In 2001, Warners Brothers held a double screening of their upcoming summer movies A.I. and Cats & Dogs at the Steven J. Ross Theater on the Warners lot. They did this because the hype around A.I. had reached a fever pitch and they knew that the press would do anything to see the movie – even cover a talking animal film that, frankly, most of the reporters weren’t as interested in.
I met up with my fellow junketeer, Andy Jones of E! Online outside in the big line to get in. We were wanded, searched and sent in – chatting the whole time about how silly it all was, but then we took our seats and waited to be shown genius. The movie begins and a reverential hush falls over the assembled audience, waiting to see the first Spielberg movie in three years, the first since his Best Director win for Saving Private Ryan and one that had been made behind a closely guarded curtain of silence, Spielberg picking up the pieces from the legendary Stanley Kubrick to realize both of their visions in what was sure to be a cinematic masterpiece.
Okay, so do you remember the scene about fifteen minutes in where Frances O’Connor just gets creeped out by Haley Joel Osment’s child-robot David character so much so that she has to step out of the room and there’s that shot of Osment through the multi-paned glass, all “What’s wrong, Mommy?”
At that moment, Andy turned to me and asked the question that no one in the audience would let themselves ask: “Um…what the hell is wrong with that boy?!”
I tried not to laugh and from there on out, I just kind of checked out of the movie, watched the thing and, even now, it’s still not my favorite Spielberg flick. But, honestly, sometimes you’re watching something, not sure if it’s “you or the movie” and you kind of glance around to see what everyone else is thinking. Are they engrossed? Or similarly shaking their heads?
But this was not a problem for my pal, Andy – oh, certainly not. He saw bullshit. He cried bullshit. End of story.
Which is why this news came like a punch in the gut.
I got an e-mail this morning saying that Andy had had a heart attack last night at a movie screening. Then, a couple hours later, I got a second note saying that he had passed away on the way to the hospital. I haven’t cried this much since I was a kid.
Andy Jones aka Anderson Jones II was one of the coolest, most fun, most entertaining, most outspoken, most outrageous reporters on the west coast junket circuit. He wrote for everybody, but most probably knew him from his writing on E! Online (and more recently, FilmStew.com) as well as appearing in this E! True Hollywood Story or that as an expert on all sorts of random pieces of pop culture. I would see him on the weekends for the junkets, weekday nights for the press screenings and occasionally during a weekday for set visits. Yes, it’s the same big group of people at all of these, but Andy was the guy I gravitated towards, would sit at the same junket table as and who – yes – I would occasionally exchange a “greeting” kiss square on the lips (our twin mounds of facial stubble crackling like sagebrush) with as, well, you sometimes need something to shake you out of the stupor of the junket routine.
But yes, Andy was divisive as all hell. There were as many publicists who hated him as loved him, and the same could be said about his colleagues. There were reporters who refused to be in a junket room with him, but then there were plenty who would seek out wherever he had put his generally bright orange messenger bag and file in alongside. To take it one step further, there were plenty of celebrities who loved Andy nine ways to Tuesday – just as many as there were ones who wished they would never, ever, ever see him again.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, unlike 99% of the entertainment press corps, EVERYBODY had an opinion on Anderson Jones.
I was in the camp that loved him, obviously. The job becomes a grind like anything else – the junkets, the screenings, etc. – but Andy was always fun to go to work with. I would see him socially as well, sometimes, though that was rare – often months apart. I can’t help but regret that now. He’s the kind of guy you looked up to. When other people in the junket rooms would just nod politely, do whatever was asked of them by the studio, and play ball (myself included), Andy would speak up, occasionally get thrown out, but always manage to sneak back in. I swear to God, I still don’t know what happened at the double-junket for Jeepers Creepers 2 and Cabin Fever, but after there was all this chatter going on with him finally being shown the door, he was at my roundtable fifteen minutes later asking his questions and going to town like nothing happened.
There are so, so many Andy Jones stories – too many to tell (including very nice ones like the time he knew I was dead broke and championed my cause at E! Online until I landed a well-paying job writing about comic book movies for them). But that said, I’ve been debating this entire write-up whether or not to include the fact that his heart attack took place at a screening of A Mighty Heart, as the off-color jokes write themselves. I made this my decision now because I know that if it happened to anybody else, at the next junket, Andy would make the cracks himself that no one else would say – just a quick, shocking aside that would make some frown, others laugh nervously and a yutz like me just sit there and giggle like a twelve year-old who had just said, “vagina” in church.
I realize now that it has actually been over a year since I’ve seen Andy. I caught sight of him outside of House of Pies in Los Feliz one night, but that doesn’t count. I was at the Arclight Theater – sadly, the place where Andy had his heart attack – with my friend Mike last spring to see Slither. The premiere of Phat Girlz was going on outside with rain tarps over the red carpet and Mike and I had to negotiate all the security and nonsense to get inside. But then there, in the lobby, was Andy. I probably hadn’t seen him in months (Comic Con, maybe?), but it was still a big hug, a kiss (on the cheek this time), and a quick, animated chat before he had to get to work on the press line and we had to check out the Gunn flick.
Before we parted ways, he gave me his business card. It’s simple – black type on a white background – with “Anderson Jones II” written imperiously over his address on Normandie. In the lower right corner is his phone number and e-mail address. In the lower left, the words: “Open 24 Hours” and under it: “For Hire.” No hint of occupation, press affiliation, etc.
But the thing that catches your eye is actually what is written – in tiny letters and, actually, within quotation marks above his name as he is quoting himself. It reads: “I am legendary. You are not.”
That’s Andy Jones. I miss him already. I genuinely cannot believe he’s gone. Rest in peace, dear friend.
A note on the photos. The first one is Andy pretending to hold a Saturn Award in the press room at the 2003 Saturns (humorously enough, moments before Spielberg came in after winning “Best Screenplay” for A.I.) though honestly, it just looks like he needs to be handed a cocktail. The second one is from the set of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Just one of those shots where you’re taking a bunch of snaps and you just turn and take one of your friend looking at something random. I wish I had backed up just a little as, in this photo, he is actually wearing neon orange pants.
EDIT: Hold the phone. Found another snap. There are the pants.