FROM PARIS TO PRECIOUS (aka PUSH): Sundance switches gears

Main Street in Park City, UT during the Sundance Film Festival.

I have two words for you: Lyle Lovett. My Mason-Dixon reared soul is all a flutter over this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

I will be honest: I haven’t gone to Sundance in four years. I used to cover it when I was the deputy editor for Page Six at the New York Post. For a gossip columnist, it was like shooting ducks in a barrel. Celebrities abounded, bad behavior — thanks to alcohol consumption, high altitudes and a distinct lack of spousal companionship — was everywhere, and I was in heaven. I would see some great movies, interview some actors, and then go to premiere and agency parties, collecting information all along the way. It was fun and I got some good work done.

Until 2006.

Paris Hilton graces the Festival with her presence. (sigh)

By then, Sundance was overrun with the Paris Hilton’s of the world, there not to promote a film but rather to promote themselves and their thongs. By that time, every celebrity weekly was sending a team of reporters. Even TMZ showed up — and with them, Tila Tequila. But what was worse, was seeing venerable actors, humbling themselves for graft. I think my final straw was, after avoiding the Hilton sisters at the Yard, I ran into Ted Danson posing with a toaster. I mean, seriously. A TOASTER! I felt like buying him one for $19.99 to save him the embarrassment. I am, after all, a huge fan of Cheers.

But, as with most things in life, the pendulum swung, and last year, the economy crashed — bringing down with it the gifting suites and the reality cockroaches. This year, Park City has banned the gifting suites from Main Street and the economy has stopped a lot of the superfluous things. After all, what do cubic zirconias have to do with independent films? (And don’t you dare say PRECIOUS!)

Not that it’s going to be all business all the time. The indefatigable club owner Noah Tepperberg is still hosting his “Tao Lounge,” Microsoft has holed up on Main Street, as has MySpace, and I’ve even heard of a Lia Sophia booth somewhere. But this time it seems the focus has been kept to the movies. Even Lyle Lovett is there promoting Elvis Costello’s Sundance Channel series SPECTACLE. I’m sure the graft will be back — but not in such force that it takes the place of movies.

Already inundated with Sundance announcements, I’m starting to wonder about a few things.