Celebrity Incontinence and €100 Tips. Secrets Of A Cannes Film Festival Waitress

It's far from the glamorous view the film festival organisers would have you believe


by Sophie Cullinane |
Published on

For us normal folk, the enduring images of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, which ended last weekend, will no doubt revolve around the red carpet. Whether it’s Uma Thurman in Kill Bill yellow, Kristin Stewart in a sequin jumpsuit or that weirdo who climbed up America Ferrera’s skirt, our impressions of the historic film festival are inevitably framed by the glossy pictures that make into onto our Twitter feeds and the Mail Online's sidebar of shame. But, for a 28 year old waitress who’s worked at a swanky restaurant bar and nightclub chain in Cannes during the festival for the least four years– let’s call her Emily – there is another image from the festival that she’s going to find incredibly difficult to shake.

‘It was one o’clock in the morning and I was already six hours into my shift with no real hope of getting home until 6am. My feet were killing and an over-weight drunken idiot wearing a massive gaudy watch had just shouted at me (spitting in my mouth as he did so) for getting his drink order wrong. Basically, I was totally over it and decided to take myself off to the bathroom for five minutes to lay low,’ Emily tells* The Debrief.*

In between worrying if working in the sun, the occasional hefty tip and a nightly celebrity sighting was enough to justify how exhausted she currently felt, Emily heard two girls talking to each other in a stage whisper in the neighbouring cubicle. She recalls, ‘I could here them chatting and not so subtly racking up lines of (what I assume was) coke, but then the mood seemed to change and I could hear one of the girls freaking out a bit while her friend tried to reassure her. None of this is at all unusual when you’re working during the festival, but at least these two made the effort to do their coked-up rowing in the toilet, which is more than I could say for a lot of the film industry and fashion types who come into the bar. But when they pair came out of the toilet, I suddenly saw the need for some privacy, because one of them was a very famous English actress who was once one half of an even more famous celebrity couple. Clearly wasted, she stumbled passed me without acknowledging my presence and went back into the bar. While I washed my hands, I nosily glanced back at the cubicle to see if they’d left any incriminating evidence and got more than I bargained for – a soiled pair of nude underwear. No wonder the actress had seemed panicked. She’d done so much coke she’d shat herself.’

Emily’s first reaction was to wonder how much money she could make from the scene she had just witnessed, but she knew that that telling the press about anything she saw celebrities doing wasn’t really an option. She explains: ‘I’ve been working for the same family of venues in Cannes for the last four years and the restaurant, bar and nightclub are regular celebrity haunts, either for private events or as a place to have a drink before they board the dozens of super-yachts in the harbour. In the four years I’ve worked there, I’ve seen dozens of actors and actresses openly do cocaine and drink to such excess that they’ve had to be escorted through the kitchens of the nightclub by their assistants. I’ve also seen a married actor openly kissing a much younger, male journalist. I’ve never been made to sign anything to say I wouldn’t speak about what I witness, but a massive portion of my job is to make sure that all of the clients feel comfortable and like they can kind of get away with murder. I have to admit, though, with the hours I work there are definitely times I’ve been tempted.’

Emily started working at the Cannes Film Festival four years ago when her family friend hooked her up with a waitressing job. At the time, she was working at a bar in London part-time and couldn’t really afford a holiday, so the idea of combining waitressing with a bit of sunshine and celebrity spotting sounded appealing. At first she worked six-hour shifts in a restaurant for seven euros an hour cash-in-hand (Emily says this isn’t uncommon because people take on more staff during this period, paying them cash so they can pay them less), but after her boss realised she was ‘a natural’ with a whole range of customers, from locals to industry legends, he offered her shifts at a bar and nightclub that he also owned – a favourite venue for the visiting film industry biggest names. It meant working gruelling 11-12 hour days, but it also opened Emily up to the possibility of making much more money in tips – she was once given €100 – and to get an insider glimpse of the life of the A-list. She was pretty disappointed by what she discovered.

‘Before I worked here, I expected the Cannes Festival to be all day, wall-to-wall glamour but, to be honest, most of it feels like a corporate trade show,’ says Emily. ‘It’s a few minutes – maximum – a day of celebs looking incredible in dresses or spotted in a car or on a yacht. But, for the most part, the people you serve are very stressed-out, busy-looking journalists and behind-the-scenes industry people who have about 35 seconds to spare to down a coffee and a Panini before descending into the insanely over-crowded Grand Theatre Lumiere and the surrounding press-conferences and screenings. It feels like Oxford Street in London during the sales – total pandemonium.'

Emily insists that, despite the fact they are all drinking and appearing to have a good time, most of the stars who are seen in the bars in town have a hidden agenda. ‘The celebrities who don’t want to get seen all go on to private parties on the yachts in the harbour – most of the events that go on at the nightclub where I work will be corporate events sponsored by a big companies, usually a drinks brand,' shares Emily. 'So often when you hear reports about people going to a celebrities “birthday”, the celebs are all likely being paid to be there and be photographed at the event and we usually only serve one kind of drink. Nothing is natural and most of it is pre-planned. We’ll get a call telling us when a celebrity is going to arrive and I’ve heard the paparazzi get a similar warning. Inside the club, there are roped-off areas for the celebs getting paid to be there and their entourage, and that’s often where you see the drug-taking going on. Then, in the wee hours of the morning, the whole lot of them descend on to yachts and get on with their own party. There’s hardly any interaction with the celebs, who mostly speak through their assistants.’

That doesn’t mean that she’s exempt from insider gossip. As well as seeing which celebrities are copping off with each other and who’s the most wrecked, Emily also gets to hear about the worst reviews during the festival from speaking to industry sources. She says, ‘This year, it definitely seems to be true that Ryan Reynold’s film, The Captive, got booed by audiencesand people were slagging it off all week. People also hated Grace Of Monaco, which was laughed at by reviewers on the first day. It’s funny, because I’m actually an avid film fan, but I feel like I know the films so well just by listening to what people say about them that I don’t have to listen to the reviews. I know some reviewers feel the same – I’ve seen a number of them miss films because they were enjoying a nice boozy lunch only to see their review up online the next day. To be honest, from the top to the bottom, a lot of the festival feels like an exercise in smoke and mirrors.’

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiecullinane

Picture: Rory DCS

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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