Wednesday, December 18, 2013

EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME


Thought I would take a trip down memory lane today...just for a change of pace....
Enjoy!



Award show seat-fillers are “commoners” that fill seats vacated by an attendee that leaves to accept an award, go to the restroom, etc.  Producers of these events do not want any empty seats when the cameras are rolling.  

On Thursday evening, March 8, 2001, my husband and I received a phone call from a friend of ours. He was all excited and asked if we were sitting down. He had submitted our names as seat-fillers for the Screen Actor's Guild awards and we were selected. WHAT??????  We went on-line to see if it was just another one of his jokes but lo and behold, staring me right in the face was an e-mail from the seat-filler company with the official invitation and requirements. Being a formal event we were to dress accordingly.... The show was on Sunday (a little short notice????) in L.A. – a two hour drive. Keep in mind, we were not ones to have formal wear at the ready in our closet so we needed to go shopping. Because we both worked, we were limited to Friday night and Saturday to find something that would make us blend in with the Hollywood crowd. Mike rented a tuxedo and I finally found an evening gown at J.C. Penney's where I'm sure many stars buy their evening wear, right?

On Sunday morning we wore t-shirts and jeans to Los Angeles then found a McDonald's close to our destination and changed in the bathroom. It was funny seeing the faces of people as we walked in like regular people and walked out like, well, movie stars! After arriving at the Shrine Auditorium we were escorted to the staging area. To be readily identified as seat-fillers we were given wristbands (mine did not match my gown). From two o'clock until 4:45 we stood, listening to the "ringmaster" explain the seat-filler code of conduct. I don't know why, but we were not furnished chairs. We were instructed to take any cameras back to our vehicles as pictures were not allowed. We were not to speak to the actors unless spoken to, we were not to eat, drink, or ask for autographs. (Well,dang, why be there?) We could hear the crowds outside clapping and yelling as celebrities walked the red carpet (here we are all dressed up and no red carpet for us??). The ringmaster finally announced it was “showtime”. After standing for almost three hours the excitement about who we would be sitting with had been tempered...we just wanted to sit. Our feet were killing us.

We were herded into the auditorium. Mike and I were lucky to be seated at the same table, right by the stage...and there sat Willem Dafoe. He stood up, introduced himself and shook our hands. Evidently he didn't see the wristbands because as we sat down he offered us a glass of wine. Sadly we admitted to him that we were lowly seat-fillers and were prohibited from partaking. He apologized then started to chat with us like we were old friends. What a nice man. The food looked absolutely mahhvelous and we were definitely tempted to take a bite.  I hated to see it just sit there knowing it would end up in the garbage, but rules are rules. So we just sat there and tried not to drool while the everyone else ate. Along with our new best friend Willem, our table included Anne Heche and Cary Elwes. There were others at the table as well that looked familiar but their names escaped me. 

During the meal and throughout the evening I scanned the room and was definitely star-struck. Patty Duke, Dennis Weaver, Tom Hanks, James Woods, Julia Roberts, Benjamin Bratt, the West Wing cast - the list goes on and on. Sitting at the table next to us was Brian Dennehy. I was one of his biggest fans and my heart skipped a million beats. He was much more handsome in person and just as burly as he looked on television. I wondered what would happen if I casually walked over, plopped myself down on his lap and gave him a smooch, but I was a coward. Anyway, I'm sure my husband wouldn't have been pleased and the ringmaster would have taken me by the wristband and thrown me out. (I think it would have been worth it!)

Right before the curtain went up, Chris O'Donnell came to our table for a chat with Willem and took Mike's seat. So here I was sandwiched between two handsome actors with Brian Dennehy within kissing distance....life couldn't get any better!  Mike had disappeared into a sea of people scrambling to find a table. The show began and I kept waiting to be moved, but no one claimed my seat; in fact, I sat there all evening long.

Because of the table's location to the stage, the view was awesome! I was able to see entertainment and winners up close and personal. It was the year one of my other favorites, Julia Roberts, won for Erin Brokovich. She definitely was (and still is) a pretty woman. Benjamin Bratt wasn't bad either!

I had no idea where Mike was, but found out later he was playing musical chairs. There was an empty seat at The Soprano's table and he sat there for about fifteen minutes then got booted by James Gandolfini. He rotated around tables filled mostly with directors and producers after that. Right before the last award, he ended up standing in the bar area of the theater with a group of celebrities that included Sela Ward, Jesse Green and Calista Flockhart. They were readying themselves for a quick exit once the curtain closed ...avoiding the mass exodus.

After the show ended, I walked through the throng of Hollywood's elite, secretly wishing I had a discreet 007 camera built in to my evening gown to memorialize everything.  Once I found Mike, we started to exit and a young man took my arm and started to guide us to the after-party. That would have been great fun but I knew the ringmaster was probably at the entrance of the party just waiting to grab interlopers for an embarrassing bounce. (Again, maybe it would have been worth it!)

It was an evening we'll never forget. We thought about staying on the active seat-filler list, even applying for the Oscar's, but after careful consideration, decided once was enough. Doing it again would take away the uniqueness of the experience so we retired the wristbands and returned to our usual award-watching venue...on our sofa, in pajamas, eating pizza.




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