Inside the InterContinental Hotel: deep in the trenches of TIFF, where publicists, celebrities and journalists collide

Inside the InterContinental Hotel: deep in the trenches of TIFF, where publicists, celebrities and journalists collide

The celebs may rest their weary heads at the Four Seasons, but in the daytime they are marched through Yorkville by irate L.A. agents and no-bull Toronto publicists to endless media interviews at the InterContinental Hotel. Once hidden behind closed hotel room doors, the famous begin an onslaught of demands and exasperated complaints: • “I’m parched like an overworked mule, and I am experiencing tingling on my entire left side!” • “Don’t you have a vegan menu? I’m lactose intolerant.” • “Is there no way we can make this room feel less like a prostitute’s lair?”

Low-rankers are ordered to buy menthol cigarettes and Advil, while hotel employees are chastised for tardy deliveries of prosciutto and melon for stars with special dietary requirements. Nothing ever seems fast enough, and the claustrophobic hallways are always too hot.

And that’s just the celebs. Running on no sleep and subsisting on coffee and Emergen-C, the press and industry hacks have equally short tempers. If you dare to speak loudly while rustling down the hall, a piercing “Shhhh!” will be shot in your direction, complete with livid stink eye. This is the media world in the trenches, and it’s not glamorous in the least.

By far the worst-off creatures at the InterContinental, though, are the PR peeps. When the exhausted publicists aren’t slumped against a wall inhaling the leftovers of Sofia Coppola’s Kobe beef burger from Lobby (an insider scoop), they’re giddy with excitement over how gorgeous Viggo is or how Gael García remembers their name. Lacking any real nutrients and pumped up on caffeine, they survive on tides of adrenalin spiked with constantly vibrating BlackBerrys. While stealing pens, slamming phones and bitching about scheduling, publicists will be bribed with ice cream sandwiches for sought-after party tickets. It takes an intuitive mind to distinguish the ally from the enemy.

A successful day ends with 20 interviews, an improvised bath in a hotel lobby sink, and a quick change of attire. If the publicists are lucky, they might gnaw on a stray apple before being forced to guzzle cocktails and hobnob with boozy schmucks, discussing who saw who, when and where. A slice of loud laughter will be abruptly cut off when a panicky late-night phone call announces the first urgent problem to solve in the morning.

It’s a battle for the most coveted press, and only the thick skinned survive. —Jen McNeely