Maura Judkis: Will work for freebies

Get a job like this one, and hang on to it as long as you can.

I worked as both the arts and special projects editor, for the same meager pay that the rest of the Hatchet staff received, but with one major perk – swag. Most of my weekends out have been subsidized by tickets from press screenings; CDs and bestsellers on my shelves have “promotional advance copy” stamped on their covers. Yes, life is sweet when you write arts and entertainment, as you skip lines to get into sold-out concerts, see movies weeks before they come out and meet the occasional visiting celebrity to chat. I have those traditional graduation fears of course – How will I pay my bills? Where will I live? But also: How will I survive without publicists adding me to press lists? Four years of free entertainment has flown by quickly. I’ve gotta find another gig like this one, and soon.

So, in lieu of advice (which, if I were to offer, it would be to find something you love to do as much as I loved writing about the arts, and stick with it), I’ll give you something that I’ve done much better in the Scene and the Insider anyway – entertainment. I’ve written a lot of stories throughout the years, but what appeared on the pages of the paper was not nearly the half of it. Reporters all have war stories, but mine have tended to be more glamorous than most, involving making a fool of myself in front of celebrities, usually.

For example, last year’s Mark Twain Awards at the Kennedy Center was my first time covering a genuine red carpet event. I put on some heels and a red dress, arranged my hair in a chignon, and headed down the Hall of States in search of the press table, which was nowhere to be found. Concierge told me it was in the Hall of Nations, which, for this event, was the red carpet, where limos were lined up to deposit their celebrity contents. I headed towards the paparazzi and commotion, where I was stopped by a burly security guard. “You can’t come through here,” he said. “I’m looking for the press check-in,” I said. And then he made a colossal mistake. He waved me through to walk down the red carpet. In front of me, Claire Danes got out of a limo, and having no other place to go, I followed. Larry David was in front of her. Diane Keaton is super pretty in person. Flashbulbs went off all around, but not for long – a man with a walkie-talkie noticed the imposter, and cut off my red carpet stroll halfway down, with a terse “I don’t think you belong here,” leading me directly to the unglamorous press table. The next day, I looked at photos of Danes at the event to see if I was in the background of any of them. I might have seen my elbow.

Soon after, Jon Stewart arrived on campus for Colonials Weekend, and I clutched my press pass and headed to the racquetball court in the Smith Center where the Daily Show funnyman would be answering questions from student press. I don’t remember what I asked him. I do, however, remember lining up with other student press to have our photos taken with him after the session. When it was my turn, we stood side-by-side and he awkwardly put his arm around me. “This is like, the best prom ever!” said Jon Stewart. I cracked up. The camera clicked. This is how the greatest Facebook photo in the history of Facebook photos came to be.

And then, there was the story of what should have been my best celebrity conquest – meeting my favorite author, humorist David Sedaris. He rarely tours the U.S., but in 2005 he ended up in GW’s own Lisner Auditorium. This is what was supposed to happen: I would arrive at Lisner and charm Sedaris with my wit and sarcasm during the interview, he would ask to see my writing and decide he wanted to make me his prot?g?, and fame and fortune would ensue. What happened instead was that, the morning of his show, I was hit by a car that jumped the light at Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead of chatting with Sedaris about his craft, I waited on a cold metal table for X-rays of my hips and tailbone, the latter of which turned out to be fractured. Fortunately, my neighbor was gracious enough to take my copy of one of his books to be signed, as a consolation while I lay in bed under the influence of massive doses of Percocet. She handed him the book, told him about me and what had happened that day, and when she handed it back to me I flipped to the title page. It read, in his facetious, scrawling handwriting, “Dear Maura, I was the driver. -David Sedaris.”

But if this were the Academy Awards, they would be cuing the orchestra music by now, so it’s time for some thank you’s before they usher me off the stage.

Sarah Brown, despite dozens of roadblocks, the Insider is a beauty because of you. Thanks also to Caitlin, Erin, Howie and everyone else who had a hand in getting the magazine off the ground.

Thanks to Michael Barnett for sending me to the Scientology Center to learn about L. Ron Hubbard, and to Sacha Evans for turning over the arts section, as well as a desk plastered with cat pictures, to me.

Jeffrey Parker – When you’re writing for Rolling Stone, can I still be your plus one at concerts? When you and Jeff Tweedy are on a first-name basis, will you introduce me to him? Brendan Polmer – Your nanner pancakes are delectable, and even more so at 4 a.m. I have no doubt that you’ll do great things for the arts section next year.

Josh Stager – You’re delightfully catty, which is why we get along so well. My favorite memories of college certainly will include deliriously printing out faux headlines at 2 a.m. on Tuesday nights to plaster to the production walls – particularly, “Shit hits the Fanning,” referring to child star/robot Dakota, of course. Thanks for the gratuitous Kirstie Alley jokes, and your constant support. Long live the ever-appropriate Left Eye casa.

Erin Dumbacher and the Girls of 619 – It was a privilege to live with you. Thanks for being my interview subjects (Erin), models (girls), for the Project Runway viewings and for throwing the best theme parties that ever were.

Mom and Dad, Annie and Will – You’ve put up with a lot of teary phone calls over the years. Thanks for listening (Dad), for the occasional dose of reality (Mom), and for reminding me not to work too hard (Will and Annie). Did you ever think that the little tree story would turn into this?

I have no words of graduate wisdom to offer – hell, I’m trying to find them for myself. But people like to read advice in these 30 inches of text by the departing Hatcheteers, so that’s what I’ll leave you with. Not my own, of course, since we’re all faking that old-wise-graduate thing anyway. Instead, here’s Dorothy Parker on our collective chosen career: “I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money.”

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