call the room where you wait to go onstage the green room. Probably
because the original ones were painted green. Duh. But this
is traditionally where you found out what was really going on
with the show. Will the make up girl tell you the star had such
a bad hangover, they had to prop his eyelids open with Crazy
Glue? Or has the Network Liaison returned from prison, or as
we've been told to call it; "sleepaway camp" yet? And which
cameraman is sleeping with which executive producer? It may
be all sequins, sunshine and vaselined smiles on camera, but
The Green Room is where you learn the real dirt of the show.
Of course, this is PBS, so the revelations will be restricted
to a PG rating. Tops.
Heaven/ Kansas City (back
Went there twice to shoot this piece. The second time one of
the legs on the tripod buckled and the camera tipped over and
crashed to the cement with a hollow echo heard around the entire
plant. If I had been the cameraman there would have been crying,
screaming and the throwing of many tiny pieces of a former camera
into walls, but Gary Mercer pulled out his cellular, made a
few calls, lining up both a camera surgeon and a replacement
camera and everything went on as if nothing had happened. Except
when we went to Arthur Bryant's for ribs and then the mass hysteria
began. It looked like a sequel to "Lord of the Flies" written
by William Burroughs. Later that night, Producer Scott Pearson
and I got stranded outside a club called the Blue Room, where
we flagged down a civilian in a car that formerly was a cab
but alas was a cab no more but we must have looked pretty pitiable
because he gave us a ride back to the hotel anyway.
You know my feelings on public transportation. I think it's
a truly wonderful way to get around and other people should
be encouraged to use it. For the four days we were in St. Louis
the heat index never dipped below 110° F. Even at night. The
camera lens fogged up whenever we ventured outdoors forcing
us to turn off the air conditioning in the car so it could acclimate.
Fortunately the hotel we were staying at had a pool. Unfortunately,
it was being renovated at the time. Clever that; dysfunctional
pool in the dead of summer. Eventually we cooled off by getting
kicked out of a series of downtown blues bars dancing till three
Oakland/ San Francisco
We rented a convertible to do this shoot, and the idea was we
would be stuck in a regular lane, see the empty carpool lane,
get all excited by the latent freedom, lower the top, switch
lanes and hit it. The only problem was, when I lowered the roof
and stomped on the accelerator, the top stopped dead midway
down. Learned later it had an automatic lock preventing it from
moving when the car is going over 10 miles an hour. You'd think
someone would tell you, right? A Post-It? Anything. So we had
to get back into the crowded lane and do it again. And again.
That's why we're really laughing. Took about eight takes to
get it right. You can see Associate Producer Sean McGinn and
Executive Producer Patrice O'Neill in the back qualifying us
for the carpool lane.
Bike to Work Day
Biking to work in San Francisco is like dogsledding to work
in Bali, so we went to a nice flat city to try it. First, the
idea was to profile this guy who bikes to work all year long.
In Chicago. Including winter. And I met him: He's not a flippo
unit. Nice guy. Pixilated, but nice. That's my friend Aaron
Freeman riding the canopied bicycle with his two goddesses,
Diana and Artemis, in the back. He won the bicycle/ car/ public
transportation race Chicago holds on Bike To Work Day for the
third year in a row. All three teams start from a common point
north of town and the first to Daley Plaza wins. The car was
a Dodge Viper driven by a NASCAR driver who told me he would
have won if he could have found parking. Those whiny NASCAR
drivers. It's always something. I'm surprised he didn't complain
about all the right turns.
Couch Potato/ Milwaukee
Aaaah, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper of my youth.
Where I first started contributing jokes and funny items when
I was fourteen. And now I come back a big time out-of-town PBS
television series host. And nobody knows who I am. Oh well.
I guess they never expected me to claw my way to the middle.
Later on, I treated the crew to Zaffiro's Pizza on the East
Side for a taste of the best cracker crust pie in the world.
And then I expensed it.
Couch Potato/ Pasadena
The critics were worried I would make their job look too soft
and they'd lose what little respect they feel they can command
while writing for the toy section. They told me this poolside
while we were gorging at an all-you-can-eat steak and lobster
tail buffet. But to be honest, these guys deserve it and more
just to wash out the line of crud the network execs try to force
feed them over an over again for three weeks. You try to think
of a follow up question after some eighteen-year-old male ingenue
starring in a new series bats his baby blues and said he's been
waiting for this chance his entire life.
P.S.: Joanne Weintraub is one of the funniest humans I've ever
met, and I get down on my knees and thank god everyday she decided
to become a television critic and not a political comedian.