Monica Siegel and her two friends dropped a total of $2,500 and flew hundreds of miles to camp out for four days on a gritty patch of sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles with the hope that they might see one of the heartthrob stars of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."
Their gamble paid off — and then some.
Siegel, 22, of Fennville, Mich., was giddy with excitement after she not only nabbed a prime spot near the red carpet to swoon over the movie's stars, but also was one of just a few dozen selected to take in the film inside with the stars of the blockbuster vampire series.
"It's completely worth every bit of it," Siegel said after learning she had scored the premiere seats. "I'm freaking out!"
Siegel said the entire experience was great but the best part was seeing the movie with the people who made it.
"Kristen was amazing. She actually talked with us and paid attention to what we were saying instead of rushing by. The whole night is one big, happy, memory," Siegel said.
Siegel, 21-year-old Amanda Willis, of Dallas, and 25-year-old Melissa Moorhead, of Seattle, are just three among thousands of so-called "Twi-hards" clogged the downtown premiere venue since early this week, camping out in a specially designated tent city for a fleeting glimpse of stars such as Robert Pattinson, Kristin Stewart and Taylor Lautner.
Up to 9,000 people were issued wristbands for a chance to see the film. At least 550 early birds, like Siegel, were ensured a spot along the red carpet, which was black for the occasion.
Celebrities working their way down the carpet before the premiere were swarmed with screaming, frantic fans.
Stewart, who plays Bella, took the fandemonium in stride.
"It's really only seemingly crazy when the movies come out, and you want that. I usually live a normal life," Stewart said.
Lautner, who plays werewolf Jacob, was asked if he ever wished he was less popular.
"I don't think I'm popular. I think it's the character," Lautner said. "I grateful to be here, and I'm grateful for the fans."
Pattinson, who plays vampire Edward, said of the frenzy: "I tune it all out till later. You get used to it, but it's still a struggle."
Dakota Fanning, who plays the vampire Jane, said she was amazed by the fan presence — even in comparison with what she has seen in her own childhood acting career.
"It's really exciting. I don't think I'll ever be part of something like this for the rest of my life," she said. "It's really kind of surreal."
AEG, which owns L.A. Live and distributed the premiere wristbands with Summit Entertainment, screened "New Moon" for fans Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the film's actors, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke, Julia James and Jackson Rathbone, distributed hamburgers, CDs and makeup in the tent city.
"It's not very often in this business that you get to come out here and do something like this," Burke said. "The fans of these movies are so gracious and lovely. It's great to do anything we can."
Stephanie Tregea, 19, drove 500 miles from Upper Lake, in Northern California, to attend the premiere. She wore a black T-shirt that said "Team Carlisle," and held a sign that read: "My cat died while I've been in line. (Peter, comfort me during this sadness)."
It got her an extended embrace from Facinelli, who plays Cullen patriarch Carlisle.
Tregea said she is concerned about a Twilight jinx, because her dog died as she waited in line for the "New Moon" premiere last year. She debated not seeing the next installment.
"It's been hectic and stressful because there's a lot of people," said Tregea, who alternated camping out with sleeping in a hotel room shared with two friends.
Amanda Belcher, 27, a mom from Scranton, Pa., who took a week off work at a public affairs agency to camp out for the premiere said the experience was worth it.
"It's a great way to bring people together," Belcher said. "It's like intense friendship building."
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