the tents: a series of temporary white plastic structures that line the beach here and host promotional events for stars and film companies.

Never mind the levels of BlackBerry radiation: They're faced with a relentless flow of wannabes, wily ticket-seeking journalists, celebrity-stalking snappers and real stars. (Since being here, Evangeline Lilly, Eva Longoria Parker and Tony Parker, Mariah Carey, Abbie Cornish -- and even aging popsters Spandeau Ballet -- have flowed through the doors of Nikki Beach, just to give an idea).

Once past the door sentries, most parties prove disappointing - even tacky. For all its glamorous reputation, Cannes equals kitsch-ville on many levels (think: sax players tooting live over techno in neon-lit clubs). The best events are those that precious few know about, and even the most expert gatecrashers can forget attempting entry.

One uninvited guest who managed to slip his way into the Chopard Trophy party VIP lounge at Le Baoli admitted it was his second choice after failing to crash billionaire Paul Allen's yacht party. "They actually had face scans and were scanning the barcode on people's tickets, then destroying them," he said incredulously.
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