Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hope for Haiti Recap

So, last Friday (01/22/10) I had the honor of being able to volunteer at the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon that George Clooney put together. It was simulcast on every major network. (BET, MTV, HBO, NBC, etc.) Cecily (one of the many awesome people I met in 2009) & myself were amongst a small team of talent escorts working the event. “What’s a talent escort?” you ask? Well, every major start-studded event that requires talent to be in a certain place at a specific time has talent escorts. Our role is to make sure that the major talent has eyes on them at all times. This is especially important for televised events, because talent often has hard in/out times. So if according to the breakdown (a sheet that details each minute of the show and a description of what’s going on down to the second) Halle Berry is supposed to be on camera at 5:04:45 pm and she’s in the restroom, we need to be able to locate her before her “on” time. (Perfect example: BET Awards ’09 could’ve used better talent escorts on Nichelle Nichols & Zoe Saldana. They were to come out to present together but Nichelle missed her hard in because she was in the bathroom. Zoe mentioned this TWICE on camera. But I digress…)

Often, escorts are assigned a specific talent for an event. However, because HFHN had EVERY A-lister there, it was impossible to have an assigned escort for everyone. George & a few others had someone keeping them on schedule. But most of the talent were splitting their time between one of the two green rooms until the show went live. After that they were all in the phone bank. There wasn’t too much corralling required so this was a pretty easy event.

It rained something awful the week of the event. I was hoping that the rain would let up by Friday. This was not the case. It poured my entire 1 hr commute from OC to LA and when I got there it was STILL raining. When I arrived at the CBS lot it was full so I had to park behind the lot at The Grove and walk back in the rain. On my way out of the confusing parking structure, I crossed paths with a makeup artist who was struggling with a travel case full of makeup. The sky made this loud cracking sound & we both looked at each other. It was about to start pouring, and we were a good 10 min walk from where we needed to be. She didn’t have an umbrella so I asked her if she was going to HFHN & she said she was. Right then it started raining so I invited her under my umbrella. She grabbed my arm & the 2 of us huddled together and made our way through a flooded alley onto the CBS lot.

Once we got under the tent she thanked me (she called me an angel) and we parted ways. I got my credentials & stood under a heat lamp while waiting to find out what the next step was. Soon thereafter, Cecily showed up. We got our food tickets & headed up to the 3rd floor for lunch. We spent about 30 min upstairs eating a nice catered spread with makeup artists and various production folks & stagehands before making our way back downstairs to get our assignments. When we returned downstairs we were told that talent would begin arriving around 3:00. The show was going to be on air at 5:00. Talent would be dropped off at the curb and we were to escort them to wherever they needed to go. Everyone would arrive pretty much camera ready but just in case anyone needed hair or makeup, this would be available for them. Certain talent had dressing rooms (John Legend, Kid Rock, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, George Clooney and some folks from Twitter), but for the most part, everyone would need to be escorted to one of the two white tents inside that were set up as green rooms. Inside those tents were full bars, cookies & sandwiches, and plush white leather couches to lounge on. There were also high bar tables & large flat screen TV’s.

I was running my mouth to Cecily about God knows what when she sort of reached out to me as if to say “shhhhh!” I turned around & saw the reason why. Denzel was standing right next to us at the credentials table. I took no offense at all because it was Denzel! He can interrupt my story any day. Besides…whatever I was talking about couldn’t have been too important because I immediately forgot it.
We had a quick tour of the CBS building so that we’d know the layout. We walked across the stage as Cheryl Crow, Keith Urban & Kid Rock were rehearsing “Lean On Me.” The next hour was spent hanging around waiting for things to start. The ladies at the credentials table were getting things organized in alphabetical order. We had no idea this was the calm before the storm.

It was 3:15. I can’t really put into words what happened over the next 30 minutes. It was just…crazy. There was a line of cars a mile long. And every A-lister in Hollywood was in those cars. All arrivals were being announced over walkies, so we knew who was arriving and in what order. Cindy Crawford & Randy Gerber got out of a black Range Rover and I was handed their credentials. Cindy was drop dead gorgeous in jeans! “We want to go to Kid Rock’s dressing room.” she said. I escorted them up to the 2nd floor & took them to his dressing room. Now, you have to understand…I LIVED for fashion during Cindy’s reign. I had pics of her & several other 90’s supermodels on my bedroom walls as a teenager. So this moment was VERY surreal for me. But I maintained my composure & remained cool. On the outside I appeared like I do this every day. But in my head…I was dying!

I returned back to the 1st floor and waited for more talent. Everyone was pouring in. The Jonas Brothers were standing at the table to get their credentials. They started giggling when one of the ladies at the table had Chevy Chase’s credentials & kept repeating “I have a Chevy Chase!” I took Mr. Chase (who is completely hard of hearing) thru the metal detectors. He had something in his pocket that set the alarm off. I figured we could just proceed but the young security guy working at the table made him empty his pockets and go back through. He actually asked CHEVY CHASE if he had any weapons in his pockets. Chevy replied “Huh?!” It wasn't a "come again?" huh. It was an "are you shitting me?" huh. The guy asked again & Chevy responded “Oh sure, I never leave home without my knife & gun.” Love it!

When I returned to the table I saw Jennifer Aniston, Tom Hanks, Alyssa Milano & Drew Barrymore. And Charlize Theron who is absolutely GORGEOUS in person. Marissa Tomei…not so much. Her face looked like the side of a dilapidated building. Kimora, Russell & Djimon arrived together (I love that!) Halle was standing right in front of me…it was unreal. Y’all don’t know how I feel about Halle! She’s iconic & I absolutely adore her. Next I realized that I've been hating Taylor Swift for the past 4 months for no reason at all. She greeted everyone with a smile & was a very sweet girl. Then I saw Andy Garcia! I had a picture of him in my locker in high school from when he was on the cover of GQ! Katy Perry & Russell Brand arrived separately but left arm in arm. Brad Pitt walked in looking like he just left the set of the biopic “Three Billy Goats Gruff”. Collin Ferrell. Ricky Martin. Taraji. Tyrese. Zoe Saldana. Robin Williams. Robert De Niro (I love Bobby D!) Common was in line waiting to get his credentials & smiled at me & said hello. He. Smiled. At. ME. I reached for his credentials & another escort intercepted. I didn't want to cause a scene so I let him have them. (He then proceeded to sneak his way into the green room to talk Common & Taraji’s ears off.) He later tells me that Common is his favorite MC & Common told him to keep in touch. Yeah right!

I walked by Quincy & said “Hello Mr. Jones” to which he replied “Hey baby!” I nearly melted into a puddle. When Stevie arrived, everything stopped. I know I’m dramatic but believe me when I say this: I didn’t hear SHIT that was going on around me when Stevie arrived! I watched him being take out of his car by his handlers & walk right past me. I just stood there & inhaled, taking in the moment. It felt like a dream. So many people arrived at once; they started handing out the wrong credentials to people. Samuel L. Jackson arrived wearing his signature black Kangol. Michael Clarke Duncan said he didn’t want someone else’s credentials. And Leonardo Di Caprio. This guy…he’s…special. It takes Cecily to show you how he walked down the hall on his cell phone. He was on some “love-you-baby-love-you-sweetie-let’s-do-lunch" type shit. *winks & points finger* Seriously. All he needed was an ascot & a monocle. He’s so pretentious. He was smoking a cigar & drinking white wine when John Legend arrived with his English Bulldog. Leo walked over to the dog & was petting it. Two feet away from me Leonardo Di Caprio is petting John Legend’s dog while Steven Spielberg walks by eating a turkey sandwich! I felt like I was in a David Lynch film. Oh, and when I took Cecily to the restroom to fill her in on “the escort from hell”, we ran into “Precious”. (That's how I referred to her to which Cecily replied “I’mma need ‘Precious’ to have a real name!") She was really sweet. I took a picture with her & she said “at least you didn’t follow me into the stall!” I saw Jack Nicholson & Mark Wahlberg. Mark is the best friend of a good friend of mine. I sent him a text telling him that I just saw Marky. He said they had breakfast that morning & did I say hi to him. (Um, no! Mark’s picture replaced Andy Garcia’s in my locker. I could never speak to him!)

The highlights of my night were escorting my secret crush Forest to the phone bank, going to a corner to scream into my scarf after seeing LL (Cecily laughed at me) and seeing Muhammad Ali leave the building. That was another “standing in silence” moment. Oh, and when Chris Rock & Rick Rubin walked around the corner together laughing and talking, for about 2.5 seconds I secretly wished I was a New Yorker. Y’all…Rick Rubin! I saw so many things that night that made me smile. Like Debra Messing & Meg Ryan standing off in a corner chatting like old girlfriends…then grabbing hands & pressing their foreheads together. (It was cute.) And Jack Black & Randy Jackson chopping & Sacha Baron Cohen walked up and joined in the conversation. I was also able to speak with Russell Simmons about his Jivamukti Yoga scholarship for women of color. THAT was surreal. *I’m standing here talking to Russell Simmons about yoga.* I thanked him for his time & hit him with a “Namaste” before coolly walking away (all while screaming inside my head.)

It was truly an amazing experience. Seeing everyone in Hollywood turn out in the pouring rain for a wonderful cause. (Everyone was dressed casual…except for Leo & some lady wearing a long green velvet gown & a vest that resembled road kill.) You could see how connected all of these people are. They’ve all crossed paths at some point over the years. Many have worked together or worked on the same lots. Most have have had the same managers, agents & publicists. There was a sense of camaraderie & realness that we regular folk don’t get a chance to see. Being able to witness it first hand gave me a different perspective of Hollywood & it was an experience that I won’t soon forget.

No comments:

Post a Comment