Friday, March 27, 2009

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Date

In early 2005 I was still fairly new to Los Angeles. I didn't have many friends there and the ones I did have were trying to fix that problem. My old internship place set me up on a friend date with their new intern. We talked a few times, maybe even went out for a meal or two. She was a local girl, finishing her last semester at USC and I was new. It was nice to meet someone who knew their way around.

After talking a few times she mentioned her sorority and how she wanted to set me up on a date for one of their big events. I agreed because I had nothing to do that night. As it turns out, they would have probably picked anyone for this girl, I just happened to be available on instant messanger at the time. After agreeing, the following things were brought to my attention.
  • It was an 80's party, so people were wearing costumes.
  • It was a mystery bus ride, meaning we met up and were bussed to a surprise location.
  • She was a college freshman who just turned 18. At the time, I was 23-years-old.
The thought of backing out was in my head, but apparently this girl was the last sister to get a date for the event already. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but in my mind this night had already been downgraded from a potential for fun to a favor for a friend. My date and I exchanged a couple of e-mails, mostly about logistics - costumes, dinner beforehand, address. There was a tiny bit of small talk and it was clear we didn't have so much in common, but that didn't prevent her from "friending" me on Facebook.

I picked her up at her dorm and we drove to the downtown California Pizza Kitchen. There were three or four other couples, all noticeably freshmen in college. It was obvious because all of the guys were mesmerized by when I ordered a beer. After the awkwardness that was dinner ended, the group went back to someones dorm room. The kids all started doing straight shots of cheap vodka. When I opted out, my date called me a party pooper. I reminded her that I had to drive us to the bus pick up. After taking her final shot, she filled a water bottle with the remaining vodka and tore the label off.

We met some place on campus and got on a yellow school bus. My date sipped occasionally from her bottle with the subtleness of carrying it in a brown paper bag, shouting to her friends all over the bus. I opened the window to get some air. It was mostly for her benefit, as she was already drunker than any 18 year old should ever be.

Upon reaching our destination, everyone got two drink tickets. I held on to one and my date grabbed the other from me. Apparently only the people distributing tickets checked IDs and the bartenders were informed to allow anyone who possessed a ticket to use them.

As concerned as I was about her slowly declining sobriety, speech patterns and ability to stand up straight, I was equally concerned that I forgot to wear a belt. This wasn't normally a huge issue, but I picked my jeans that night not based on size, but based on closeness in color to the borrowed denim jacket I wore. The winning pair happened to be my baggiest; at least one, maybe two sizes too large, bought in a time that I thought jeans had to be gigantic. The jeans weren't falling all the way off, but it was a nuisance to have to pull them up every ten seconds.

I danced with my date for a while and was actually starting to have an okay time. Then my date took my lack of wearing a belt as an indication to get handsy. I told her to take it easy and went to find the bathroom. On my way back, I stopped at the bar to look for her. I located her in the darker half of the room making out with some dude with a lot of hair gel and much closer to her age. Nothing could have made me happier. As I was still initially looking in her direction, she opened one of her eyes and caught my field of vision. She stopped making out and came over to me at the bar and asked if I wanted to come play truth or dare in the corner. I politely declined. She went back to that same guy and started going at it again. I glared at the dancefloor, looking right at the friend who set me up. She looked back and mouthed the words "I'm sorry".

I figured this was as good a time as any to use my one drink ticket. Everyone over the age of 21 was given two tickets, but my date snatched one of mine immediately. While getting a beer, I saw the girl whose apartment I subletted the previous summer and I asked if she remembered me. She didnt, and it was probably better that way.

My date was gone. My drink ticket(s) were gone. The worst part was that I couldn't leave. The return bus was still two hours away and I didn't even know where I was. It was a hotel in downtown L.A. I passed the rest of the night on the patio making desperate phone calls.

When we got back on the bus, my date sat with me and fell asleep on my shoulder. The only thought running through my head was the scene from Animal House when Pinto drops his underage date off in a shopping cart. Then I thought about where the closest Ralph's was.

During the return trip, the bus made many campus stops to let people off. My date got up for one of these stops and asked if I wanted to come with her. I said no. She said okay and I saw her walk off with hair gel dude. By the time the bus made it to the original pick up I was one of the only people left. Most of the others got off at various points along the way. I couldn't speed out of there fast enough.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The 18+ Art Class

During my first two years of ECA my classmates and I were all aware of the "Seniors Only" drawing class that involved nude models, but I don't think anything could have actually prepared us for it. To say it was awkward was a collosal understatement. On the first day there was a very uneasy feeling in the classroom. There were fifteen easels set up facing a wooden platform in the center of the room. Our teacher was covering the window of the door with some old newspaper as we awaited the model's arrival. As a class, we were usually loud and sarcastic, but today nobody was saying a word.

There was no extra budget from the school to pay models. The models who came were exactly the kind of people who would sit naked for free - the kind of people who you would not want to look at unless you had to. Some of them were friends of the teachers, others were just random people who probably replied to a flyer around town. It was an exercise in extremes. One man had a large gut, another woman was oddly tall and had very long arms and legs, the third model was a man with hair that went down to his waist. Every class consisted of a big, blank pad of paper and the models changing positions their position after about ten minutes. You could spend that time on one drawing or one hundred, there was no real structure. Each year was divided into four quarters, giving us ten straight weeks of these people.

The tall woman was affectionately known as the bird lady, because every time she moved her arms in a pose her shoulder blades would stick out very far. She also had a large, beak-like nose. My friend Kevin coined the name and drew a couple of sketches drawing out her bird features. Occasionally the models posed with objects and we all nearly lost it when she held a large feather for one class.

The man with the long hair had two large tattoos. He had a dove on his left shoulder and a large cattle skull on his chest. There were times where I would focus on drawing one of those instead of the body because it was frustrating staring at this man's ass all day long. Occasionally I would make the tattoos more cartoony, giving the cattle skull a voice bubble or making the dove into a drawing of Big Bird's head.

The only real freedom we had in class was that we could listen to our own music. Everyone would come in and put on their various CD or cassette player headphones. Nobody ever spoke during the class. Even though we were seniors, we were only seventeen or eighteen years old, and this was still kind of an uncomfortable situation.

There was one specific day with the Bird Lady posing on an old wooden chair. She would sit on the chair or stand with one leg on it. At one point, she put her hands on the seat of the chair and bent all the way over, practically touching her toes, with her long, flat ass aimed square in my direction. With Stone Temple Pilots blaring in my ears, I muttered "Oh, great" under my breath. Or so I thought. As it turns out my comment was more than audible to everyone in the class, including the Bird Lady. My outburst drew her ire, as she spent the next hour of class giving me poses that were either difficult to draw or look at. The bottom of her foot, the top of her head, and once she just pointed her finger at me and looked away.

When the ten weeks were up, our group moved on to a video production class and were back to our normal cynical selves. We never spoke of the nude models again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Corey's Personal Escort

During Halloween Horror Nights 2007 I was put on the "operations security team". This meant that one of the us (or sometimes all three) would respond to incidents (fights, intoxication, etc) in the park. The main problem was each maze and area had their own supervisor, by the time we got there, things were already under control. It made for boring evenings - most of which were spent monitoring the entrance lines for the first few hours, then walking around the park seeing where help was needed until 3:00 am.

The opening weekend there was something called the Eyegore Awards. Corey Feldman, David Arquette, Rob Zombie and others were on hand to receive an award while plugging the release of Lost Boys 2. When the awards portion ended, almost all of the celebrities went home, but Corey and his entourage wanted to see the park. I know this because his manager was bitching to anyone who would listen that Corey needed a personal escort. He didn't know who to talk to, as most of the events staff was only there for the Award portion of the evening. I walked up to his manager, Tim, and offered my services. He quickly pulled me aside and let me know what was going on.

"Corey is a big star. He wants to see the park without being stopped for autographs and photos every ten seconds. Are there back ways to go in and see everything for a couple of hours before we leave?"

I knew that I had exactly zero pull in regards to taking someone behind the scenes, but I also knew ways to navigate the park that did not involve using the main pathways. It wasn't too impressive, but I told Tim that I would do everything I could. I guided them through the less crowded areas, avoiding crowds, spouting off facts about the park when I could.

When we got to the lower lot, I gave the group options of what they wanted to do. They chose to do the Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze, followed by the Jurassic Park ride, but they didn't want to get wet. I dropped them off at the VIP entrance (which was for anyone with a Gate A Pass) of the maze, and called over to the manager of Jurassic to arrange for some ponchos. The entire group was very impressed. As a reward I got to hold all of their designer handbags while they went on the ride.

When they got on the "Terror Tram" I escorted them to the loading area but I knew I couldn't get on with them. I got in my golf cart and frantically rode it to the walking section to meet up with them. When they finished their it was back on to the tram as I followed behind in the cart.

After one more maze, the group decided it was time to leave. Tim approached me and said "Corey will take a picture with you now," as if this I was waiting for the moment and it was the reason I volunteered to walk him around in the first place. I gave Tim my e-mail address, since it was taken on his camera. One of Corey's friends slipped me a twenty dollar bill, which I tried to refuse, but they insisted that it was okay for me to take. After all this happened, it was only 10:30 pm. I still had another four hours left of my shift.

The funniest thing was despite his concern, not one person came up and stopped Corey Feldman for a photo or an autograph during the course of the night. Now the park was dark, the streets were foggy and it was very crowded, but I'm sure he was at least somewhat noticeable, wearing a bright red shirt and a shiny, black paisley suit with dark sunglasses. At least he wasn't dressed like a goon with a radio earpiece, a name tag and an all-access pass.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Paley Festival Debacle

The Paley Fest is an annual television panel that features show casts and crew answer questions, show clips and interact with the fans. The shows can be rookies, reunions, solid shows, or the occasional one on one session. Twenty-five years later it remains a very hard ticket to get, but members of the Museum of Television and Radio get first stab at tickets. After enduring a couple of ticketing failures (Arrested Development and Lost) I got a membership for one reason: The Office.

For anyone who has wanted tickets to an event only sold through ticketmaster on-line, you know how dreadfully frustrating that can be. There are virtual waiting rooms where people wait until someone randomly is picked and given the chance to buy tickets. I was on the site 15 minutes before tickets would be on sale. The moment 10:00 am hit, I learned tickets were already sold out.

Impossible. There was no way that this could happen so soon, especially during a members only pre-sale. There could not be this many members eagerly waiting for their chance to get tickets. I was not ready to take no for an answer, but there were no real customer service lines for the Museum of Television and Radio (MTR). Calling the general information number, I was passed around until I got to an assistant who I told about my situation - the birthday membership, the instant sell out, two years of disappointment - I laid it on pretty thick. She called me back later that day having found two tickets for me.

My friend Orli was the biggest Office fan that I knew, so the other ticket was hers. She was at University of Florida, but I knew she would fly across country for it. It was going to be a pretty awesome short weekend. She'd fly in on Friday afternoon, we'd go to the panel that night and possibly Disneyland the next day before heading out to Purim parties.

That's when the situation took a turn for the worse. I got an e-mail from the same MTR assistant. Apparently the tickets she promised to me were promised to someone else at the same time and that person won out. I no longer had tickets, but I did have a friend with a non-refundable cross country flight. I do not remember the exact reply I sent, but I know it contained a lot of words like "outrageous" and "shockingly incompetent," all the while forcefully telling them that there was no way I was getting shut out of the show.

I think it's important to add that during these exchanges, I used my Universal Studios e-mail address hoping to appear I had some pull in the entertainment industry. I don't know why I thought this would help, but for some reason I thought they would try harder to please someone who was actually important, even if they had not heard of this person.

After that fuming message, I was directed towards the events coordinator, who attempted to calm me down. She informed me there were zero tickets but she was trying and I told her that trying was not good enough for someone on a college budget who just spent close to $400 on a flight for the sole purpose of going to this event. Every time we spoke I made it sound worse, driving the stake of guilt right into her as hard as I could.

One of the local radio stations I often listened to gave away tickets every year. I decided a last ditch e-mail to their entertainment reporter would give me an alternate route to receive tickets. I clued him in on the whole situation and what did he do? He betrayed me and forwarded it to the same MTR woman. She wrote back to me and said she was disappointed I tried to go around her to get tickets. I replied telling her she had no right to be disappointed about anything. This continued for about five to six days.

The day before the show I finally got a confirmation e-mail saying that I would have two tickets waiting for me at will call. I decided not to tell Orli, and I let her get on the flight without knowing. I told her there was a concert we could go to if the tickets didn't come through. She was on to this scheme from the beginning and was not surprised at all when I told her.

As for the evening itself, it began with an old episode ("Cocktails"), a preview clip of the not yet aired episode ("The Negotiation"), and a blooper reel. After the reel, the panel came out - everyone except John Krasinski, who received some ribbing for missing it to film a movie with George Clooney (Leatherheads). I got called on in the Q&A session and asked Brian Baumgartner (Kevin) if his character's Police cover band Scrantonicity might get a CD or iTunes release. He turned to one of the producers and said "that is a great idea!" He is a lot more animated than his character on the show.

Towards the end the host announced they would be doing trivia questions. The second question asked what Dwight got Michael for his birthday? Without thinking, my hand shot up and somehow I was the first one seen. As the lady walked towards me with the microphone my brain processed the question and I was able to get the words "hockey jersey" out. The room went silent and the other super fans immediately raised their hands, sensing it wasn't specific enough. I grabbed the microphone back and said "a hockey jersey that said From Dwight on the back." The prize was awesome. It was a gift bag that contained season 1 and 2 on DVD, a hat and an "Office" computer mouse.

When the show ended, the cast stayed around talking on stage, so we stormed up front. Everyone was very nice, taking time to talk with all the fans, signing autographs and taking pictures. The pictures of that night can be seen on my facebook page. The whole night was well worth all the trouble. I only used my MTR membership one other time - to watch video of the Arrested Development Paley Fest that I had missed two years before.