Wednesday, June 12, 2002

As I sit writing this, I am watching LATE SHOW on my television, seeing the same thing I saw from the Ed Sullivan theater backstage and in the green room this evening.

Here's how it went down: a limousine came to pick me up this afternoon and drove me down to the side door of the Ed Sullivan theater, the celebrity door through which the guests come. There are lines holding back the gawkers, and paparazzi stand at attention, ready to photograph the stars as they walk into the theater. The limo slid up, and I knew as I prepared to exit the car, prepared for the inevitable disappointment these eager folks would feel when they discovered that I was not Freddie Prinze, Jr.

The car door opened, I began to step out and a ragged cheer went up--my blond hair had made people think i could be Prinze! Then my bulky form came into focus and the cheer wavered and disappeared, the cameras stopped clicking and a low, sonorous booing began. Two people near the front shouted to their friends--"It's nobody, it's, it's nobody."

The more I heard booing, the more I felt compelled to wave, smiling a little and saying, "Yes, I am not Freddie...sorry about that!" The paparazzi laughed, and the Prinze fans ignored me, already looking up the street for the next car that would hold their Holy Leader.

Backstage at the LATE SHOW was everything I imagined: cramped, kinetic and really cool. It has the spare utility you see off-stage in Broadway theaters mixed with some killer photos on the walls of all the acts that have come and gone and come again over the years. About the third time I rode the elevator I realized it was the one The Beatles get stuck in and then run out of in that movie, and that made me smile. Small world.

I suited up, got miced, talked with the producers one last time while I reviewed the rough list of talking points Dave would be using to work off of and went to my launch point...where I waited, at the edge of the stage, and a man with a stopwatch counted down...

...and then I was bumped, at 15 seconds to go.

That's the breaks, in a live show--cancellations happen, and since I'm not Alicia Keys or Freddie, when push comes to shove I'm at the unfavorable place in the food chain. The producers, whom I really like, were very apologetic and I felt bad for them--this happens a lot, I would suspect, and it has to be hard to run a live show with so many variables. Personally, I didn't mind that much, as it was a very interesting afternoon...and getting booed for not being Freddie is always worth a trip uptown.

Word is that I'll be rescheduled soon, and so I get a second tilt at the wheel...and since I got all the way to the edge of the stage, I feel like I had my nuclear armageddon test, the one where the guys from WAR GAMES have to turn their keys and launch their missles, only to discover at the last moment that this has all been a test to see if they were REALLY PREPARED TO GO ON LETTERMAN.

Afterward I found myself feeling a little weird, and realized it was just lots of adrenaline running all over me with nowhere to go. I imagine astronauts have similar issues when their missions get scrubbed at T-minus seven seconds--luckily I had a show to go do, and I funneled my energy into that.

Also, I did receive a number of LATE SHOW T-shirts! That may sound facetious, but it is not: they are very nice shirts, and few things make me happier than free stuff. Even better, I think we get them EVERY TIME we are on, so if I can just manage to keep getting bumped, I could have a hundred of them in a matter of months. If I'm able to work that out I'll start giving them away here at the site.

Celebrity gossip: Freddie Prinze, Jr. is cool...he is very low-key, no longer has blond hair, and blended right into the crowds there. Friendly, affable and a nice guy. Alicia Keys had a 60 person entorurage, which is just as excessive as it sounds. She has her own band, which makes sense, but she also had tons of folks who seemed to be bodyguards, lawyers, seemed as if everyone she ever knew came into the cramped confines of the green room and corridors. If you see the show, check out her hair--she has a massive afro that has glitter sprayed through it, and let me tell you that it is entirely more impressive in person, in ways that are hard to express. I never thought the Godhead could be visible in Alicia Keys' hair styling, but I was proved wrong...I don't know how big it will look on TV, but it was larger than life in person. I have no idea what she's like as you'd have to have broken through three layers of guards to speak to her.

Also, they all do some sort of group affirmation/prayer that involves a bit of chanting before they go on stage. It was spooky to me, but then again if I ever have an entourage I'll probably want to do some sort of team empowerment exercise before big events on national TV. I wished it had been firewalking...that would have been a sight, though the quantities of hairspray involved in Ms. Keys' creation make this an exercise in danger.