What’s that I see? Barbecues? Fireworks? Parades? People celebrating? Well, it can only mean one thing! It’s Friday, and it’s time for the next installment in my seemingly neverending tale about my appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire! And we’ve finally reached the BIG DAY! No more stories about January 17th… as Foreigner once said… that was yesterday, and now yesterday’s gone!
Thursday January 18, 2001, 6:00 AM. The sun isn’t even going to rise for another hour, yet I have to be down in the lobby of the hotel no later than 6:45 if I don’t want to get left behind and stuck watching the walls in my room crumble to the ground. The heater managed to kick on sometime during the night, so I guess the temperature dropping into the 20’s was all it took to get The Empire scrooges to cut loose with some warmth.
I managed to sleep pretty decent, but I can’t say the same for my poor Dad. The medieval futon he had to use for a bed did quite a number on his spine. I guess that’s to be expected when the mattress is the thickness of a patio cushion and has to cover up a hard steel beam running down the center of the frame that was forged by Vulcan himself in the depths of Hotel Hell. This kind of plush luxury is just what you’d expect from a hotel room that runs upwards of $500 a night.
Now I get the joy of trying to freshen myself up in The World’s Smallest Bathroom®. I wasted about ten minutes trying to get the shower running and the water the correct temperature. At least this isn’t an inconvenience that is unique to the Empire… I have issues working the shower at all hotels. I think it would be easier for me to figure out how to work the control panel on the Space Shuttle than it is for me to master the fucking knobs on the hotel shower.
Once I managed to get myself
squeaky reasonably clean, the next challenge became not killing myself while grooming at the mirror. Bathrooms are one of the most likely places for someone to sustain a serious injury, and that chance goes up one trillion fold when there is literally no room to stand between the tub and the sink. It wouldn’t take much of a step behind me to send me backwards over the tub and cracking my skull open on the shower wall… which would not only cause me a serious head injury, but likely infect my brain with slimy mildew.
I have survived the world’s most unsafe water closet, and it is time for me and Dad to head down to the lobby. I mentioned before that there would be two shows taping on my day, so that means there weren’t just ten contestants that would be making the short trip to the studio, but twenty of us. Double that since we each had a companion along on ABC’s tab, and you can imagine what the lobby of The Empire looked like at 6:45. You know those fancy hotels with really big lobbies? The Empire wasn’t one of them…
Somehow Paul, the assistant contestant coordinator you all met a couple weeks ago, managed to squeeze his way through the lobby-turned-sardine can, raising the total number of occupants to 41, or about 40 over what the New York City fire code would have allowed. Paul called off the roll of contestants for both tapings…
It looks like the other two contestants who had yet to arrive yesterday evening had since made it into The Big Apple. Oh well, so much for that potential advantage…
We were instructed to load up our taping wardrobe onto one of four
moth-infested clothing racks provided by the hotel, and were then led to a pair of buses that would take us to our final destination. Each taping group had their own bus, but the clothing rack situation was a complete free for all. Airlines have a tendency to send your luggage to far off exotic places you have never been before, and it would suck to arrive at the studio and find out my nice, solid colors wardrobe wound up being confiscated by the Tongan Ambassador down at the UN.
The studio was located only about four blocks from the hotel… which of course in downtown Manhattan travel time is about three hours away. We debussed, tore through the racks of clothes like bargain hunting shoppers at Mecca to find our outfits, and prepared to enter….. the back of the ABC building. It wasn’t exactly the most exciting way to get into a major television network building… it felt more like we were sneaking into the place to find an illegal card game or something. But there was still the security checkpoint to go through…
Actually, all we were subjected to was the metal detecting baton… though that can be a fun experience in itself. The forty of us crowded inside the building, and were led up a flight of stairs to a large, but narrow hallway where the contestant dressing rooms were located. If you’re following the theme of today’s post, the secret word of the day is claustrophobia. I had heard reports from contestants in single show taping days who complained about the tight quarters of having just twenty-something people in the hallway… with double that crowd, plus a number of the show’s associate producers now milling about amongst us, things had gotten beyond ridiculous.
Just when those of us seeking relief had begun to take refuge in the dressing rooms themselves, we all got called back out into the hallway so we could hear a welcome speech by Brent. Brent was the AP who gave me the good news five weeks prior, and it looks like he was a big shot among the group who would be taking care of us.
Brent welcomed his
sardines contestants and their companions to the Millionaire studios, apologizing for the fact that we were being smashed like atoms in their humble backstage. We were instructed to leave our outfits in the nearest dressing room, possibly to never be seen again. Brent reiterated the warning about not being able to have any electronic devices, and gave us one last chance to turn over any battery operated contraband… and sure enough, one of the contestants up and parted with a calculator from their purse.
After a short, but not short enough speech, we were led to the Green Room. No doubt you have heard the term before… this is the lounge where guests on television shows hang out when they are not on the air. The Green Room was loaded with goodies to eat and drink and plenty of places to sit and relax… but after spending the first part of the morning in a tight bathroom, a packed lobby, a jammed bus, and a crowded hallway, it’s best feature was undoubtedly the fact that it was fucking huge!
I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna take this moment to chill and get the blood moving again in my extremities. Join me again next Friday, right here in the spacious Millionaire Green Room, where the adventure continues!