The 'Sex and the City' and 'Late Night With David Letterman' scribe, who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr., reports from the pussy-hat-packed streets of Women's March L.A. as Hollywood women who joined protests across the country share their passion for change: "I haven't done near enough."
You have to be galvanized to go to a march. Or, as Webster further elaborates, "jolted, shocked, impelled, stirred, spurred, prodded, urged, motivated, stimulated, electrified, excited, roused, awakened." I was one of 750,000 people, at last count, who have had a building sense of all of those things since the election. So there we all were Jan. 21 at the Women's March L.A.
I had a feeling it would be a pretty big crowd because every time I mentioned it, people I knew said they were planning to attend. But since parking in Los Angeles presents a problem in even the most ideal of circumstances, everyone also had the same solution: Why not take public transportation?
That's why my friend, her eighth grade daughter, her daughter's friend and I decided to get to the Metro station at 8 a.m. in a futile attempt to outsmart the situation. Though the trains were running on time, a detail I'm sure President Trump will want to take credit for despite the fact that he'd only been in office for less than a day, our car was so tightly packed with humanity that if it had lurched to a halt, and we had been a cartoon, we would have tumbled into a pile of tangled human fettuccine, then exited as a molded block of a Metro car with feet and hair.
Once we were out on the street, we were instantly a part of an endless tributary of sign-bearing people. Most were women, but there were more men and trans people than I expected. Quite a few were wearing those home made pussy hats, which were a little too Hello Kitty for my tastes. I confess I was secretly hoping for a more disturbing variation of hat made to look like a vagina.
Since we arrived about an hour early, the young mothers and their eighth grade daughters with whom I was marching had time to compare notes. This was the first march most of them had attended. It turned out I was the grizzled veteran in our group, a girl who not only participated in a Martin Luther King Jr. civil rights march and rally, along with several anti-Vietnam War marches, but also went to UC Berkeley in the days when the same irritating people who say "Hollyweird" used to call it "Berzerkly." Therefore, I was the only member of the group in a position to make comparisons. So I can say, without hesitation, that Women's March L.A. was by far the largest march I've ever attended and the most festive.
Then there's this: A rage-filled march feels better when it's mostly women.
Another obvious distinction was the signage. Back in the olden days, signs often were produced and distributed by organizers. Therefore they were limited to a set of boilerplate slogans pertinent to the cause. For the civil rights rallies they all said things like “We demand equal rights NOW.“ During the Vietnam war, they said “Hell no, we won’t go” and “Bring our troops home NOW.”
The first indication I had that the women’s march was doing things differently was when I started hearing about sign-making parties. Not only were there few if any professionally made signs in evidence on Saturday, but many looked like the result of a burst of creativity. The age of Twitter and the internet hath wrought wittier, pithier signs. There were many versions of "Make America Great Again" with "Great" replaced by words like "Kind," "Think" and "Gay" — and lots of one-offs: "Lock him up!," "Nyet my president," "I've seen better cabinets at Ikea." And the plaintive "Melania, blink three times for help."
Looking around at the group of strangers with whom I was now trapped on an unbelievably crowded street, with as little breathing room as that metro car we’d just gotten off, it occurred to me that they were the least Angeleno-looking group of women I'd seen in a while. If there were any members of what one friend calls "The Tribe" (the spray tan, cheek implant and Botox set), they were incognito as sensible, distinctly un-vain, take-no-prisoners women; cheerful but politely pissed off, ready to roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes.
“This is so cathartic being here,” said one woman.
“The thing I like best is there are no assholes,” said another.
“I feel like I’m in a scene from The Hunger Games,” said a third.
Then there was my friend’s eight-grade daughter, a self-proclaimed environmental activist, who I overheard telling her friend “People ask me what I want to be when I grow up. And I’m like … there are so many millions of things!” She was a big part of the reason we were all here: to insure that she and her friends and cohorts grow up in a world where those millions of things remain a possibility.
By now, the narrow street, on which we were tightly wedged between an office building and an immigration attorney’s office (an address which might prove handy if Donald Trump’s dementia allows him to remember what he promised on the campaign trail) was part of a sea of people that reached to any a visible horizon. I, for one — forced up against the window of a parked car — found myself beginning to worry about scenes from Day of the Locust and recent news footage of trucks plowing into crowds. Future march planning needs to think about this stuff.
But none of that happened! No fights broke out. Not a one. And when a spontaneous singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" took place, I found it genuinely moving.
Somewhere there were speeches, I know not where. We couldn't see. We couldn't hear. I had no idea that Rufus Wainwright, The Edge and Juliette Lewis all performed, that Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin spoke until I read it online. I never heard a single note of Helen Reddy singing "I Am Woman." The only mass participation available to the marchers on my block was the chance to join in the occasional roars that swept through the crowd … an enormous audio wave serving as the only link to the other marchers. Damn! Maybe those roars were cheers for the performers from the people who heard them. Out in the hinterlands, we viewed them as abstract non-sequiturs of support.
"March! March!" the crowd began to chant at about 10:30 a.m., a half-hour past the scheduled start. That's when we realized no marching would be possible. The entire parade route already was filled with people.
Now another chant broke out: "Left on Seventh. Left on Seventh." The singularly Los Angeles custom of offering alternative route instructions for every situation reminded my friend Nell Scovell of that SNL sketch "The Californians."
The Joseph Goebbels of the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway, said she didn't see what the point of the women's marches even was. So I would like to quote the signs I saw, which summed up the point of the march nicely. The first said, "I'm marching because black lives matter, women's rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real, love is love, and kindness is everything." The second said, "The specifics of my outrage will not fit on this sign."
Then there was that third sign that said, "Hell hath no fury like 157 million women scorned."
The march's purpose was to unite a solid base of activism that I do not believe will be diminished. We are watching you and your boss and we will not let our world and our democracy be destroyed.
Terry Press • President, CBS Films
Park City, Utah
When the announcement of the Women's March began flooding my social media feeds right after the election, it was thrilling to watch one woman's idea evolve into a moment in history … and not so thrilling to realize that the march would be happening during the Sundance Film Festival. I am ashamed to admit that my immediate reaction was the protest version of FOMO — those of us in Park City would miss the "better" marches in Washington, New York and Los Angeles.
And when Chelsea Handler announced that there would be a Sundance protest on Main Street, the idea of marching the few blocks that make up Park City seemed ripe for the kind of derision that now accompanies everything remotely related to Hollywood. Talk about elitist: Marching down the main street of a resort town past a lot of artisanal leather stores and pop-up branding lounges just doesn't convey the same message as arriving by bus to march in the shadow of the Washington monument. And on top of everything, the weather at Sundance this year was brutal, and on Saturday morning, a heavy snow began to fall.
But what became abundantly clear as the starting time approached was that the people heading to the top of Main Street weren't just "in the bubble" Hollywood folks. The crowd, which looked to be thousands strong, was a robust group of locals, many of whom had spent hours navigating icy roads to be there — couples with small children bundled against the biting cold, multigenerational family groups — and lots of dogs.
There were rousing speeches, a sea of knitted pink hats and clever signs held high against the gray sky. It may not have been Washington, but on some level, there was almost a mythic quality to gathering on Main Street, USA. And as great and epic as the crowds looked in those big cities, I guarantee that those of us at Sundance were probably the only women who got to window shop at the same time we were marching.
Cristela Alonzo • Comedian — as told to Kate Stanhope
I'll be honest with you: When I was a kid, I remember seeing footage of the civil rights movement, the marches, and I never thought that I would actually have to march myself for something. I took Amtrak from New York to D.C., and everyone on my train car was going to march. We were giddy. During the three-hour ride, we told stories about why we were going — and that was the first time that I really felt a sense of community, where we’re gathering to fight for what’s right and I can't tell you, I can't put it into words what I felt. For me, it was that moment that will go down in history, where people will ask you what you were doing that day, and I’m so happy that I was in D.C. I wanted to be as close to [President Trump] as possible. I’ve been raised to not avoid conflict. I want to go toward the source. I don’t run away. It’s the only way for me to feel like I’m helping or trying to make a change is to go to the source. What a big statement that the day after he gets inaugurated, we all congregated immediately — like 24 hours later we're there saying no. It had to be done.
Liz Tigelaar • Showrunner, Casual — as told to Monica Corcoran Harel
I was traveling with my wife, [Hollywood PR pro] Alison Rou, and six or eight of my friends from L.A. on Friday. The plane took off and as soon as you heard that "ding" that means you can use the bathroom, every single woman on the flight jumped up. It was hilarious. There were literally about 11 men on the flight and the line down the aisle to pee was so long. They could never get the service carts through. The inauguration balls were going on when we got to D.C. Our Uber driver said, "Yeah, it was so dead today. We expected it to be busy for the inauguration and there wasn't even surge pricing!" There could not be less support for Trump there. That felt really good.
The next day, we marched with Christie Smith (producer), Diane Ruggiero-Wright (iZombie creator), Marguerite MacIntyre (The Vampire Diaries actress), Stacey Silverman (vp drama at Universal TV) and writer-director Nancy Hower. It ended up being this group of 25 women. We started out after a breakfast hosted by UTA, and we couldn’t get near the stage because the whole area was so packed. We honestly did not hear a single speech. We were just in a sea of people on Jefferson Drive. I'd been so excited to see the Indigo Girls because I love them, so we just took over the street and did a big "Closer to Fine" rendition. The most exciting thing happened at the Porta-potties. John Kerry walked by while we were all in these long lines. It was like Sophie’s Choice: Do I run toward John Kerry or do I hold my place in the line? So we divided and conquered.
For me, it was so moving to read everyone's homemade signs. I wrote down the ones I loved. (I made the feminism sign that looked like a pig, but it was supposed to be a cat.) There was the Planned Parenthood sign: "Don't fuck with us. Don't fuck without us." That's funny. My friend was carrying one that said, "Pro-America, Anti-Trump," which I really liked because that was why we were there. There was one that said, "Sisters, we were made for such a time.” I love that one. There were so many messages. You know, three days after we bought our tickets to D.C., I was like, “What is this march? Is it anti-Trump? Is it just women? Is it for Planned Parenthood?” But in the end, it was about everything, from women’s rights to gay rights to health care to climate change to gun control.
I was a politics minor and I consider myself an active, informed person. But I've actually never been to a protest before. There's something that feels kind of overblown and risky about putting yourself in the center of a crowd that big. But now I think, how could we not have gone? It's such a profound time. It’s hard to admit this, but I feel like I haven’t done near enough. Alison and I were discussing this morning that we never think of ourselves as people who host fundraisers. But I’m like, “I can get a group of girls to get in a limo to go to Chili’s in Long Beach!” And there’s work, too. On Causal, we were just at the start of breaking season three when the election happened. It will absolutely come up this year on the show. Are you kidding? Tackling issues on the show was the only thing that got us through!
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.