Red carpets are always related to a special event. After the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution, red carpets were apparently associated with power and wealth. Train companies started using them for their clients to board trains. Hotels spread them at their entrances. One of my first children’s books was by German author James Krüss; it told the story of a red carpet that “misbehaves”. It rolls way farther than the curbside of the hotel – it rolls through town and towards a ferry landing to welcome a president. So, even as a kid who wasn’t able to read, I knew that red carpets were something special.
There must have been countless red carpets in my life, though, that didn’t register. For the life of me, I can’t even remember whether the carpet in the aisle I walked down towards the altar with my husband was red or something else. It was not about the carpet, after all.
In June 2007, I traveled to Los Angeles to report about an international trade show. One early night, a friend of mine and I walked towards the former Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, when we realized that an event must be going on. The curb was fenced off to let people emerge from limousines onto a red carpet into the blinding lights of some very few paparazzi. It must have been extremely early, as there wasn’t even much of an audience around. And the people who walked the red carpet didn’t mean a thing to me. I was quite knowledgeable about even upcoming starlets back in the day. They might have been aspiring starlets. Today, I have to admit, I would only recognize the old guard – I stopped reading the yellow press when I lost the purpose of finding some gossipy story to leisurely open a conversation with business partners. But that red carpet in L.A. stuck with me – and that it signified an event meaningless to me for people who didn’t mean a thing to me.
Did I ever walk a red carpet? Indeed, I did. That was back in the day when I was the lead key spouse of an Air Force squadron on McChord Air Force Base.
I knew I was going to the Annual Awards night that was celebrated in style at the Club. It made no sense to me when my husband drove me up to the movie theater, but there were other people waiting in the foyer there, too. There was tenseness in the air. I might have been the only one totally relaxed until my husband told me that his squadron had thrown my name into the hat for the entire base’s title of “Key Spouse of the Year”. I was speechless, and you know that’s a rare one …
Long story short, the evening had a Hollywood theme, and we were picked up by a stretch limousine to be driven to the main entrance of the Club. I can tell you, I’ll never get into a stretch limousine of my own free will again – it’s awkward to get in and out elegantly. Oh yes, we already discussed awkward moments last week, didn’t we?!
Anyhow, there was a red carpet. Some Air Force people posed as paparazzi holding filmless cameras just for the sake of flashlights. Somebody pushed a real camera and microphone into my face to get some short answers to some short questions, and as soon as I was inside the building, I was old news, and the next person outside was in the limelight.
It was a beautiful evening. I made Key Spouse of the Year that night. It was a night I’ll never forget for all the special effort some people had made to celebrate the annual award winners. But to be honest, if the carpet hadn’t been red, it would have been just as great. Because, in the end, it’s about the people and the celebration, not about the color of the carpet you walk.