Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Year as a Page for The Late Show with David Letterman Part 3 of 7

The After Party

Except for a few inside audience jokes the shows were fairly generic instead of topical.  So the shows workweek ended on Thursday and to celebrate the pages would get a few beers somewhere close by.  It was usually a new place every night. 

I was 20 when I got the job so it could be difficult for me to get into some bars in Manhattan.  So during that summer, I would skip the end of the week get together.  I didn’t want to deal with the embarrassment of getting carded and turned away.  I also didn’t want to place any obligation on my new coworkers to have cancel or rearrange their plans because I was underage.  

Since the page program was a constantly rotating roster of employees a new clique was in place by the end of the summer; I had also turned 21 by that time.  But when the fall started I had a scholarship to maintain, classes early on Friday (about 6am) and had to rush home to capture this luxury called sleep.  So classes prevented me from socializing with my coworkers after the week’s final show.  This left a bit of a bonding deficit because all they got to experience was serious work Joe and not fun college drunk Joe.  By the time winter break came around and I had the time actually go out because I didn’t have a Friday class they were giving me the runaround. 

If only that were true...
The worst was when my friends from Virginia came up to visit me and I promised them the chance to hangout with some of my coworkers.  I asked every page where the party was that night.  I told them I had friends visiting from out of town and wanted to show them a fun time.  I tried to see where everyone was hanging out but they were giving me the same runaround, the same “I don’t know,” answers.  What made it insulting was working the Saturday box office and discovering everyone went out that Thursday and had a fun time together.   I tried a couple of times after that incident but just didn’t really care or feel the need to make friends with people who were so aloof.  I had my friends who all lived in Queens and they were more than happy to spend time with me. 

There is this big anti-bullying campaign in the USA right now but what I was experiencing, wasn’t bullying.  No one was outright mean, disrespectful or confrontational to me.  They were just so closed off.  It was either “you’re allowed in the club and we’re your best friend” or “I’m sorry you are too short to ride the bumper cars but you can watch us drive the cars laugh and have fun from the line outside.”  You might think as you read this, I must have been a huge douche to these people but it truly wasn’t the case and while you only have my word to go by I can attest to how well I got along with the people I worked with before the Late Show and made it a point to always be friendly with my coworkers after my time at the Late Show. 

This pretty much sums it up.
My only reasoning for their standoffish attitude stems from when I coached my girlfriend and sister on how to get tickets for the show.  To get tickets to the show you could mail away for tickets, request them through the website, or show-up to the box office on weekends and weekdays when the show was not taping.  Most of the tickets were given away at the box office.  A Potential Audience Member (PAM) would arrive to the lobby of the Ed Sullivan Theater and a page had them fill out a form and told them they were being placed in a lottery for free tickets.  The page would check their sheet for accuracy and return the sheet and send the PAM to an audience coordinator.  The coordinator explained the process to the PAM again and made some small talk about The Late Show. 

What was really occurring was that there was no lottery (the show was free, deal with it).  The Late Show had specific audience demographics it tried to fill for every show.  They preferred more men in the audience than women.  They wanted genuine fans of the show and not just tourists.  They also preferred older more mature fans.  The rule was 18 and over could see the show but young looking audience members always got 2ed and sent to the balcony.  They were scared the youngins might act out during the taping.  So the audience coordinator needed to make certain the PAM was a fan of Letterman.  It really makes sense; you want an audience member that is going to laugh at the jokes versus someone who’s just taking advantage of the NYC tour.  They also had to be on the lookout for people who were only going to see the show for a specific guest.  That was a guaranteed denial for tickets.  You needed to be a Letterman fan or decent at faking the fact that you were a Letterman fan.  If you were there to see Avril Lavigne you weren’t getting in, unless they were really desperate to fill the seats that day.  The coordinator would ask a few simple questions like what’s your favorite bit on the show or who’s your favorite regular.  Fans could answer in moments; tourist or people only there to see Moby had a tough go of it.  The coordinator also had to gauge if the person was a psycho or on that list of crazy people we needed memorize. 

Look at all those men attending the taping of the view.
I learned all these nuances on how to get tickets and passed the knowledge onto my sister and girlfriend.  They were successful in getting called and when they arrived for filming I introduced them to a few coworkers.  My sister proceeded seek out our distant relative/the page’s direct boss who’s fake name is still Bob and exclaim to him in front on the majority of my page colleagues that she was my sister and his 8th cousin twice removed on her great uncles side and how she remembers him from the most recent family funeral and/or wedding they mutually attended.  I would have to say when the bulk of the pages discovered this relation that’s where the negative vibes came from.  No one wants to hangout with the bosses relative, no matter how cool of a boss he might be.  They also don’t respect a dude who got his job because of a blood relation.  Even though the bulk of them got the job through someone else and they didn’t have to interview with the head of the department David Kay, it was still an invisible black mark on my cool points record.  There wasn’t much I could do, their opinions were set and I didn’t want to waste my energy trying to befriend people who judged me inferior because I used a family connection to get a job.

I had a few years to think about these experiences.  I wanted to convince myself I was being paranoid because the bulk of the people I dealt with were so nice.  It was only a small few that were so odd in how they conducted themselves.  But I always go back to a conversation I had with Danny.  When he got a fulltime job and was leaving the page program we were making small talk about his new position.  He was talking about his new job and how it was exclusive to Columbia graduates.  Then out of nowhere he drifts into the interview process for the page program.  He asks me how long it took before I received the offer.  I told him a week and also said I interviewed with the bosses boss because the nepotism thing was well known by then.  He goes into how he walked into the office, made such an impression with the boss and was offered the job right on the spot.  He even went on to talk about how he was complemented on his interview skills and being the best possible candidate and didn’t need to interview with anyone else or wait for a call because he was just that awesome.  Then he quickly left the locker room. 

I didn’t say or really react to what he was saying.  I just nodded to acknowledge I heard him.  I didn’t really understand his point.  I felt like he was taking a pot shot at me for not being offered the job right away or implying I didn’t deserve to be there.  It was weird, especially since Danny was always a nice dude.  He always acted so pleasant and normal.  I get that the entertainment industry is cutthroat but I couldn’t understand why his goodbye was filled with a laundry list of items that never needed to be said.  He left not too long after that and I kept my distance because why would you want to associate with someone who would take the time to belittle a person like that?  The tactic was very clever though.  No one would outright be mean because that’s not professional.  But there are certainly passive aggressive ways to let a person know they aren’t welcomed. 

Zoom Zoom
I’ve talked a lot about some of the jerkier experiences I came across while there but I should follow it up with some of the nicer ones.  There was the time Amanda Peet walked by and said hello to me.  She looked really pretty.  I saw Gwen Stefani, who had fabulous legs btw.  Tom Brady walked by me too, I thought for a football player he’d be bigger than he really was.  Denzel Washington whizzed by me at supersonic speed one evening.  I was moments away from meeting the Beastie Boys, there isn’t much of a story there, just regret.  I missed out because I couldn’t leave my post till a commercial break and they left the lobby area to setup for their entrance from the street. 

I spoke with one of the members of the band Franz Ferdinand after the first double show.  His girlfriend was taking a picture of him under the Letterman marque.  I told him he did a good job.  He was so appreciative of the compliment and thanked me.  I think he wanted to stop and chat with me a little but his girlfriend rushed him away.  He seemed so excited to be on The Late Show and in New York City. 

Since it was New York City and we were outside working the line it wasn’t uncommon for random celebrities to walk by super quick.  You wouldn’t even noticed them if you blinked.  David Hyde Pierce and Frank Azaria regularly walked by superfast while we were working.  They were both in the play Spamalot which was performing only a few blocks down.  Mark Summers was spotted trying to get people to beat the physical challenge. 

The oddest interaction was the woman who came into the box office and name-dropped she was Jeff Daniels’ sister.  I was skeptical that she was legit but the other pages pointed out to me that there were other more interesting celebrities you could pretend you’re related to.  So I can tell you here and now that I met Jeff Daniels’ sister and brother-in-law 

I double dare you to take the physical challenge.
Back at the show I would see the stage manager Biff Henderson running around all the time.  He was always so down to earth and nice.  The cue card guy Tony Mendez was always floating around and being super chill. 

The announcer Alan Kalter freaked me out the first time I met him but was actually also a cool dude. I was on the lower platform and it was my first month there.  Alan notices I am new and walks up to me, shakes my hand, and introduces himself.  That’s all really nice personable stuff to do, especially when you’re in the talent pool of a TV show.  He then stands eerily close to me and continues to shake my hand.  The handshake lasted a bit to long and the personal space violation freaked me out.  It makes for funny reenactments though.

This is Kalter on a good day.
I saw Letterman interview presidential candidate John Kerry, former President Bill Clinton, and then Senator, now President Barak Obama.  I got to see some of my favorite musicians perform.  People like Green Day, Sting, and Kid Rock. 

Kid Rock actually performed on one of my first days there.  I was talking with a page named Ben Schwartz.  You may know Ben Schwartz as an actor and writer who worked on Parks and Recreation, This Is Where I Leave You, and House of Lies.  Ben was probably one of the nicest dudes I ever met in life.  When he noticed I was a bit lost during my first few days he told me to follow him as he snuck into rehearsal.  We watched Kid Rock warm up and perform Only God Knows Why.  I was one of a handful of people in the Ed Sullivan Theater listening to Kid Rock play the guitar and sing Only God Knows Why without any of that shitty auto tuner that’s on the album version.   Rock was only a few feet away from where I was sitting.  Not many people could say they had that experience in life. 

So true.
Ben made it a point to invite me out to places and really tried to be a friend.  He’d try to get me to check out some of his comedy shows in the city.  Unfortunately every time Ben had something going on I seemed to have plans.  It wasn’t just me that he was welcoming too.  He really tried to make everyone around him feel included.  He was the anti-Betty.  I wish I’d taken the time to get to know him better because he was genuinely nice dude.  He tends to play a caricature of his personality in the movies and shows I’ve seen him on.  If you learn anything from this, be a really nice and welcoming person to people and you will do well in life. 

It pays to be nice and talented. Please reference Kid Rock picture above.

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