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May 8, 2009 5:26 PM

Eye, Fashion

Waiting for Kiefer

Around 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, the skies above the intersection of Varick Street and Ericsson Place in TriBeCa opened up. A flock of preschoolers ran in and out of sheets of rain from beneath a large awning. They laughed...

Around 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, the skies above the intersection of Varick Street and Ericsson Place in TriBeCa opened up. A flock of preschoolers ran in and out of sheets of rain from beneath a large awning. They laughed in total amusement while their teachers looked on.

A few hundred feet east on Ericsson, a crowd of about 40 photographers and cameramen stood behind metal barriers in front of the New York Police Department's First Precinct. They huddled under beach umbrellas and plastic ponchos and refused to seek refuge from the downpour. Kiefer Sutherland could arrive at any minute to turn himself over to police.

This is the kind of symbolism a decent fiction editor might call too obvious. It's hard, though, to deny the slightly childish air that surrounds a celebrity perp walk.

Sutherland was to surrender on a misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly head-butting Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough earlier in the week at a party following the Met Costume Gala. The designer reportedly suffered a laceration on his nose in the Tuesday morning scuffle at the Mercer Hotel and filed a criminal complaint against Sutherland.

Acting on tips Sutherland's lawyers arranged for his surrender at the First Precinct, the media scrum began assembling as early as 9 o'clock Thursday morning. No one seemed sure when, or even if, Sutherland would show up.

The station's desk officer made it clear she did not have an answer on a morning phone call.
 
"This is getting old," she said with an annoyed sigh. "I don't know. I don't work for him."

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Around midday, another officer added to the anxiety. He explained Sutherland could technically surrender to any cop in the city if he wanted to.
 
And so the photographers were left to wait and hope. They passed the time making coffee runs and riffing on what they might shout to the actor when he arrived.

"Any future plans to head-butt John Galliano?" won a healthy round of laughs.

 At first glance it might have seemed inefficient for the small army of cameramen to wait for eight hours to get what equated to no more than 30 seconds of usable footage. The secondary crowd that formed around the lenses proved their worth, though.

A teenage girl who passed by shortly after Sutherland finally entered the precinct at a little after 4 p.m. made the point succinctly: "Kiefer Sutherland's in here right now!?," shouted the girl, who could not have been born when "The Lost Boys" played in theaters. "Jack Bauer!?" she screamed.
 
It was a primer in the pop culture force that is "24" for those who might not have kept up with the actor's television work.

The two hours Sutherland spent in the station house coincided with closing time at the neighborhood's various office buildings. By 5:30, a steady stream of professional types filled the sidewalk between the precinct's doors and waiting photographers. Every third or fourth passerby asked what was going on. "Jack Bauer, that's your guy from '24!'" a woman who looked to be about post-college age said to her boyfriend.

"Come on, we're late," the boyfriend replied as he smiled and tried to continue up the sidewalk.

By the time Sutherland emerged a half hour later with a fresh desk summons, the woman had made her way into press pen and was intently snapping pictures with her BlackBerry.

The actor smiled and waved -- but did not speak -- as he walked briskly to the backseat of an awaiting car.
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