Scene 7: I Will Always Love… Grammy
by Memoirs of a Seatfiller
Sunday February 5, 2012. This 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 hotels.com and friends…. texted I’m coming into town. Now what to wear? Picked up that rad dress in Soho last weekend. Done and done. What 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 10th. The 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 12th. Grammy 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 Gaga. Holy 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 Perry. I 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 Seacrest… totally hot, impeccably manscaped, but so adorable. Kate 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.