I want to start off by thanking those of you who gave us some advice on when to arrive at the studio. Some of you may have read that my wife and I had gone to see a taping of That 70's Show and even though we arrived "On Time" we almost didn't get it. I knew that it would be a full house, so I reached out to some of you and asked for some advice as to when we should show up. You were 100% correct, and I think that if it hadn't been for you, we wouldn't have been in. Please let me know where to send the gifts.
Both my wife and I ended up taking the day off work, on the advice of the other FORT-ers. it was a good thing we did. We live in Redondo Beach, which is about 45 minutes away from the studio, IF the traffic is running smooth. Well, guess what. Ever heard of the 405? It's the parking lot disguised as a freeway that runs through the west side of Los Angeles and Orange County. The trip to the studio took us about an hour and 15 minutes, which actually isn't so bad. The studio became visible at about 11:00, which was right about when we wanted to be there.
As we pulled up near the studio, we could see big line of people against the hedge on Beverly Blvd. My wife, who I married because I thought she had a lot of class and beauty, said, "Oh Crap." (I have censored the actual comment, but you get the point.) We pulled up to the first person in line, rolled the window down and confirmed that it was indeed the line for the show. My wife jumped out and ran to the back of the line, as we could see people coming down the street.
But you had tickets, right?
Yes, we had tickets, for those of you who may be asking that question. What you need to know is that having tickets DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU ARE GETTING IN! the biggest thing that you need to know is this. There are a whole bunch of VIP's, family members, invited guests and studio guests that get in ahead of you. YOU are not the priority. YOU are nothing more to them than a space filler. I don't know what the actual capacity is, but let's say it's 300 people. If they have 200 guests, only 100 from the street get in. If they have 284 guests, only 16 from the street get in. You may have driven 12 hours to get there, or flown in from the other side of the country, and STILL not get in.
The catch here is that your ticket says to arrive "No later than 3:30". That, my friends, is bad advice. The advice I got here on the board was to get there by 11:30 or so. It's the best advice I've been given every since some guy on TV told me that I should buy a suit from him. He guaranteed that I "would like the way I looked." Well, you know what? That guy was right, and so were you all!
Is this the right line?
I parked the car over at The Grove, (a shopping center behind the studio) and walked towards the line. On my way, I passed a different gate to the studio and asked one of the guards there if the line we had seen was the right one, or had I just dropped my wife off in the line for some kind of a Transvestite Make-over/Cooking show. It IS Hollywood after all... you never know. The guard confirmed for me that it was the right place. I continued to the line and counted the people as I walked by them. "Crap," I thought. There were about 75 people in front of us. (Again, "Crap" was not the actual word used.) I found my wife, who pulled me in and said that I should check with the guard to see if we were in the right line. "One step ahead of you, baby!" I thought I was so smart. I usually do. "No, not the Idol line," she said. "These people are all here for the dress rehearsal!"
Butterflies, rainbows, and lollipops people!!! If these people are here for the Dress, when they leave, we're up FRONT!!! Holy Crap!!! (Not "Crap".) In fact, that's exactly what happened. They started to call in the people for the rehearsal, and we ended up being 4th in line. For the record, the people that were there in front of US were there at 8:00 in the morning. You can't argue with Crazy! He was even in front of all the dress rehearsal people.
Last Minute Policy Change
The tickets very specifically said NO big bags. Well, turns out, no little bags either. About 30 minutes after the dress line went in, the guest coordinator, (who looked like Kirk Hammett from Metallica but with slightly shorter hair) made an announcement. "Don't shoot the messenger people, but with the new seating arrangement and the fact that it's now more of a pit as opposed to assigned seats, there can be NO Bags of any size. That means no purses, back packs, or anything of the like. If you have any of these, you need to take these back to your car." Well, guess who has NO idea where we parked. Guess who's taking a walk... with a purse! Guess who now has to walk with a big group of women, all carrying THEIR purses? Guess who now looks like he just mugged some chick and stole her purse. That would be me. "Crap."
In an effort to make life easier for others, those of us in line soon became the Purse Vigilantes! DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!! Anyone that came up that had a purse would get the word from us that they had to take it back. The best plan was to send one representative back to the car and have the others get in line. Sadly at one point, a Taxi mini-van pulled up and 7 ladies got out, ALL with a bag of some kind. Everyone in line started trying to tell them what was the what-what, but they were busy paying the cabbie. As the cab sped away, what we were all saying sunk in. Right about then, Kirk from Metallica showed up again, and told them the bad news. One of the ladies, thinking she had beat the system, tapped her hip and said, "What about a fanny-pack? Is it ok to wear a fanny pack??"
"No," Kirk said. "It's NEVER ok to wear a fanny pack." Kirk is a funny guy.
The Actual Retail Price is...
While you're waiting on the street, you welcome almost anything to come along as a distraction. At one point, a guy on a bike went by at the same time that a car went by with a dog hanging out the window. The dog barked at the guy on the bike and he nearly lost it. Ha ha ha... well, THAT was a fun 7 seconds. Soon after, a gigantic kid in a gigantic red shirt came walking down the street. He still had on his name tag, or should I say, his price tag. For those of you who don't know, The Price Is Right shoots at the same studio lot as AI. This young fella, extra, EXTRA large Slurpee in hand decided to start to tell us all that he had been in line for the TPIR the night before at 10:00 and that he was the FIRST in line. Well, ya. I would hope so! "I'm going to go get some sleep and get back in line by 10:00," he proclaimed. "You guys have fun."
"Hey, you too buddy! Get a job." (No, I didn't actually say it. I thought it, but didn't say it.) Soon after, another Price-Tagger rolled down the street. I know that might sound rude, but she really was rolling. She was a really, REALLY large woman in a motorized wheelchair with a half empty 2 liter bottle of coke under one arm and a big bag of M&M's in her hands. The back of the seat had a shirt on it that said, "Hey RICH! I want to ROLL ON DOWN!!" Classy.
Hollywood, it's really not that glamorous a place.
All I will say here is that I saw Simon's car coming from about a mile away, and it was the MOST bad-ass thing I have seen in a long, LONG time. Holy "Crap". Look it up. Bugatti Veyron - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The important part that you need to see is that it does 0-60 MPH (97 KmH) in 2.46 seconds. Wow.
3:00 - Time to Roll
At 3:00 it was time for us to start moving in. Good-bye Hollywood side walk. Good-bye potentially urine soaked hedges and pavement. We won't miss you. We have a show to go see! We were instructed to walk in and to the back of the lot, where we were given our wristbands and went through security. What was a little weird was that the first bunch of us got Blue Wristbands, but some people that came after us were given purple ones. Hmmm...? After that is when we came face to face with our competition. Yep, WE now have competition. Turns out that the "Best looking" from the rehearsal show are invited to stick around to try to make things look good! So now, those us who have been toiling out on the pee-infested street, sweating in the heat and urine, are face to face with the people who have been in the air conditioned studio for 2 hours, AND have THEIR PURSES! (I say this because my wife and I were hearing this complaint a lot. "Oh, look at them with their make-up and lip gloss... who do they think they are, blah blab blah... Neither my wife nor I could care less. My wife is a natural beauty and I'm... well, a guy.)
At this point, we are VERY happy to see, wait for it, BENCHES!!! WOO HOO!!!!! We were directed to sit on one bench with our fellow Blue Wristbanders, while the Purplers were sent to sit on a different bench altogether. Already suffering from an inferiority complex cause by the "Hotties", us Blues decided that the Purple people were the ones deemed not good looking enough to potentially be in screen. We dubbed them the "Not-ies." (Get it? The Hotties and the Not-ies?? Ha ha... I RULE!) As rude as that sounds, it turned out that we were RIGHT! They are the Stand-by line and seat fillers. There were other people that came in after them that were given Blue bands and then others given Purple. it was little like High School to be honest. The Purples WERE a little strange looking. (Who do I feel like Simon right now? "I'm not being rude, but you have the face of a drunken mule who is all out of washing up powder.")
All kidding aside, I want to make sure that this is clear. I am, in no way, putting anyone down or judging someone based on their looks. Fact is, the Idol people did exactly that. The people with the purple wristbands were the "Old" people, the "Fat" people, and the people who were dressed "Poorly". It was at the discretion of the production staff that they were made the stand-by line. I am simply reporting what we saw and I am NOT condoning it. Some of them seemed to be pretty upset by the fact that they were the stand by line, and they had every right to be. They waited just as long as everyone else and they deserved to be in the pit. It's a family show for the whole country, and that's what they represent.
Next, the VIP's and family members are injected into the waiting area and we were soon led into the studio.
Oooooh, Ahhhhhh, Ohhhhh, Ehhh.
So we get into the new studio, and the first impression I have is that it's really not very big. It looked smaller than the one that we were used to seeing in past years, and after having seen it on TV, I can tell you that it looks WAY bigger on TV than it is in real life. Most sets are like this by the way. In the first main shot after Ryan introduced the new set, the long shot they had literally showed you the ENTIRE room! I don't know where that camera was, or how it works, but that shot was pretty cool, considering that EVERYONE in the room was in ONE shot.
Intro's and Fake-out's
As in most cases, they had a warm up guy for us who came out and was pretty annoying. The idea of this person is to come out and get the crowd all warmed up so that when the show starts, the crowd is all WHIPPED up! Well, if the warm up guy sucks, you'd better have a great show to follow it up, or have a GREAT audience. (WE were a great audience, so that worked out well.) Now, add the fact that this was their first time with the new crowd configuration, (i.e.; people STANDING) and you've got MAGIC! There was a lot of, "Let's see those signs!!!" and the crowd goes nuts, holding up their signs. Then there was "Ok, so it turns out we can't have any signs in the front area! If you have a sign, you have to hand it to the back to someone sitting down!" They were pretty un-organized.
Next, the WuG introduce us to Nigel Lythgoe. Nigel seems really happy to see everyone and I think he was really sincere about it. He was there to let us know what the night's theme was and how really awesome this would be. He reminds us that it's Beatles night and that the kids were only given song from 1962 to 1966. He then proceeds to give us examples of what he means by 62-66 by referring to songs like Come Together, which came out in 1969 (???) and Across the Universe which was out in 1970 (???) He then proceeds to sing to us the words to Across the Universe with the following lyrics: Words are flowing out like paper rain inside a paper cup... "You know that song," he says. Clearly, HE does not know that song. (Those lyrics are wrong, by the way. I hope he's not the one who taught little David A how to do his song!) Anyway, good guy, really happy to see us all, poor memory.
Finally, it was time for the WuG to introduce the cast. First up is MR. RANDY JACKSON!!! (crowd goes wild and looks where the guy is pointing)... MR. RANDY JACKSON!!! (crowd still cheering, a little less though) RANDY JACKSON!!!... ???... ? No Randy. Hmmmm... WuG looks confused... get's word from someone off stage and then... MR. RANDY JACKSON!!!! (and he points again) We all look to the side stage door where WuG has pointed, and sure enough, a rather large black man has appeared! We all go nuts for about half a second when we realize that it's not Randy. Good timing for this guy though. He got his .15 seconds of fame. Once again, "MR. RANDY JACKSON!!!" and THERE he is, up on stage! Randy's intro is followed by Simon, who looks about as happy to be there as he seems to be on television. Simon seems to have a body guard with him, maybe just there for crowd control. Either way, dude looks like Isaac Hayes. (Look it up, people) Then Paula comes out on the stage and makes it 98% of the way to the judges table before tripping. Would you expect anything else??? Lastly, and stature wise, leastly, is Ryan. Yep, he's small. You knew that, right? You knew Ryan was short. (Ya, "Leastly" isn't a word. I know.) For the record, they all look exactly the same in real life as they do on TV. Dead on.
The Angry Lady in the Awful Hat
All right folks, it's SHOWTIME!! The stage manager comes out and it's very clear who the head clown is at this rodeo. This lady clearly pissed off at EVERYONE, including YOU. Ya YOU! I mean, she is really not going to put up with any "crap" from anyone. Oh, and she's wearing an ugly, ugly hat. It's a little like a Rastafarian kind of a thing. It was the kind of a hat that, when worn, people SHOULD point and laugh at you, but no body was going to laugh at this lady. She'd have ripped your head off.
WuG started giving us our instructions as to when to cheer and when not to. "When Ryan says this, do that, and when Ryan says that, do this." That kind of stuff. Problem is, WuG has it all wrong, and Angry Hat is there to let him know. She sorts it out and we now have our proper instructions. The lights go down, and the countdown starts.
During the Show
So here's the real dirt... what happens DURING the show. First of all, you have to remember that it's a live show, so there's no do-overs. Because of this, it turns out that the Angry Lady in the Awful Hat is VERY good at her job. She needs to make sure that we're all cheering at the right time, quiet at the right times, and that the contestants are in the right place at the right time. She also, turns out, is the "Ryan Wrangler". During the commercials, Ryan like to wander. So during the breaks, she's running a count down over the PA, letting everyone know how much time we have left until "We're Back". At 60 seconds, it becomes "Ryan, 60 seconds" then "Ryan, 45 seconds" then RYAN, 30 SECONDS" and so on. Ryan, being the dork that he is, (I mean that in a good way) like to mess with her by leaping to the stage at her commands of "LET'S GO, RYAN!!" As she runs to the side of the stage to get out of the shot, he does things like following her, to which she turns and screams at him, "CENTER STAGE!!!!" He bounces back and everyone laughs, and "We're back!" Ryan does a really good job of keeping thing lite, and it's clear that he is actually very aware of what's going on and knows exactly when he has to be back on stage. This isn't to say that he's out mingling with the crowd all the time, but he just shows up in places doing little things that keep it lite. At one time, he was in Randy's chair (the judges aren't always there, but I'll get to that in a sec.) doing an impression of Randy. "Yo yo, dawg, check this out... now check this out," and so on. As much people want to make fun of Ryan, he really is a pro.
So what about the judges? Well, first of all, they don't sit there the entire time. During the commercials, they are mostly gone. My guess is that Simon is out having a smoke, and his friend Isaac Hayes goes with him. Paula... well, who the heck knows where she goes. It's Paula Abdul. They did a whole reality show where they tried to follow her around. Randy was pretty cordial with everybody, and hung out the most of the three judges. At one point, Randy and Simon had to go over and say hi to the Kardashians. (Is that spelled right? My spell checker is recommending 'Carpathians'.) Oh ya, did I mention that they were there? I didn't? Oh, that's a shame. Aaanywayyy... Simon looked about as happy to meet them as I am to talk about them.
During the actual performances, you might notice that Simon in particular seems to always be looking elsewhere. Sometimes he's looking down, sometimes his head is turned to the side... there's a reason for this. He's a jerk. HA HA HA HA!!! I'm AWESOME. Ahem... there really IS a reason. If he's looking down, he's looking at them on a screen that he has in his table. They've shown this on TV before, but in case you forgot, all three judges have a screen implanted below the glass. This way they can see what the home audience is seeing. Behind the judges are some floor monitors. A floor monitor is what they call the speaker that you see at a concert that points up at the performer so that they can hear themselves. The judges have these behind them so that they can hear the audio much better. Remember, there is a live band playing in a concrete room, so the acoustics are pretty awful in there. If you're going to judge a singing show, you need to hear what it really sounds like. They have the "Mix" in the monitors. So when you see Simon with his head turned, he's actually listening to the mix in the monitors so that he can really hear things. Honestly, the show sounds really awful in there. The music is really loud, you can hardly hear anything when people are talking, and it's mixed for TV, so Simon is actually doing a really good thing by turning his head. Keep that in mind when you see him NOT paying attention. He IS paying attention... to the singing!
During a performance, there is really nothing going on, other than what's up on stage. I think that's a really good thing as it would be pretty distracting otherwise. During the judging, however, there is a whole bunch of commotion that you can't see on TV. First of all, Ryan is actually standing only a few feet away from the contestants so that he can jump in quickly if he needs to. (By the way, he stands there with a look on his face that's as if he's trying to examine a piece of modern art, or perhaps trying to figure out the square root of Pi. It's kind of weird.) Elsewhere on the stage, the crew is busy positioning the next singer and practicing the shot that they go to right before the commercial. You'll notice that most of the time, the shot is a quick zoom and a weird angle. Well, the camera man practices this several times before they cut to the singer. Many of these shots were done from our side of the stage, and in fact, my wife and I were literally right behind the camera man who kept leaning back and nearly taking out my wife.
My Biggest Dislike
You know that really awful Arm-Swinging thing that the crowd does on a slow song? It's really quite cheesy, and they MAKE you do it. That's probably the thing that bugged me the most. Does anyone think that this actually looks good? I mean, I understand the clapping, but the swaying on EVERY slow song? Oy. SO annoying. Our group seemed to have a rhythm problem, as the swaying seemed to be out of sync with the music. Remember, I said they picked the pretty people, not the smartest.
We Have a Stalker
What would you think if, every time you went to a major event like a Hollywood taping, a person who was NOT IN YOUR PARTY showed up? That's what's happening to me. Every time I go to a taping, there is a certain celebrity who shows up. He's been there every single time, and just kind of shows up about half way through and leaves just as quick. Now, I will admit that I have only actually been to TWO shows ever. But even at that, if we go to another show and Taye Diggs shows up for a third time, I'm going to walk up to him and ask him what's up. Seriously, what's up, Taye? You followin' me?? Are you trying to get with my wife?? Do I owe you money??
Show's Over, But We Still Have Work To Do
Ok, Ryan thanks the judges, thanks the band, and says good night. We've been standing for almost 8 hours, save the 20 minutes on the benches outside, and we're REALLY hungry! It turns out though, WE'RE not done. We have a couple of shots that they need for TOMORROW night. You know how, on the results show, they start off with a really dramatic shot with the light behind the contestants. Well, that is shot the night before. The angry lady is there to tell us that we need to "CHEER NOW" and "STOP!" and "CHEER NOW" and "STOP!!". We did they for about another 10 minutes and THEN we were allowed to leave.
Wanna See Ryan? I'll Bet I Know How You Can!
As we're walking out the gate, there's a limo that pulls up and is waiting to run onto Beverly Blvd. The rear passenger side window is rolled down, and inside was Mr. Seacrest. It's important to remember that this is a limo. If you don't want to be seen, you don't have to be seen. Ryan clearly wants to be seen. He's leaning forward so that he is right in the window, BUT he's PRETENDING to be reading paperwork. Again, remember that this is a LIMO. It has black-out windows. Ryan is pretending to be working so hard that he's reading while they are waiting at the light, but he's got the window down, he's leaning forward so that he's right in the middle of the window, and PRETENDING to be busy. He said Hi to everyone, but also kept pretending to be busy. Ya, I'm calling him out on this! Ryan, it was very cool that you looked up from the paperwork and said hi to us as we all walked past. You were very gracious about it... ONCE you looked up. But dude, come on. For some people, this is the coolest thing they have ever done. Just be cool, roll the window down and talk to these people while you wait for the light to change. These girls near by were going NUTS that Ryan was right in front of them. My guess is that he does this every week. If you live near by, and want to try it, be at the gate on Beverly when the show ends taping. I would be willing to bet that you'll see Ryan go by.
So there you, that's what happens at an Idol taping. If you have any questions or want to know something specific, ask and I'll try to answer it for you.