Memoirs of a Seatfiller

Even if You're a No One, You're a Someone!

Scene 8: Pick Pocketing Don Rickles at the Comedy Awards

A little less conversation… a little more action…. “Picture it”… New York City 2012… Hammerstein Ballroom

Seatfillers in waiting:

Taken to the holding area.

Music provided by The Roots… amazing!!

Guests and glitteratti begin to filter in…

Chris Rock introduces the first award of the night.  Hilarious as usual.  Still waiting for my turn down on the floor…

Make it down to the Main Event. Finally!!  My view from the sidelines….

Tina Fey in black and Will Arnet (Posterior views).

Amy Poehler in red.

Put me in coach!!  Seatfillers on the move…

So I finally get placed – I sit in place of Will Arnett.  Tina Fey is literally breathing down my neck [look at previous photo of Will Arnett sitting diagonally in front of Tina Fey].  As I pull out the chair I almost smash it on her foot.  Smooth.  Then as I sit there I realize the awkwardness that her and I are merely inches away from each other (the chairs are angled so she is facing me and my back is to her).  Umm this is weird.  Do I say something?  Do I look at her?  So I turn and look at her – we make eye contact.  She smiles politely and I just stare at her and say…. nothing. What a dope.  Just say anything stupid instead of being a total creeper.  But… nothing.  I loathe me right now.

My view from Will Arnett’s seat:

So then I get moved. See you later Tina… Call me – drinks sometime.  

Next stop… Tracy Morgan’s seat.  What he left? I get to sit here all night!  Sweet!!!

Me in Tracy Morgan’s seat…

View from Tracy Morgan’s seat…

As the night goes on – I look down and notice something sparkling next to my dinner plate.  What is that?  It’s a gold rectangular card… “This ticket is good for one admission to the after-party at Del Posto.”  Holy shit… I need that.  After-party at Del Posto??  That would be a-ma-zing.  But can I just take it?  Well Tracy Morgan obviously doesn’t need it… he went home.  This other seatfiller is eyeing it – better make my move!  I point “Oh my god it’s Chandler from friends, I think he’s looking at you!”  “Where???” she states.  Boom.  Success.  Ticket in hand.  Thank you Matthew Perry!  (Singing in my head) I’ve got the Golden Ticket… I’ve got the Golden Tickeeeeeetttt….

More of the show….

So as the show concludes we all gather to watch the Gliterrati of Hollywood congregate to take a giant picture on stage.  My brother walks up to me…  “Any success?  Did you find me a ticket to the after-party also?”  Sadly I had to say “Damn George – I looked but I couldn’t!”  He says, “It’s cool – just go without me.” What??? Have I taught this boy nothing??  I say… “George, I once heard the expression ‘I know when they say no – they don’t mean me.’  I’ve lived by that motto.  Now go find a ticket.  Go GO GO!”  So inspired George runs off as we watch the commencement…

George returns in a haste.  “Ok lets go.  Lets go…now.”  I reply, “Did you get one?  You did – I can tell.  Where did you get it?”  The next statement that came out of his mouth was one I never thought my ears would hear in this lifetime, “I think I just jacked Don Rickles’ ticket to the after party.”  Me: “Don Rickles? Don Rickles?  The man who is being honored tonight and given the Johnny Carson lifetime achievement award?”  George concludes, “Yea exactly.  He doesn’t need it to get in.”

“then after the show, it’s the after party…” Del Posto (and all your delicious food) here we come…  red carpet and ropes.

Breath held… are we gonna get in…??


(Me and Robin Williams)

(Me and Ed Helms)

(Me and Amy Poehler)

(Louis C.K, Maya Rudolph and myself).


Scene 7: I Will Always Love… Grammy

Sunday February 5, 2012This has to be the greatest day ever.  Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and I find out I’m going to the Grammys!.  Phone rings…. incoming call… My brother George cell:  “Hey guess what… you know how you emailed your seatfiller people and put in a request for me… I was accepted to the Grammys also!” Me: “No way!!!!!! That’s amazing!!! I haven’t been to an event with another person in a while.  This is so amazing, especially since it’s in LA.  I wonder what the odds are that we were both chosen?”

….” Thanks again to everyone and we look forward to seeing those of you selected this coming Sunday at the Grammy Awards.  For those that did not get accepted to this show, please understand that we did receive well over 31,000+ submissions, including pictures and applications,  for this years show. Those chosen should feel extremely lucky as we only select a few hundred every year to attend this show.”…  wow.

One week to go and so much to get done.  Flights… booked.  Hotel… thank you and friends…. texted I’m coming into town.  Now what to wear?  Picked up that rad dress in Soho last weekend.  Done and doneWhat about my brother? He’ll need help – let me call in the big guns.  My friend Cristina does the wardrobe for shows like 30 Rock and Smash.  In times of fashion crisis, she is my Rachel Zoe.  Cristina to the rescue… before Lea Michelle can belt one last over dramatic ballad… she has turned my brother into the lost Jonas brother (but better).  Casual tux, textured shirt, vintage tie and distressed boots. Totally dope! Oh I’m gonna try my dress on and this is gonna be great!  I step out of the bathroom and then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. “Oh my god – I look ridiculous compared to him.  I can’t wear this – I look like I got it at Contempo Casual. “ Cristina laughs “No Nikki, not Contempo; but, you look like Kris Jenner birthed another Kardashian… and that baby sold you a dress.”    Great… add buy new dress to the list.   

Friday February 10thThe week is a blur.  Before we know it we are stepping on the plane in Newark and off the plane at LAX.  It’s Friday night, end of a crazy work week, and I’m still dialed up.  As some of my friends from LA call it… tweaker mode.  Tweaker mode is defined as your typical type A New Yorker… iPhone glued to the face, totally high strung, doing 50 things at once… on speed.  Basically me – even when I’m sleeping.  Up pulls the next cab and out comes our driver… Curtis.  I turn to George and whisper, “Not sure we are getting to the Grammys or the hotel.”  I notice Curtis has a severe case of Exotropia… of both eyes.  This is when the eye deviates completely outward – severely effecting one’s vision. “So Curtis – we are staying at the Mayfair.” Curtis quips, “Mayfair! Mayfair? I’ve been driving for 8 years in this city and never heard of no Mayfair.  I have no clue where that is.” Once again… great.

Cut to our cab minivan pulling up to the hotel (soley due to my iPhone GPS).  Was that a gunshot I just heard? I look outside the van and in front of the hotel is a group of people surrounding a man wearing a ski mask – dealing crack.  Literally.  Curtis: “Woohooo I wouldn’t stay here if you paid me… and I’m broke as shit!”  Walking into the lobby, we can barely see the front desk because the veil of marijuana smoke is opaque.  Before you can say “crack is whack” we have suitcases in hand… hauling ass through the streets of downtown LA .  Fifteen long blocks later, almost getting mauled by a gang of latino kids on low-riders, we made it to the last hotel room available in the city.  Tomorrow should be a better day…

Saturday February 11th…”Breaking news: Grammy winning, chart-topping singer Whitney Houston, age 48, died Saturday afternoon, her reps have confirmed. Her body was found in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton, where the ‘How Will I Know’ singer was staying.”

What?!! George questions, “Is this a joke? Is this real?”  Soon it was apparent this was a sad reality.  The woman who has provided the soundtrack for most of my adolescent and young-adult life, is now dead, way before her time.  With a heavy heart I reflect on the impact she has had on myself and the genre of music.  Ironic this has happened on the eve of the Grammy’s… a forum where she has frequently reined as Queen.  I wonder how this will affect tomorrow?  I was sooo excited.  But now… what’s it going to be like?

Sunday February 12thGrammy day is here before we know it.  As we begin our trek towards the Staples Center, the tall buildings poignantly cast a shadow over the street below as someone blasts the familiar music of Houston’s “Why Does It Hurt So Bad.” In my mind I give her one moment in time and nod my head as we head towards her castle.  As the music fades and we turn the corner of Flower Street, so does the shadow, giving way to the most dazzling sunny afternoon.  As I walk, the anticipation begins to grow and the electricity of excitement once again begins to surge through my body.  No longer am I a novice, not knowing what to expect, but a seasoned celeb vet who has returned to Oz.  As we arrive, a few seatfillers have checked in and begun to line up around the perimeter of the Staples Center.  A man with a headset: “Have any of you ever done this before?” A few shout, “once,” “no never” and “a couple times.” Then I interject, “yes… for 9 years.”  Everyone turns and looks.  Soon the questions start firing and one by one people come up to me with inquiries as if I was their Yoda.  Before you know it 3 hours have passed and we are getting ushered in.  Show time…

George and I are filed into the floor level of the Staples Center and my eyes are infiltrated by the grand stage and decadent details.  As I sit waiting patiently for us to be assigned seats, I reflect back on the past 9 years, thinking about my first show – the Grammys, and where my life has taken me since that moment.  I then feel a gentle tap from a young college girl sitting next to me.  With this wide-eyed deer in headlight expression, she confesses, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this.  I am actually so overwhelmed.  My legs feel paralyzed and I’m not sure I can do this.” Ironic, it’s like looking into a mirror from the past. I admire this girl’s innocence and unending possibilities that lie before her… but don’t envy her, for I am completely content with the yellow brick road I have travelled.   A true ‘full circle’ moment.

4:50pm PST.  Before I have the chance to respond I hear “let’s start bringing in the seatfillers.”  College girl didn’t know what hit her – I literally grab her arm and toss her ass out of the chair and start commanding, “Go -Go -Go.  Walk fast!”  Poor thing looks like she’s going to faint. George trailing behind me whispers, “I’m just following you… you’re in the zone.” Next thing I know I’m in the middle section – down in front.  The usher turns to me “sit in any open seat.”  I have my choice of any, but choose the third row – not wanting to be too greedy.  George sits in the open seat directly next to me, on the end of the aisle.  On the other side of me sits a very attractive black woman in approximately her late 60s. The usher tin a headset then gives instructions: “IF I see anyone – anyone – with a camera or phone – we will take it away.  Don’t let me catch you with one!”   Gulp.

(Me in the center of the screen ~ over Katy Perry’s shoulder)

People start scrambling for their seats, like adult musical chairs, as the Gliterrati slip in minutes before the show begins.  I scan down my row and 5 seats away from me is Lady GagaHoly crap she looks like a black widow spider trapped in a bedazzled web… how can she breathe in that thing??  Subtlety has never been my strong suit. I am staring at her when we lock eyes and then I wave and say, “Hey Stefani!”  She chuckles and gives me a smile and a slight raise of her golden staff – whatever the hell that thing is.

(Me… 3 random people… Lady Gaga… Miranda Lambert… Blake Shelton)

I then look two rows directly in front of me and see Katy PerryI didn’t realize she is soo tall and gorgeous – blue hair and all – TV does NOT do her justice! As we are sitting there I see an orange blur breeze past me, it’s Fergie.  Is that an orange doily she’s wearing… ummm okay sure.  It’s not hideous – yet poor choice – but damn that girl has an eight pack.  Well I would too if ‘worked out’ with Josh Duhamel every night.

(Me… red haired woman… Katy Perry)

(Mark joined in for this pic)

At one point Rihanna walks over and gives Katy Perry a hug.  Okay, I think I am actually in sensory overload at this point – my eyes cannot handle such gorgeousness.  Katy Perry then grabs her ass, they start chatting, Rihanna says something very sassy and then they jump up and down while laughing.  Me too! Me too!  I wanna join in the convo!! Oh wait – I’m not a fabulous superstar… I forgot.  I guess it’s an A – B conversation and I better C-list my way out of it.

4:59pm  Just seconds before the show – tons of seatfillers get booted out of their seats for last minute celebs.  Holding my breath – I think George and I are okay.  Oh shit – I spoke too soon.  “Excuse me sir, we need that seat.  A VIP seatfiller needs to sit here.”  George of course politely gets up and says “sure.”  What the F…. is a VIP seatfiller?! And why does he have to get up for them??  We’ve been sitting here! As if the usher reads my mind he says, “The VIPs are a select group of people who work in the industry – given preferential seatfiller status because they weren’t able to get regular tickets.”  That is such bulls*#%.  I’ve been doing this forever – I’m the goddamn VIP seatfiller.  So George goes off to find a new seat and in his place sits an adorable little man-boy wearing a sparkly sequin jacket.

Ass LL Cool J starts off the night with opening remarks, I sit and take it all in – the crowd, the vibe, the energy.  Something is different tonight. The feeling in the air is different than any event I have ever been to.  Solemn. Quiet.  Muted.  It’s felt this way since I walked in.  Probably has a lot to do with the shock, yet not so surprising passing of a legend.  I wonder if that’s it – because that electrifying energy seems to have short circuited.

During the first commercial break the strangest thing happens… All of a sudden different celebrities walk over and start talking to the woman sitting next to me, who I mentioned earlier.  One of them being John Legend.  He leans over me and reaches out his hand to shake hers.  Oh my God – John Legend’s elbow is in my face… literally.  Ummmm oops think I just got lipstick on his jacket sleeve.  He says, “I just wanted to come over and offer my condolences.  I am soo sorry for your loss.  This comes as a shock to all of us.  I am truly sorry.”  She returns with a polite grin and thanks him.  Wait. Wait. Wait. Huh? Who is this?  Obviously they are talking about Whitney.  But who is this mystery lady? Family? Friend? Colleague? Why do they all keep coming up to her?  And for that matter… who’s seat am I in??  Clearly this seat is empty.   Could it be….?????  No. Noooo.  Maybe????

(John Legend shaking Lady Gaga’s hand after he shook mystery woman’s hand)

Halfway through the commercial break a woman with a headset runs over and starts motioning at the 6 seatfilllers behind me. “Get up! Get up! We need these seats.”  All of a sudden the nuttiest thing happens.  I hear this shrilly voice shriek “NO!  I. Am. Not. Getting Up!  I am staying right here!”  Holy crap is this bitch crazy?? That is like cardinal sin #1 of seatfilling – you shut up and get up.  People start to turn around and stare at her.  “What?? Get up!” says the usher. “No I am a VIP seatfiller and I am not getting up.” Yup this bitch has lost it.  This should get interesting… more people start looking. The usher takes a breath ready to get physical and says, “Sweetie I don’t give a flying f@** who you think you are… but unless your name is Lady Antebellum – get the f*** up! This is their seat!”  She turns beat red as I burst out with an audible laugh. Insert Lady Antebellum.

Just as the end of commercial break counts down…”Back in 5,4,3…” slides Drake – in the seat directly in front of me.  Wow that’s Drake – he’s awesome.  As he sits there I begin to notice his energy and swagger… Sexy. As. Hell.  Wow he is hott. I never thought so… but damnnnn.  He glances at the crowd, over his shoulder, looking left – looking right – then at me.  We make eye contact for a brief second… he smiles… I drop my program.  I’m such a spazz. Ugh. I reach down to get my program, and as I lean in…. Wow does he smell great. Wooo – just takes the breath away.  What is that? Cologne?  I get startled. “Ummmm did you just smell Drake?” whispers the guy sitting next to me in the sparkly jacket.  Me: “Ummm nooooo. Gosh. That would be weird.  Of course not… [insert overdramatic eye roll].”  Him: “Oh my bad.”

(Drake… Guy with sparkly jacket over his shoulder… my black hair next to him)

Soapbox: What the hell is up with Chris Brown…  Why is he back?  Why are we okay with him again?  I mean… he beats the piss out of Rihanna – doesn’t even act remorseful – and we shun him for like a minute and then are like – ok here’s your…. Grammy!  He wins?! Then performs twice…? Not ok.  Not. Okay.

So I get to enjoy about 2/3 of the Grammy show from one of the best seats in the house.  But sadly I get bumped… not for a celebrity… not for a music producer… but for a goddamn V. I. P seatfiller.  Seriously! As I stamp away, seriously pissed. I get a little distracted and… oops…end up in the dead center of the middle section of the Staples Center.  I notice faces looking up at me because I’m the only one walking.  Holy crap there’s Adele….. Tony Bennett…. Paris Hilton … Some dude I don’t know…. tiny face Taylor Swift Jessie J…….Weird Al Yankovic?… Ah Paul McCartney!  All of a sudden I hear “We are back in 10, 9, 8…” Oh no I am in the middle of the audience – dead center – with no seat!  Frantically I look but it’s like a Forrest Gump nightmare, “seats taken.”  Next thing I know a dude in a headset is literally pushing me down the aisle so fast I get air.  Between my dress and most coveted Louboutins – I can barely walk – let alone run.  Safe.  Just barely.

I’m now about 20 rows back – just where the mini stage is… and I see my brother waving. An empty seat is right next to him…perfect!  He has been in this cool spot for the entire show – right next to the teleprompter. People stand next to us and prepare, right before they are about to present on the mini stage.  Ryan Seacresttotally hot, impeccably manscaped, but so adorableKate Beckinsale…. Offensively flawless… well except for the big stain on her butt.  Oh and my fave…. LL Cool J.  He really is the coolest.  As he rehearses his lines he keeps licking his lips and shifting his junk… pure swagger.

A few memorable moments as the final performances of the night come to a close:  Adele….self-explanatory.  Jennifer Hudson does a beautiful and rendition of “I will always love you.”  Not a dry eye in the place.  Her emotion and love for the pop star is palpable as she belts out the classic.  Really moving and truly memorable.  The OG Diva… Whitney Houston.

Then comes Nicki Minaj.  Oh baby.  As many people watch her bizarre and questionably controversial performance – what isn’t seen is my favorite part.  Standing next to us, mouthing his cue cards, is LL Cool J.  As Nicki gets on stage with an exorcist performing priest – LL has some commentary of his own.  It goes something like this… “Oh hey, yea Nicki… oh girl wait… oh girl what are you doing…. don’t go there Nicki… noooo….  She went there.  Awww shit.”      Love.

As the show comes to a close… and the Staples Center has been renamed ‘the House Adele built’… I truly feel blessed to have been picked as one (well really two) of 200 people from over 30,000 – to be a part of Grammy history.

And PS… Thank you to my homboys Steve King and Matt Micucci for showing us west coast hospitality.

Scene 6: Like A Rhinestone Cowboy

Press Release: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Country Music Association (CMA) Board of Directors President and half of multi-platinum duo Brooks & Dunn, Kix Brooks, and NYC Big Events President Maureen J. Reidy today announced that for the first time in its almost 40-year history, the Country Music Association will celebrate its biggest night outside of Nashville when “The 39th Annual Country Music Association Awards” will be held on the world’s biggest stage, New York City.  The 2005 CMA Awards will air live from Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, November 15 (8:00 – 11:00 p.m. et), on the CBS Television Network.

Me: (Phone rings) Hey Lor.

Loren: Hey! So I just read something exciting. Guess what’s coming to New York City this year?

Me: I have no idea… the Skort is back?

Loren: No. The Country Music Awards!!!

Me: Oh god. And I’m supposed to care because?? Oh wait… shit. You wanna go, don’t you. I forgot you love that crap.

Loren: Yes! I would die to go. Did you hear anything about it through your Seatfillers thing?

Me: Funny thing I did. I really had no intention of going – but if you want to…

Loren: Yes please!!! You know how much that would mean to me!

Me: Of course, no prob. Let me see if I can still get a spot. But seriously I don’t think I could stomach all the big hair, ridiculous accents and head-to-toe sequins.

Loren: Nicole. What are you talking about? You should be used to it…you’re from Jersey.

Me: Well played.

Here we go again…Madison Square Garden… my home away from home.  Oh crap I’m late. Loren is gonna kill me.  I know she’s been waiting weeks for this.  I think she even went shopping. And when Loren goes shopping…. Girl.  Goes. Shopping.  I think personal assistants from Neiman Marcus may have been involved.  Oh there she is… I hope she doesn’t kill me.

“Hey, don’t worry I know you by now and figured you’d be late. I don’t care.  I’m wearing Prada and this is going to be one of the best nights of my life. I had my hair blown out – I am so excited you have no idea”  I reply, “Wow you look nice! That gown is gorgeous.  I think my dress is from 1998 and I’m pretty sure I didn’t brush my hair.  Seriously Loren who listens to country music and who even knows one country singer.  If I walked up to any New Yorker I bet they wouldn’t know one… Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks don’t count.”  Loren quips, “Shut up, you are going to have a great time.  I bet by the end you will love country music.”  My eyes rolling… “ugh I doubt it.”

So we walk up to the table as usual.  “Name please.” I take out my ID and say, “Nicole Psomas plus one.”  The woman flips through her papers, flips again, flips some more.  She pauses and turns to the person next to her, “Can I see your list?”  Oh no this looks like a problem.  I think I can hear Loren sweating.  After several minutes of flipping papers she says, “I’m sorry sweetie, your name is not on the list.”  Loren gasps in horror.  I quickly interject, “but I received a confirmation last week…but… I’m the idiot who forgot to bring it.”  She then says, “I’m sorry without it I can’t let you in.”  Loren starts to shake and then she just screams out in hysteria “But I’m wearing Prada!”  The woman just looks at her confused.  I interrupt “Let me explain.  This means the world to her.  I personally could care less.  But she went out and bought a new dress, had her hair done all day, and would absolutely die if you didn’t let us in.  She bought a Prada gown for God’s sake.”  Loren continues to shake and mumbles “die, just die.”  She stares at Loren for a minute. I think she’s cracking.  Come on, look more pathetic!!! “Ok only this one time.  Next time you HAVE to bring your confirmation!”  “Thank you!! Yes I promise!”

As we run through the gated area (well… Girl in heels run…That’s when we look like the mini pony being chased by the poacher while running on hot coals) we find the line and jump on it.  Before we catch our breath a commotion breaks out.  I turn to Loren “Whats going on?”  Loren pants  “I have no idea – looks like something is going on up front.”   What’s up there?  Ohhhh someone is up there.  Ugh I hate being in the back!  That’s it – if I have to be here – I am getting shit done!  I turn to Loren and grab her hand “Come on!  Follow me.  I’ve done this before.”  Loren gasps “What are you doing?  We can’t go up there, these people are gonna be pissed.” I retort “Do you see the amount of Aqua Net and cowboy hats in this place.  I’m a pissed off New Yorker – let them try and say one word.”  As we get to the front area, amongst the crowd signing autographs, is a guy I actually recognize.  “Loren!  That’s the dude who dates Nicole Kidman!  He sings?”  She nearly falls off her stilettos “Yea!  Keith Urban!”  So before anyone has the chance to throw me out, I snap a quick pic. Then another one I recognize: “Ooo it’s the guy from Big Top Pee Wee!!!”  Loren rolls her eyes, “His name is Kris Kristofferson.”  Whatevs .  He’s Mace Montana from the Cabrini Circus to me.

So before we have time to catch a glimpse of any other celebs they start to herd us in.  We are brought to a hallway and there are hundreds of seatfillers lined up.  Now we are instructed to just wait.  The sequence of events are like usual… but this time something’s a little off….

“Howdy!!”  I jump.  As I turn around I am enveloped by the overwhelming scent of  Liz Claiborne.  I respond without even thinking, “excuse me?”  Before me stands an older woman in full length blue sequin gown, fur stole and matching shoes with large bows.  As many sequins as there are on her dress – equals the amount of jewelry she’s wearing. “I said howdy! Where ya all from?  Aren’ youu juss darlin’.  This is my first time in the big city.  This is just magical.  It’s so big with such hustle and bustle. Where ya’all in a rush to all the time?  Hahahaha. I never understand it.  And y’ all talk as fast as you walk – I can’t even hardly understand you half the time.  But it’s just so precious.  Just amazing….. (she keeps goin)… ”  I just smile back.  Hmm maybe if I keep smiling and nodding, I won’t have to respond.  She’s so sweet.  But I wasn’t expecting this.  It’s usually a room full of disgruntled New Yorkers, way too self-involved to bother with anyone.  And she’s so….chipper! As I look around I notice not  even a hint of a fellow Manhattanite.  Hair…sequins…more hair…is that a hand-gun embossed in rhinestones???? 

I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore Toto…  I need a drink.

Speaking of drink…. ***I’m going to break the 4th wall here and speak to you the reader.  For years I have told the story of this night, many times.  One thing, Loren nor I, could ever remember… where we got the drinks we consume at this point.  As seatfillers you are not supposed to drink and they won’t serve you.  So where did we get them?  Ohh well.  We may never know.  Back to the story…***  Now we are pretty tipsy.  It’s a little crazy down here on the main floor of MSG.  People are kind of just wandering around – on their own time – totally disregarding that a show is being filmed.

So with drinks in hand, we mosey down to the front.  Loren points,  “Oh I see two seats!”  She goes first.  Me, being a 2 drink lightweight (always have been and always will be) takes a little longer to get through the row.  I’m wearing my 4 inch stilettos, long black gown and double fisting two Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Class act. “Scuse me, scuse me.”  I am just about to sit in my seat when I feel a tug.  Shit! I’m stuck on something.  With my reflexes a little dulled it takes me a few seconds to process what I’m stuck on.  Then I hear in the screechiest high pitched twang “Seat-filler mooove!”  Oh crap.  My heel is caught in this chicks sequin monstrosity of a dress.  (I was later informed it was the Playboy Playmate girlfriend of a Rascall Flatts band member, in which I was entangled). She looks at me horrified and starts tugging.  “Ok let me get it…” Before I could finish my sentence, my heel jerks free, and my beer flies out of my hand and dumps all over the Playmate.  She gasps and then silently looks at me in horror.  I’m frozen like one of her frown lines.  Before I could think… I feel my body being pulled backwards down the aisle and thrown into a seat.  “Oh my God, Loren, thank you for saving me.”  The death stares I then got could win a gunfight at the O.K Corral.

At this point I have caused enough commotion and try to blend and just take in the performances.  Some people present/perform and I have no idea who the hell they are:  Brooks and Dunn,  Big & Rich, Montgomery Gentry, Toby Keith.  I turn to Loren “Who that hell is that chick?”  She replies “Taylor Swift.”  I reply “that’s a ridiculous name, I’m sure she won’t be very popular.”  (insert pause)  Then there are some people I kind of know: Brad Paisley, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Ann Rimes and Martina McBride.  Miranda Lambert gets on stage and actually mesmerizes me with her performance of “Kerosene.”  Holy crap – the stage is actually on fire!  Martina McBride then renders me speechless with an acoustic version of  “Help Me Through the Night.”  Wow what a voice. Woah.  This isn’t like Britney Spears doing Hit Me Baby.  That performance as well as several more throughout the night, actually moved me to tears.  The beauty of their voices, the detailed lyrics, the emotion behind the music…  Ok I guess I see what these people are getting their stirrups in a bunch about.

So the night draws to an end.  As we saunter out, feet killing us, we hear a scream.  I turn… walking out next to us is Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.  Loren “Get a picture!!!”  Done and done.

We then retreat to the local diner, still tipsy off a couple Tall-boys, we slide into the booth. “Wow, I can’t believe this night” says Loren, “it was just unbelievable.”  I agree, “Seriously, I never would have thought I would have enjoyed the show as much as I did.  I am so glad I was able to experience tonight.  I may now start listening to country music.  But I can’t believe I spilled my beer all over that girl.  I’m surprised she didn’t kill me.  That was a catastrophe avoided…”   Wackkk!!!!!!!  Before I can finish my sentence… Diet coke down… all over Loren and her Prada gown.

Oh crap.

Scene 5: Search for the Razzie

“…I want to thank the members of the Academy who were bold enough to give me this award… I am not able to express all my gratitude because now, my body is in tumult because it is a colossal moment of joy… Losing would suck and winning would be really scary. And it’s really, really scary… I just want to thank everybody I’ve ever met in my entire life… You like me. You really like me!… This is for everybody who works on the dream every day… I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve all of this. I’m just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream…  Julia Roberts told me the other day that she admired me. How do you think I’m feeling right now?… I won and I get to scream and jump a little. But I got to go back to work tomorrow… I very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reason for this being is the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry…  I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut for once. I think I’ll do it again…  I’m not going to drop the F-bomb like she (Melissa Leo) did. I’ve done that plenty before… And whenever you’ve got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up… I am the king of the world!…”

Ding! You’ve Got Mail… “Nick at Nite is hosting ‘Funniest Moms in America Contest Part 2.  We need seatfillers to be audience members for this show.  Please dress accordingly because you will be filmed.  No bright patterns, no white, no logos.”  This is it! My big moment… not just a seatfiller anymore.  Today I am…a professional audience member.  All right Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up!  My television debut has finally arrived – and my academy award winning performance to follow. Who am I going to take with me this time…? Oh, my brother of course – after all he is an actor. 

We arrive at the theater and filter into the main room.  I feel like I’ve been getting the rhythm of being a seatfiller, but now I’m in uncharted territory.  There are a collection of people just standing around.  A man with a headset makes an announcement: “We are going to have you line up and proceed upstairs to the balcony.  There will be people to direct you to your seats.” Damn!  Once again – nobody puts baby in the balcony.   Just as we are instructed we line up, when a woman walks up to George and I and says, “You two – follow me.”

“We like the way you both look.  We are going to sit you down here in the camera shot.”  Nice!!  She brings us to our seats and we sit behind an elevated table.  She explains, “This is where the judges will be sitting.  You will be directly behind them.  And remember you will be in a lot of the camera shots… so make sure to smile, laugh, and don’t make any distracting gestures.”  Oh man! What does that mean?  Ok I think I can handle that… I hope.  But the real question is… how do I look?  I put a lot of thought into my outfit.  I wore black because it’s slimming – deciding on a classic turtleneck.  My hair is pulled back in a neat ponytail to highlight my cheekbones.  I wonder if I’m wearing enough makeup?  It’s the middle of winter and I probably look pasty.  Damn! Why didn’t I put on bronzer?  Oh well, too late…

The audience is in their seats.  Now the judges filter in… who will it be?? So exciting!  They’ll be sitting mere inches from me!  Up first is Alfonso Ribeiro.  Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel-air!  Love him! Next is Mario Cantone from Sex and the City.  Oh my gosh, in 1990 some friends and I went on a children’s TV show he hosted… Steampipe Alley.  I wonder if I can tell him that… too weird?   Last but not least comes Carol Leifer, comedic writer.  So the judges sit down in front of us.  Alfonso is to my right.  I couldn’t help myself… tap tap tap… he turns around and looks at me.  “Just wanted to say hi. You’re awesome Carlton. Have a great show!”  He smiles disparagingly and says, “Thanks.  Have fun.”  Mario Cantone then turns around and quips, “You guys have prime seats huh.”  Now out comes the host, Katy Segal, famously Peggy Bundy from Married with Children… she warms up.  After several minutes the stage manager counts down… “in 5, 4, 3”… Here we go…

Katy Segal begins her monologue and then introduces the judges.  Oh yay! The camera is going to pan in our direction! Here it comessss… I glance at the monitor to see my big debut and… Oh. My. God.  Is that me?? Can’t be.  Why the hell do I look like a floating head?!?  It’s the dark background, my black turtleneck and black hair… all you see is a floating fat face!  Ahhhhhh!  And why do my ears stick out?  Stupid ponytail! Oh my god I’m vile!!  I slowly turn to George and whisper, “I look like Lyle Lovett in drag!  My ears stick out 40 feet. I’m Dumbo!”  He then says the three words that are the kiss of death to any girl: “You look fine.”  Ugh! I reply, “Fine. Fine? So what you’re saying is I’m a hideous Beast.”  He retorts, “Nicole, please.  I don’t understand. Take your hair down if you hate it?”  Boys.  So clueless.  “I can’t just take it down.  It doesn’t work like that.” It’s not like the movies.  A girl just doesn’t take her hair out of a ponytail and toss it from side to side and, bam, Jennifer Aniston. No! This was a choice.  I’m committed to it.  There’s hairspray and bobby pins in here.  Jeez!  He mumbles back “Ok… my bad.”

The camera is still on us.  Sooo… I have to put on a smile.  I try not to look horrified at myself on camera.  Not sure if I’m successful, but the show must go on.  So George and I listen closely to the performers and try to respond accordingly.  We give a laugh where a laugh is due, a head nod, a smile, and the occasional “ohhh.”  The audience is also given cues.  There is a flashing sign in front of the stage to direct us:  “More applause!” or “Laughter” or “Big laughs.” Then… “it” began.  Off in the distance I hear cackling and see long arms and legs flailing in my peripheral.  Simultaneously, George and I slowly scan left to see what’s going on.  There is a girl with big red hair, long pale legs and lots of freckles having a mini seizure.  I lean over “What the hell is she doing?”  George responds, “That is a case of serious over-acting.”  The moms on stage are dropping bombs everywhere.  Overall the jokes are pretty lame, so the audience has to ham it up, but Pippy Longstocking is ridiculous.  I think she’s gonna fall off her chair.  And that laugh… that laugh! It’s a crossbreed between The Nanny and Krusty the Klown.  At one point Mario Cantone glances over his shoulder and shoots her a look like “bitch, shut it.”  I think I just peed my pants.

At this point George and I are engrossed in our acting roles when…  oops.  Earlier I smuggled in a Snapple and left the half-empty bottle by my feet.  I forgot to mention this little fact to George.  He shifts his weight in his chair to attempt a pensive pose… when wack… then a roll.  So the formerly half empty bottle is now fully empty… Ohhhh shhhhhitttt.  Please stop rolling – please stop rolling.  Brace yourself for the huge crashhhhhhh.  We are so getting thrown out of here.  Dear Lord please don’t let it shatter everywhere.  I promise to wake up for church every Sunday, never curse again and… Holy shit – thank God it stopped.  But now there is diet raspberry iced tea everywhere and it’s on the move headed directly for Carol Leifer.  Without a word or abrupt movement, George and I morph into David Beckham and Mia Hamm, kicking raspberry tea everywhere.  Our goal: disperse the tea anywhere but on the celebs while remaining undetected.  We look left… we look right… success.  There may have been some fouls… but all and all… score… disaster avoided.

So the night goes on.  More bombs than Baghdad.  The judges occasionally turn around to ask our opinion.  Hard to smell a rose in a dumpster… but someone’s gotta win this Stink-fest.  So the “funniest mom” is crowned (kind of an oxymoron)… Pippy‘s performance pathetically peaks… and my fat floating face has made its television debut.  I guess my Oscar winning speech will have to wait.  As the audience gets up to leave, we can’t help but chuckle at the sound of sticky shoes on Snapple, fighting their way out the door.  As I walk out, I notice the faint smell of ‘Razzie’ in the air… how ironic.

Scene 4: Hip Hop on Pop

It’s now October 2004 and I’ve been working for a few months and finally have money in my pocket.   It’s a Friday night in New York City, hanging with my girls, and we are on our way to the club.  I’ll paint a picture of a typical night… with some borrowed lyrics or song titles from 2004:

After a long day of work we love to “Change Clothes” and put our dancing shoes on to “Drop it Like Its Hott.”  As we shake our “Goodies” the boys say, “Hey Ya!….I Like the Way You Move.”  I say duh because “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.”  But the only guys in sight are “Freek-a-leeks” and they are vying to be “My Boo.”  One guy says I have a “Confession Part 2…Girl you Wanna come to My Hotel?”  I say my mama didn’t raise a “Naughty Girl” besides “You Don’t Know My Name” so just “Lean Back” before I “Lose It.”  Now I’m a little “Tipsy” and try to “Move Ya Body” but end up dancing in “Slow Motion.”  I realize that I’m not gonna find “My Happy Ending” here so I say to my girls lets “Leave (Get Out).” They say “Yeah!” this place is “Toxic” so how ‘bout we “Let it Burn.”  After much thought I realize “This is my sorry for, 2004. And I ain’t gonna mess up this year no more.”

Ding! You’ve Got Mail…  “Join us for the first ever Hip Hop Honors.  We will celebrate the genre of hip hop music and recognize it’s visionary artists.” Yay!  I love going out with my friends and dancing to Biggie and Beyonce.  This should be fun… who doesn’t love the Beastie Boys, Fat Joe, or Nas.  But who the hell are these people…  Rock Steady Crew? DJ Hollywood? Grandmaster Flash?

I went to high school, in the late 90’s, in a suburban town in northern New Jersey.   The closest thing to the ‘hood that we had was Boulder Run.  That’s the town center where a few rebellious kids would skateboard, in jeans 3 sizes too big, and heckle the patrons of McDonalds.  While West Coast and East Coast were feuding in an all out gangster rap war – we were playing hackey-sack, listening to Rusted Root and Dave Matthews Band.  So I guess you could say I have some things to learn about hip hop music.

It’s been a few months since my memorable night hanging out with Snoop Dogg.  I’m now back at Hammerstein Ballroom for what I hope is another exciting evening.  Will this compare to that? Who will I meet tonight? Maybe Snoop will remember me?  (Insert chuckle here).  Miriam came back for round 2 as well as my friend Joe.  We filter into Hammerstein Ballroom and get our directions for seatfilling duties.  “Tonight will be a little different.  The celebrities and guests will be in assigned seats, in the balcony, along the perimeter of the room.  You, the seatfillers, will be standing on the floor as the audience in a concert style.  Feel free to dance… sing… we want a lot of energy!”  Interesting…. So we won’t be sitting amongst the celebrities? Damn!  I’m now resigned to the fact that my chances of mingling with the elite are slim to none.  So what else am I gonna get out of this?

Miriam, Joe and I manage to position ourselves front and center.  We are about 3 rows from stage.  Holy crap these seats are awesome!  If I was paying for this ticket at a regular concert, these seats would be insane! The stage manager starts the countdown to taping.  “We are on in five, four, three….” Out come the hosts Mc Lyte and…Vivica A. Fox.  Vivica A. Fox? What the hell does she have to do with rap music??  Well I guess if you date ‘50 Cent’ you’ve earned a spot…?  “Hip hop is an ever changing culture that reflects the experience of society through 4 elements: Disc jockeying, emceeing, break dancing and graffiti art.”  That’s hip hop? Huh? I took all those hip hop dance classes…shouldn’t I know about this? It’s confirmed…this white girl has a lot to learn.

Well learn I do…  Some of the pioneers of hip hop are featured and a video montage is shown on each: KRS One, Public Enemy, Run DMC, Sugar Hill Gang, 2 PAC, DJ Hollywood.  Even the presenters have made their mark in this community: Fab 5 Freddy with Debbie Harrry of Blondie, Salt n’ Pepa, Ice-T, Doug E. Fresh, Foxy Brown, Wyclef Jean and P.Diddy.  Even Al Sharpton puts in his two sense.  Al’s always got something to say…Up next a video hip-hopumentary describes the Graffiti movement from the late 70s into the 80s and how it evolved from vandalism into a political/social art form.  Wow.  I’m totally blown away.

As the night progresses, the live performances send electricity through the air.  It’s an edible feast of audible appetizers.  The Beastie Boys kick it off with “Here we go.”  Wait a second… who are these guys? Last time I checked the Beastie BOYS didn’t have gray hair.  It’s weird when your idols get older… trading in their Addidas for Easy Spirits and poppin’ Terazosin instead of Ecstacy.  Nas comes out and performs a duet with his father, jazz musician Olu Dara.  Whatever.  Last week I got to clean the shelves at my dad’s pharmacy… top that.  Fat Joe pays homage to the tipping point of rap music with “South Bronx.”  Fat Joe then transitions into his song “Lean Back” and the crowd goes insane.  Oh my God… is this happening?  Is this a flash mob?!  Pre-flash mob??  Everyone simultaneously performs the “Lean back, lean back.”  I’m now complete.  Kid Rock comes out and shows the DJ skills that brought him onto the music scene.

Mc Hammer comes out… yes that’s right MC Hammer… and he performs “Unconditional Love?”  Whattt??  No 2 Ligit 2 Quit?  No Hammertime??  No ballon pants???  I feel robbed.  An appearance is now made by DJ Jazzy Jeff and Kid Capri.  The guy from Fresh Prince of Belair?  He’s a real DJ?  Sugar Hill Gang does props to their classic “Rappers Delight.”  One of the most entertaining guests of the night, on stage with Public Enemy, my fave… Flavor Flav.  If the Duracell bunny ate some crack and chased it with a 5 hour energy drink… he would have nothing on Flav.  I wonder who he’s wearing?  Does that clock come in my size?

As the night concludes, I can’t say I had any celebrity interactions…or got to dance on stage… or was offered any hallucinogenics; but, I did have an invaluable experience which opened my eyes to a world which I was previously ignorant. The genre that materialized from the basements of the South Bronx has ripened to a social, cultural and corporate phenomenon. It’s emerged from a time period when it was used as a platform for individuals to express their struggles through lyrics, dance and artwork. Hip hop’s message often times reflected the increasing depredation of urban poverty, crime, drug use, street violence, and gang rivalries.  It’s been criticized that the direction of hip hop has become too pop and mainstream, losing the message of the roots of its origin. But I think just as other genres of music have experienced an evolution, hip hop continues to reflect the changing lives of its artists and audience.  Hip hop and rap music should be respected for its history and place in society, but not condemned to one ethnic or socio-economic group.  If it is to be recognized as an art-form… art has no enemy except ignorance (or maybe Flavor Flav).  Tonight I graduated with my GED from the sKool of Hip Hop…which has earned me some street cred…well at least on the street of Boulder Run.

I always knew I had an alter ego inside this Gemini body…who knew she was a rapper. It took the hip hop honors to allow this diva to be born.  NWA has nothing on me.  Word up fo’ shizzle.  Here is me…  Nikki nizzle my dizzle

Scene 3: Dance with The Dogg

Put your Discman on pause and now fast-forward a year to March 2004.  A lot has happened for me in the past 13 months.  Deep breath: I graduated with a Masters in Physical Therapy – moved from Philly to my parents house – studied for my boards – passed my boards – no idea what I want to do – interviewed at 33 places – decided NYC is the place I want to be – found my ideal job – got my ideal job – and was a waitress in the meantime.  P.s. I was a really good waitress [cut to angry customer throwing a drink in my face].  So my job as a seatfiller has been temporarily put on hold but now I’m ready to get back into it.  I was notified that Comedy Central needed Seatfillers for their “Bar Mitzvah Bash” which sounded cool… I guess.  Most of my best friends are Jewish, so I’m down with the Tribe.  I had no idea it would be one of the most memorable nights of my life…

Ding! (You’ve got mail).  “Calling all Seatfillers.  Join us for a night of laughs at Comedy Central’s Bar Mitzvah Bash.”  What the hell is this??  Now I have time to be a seatfiller and I’m going from the Grammys to… dancing the Hora, caricaturists and balloon arches? Great.  I read on: “It will be a comedy special celebrating the network’s 13th year on the air. Due to a need for seatfillers, you can bring up to two friends.”  Ok cool. Well I guess I will bring my besties Steph and Miriam (ironically both part-Jewish and Miriam moonlights as a Bar Mitzvah dancer… yes I swear that’s her job).

It’s a Friday night, on March 19th, and we are headed to Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.  This time the gowns are left in the closet and we are hooched out.  We got our hair did, mini-dress with cleavage poppin and f**k-me-pumps on (sorry daddy).  We arrive at Hammerstein Ballroom, as I just hyped up my seatfiller experience the entire way there, and expected to once again arrive to a mob scene.  Hmmm nothing? No crowds? No lines? W.T.F? Is this the right day?  We mosey up to the entrance. There is a table with one person who checks us off a list and directs us to a waiting area.  Inside the waiting area are some other seatfillers – just hanging out, very chill, no lines, no craziness.  So we wait.  Some more seatfillers trickle in.  We wait longer… two hours go by… and we wait some more.

“What’s going on? Nothing is happening.  When is the good stuff gonna happen? Where’s all the celebs?” says Miriam in a pout.  Me: “This is only my second time being a seatfiller and the first time was unbelievable.”  At this point Steph and Miriam are ready to choke me.  We are all dressed up, standing around for hours, our feet are killing us and we are exhausted.  This is not the glamour they expected.  Miriam finally jumps ship: “I’m too exhausted, I’m going home. Do you really think something cool is gonna happen?”  Me: “Yes I have a gut feeling about tonight.”  Mir: “I’m not so sure. You guys have fun.”  Steph:“ I’ll stay, I have nowhere else to be.”  Now I feel like a tool.  Why did I hype this up?  Is she right?  Is this lame?  I feel totally stupid.  But I really think something exciting is gonna happen…

“Ok seatfillers – line up! Here’s how it’s works.  We are going to position you up along the back of the theater, and when all the guests have arrived, you will fill in the empty seats.  We have a really funny cast of comedians performing, so sit back and enjoy the show.”  You know what – that’s a good point. I’m just going to enjoy the show.  Even if I don’t meet cool celebrities, I have a free ticket to a great event and will be entertained.  This is why I love New York.  Now all the guests start to arrive….  Here we go! Who’s gonna be here?  I scan the audience, my adrenaline pumping and… nada.  I can’t see anything.  I’m too far in the back. Everyone now arrives and Steph and I are assigned to seats.  At the Grammys, Sarita and I sat together, but here Steph and I were assigned to different sections.  I get stuck stage left, in the back, on the aisle.  Steph is a few sections ahead of me.  I spend a few minutes straining, trying to see… nothing.  I hear grumblings about possible names: Ben Stiller, Wanda Sykes, Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook, Colin Quin, Hank Azaria and some others.  Lights dim before I get a peep and so the show begins.

Host Adam Carolla comes out.  It evokes a few chuckles.  Next, the comedians start performing.  Jeffrey Ross gets on the stage and now I’m into it.  Hysterical.  Up next – Mario Cantone – he’s so funny tears start streaming down my face.  I’m totally engrossed in the show when all of a sudden… a feverish tap on my shoulder.  I jump.  What the f… who the hell?  I look up.  Standing over me is a gorgeous 6’8” black man wearing a full-length mink coat, with diamonds in his ears the size of an ice-skating rink.  He signals for me to get up and step to the side.  My initial reaction: Oh shit. What did I do? I’m in trouble. But for what? What could I have done?  Then he asks me, “Miss, do you dance?”  Ummmm que, what?  Confused.  “Sir, do you think I’m a stripper? I’m not.  I know my skirt is kind of short, but I swear I have a very respectable job.”  He laughs and explains, “No I mean can you dance?  Tonight there will be a surprise celebrity guest performance.  It’s Snoop Dogg.  I work for him.  I was asked to pick 5 girls from the audience to come backstage, learn a basic routine and perform behind him.”  Ummm  again… que???  Me: “Seriously? What? Yes I can dance. I’ve taken classes for many years, BUT I only feel comfortable doing this if I can bring my cousin Steph.”  He says “well… which one is she?” So I point.  “Oh yea, she’s hot, she fine, bring her.”  Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! This can’t be happening.

I grab Steph.  She looks up and sees me standing with my ‘new friend’ and says “what’s going on?”  I stammer, “they want us to perform with the guest celebrity Snoop Dogg. Come on, we have to go backstage.”  Steph: “You’re kidding.”  Our new friend: “No, not kidding Miss.  Please put on these talent passes so you can have access and won’t be stopped.”  So we put on our lanyard and plastic pass… I feel like I’m Charlie and was just given a golden ticket to the chocolate factory.  Now we are escorted backstage where we meet a few girls and the choreographer.  She lines us up, teaches us a simple routine and we practice.  After rehearsal is over we are asked to sign a waiver because the show is being aired on TV.  “Ok ladies, we have about 10 minutes, then you’re on.” Now the nerves kick in.  Sweat is literally pouring off of my body. Again, the chunks begin to rise in my throat.  Some guy then says, “Girls you need to relax.  That door leads to the Green Room, go in and have a drink, you all need it.”

I open the door to the Green Room. The site before me will forever be etched into my mind.  There standing in a green and grey tracksuit is Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr (aka. Snoop Dogg).  Dancing in place, holding his pimp cup, he smoothly states, “Ladies, ladies, come on in and make yourselves comfortable.”  I stand frozen in my tracks, can’t move an inch, till I feel a nudge from Steph.  My legs are moving but I can’t feel them.  I think I’m having a stroke… “Help yourselves to a drink and thank you all for coming.”

So I look over at the table and notice there is only one kind of liquor…Courvoisier Cognac.  Oh no, I’ve only heard about this stuff in rap songs, what is it? All the girls just stand there staring at it, no one willing to give it a try.  At this point I’m so nervous I’d drink Moonshine if it was in front of me.  I pour a glass and take a few gulps.  Now I’m feeling gooooood.  Then we hear: “Snoop… Ladies… You’re on in 2!”

As I walk out in front of the audience, I feel myself float out of my body and rise above the stage. As thousands of eyes watch, I perform the routine rehearsed, but feel like a stranger is controlling my limbs.  After a minute I relax and take it all in. This is the most surreal thing I’ve ever seen.  I am on stage at Hammerstein ballroom, dancing behind Snoop Dogg.  Before I know it, it’s over, we hustle off stage and the adrenaline is still pumping through my body.  It’s the most intense high I have ever felt, even greater than taking too much NyQuil.  Snoop follows us off stage and then gives us a big hug: “Thank you my ladies.  Now come back and celebrate in the Green Room.  A few friends will be there.”

We go back into the Green Room and Snoop’s entourage follows… Bishop Don Juan and Uncle Joonbug.  Bishop Don Juan is wearing this blue and white outfit with stars and a corresponding Top Hat.  It confuses me. Then there is Uncle Joonbug. Quite an interesting man.  Snoop calls him his idol and the O.G pimp.  All I know is he’s about 75 years old, about 75 pounds and he keeps trying to hump my leg.  Maybe that’s where Snoop Dogg got his name and inspiration.

We’re all hanging out when the guests start to trickle in.  First you have Wanda Sykes, then in hobbles Jeffrey Ross on crutches, Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, DL Hughley and a few others. Everyone starts mingling and chatting.  Hmmmm I know that guy.  Who is he?  I’ve seen him somewhere.  So me, with my “Courvoisier muscles,” saunters up to this guy and starts chatting.  In conversation he says, “oh yea, its cool, we are in the first season of the show and its fun.”  Then it hits me. I’ve seen his show and it’s hysterical.  So I say, “Oh I love your show…I’m Rick James bitch!”  It was Dave Chappelle.  He politely smiles and nods “Yes, I’ve had that quoted to me a few times.”  Doh. Probably not my wittiest moment.

A little while later, we’re sitting around in a circle of chairs, when Snoop Dogg breaks out the LARGE Louis Vuitton duffle bag (est. value: $1,510).  Everyone seems to get the gist of what’s happening, but I’m as clueless as Cher Horowitz.  Snoop opens the bag and it’s the most egregious site my eyes have ever seen.  I’d later come to learn it’s what the west coasters call “The Chronic.”  Steph innocently says, “What’s that?” and I whisper back, “I have no idea.”  Something starts getting passed around the circle.  Before I have a chance to inspect the situation, the choreographer comes storming over: “Don’t take that.”  I stammer, “Well I wasn’t going to… I was just curious as to…” She interrupts, “Don’t even think about it – I’m watching you.”  Geez, okay lady. It’s cool that I hang out with celebrity – but I can’t share with the celebrity.  I don’t want it anyway!  Then I feel a tap on my shoulder.  It’s DJ Clue.  Steph elbows me in my side. He says, “Here. You want it?”  I feel the choreographer looking at me.  I again stammer: “Ummm no thanks…I have to pee.”  Smooth.  Real smooth. 

From there we went to the “W” hotel for the after-party where Snoop got tables and bottles for everyone.  He really is the alpha…dog?

Fast-forward a month to Sunday, April 25, 2004.  All my friends have heard the tale of the Dogg (no pun intended) and have gathered to view my big television debut.  We are at my friend Keryn’s house, people strewn about, overcome with anticipation for the show.  Here it comes!  My moment!  I wonder what I will look like. Oh God, I hope the camera really doesn’t add 10 pounds.  This is it!     And……….my segment was cut.    Awesome.

Scene 2: My first time…

New Stuart Weitzman shoes.  Check.  Black Laundry evening dress.  Check.  Any clue what I’m doing…oh crap.  On February 23, 2003 my friend Sarita and I prepare for one of the most exciting nights of our lives.  We have no idea what to expect.  Sarita and I have been chosen to be part of a prestigious group that would give us a free ticket to one of the most glamorous events of the year, the Grammy Awards.                                            

It’s a Saturday afternoon, butterflies in my stomach, dressed to impress, and on my way to Madison Square Garden.  As we approach the back entrance, several hours before the show would begin, we can see a mass of people collecting outside the stage door.  I turn to Sarita, “What’s going on?  I thought there would only be like 20 of us.”  Clearly that was not the case, at that time I could estimate about 100 people.  So we jumped on line and waited for directions.  After a while of standing there, clueless, a man in a tuxedo stands on a box and loudly shouts,  “People.  We are gonna start bringing you in a few at a time.  You must have your confirmation letter in hand, I.d.’s out, and don’t even try to come in this door if you don’t have either one.”  Oh shit.  Here we go.

We filter in.  Next a table with some ladies furiously flipping through pieces of paper.  I step forward “Honey. Name?”  I say my name.  She flips, flips again, flips some more.  I start panicking.  Oh my god.  I’m not on the list.  I knew this was too good too be true!  “Oh here it is…Nicole Psomas?”  I scream, “Yes!!!! That’s me!!!!”  She looks at me “Okayy relaxxx.”  She hands me a little green ribbon and tells me it’s very important I pin it in a visible spot.  “This is how people will know you are a seatfiller.”

We then filter into this big room, and a sea of black dresses and suits were standing around…just waiting.  We had been instructed that we must wear black so we don’t pull focus on camera and can blend in.  Now it’s been about two hours and my feet are starting to hurt.  What’s next?!  My nervous butterflies have emerged from their cocoon and morphed into nauseated impatience.  Then I hear the following:

“Okay everybody line up, we are about to begin.”  At this point there had to be 200 people.  “This is how it’s gonna happen.  We are lining you up in the hallways and you will wait here until the audience is in their seats.  This is Madison Square Garden, there are thousands of seats, so we only need to make the ones on camera look good.  When the guests are all seated we will send you in a little at a time and you will fill the empty ones.  Then if someone gets up to go backstage, use the bathroom, or leave – sit in their seat.  Understand this – you are only to move during a commercial break!  Your butt must be in a seat by the time the commercial is over.  We don’t want you meandering around on camera.  Butt in seat! Got it.”

The chunks are rising in my throat.  Here we go.  The music sounds and an announcer speaks “Welcome to the 45th Annual Grammy Awards.”  The crowd roars.  Everything goes dark.  Then in the distance ahead I see the lights of the stage.  I just want to be out there!  When is it my turn?  Sarita grabs my arm and says “Can you believe this?!”  So little by little the crowd of seatfillers move forward.  It still feels like there are so many people in front of us.  We can hear the music start of a live performance, the crowd goes crazy, but we can’t see anything.  Thirty minutes go by and still its not my turn.  I can’t take this anymore!  Will I not get a chance to go out there?  Are there too many of us?  Then the next group goes.  We are next!  I start to assess what’s happening.  The usher sends a group of about 10 people in… then, anarchy.  Seatfillers everywhere.  The seatfillers who were escorted in the beginning were in the prime seats, down on the main floor, with all the celebrities.  The groups entering now were being escorted to the balconies.

Balcony? Balcony?!  Hell no.  Nobody puts baby in the balcony.  I want to go down there.  Where the action is.  Our turn is next.  The usher says, “Get ready girls.”  Then….it hits me…I have a plan.  I grab Sarita’s arm and say “Listen to me. I have an idea.  Just follow me, walk like you mean it and don’t stop.  Don’t let go of my hand!”  She sees the fire in my eyes and simply says “ok.”  Action!  I take off, something just comes over me and I start hauling ass.  We enter from the back of MSG, on the first tier, and before the usher can give us directions I book it for the front.  Sarita is just holding onto my hand, trying not to fall out of her Choos.  I get to the front section and head down a set of stairs.  “Hold it!”  I scan up and see this 6’3” man with an ear piece.  “Where do you think you’re going?”  Without skipping a beat I state emphatically “Excuse me, do you see this green ribbon.  Seatfiller!  This is my section 1A.  If I am not in my section when that commercial break is over, it’s gonna be your problem.”  Radio silence.  He just looks at me.  Breath held…. “Ok. Go ahead.  I have no idea what you people do.”  Oh Em Gee. That was such bullshit. That actually worked?!

Ahhhhh!  Success!  We step onto the main floor of MSG, three rows from the stage, and I can barely breathe.  Sarita is speechless, and if you knew her, that would be a feat.  I turn around and look at her and we begin feverishly walking and next think I know… Bam!!!!  I smack right into someone.  I’m almost knocked off my feet.  I look…it’s Dustin Hoffman.  Speechless.  I’m utterly speechless. I almost just took out Rain Man.  I stammer “ss..sss..sorry.”  He just looks at me disparagingly and keeps walking.  I’m such an idiot! Ok keep going.  Next thing I know I hear “Seatfillers!  We need you two over here!”  I’m stepping around giant cameras, wires, following the man in the black jacket.  “Sit here.”  Then I sit.  (It was my first time…blush). Before I can even process what’s happening he says, “Queen Latifah just left and we need you to sit here for the rest of the night.”  Holyyyyy. Shittttt.  I’m in the front row.

My cherry was popped. I was having a full on celebri-gasm.  I scan left: Cindy Lauper (my teen idol).  Look over my shoulder: No Doubt (so rad).  Three seats away: Faith Hill (so gorgeous).  Let the name dropping begin:  Britney Spears, Elton John, Eminem, Norah Jones, Avril Lavigne, James Taylor, Pink, Sting, Dave Matthews.  Then I see him: Jon. Bon. Jovi. I died.  He’s every girl from New Jersey’s slippery when wet dream.

Then 2 seats away form me I see Tony Bennett.  So adorable.  I tap him “Hi Tony!”  He turns, looks at me and smiles  “Why hello.”  Then my diarrhea of the mouth kicks in “So my grandmother just loves you!”  Just what every man wants to hear.  His smile slowly fades. “Thanks.”  I thought that was bad then I overhear Sarita squaking  “Who are you? DJ Clue?? Never heard of you. You must not be that famous.”  I wack her on the leg.  This coming from the girl who slammed the door on Nas when he came to potentially buy her house.

My attention was then pulled to the stage.  The lights dim.  Then the announcer simply says “Coldplay.”   Chris Martin at a grand piano with a full blown orchestra behind him. Politik. It was one of the most chilling, mind-blowing performances I have ever seen.

Until… a little later when a tribute performance is done. Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Steve Van Zandt and Elvis Costello do the Clash’s “London Calling.”  Again.  I died.

It was official.  That was the night I was reborn… a Seatfiller.

Scene 1: Pull up a seat…

Me (far left) at the Comedy Awards sitting with the writers of the Colbert Report

I am a Seatfiller.  For about a decade this has been something I have done for fun, sans pay.  I’d never heard of a Seatfiller (noun) or seatfilling (verb) until one day many years ago.  As Seatfillers our job is to attend major awards shows, television tapings and events.  We sit in the place of celebrities or guests who present on stage, are a no-show or get up to go to the bathroom.  For example, if Tina Fey is taking a dump, I’m your girl.  I’ve had great times over the years filled with priceless stories, pictures and memories.  For instance, dancing on stage with Snoop Dogg is one thing I can check off the bucket list.  Sometimes I’ve felt like a star, sometimes I’ve felt invisible and sometimes I’ve made a fool of myself.  Like when I spilled my beer  and stepped on the dress of a playboy playmate (wife of Rascall Flatts) at the CMAs.  I’m here to share my adventures and some things I’ve learned along the way. One thing I’ve ascertained over the years is simply this… even if you’re a no one, you’re a someone.

Enjoy,  Nicole Psomas

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