Last Wednesday, more than 150 fans and journalists boarded a Boeing 777 with pop-star Rihanna, heading out for a seven-day, seven-country, seven-concert tour imaginatively entitled #777Tour. But after a frenzied, drunken take-off, the tour has descended into naked, mutinous madness, led by the wild, nude, harmonica-playing Australian contingent.
We asked one of the Rihanna 150 to tell us the story of their sleep-and-bathroom-deprived captivity. The communique we received is the Argo of #777Tour.
Here's the thing: on the surface, it sounded like so much fun.
Seven glamorous cities (or, okay — six and Toronto) enjoying a private plane, intimate performances, free hotels and star-studded after parties with Rihanna.
Even if you're not the biggest fan of her or even of pop music, it doesn't sound so bad. Some of us bragged on Facebook and Twitter. Our friends asked: would there be WEEEEEEED on the plane? Would Chris Brown show up? Are you going to try to have SEX with her?
And we were like, Totally, guys. Totally. I'd be lying if I say I wasn't doing a whole lot of hubristic "U MAD?"-ing to blogger friends and people who made fun of my teeth in high school.
And at first, it all seemed like it was going to go so well. She "interacted" with us on the first day, sloppily pouring champagne into our outstretched plastic tumblers, demanding that we spend the week "partying" with her, and even challenging a sexy young English journalist to a "Zoolander"-style plane aisle walk-off.
Maybe, MAYBE I idly entertained thoughts of Rihanna and me, walking arm and arm into one of those cheap nail salons. We'd wear huge-logo sunglasses and read about her in foot-bath-splashed US magazines, still so giddy from brunch that I tell that dude-with-the-funny-balls-story that even the nail technicians laugh softly while gently removing her previous Swarovski gel pedi.
But after that first, coruscating appearance, Rihanna was gone. And I do mean gone.
I hesitate to say that she looked visibly drunk or generally "on some of the hard shit" during her performances, so let me just say that we came to expect a three hour delay before she went on every night.
She barely does any of her own singing, which isn't a huge pearl-clutcher, but at least Britney danced a little. For Rihanna, just licking her lips during a song constitutes a taxing, elaborate physical routine that deserves a couple of mid-performance tequila shots.
The fans who won seats on the plane from radio and Internet promotions went from feeling a little disappointed that they hadn't seen more of the main attraction to wondering miserably when they'd be able to sleep or go home. That is not something you're supposed to feel when you win a fabulous contest, probably.
The journalists agonized vocally and collectively about how to post anything resembling newsworthy on a daily basis. What do you file when you are rarely allowed outside of buses or planes or hotel "day stays" (read: naps, for those who can take them) except to see some visibly bored Barbadian wearing a t-shirt as a dress doing robotic, indifferent karaoke?
The shows are hilariously rote. "What the fuck is up, Mexico City?" "What the fuck is up, Toronto?" "What the fuck is up, Paris?" "What the fuck is up, [Insert Epcot Center City Here]?" followed by a tight sixty minutes of lip synching and lethargic thigh-slapping.
At least Johnny Cash did his own singing, and when he was too drunk to do that, occasionally collapsed into the footlights to give everybody a little thrill.
The parts we love the best are when she "ad libs," gives a "special fan" an HTC phone (hahahahhahahahah), or pretends like she "just heard" someone request "What's My Name?", which she somehow sings while holding the mic at her crotch, air-chewing invisible Big League Chew and staring into the wings.
Please don't misunderstand: we were mostly all VERY excited to be a part of this.
But this was work for a lot of us, and one person was basically responsible for not only regularly keeping us from doing our jobs, but from sleeping or eating or going outside or even using a bathroom.
A frequent complaint on the trip? Some variation of "I want a glass of water so badly, but I guess I should be glad I don't, because then I'd have to pee."
It is hard to pee when you are trapped on a bus with no bathrooms for hours and hours because you don't know when you can board your plane. I get the vitriol being directed at the press here. We're on a free trip to Europe (fun!) and with Rihanna (again, theoretically fun!) and drink from the jet's copious Ace supply (D.C. al Fine!). But if being upset that we couldn't work, drink water or piss regularly makes us privileged dicks, I guess we're privileged dicks.
OK, there have been some bright spots. When we ARE on the plane, we are fed and kept in fluids alcoholic and non by the incredible flight crew. They. Are. Excellent. Let it not go unmentioned that the staff of the 777 have treated us like gold. They are working hard and are excellent company and great sports.
Additionally, as on most awful press trips, the camaraderie is unparalleled. As Fuse's Esteban Serran pointed out, the "riot" was almost a good thing for the journalists: "We were looking for a story, and we've turned out to be the story." I'd go a step further and say, "Delirious and denied a story, some drunk Aussies made one."
Many of us here have gone on tour with artists before, but none of us recalls being on one where they didn't make sure we were at least able to bathe and sleep or get a modicum of taxed-but-gracious face time with the artist. Omarion was brought up as a shining example, if that gives you some perspective.
If you resent the Rihannaplane 150 that's fine. We understand. We would resent us if we were not here.
But please picture what it would be like going to your job if there was no toilet, kitchen, water fountain, faucet, or lunch break, and instead of going home at the end of the night, they made you wait standing up in an airport while the person responsible for determining when you go home laid around getting fucked up and wearing European money like pasties. (Ed. note: See above.)
That's the clearest way I can try to explain what might seem to the outside observer to be a disproportionate discontent on an otherwise once-in-a-lifetime sort of opportunity.
And to the good (seriously, good) people running to 777 Tour for IDJ and UMG, let me paraphrase Mary Poppins, "Though we adore you individually, we agree that as an idea, this was rather stupid."
*Incidentally, it's been fun to hear from the commentariat who wish we would crash. You seem really great; hope they put you on the next Rihannaplane.
Throughout the #777Tour, Gawker.com will be bringing you updates about the status, location, activities and smells of the Rihanna Plane and its inhabitants, cobbled together from the infrequent, incomplete dispatches of the embedded Rihanna correspondents.