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November 05, 2008

Agents of change: Obama fans swarm Century City

Is there a colder, sleeker, more soulless place on Earth than Century City?

Century City, that tiny, steep, cluster of West LA high-rise buildings, that pricey daytime home to lawyers, talent agents and entertainment executives. That vacant nighttime home to security patrols and shoppers at the Century City mall. Fox’s famed "Die Hard" building. CAA's so-called "Death Star." MGM's sleek tower.

And the regal-yet-drab hotel -- the Hyatt Regent Century Plaza -- host to the area's official Barack Obama victory party Tuesday night.

Yes, Los Angeles is heavily Democratic. But as anybody who has been to a rock concert here can attest, our locals don't do joy very well. We do cool, fine. Sarcastic great. Impatient excellent. Smart sporadic. Ambitious constant. But joy? Our hair is too neat, our clothes too expensive and our demeanor practically British in its wary reserve.

Which made it all the more amazing to see thousands of well-dressed, well-heeled, well-toned West L.A. citizens absolutely lose their shit Tuesday night.

The line outside the Hyatt wound around the block, with all hoping to get into the Obama victory party. Everybody knew the math didn't make any sense. There's no way the hotel ballroom would contain even half of these people. Nobody cared, they just wanted to be around others that felt the same way they did. For the first time ever when waiting outside an LA event, getting inside the party didn't matter.

When the official call was made – "President-elect Barack Obama" -- the message came through on BlackBerrys and cell phones. The line erupted in victory screams. Passing cars honked. A group rushed out of line to press up against the windows of the luxurious Equinox fitness center. The flat-screen monitors inside showed Obama being called the 44th president of the United States. Perfectly fit gym-goers stepping away on Equinox's elliptical machines coolly regarded the hysterical maniacs pressed against their windows. While those of us in line wondered: Who is at the gym on a night like this?

The crowd spilled into the street. Police cars rushed up, officers yelled at agents and publicists and executive assistants and lawyers and every other stripe of West L.A. local to get the hell out of the road.

Above, a helicopter shined its spotlight down on us. Obama supporters -- some of the women in dresses and some of the men in suits -- jumped in the light. A man in line: "That's the first time I ever seen a police helicopter in Century City."

The word traveled down the line that the Fire Marshall has shut down the party. The police started blocking off the street. In Equinox, the dispassionate gym-goers continued their endless staircases. Their TV screens showed Obama supporters jumping and screaming in Chicago, New York, Kenya and elsewhere.

It was not like a president was elected. The scene was like something from a silly summer movie where a hostile alien invasion is defeated and there are scenes of celebration from around the world. One of those cinematic moments of unity and joy, devoid of cynicism, that never actually happen in real life. Like in "Independence Day" or "Armageddon." Where a global threat is defeated after a long struggle, and Americans led the way.


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