By Frankie O
Every journey has its moment and, hopefully, mine would soon be at hand. The fascination with mega-celebrity is such that a red-bow-tie-wearing TV bartender was now waiting, operative word, to interview Brad Pitt. Can you imagine? I still cant. I, in fact, find quite a bit of humor in it. One of the questions I hear most at the bar is: Have you ever waited on anyone famous? I especially hear that on the weekends but thats another story for another day! Famous people are where its at!
Anyway, I was about to meet one of the most famous people in the world. Or at least I hoped. As he and Billy Beane were being led in and out of the area for sports press interviews for other commitments, I couldnt help but notice how slowly and quickly my watch was moving at the same time. In our original itinerary, our interviews were to be over by 1 p.m., then, in a revised one they would be done by noon.
Well noon had come and gone as did the two stars of the show. We were told to not worry that they were having lunch and would be back shortly. I was only a little jealous as I said goodbye to a bunch of my counterparts as they departed on the shuttle for the airport, while thinking that getting to the airport this early would have enabled me to move to a non-stop flight on the way home. As I looked around I had the sense that a few others were nervous as well and it had nothing to do with flights.
The process were all involved in is kind of like when we were choosing sides for a team as a kid. While never saying anything out loud, you notice who is chosen first and who hasnt been chosen at all. Im also reminded of when they have the cameras at the professional drafts in the staging areas for the first-rounders, or even worse yet, at the homes of prospective draft picks. Everything is cool as long as 'Joe Stud' goes where hes expected to, the fun starts when the picks keep coming and his name hasnt been called yet. But almost every time its called.
What happens if nobody calls? Weve seen that happen and it can get very uncomfortable, although it does make for great TV! Its not hard to notice anything since were in this giant stadium concourse and its starting to look pretty empty. Im trying to play it cool by reading the paper, but my head is going to explode. Of course I could ALSO eat lunch at the fabulous buffet they had provided for us, if I could eat! And lets not forget that with my luck, if I did enjoy some barbeque chicken, with macaroni and cheese and cornbread, what are the odds that something makes its way on to my lovely white shirt? Thats a risk I cant take because you and I both know those odds!
Finally, I had to say something, to someone (I heard that!). Not wanting to sound too anxious, remember, these are laid-back Hollywood types, not to mention its not nice to complain, I went to the main desk that was set up and inquired about when the last shuttle was leaving for the airport. At this time I was informed by Katie, not to worry, that a car would be waiting to take me there when I was done (a car!). She said she understood that how long everything was taking was wreaking havoc with travel and she would do whatever it took to take care of me. Then Veronica, who was coordinating the interviews, walked by and said that the guys would be starting back up shortly. I promptly told both of them that if either was ever in Chicago there would be many drinks there waiting for them. And bring a friend!
Sure enough, it was soon after that my name was called. That meant it was time to wait in the entrance way to the upper-deck seats where the interviews were taking place. My buddy Kevin from Vegas and I couldnt help but notice that we would be the last two.
Can you imagine, I asked, Youre doing this all day and think youre done, then, I show up? Besides sarcasm, it doesnt get much better than self-deprecating humor!
Then it was time. They tell you to go, then they announce your name, then all eyes are on you as you enter the lions den. To say my head was spinning, well, you get the idea. One of the first things I learned in this TV biz is that when you approach cameras, or an area where they are taping, there are a ton of hazards on the ground: Namely wires, sound equipment, lights, light deflectors, coolers (yeah baby!) and million other things that you are not expecting. You need to look out! Nothing says tourist more than a pratfall. It would make a funny story though.
So, unlike the bar, where I can make eye contact as someone approaches for an initial greeting, Im trying not to make a fool of myself (I heard that, too!) as I try to maneuver to the chair that is waiting for me. In this case, on a ledge in the upper-deck of a baseball stadium, its a little extra tight. I was Fred Flinstone on his twinkle-toes. The shame of this was I couldnt get their full reaction as I walked up.
Who is this guy (or, should I say, Who is, 'This Guy?'). My approach also includes handing out some Harry-wear" and a brief explanation of who I am (who I am or who am I? Who I am is ... is ... is ... a question for the ages! That is Billy Crystals best scene ever! Jelly!). No need wasting precious tape time with tales of Frankie O. This all takes about twenty seconds from beginning to my butt being in the seat. I cant say that I didnt feel some sense of accomplishment as I took that seat. How did I not fall?
Then you hear those words: OK Frank, youre at speed.
I imagine at this time, the crew are checking their phones, filing their nails or wondering: How did a guy that large get to that chair without knocking anything over? Hes a regular Fred Flinstone.
It doesnt matter to me since I cant sense anything else around me. Once I hear those words I know I only have three minutes to get a job done. I hope that made you laugh, since if you have read any of these, you know that brevity is not exactly my strong suit (or, heaven forbid, youre stuck on a bar stool in front of me!).
I do realize however, the time constraints that Im up against. I can remember a time when I used to watch TV with someone doing an interview and not notice the camera angles; I do now. I love watching the wide-shot so I can see the reaction of the person asking the question. Are they listening? Are they thinking about their next question? Not to denigrate, mind you, its because its not as easy as it looks. Was that answer too long? Can I fit in two more? Or one? Which one? Wheres my ending? Its the reason I sound like a coach when people ask me how it went right afterward.
Not sure. Im going to have to go look at the tape.
But one thing you do know for sure, and thats the vibe. We all experience it when we meet someone new. Are they interested? Are they nice? Are they not? A persons eyes and body language will give it away every time, regardless of the fact that they are talking to you or shaking your hand.
And the vibe I got from Brad and Billy was very cool. They were engaged from the time I sat down. It was as, almost, I was talking to them at the bar. They were thoughtful, friendly and funny (check out the video). It was very easy for me to understand why they both are achievers.
Looking back, they gave me a lot in a very short, for me, amount of time. Like Ive said over and over, I liked the book and movie very much and could talk about them all day (whatever!). But my trip was made at the end of the interview. My goal there was to get Billy to say something about the Cubs GM vacancy and hopefully not be too obvious about it. So when I brought up using sabermetric principles in Chicago to Billy, Brad jumped in saying, Dont step in that one! For someone who says he doesnt know much about baseball, that was funny.
They were just as nice saying goodbye, as I thanked them and invited them to come see me at the bar. I remember thinking, Well, thats something that you dont get to do every day, as I walked back out, trying not to knock Kevin over as he entered. Then comes the release. Whew. Its an adrenaline rush. I feel like I did after every big test I took in college, only better since I dont have to go to three more classes, then work eight hours. I only have to fly back to Chicago and go to work tomorrow.
I only have time for two bowls of mac and cheese before my tapes are ready and I have to get to the car. And then I saw something I wont forget. I sometimes wonder what the celebrities do with the Harry stuff that I give them. Two in particular, Tom Arnold and Carl Weathers, went crazy over the shirts. Arnold made his whole entourage wait while I dug out some extras from my luggage and Weathers had his assistant leave to go FedEx his shirt to his house, right in front of me. I will take credit for the Harry face T that Will Ferrell was pictured wearing in PEOPLE magazine, since I gave him enough of them in the three times I sat with him. But Im sure others dont care or get it.
As I was stuffing my face, I looked up to see Brad Pitt and Billy Beane leaving the interview area and headed to the cars that would take them to their next stop before the movies premiere that evening. They were engaged in a casual conversation as they ambled across the main corridor of the Coliseum surrounded by their peeps. What got me was that they each were carrying their own Harry Carays bag with the shirts inside that I had just given them, Harrys likeness smiling for all to see.
Ive gotta ask the boss for a raise for that one!
I was so relieved that everything went well, that my further travel adventures did nothing more than amuse me. Youve got to realize your place, since someone is always there to show it to you. I missed the last non-stop home by, oh, I dont know, since the lady in front of me at the counter took 10 minutes discussing seating, on SOUTHWEST, as the gangway door closed.
Hey look! My flight to Vegas is delayed! Do they sell beer here? And I can tell you about the new construction at the Las Vegas airport, since I had just enough time to walk from one side of the airport to the other during my layover. At least I had a number in the 30s. That enabled me to get the only seat on the plane with ultimate leg room since it has no seat in front of it: the window on the right side of the plane in the emergency aisle. Thank goodness since the flight was full. A young couple asked me if the two seats next to me were available and since they also have more room I responded: Welcome to Southwests first class!
They had just spent five days in Vegas for a wedding and the dude looked it. He was out before we were in the air. Again, what happens there, stays there, so you wont get any info out of me. But from what the young Iowa lass told me, they had quite the time.
Good for you, I said, looking at her boy, Hes got the right idea. Leave it all on the field. Thats how Id want to leave! To which she responds, Well, youre not sleeping. What did you do? She never had a chance!