Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Year as a Page for The Late Show with David Letterman Part 5 of 7

Tattletale Saturdays

Saturday and Sunday the office was closed but the box office was opened.  The pages worked the box office giving out tickets.  The majority of those week’s tickets were distributed to tourists who walked in on Saturday/Sunday looking for tickets later in the week.  These were the worst working days because they were 8 hour-long days coupled with hours of downtime.  A busy workday goes fast, a slow workday sucks.  We couldn’t stand outside and solicit people to see the show because remember we wanted genuine fans.  So we sat around waiting for potential audience members (PAMs) to come in. 

What’s ironic is when they were low on ticket distributions The Late Show would send audience coordinators out during the weekdays to solicit people to see the show.  A page could not do the same type of promoting in front of the box office though. 

Angelo's pizza opened in 2004/2005.  The double Monday pizza was from Luigi's.
I would work either a Saturday or a Sunday but never both days.  If I was a millionaire I’d have requested to only work during the actual tapings because these days were truly brutal.  Unfortunately the bulk of my paycheck resulted from working these days and I needed money for beer and I guess college books.  They’d assign 4 Late Show pages to work the day and 2 audience coordinators to run their assessment mojo. The doors opened at 9am and closed at 5pm.

Remember I was in college at the time so I was usually hung over those mornings.  Starting out I was usually paired up with a rotating roster of uhh Megan, Mario, Elmer, and Eric (I really suck at making up fake names for people).  They were such a pain in the ass when it came to closing up shop.  They would never close before the 5-o-clock whistle.  The audience coordinators would take off at 4:45pm or sooner if they hit their required audience numbers for the week.  Without the coordinators there would be no one to screen these PAMs.  The pages would insist on sucking every last minute out of keeping that door open.  I wasn’t saying close-up shot at 3pm, but 4:55pm wouldn’t have killed anyone. 

Well it turns out they had good reason to run the clock out to the last possible second. Prior to my working weekends, Megan and Eric held a competition to see who can keep their arms above their heads the longest.  It got rather comical when PAMs came in.  Megan and Eric had to come up with creative ways to hand out Late Show ticket applications.  The PAMs thought it was amusing that people were having fun at work, which fit with the overall theme the pages were supposed to be selling the audience on in the first place.  An audience coordinator by the name of Han Solo (I named her Han Solo because she dressed like the renegade during Halloween) complained to the higher ups that the pages were not being professional.  This trickled down the chain of command and caused a bit of paranoia and tension between the pages and the coordinators. 

Megan and Mario were the senior pages working the weekends and had an understanding with me.  I let them know Sundays were difficult for me to arrive on time.  My bus and train ran less frequent and much slower on Sunday.  In fact the F train made local stops on Sunday that added an extra half hour onto my commute.  Even though I was leaving an hour earlier and walking to a different bus stop to do what I could to get there on-time I could be anywhere from 5-15 minutes late.   I’d usually cut my lunch short or work through it completely to make-up the time.  The mornings were slow and all I missed helping out with was set-up.  On Saturdays when I got there early, I wouldn’t wait for the pay clock to start, I would just set-up. 

After Megan and Mario completed the program they created a new position called Key Page.  It was basically putting someone in charge to make sure everything ran smoothly.  Rather then put the most senior page in charge, which would have been Elmer they decided to assign it to David Letterman’s biggest fan.  We’ll call him Roger.  Roger was a former intern and graduate of Ball State University.  The same college Letterman went to.  Roger would constantly talk about how he created a show just like The Late Show in college and he was a bit of a celebrity on his campus.  I never had the heart to tell him no one watched college TV.  I knew this because at the time I was taking classes at the TV studio in my college, and no one watched.

Roger’s dream was to work for Letterman, and my guess is have his love child.  He was exactly where he wanted to be.  That was all cool stuff, that he was on track to accomplish his goals in life.  I gave him “mad props yo” for pulling that off.  What was fucking annoying, was how overly serious he took his position.   When PAMs walked in he’d be the first one up to pass out that ticket application.  A page would have to compete against him to get down there and help the person.  The applications were further back in the lobby and he’d grab the materials and rush to the front of the entrance.  It clogged up the line for people coming in behind them.  If he was patient and waited for the PAMs to approach the table where all the paperwork and pages were standing around it would have allowed other PAMs to enter with ease.  It was a constant cluster-fuck if we got flooded with ticket seekers.  Luckily weekends were about 2-4 people an hour so it wasn’t usually an issue.  But he made it impossible for anyone else to step up and assist PAMs because he had to be the first one up to help them.  I love keeping busy at work but he seemed like he really wanted to be the guy who spoke with everyone and I just let him.  It was less work for me. 

Thank you Roger sunny person.
Roger became the guy checking audience members in at the door before tapings.  Sadly, I was the guy sending people to him.  Roger moved a bit too fast with the check in process.  The point of the line process wasn’t to rush people in.  You were supposed to move efficiently but also make small talk so the audience so as to keep their spirits up.  He’d constantly rush them into the lobby and overfill it.  It would clear the line outside too quick and audience members who had notices telling them to lineup outside were lost on where to go because the outside line disappear inside.  This was because they couldn't find people on line outside.  They were all crammed inside already.  It was utter confusion when he pulled this crap.  I would try to slow the line down just so people arriving later would know where to hop on the line.  Roger would constantly complain to me that the line is moving too slow.  He’d balk that Bob was yelling at him to move the line.  One, Bob never yelled. Two, I could see into the lobby and knew exactly how well the lineup process was going.  

His other malfunction had to do with IDs.  Audience members were instructed on their paperwork to have IDs ready when they arrived for check in.  They were reminded by every single page they spoke with while lined up outside.  I personally told each one of them as they passed me and walked up to Roger they needed their IDs out.   Roger still insisted on yelling as loud as possible that IDs needed to be out when they arrived at his post.  What was really insulting was he made certain to do it every time Bob was outside or within ear distance so as to make it look like I was not informing the audience of the line-up process. 

I never could understand how anyone could stand to listen to him talk about how great of an employee he was and that’s why they made him Key Page.  I’m sure his Key Page title got him a few extra cents an hour, and he certainly needed it.  He was living with his girlfriend Linda and another college friend of theirs, Jen.  All of them were pages at The Late Show.  They shared a two-bedroom apartment and his dad had to give him money to help make the rent.  Growing up in the Midwest his parents were divorced and his father wasn’t really in his life.  He’d talk about his mom with a lot of pride and she seemed like a really cool lady.  He mentioned how she led a movement to educate women on the importance of breast-feeding.  He insisted that she contained vast knowledge about marriage and divorce through her direct working something or other.  He was also a Mets fan and would constantly syphon off their player roster when his spoke sports, as if it would help them win more games.  If I had a nickel for every time he talked about how the Mets had Carlos Beltran and how he was their best player, I’d have a lot of nickels.  I never met a person that could be such a jerk and so boring at the same time. 

His conversion to jerk was at the flip of a switch too.  One moment you’d have a pleasant conversation and the next he’d just snap, raise his voice, and box you out.  The Britney Spears Vegas wedding scandal broke during our tenure together and we were discussing it.  He said he didn’t understand how she could have gotten the marriage annulled.  I tried to explain it was a legal annulment and not a religious one but he started flipping out saying I was wrong and he knows this because his mother worked on these things.  Since he was yelling at me I decided to get a little snarky back and told him his mom might know what she’s doing but that doesn’t qualify him as an expert.  He whatevered me and declared that I knew everything.  Which was the only correct statement he managed to make in that conversation. 

The dude wanted to be a comedy writer but I never heard him tell a joke.  His girlfriend was also a Ball State Graduate and former intern.  They were this dynamic duo of bland.  I tried my best to not talk around or to them but also not be rude and ignore them.  I wanted to focus on the job, but 8 hours days with minimal audience traffic made it really hard.  When Megan was running the show she complained to me saying that I was too quiet during the weekend shifts.  I was usually hung-over but I tried to put in an effort to be more personable.  Whatever I did was no win.  If I kept quiet they complained to me and if I spoke they were attitude-y about it.

One particular Saturday I was exceptionally hung-over, I mean sick.  I called the box office and informed Linda I wasn’t coming in because I was sick.  She actually sounded caring and concerned.  I’d never seen that side of her.  My usual interactions with her were a monotone voice and what may have been jokes or mean comments made at my expense.  I’d really like to think she was joking.   

The following Monday, I informed Bob that I called out sick on the weekend shift.  Bob wasn’t aware I was out, he thanked me and adjusted my hours so I didn’t get paid for time I didn’t work.  What happened afterwards is all speculation on my part.  Bob must have went to Roger and told him about how I was sick and Roger needs to send that up the ladder.  Roger then must have thought he was getting in trouble decided to narc on me.  Roger had expressed his dislike to me that I was late on Sundays and then passed it along to Bob.  I think Roger said I was not talking to the PAMs that entered the box office, which was an impossible feat considering that Roger was dry humping their leg the moment they came through the door. 

What I do know is that I get a message on my machine from Bob about an adjusted schedule and a really pleasant and professional message telling me that it’s important that I get there on time because he’d heard I was slacking off a bit.  That was not the case at all though.  I was commuting to Manhattan from Queens on a Sunday morning.  It wasn’t impossible but it was a pain.  I did not have the luxury of living in a studio apartment in Manhattan with 5 other people and being able to hop on one train and be there in 5 minutes.  I also didn’t live a few blocks away from the Ed Sullivan Theater; Roger didn’t see it that way.  He must have felt it was a blight on The Late Show institution that he so loved.  I know I was doing a good job because even the Han Solo audience coordinator complimented my work ethic.  She appreciated how on point I was with everything.  I guess I just wasn’t as on point as Roger was.

So my solution was to wake up super early and arrive at the theater hours before I needed to be there.  Sometimes the building wasn’t even open when I got there so I had to wander around Manhattan killing time.  I know midtown really well because of it.  Then during the actual shift I grabbed a clipboard with the ticket application and hung out upfront talking with the security guards most of the day.  This way I could beat Roger to all the PAMs that wandered in.  This is how I ran out the weekend clock for the remainder of my tenure there.  The very first weekend after his voicemail Bob told me he heard I did a really good job.  I debated telling him how I always do a good job and even Han Solo can attest to it and that Roger made it impossible to help anyone because he was so overzealous but no one wants to waste his or her time with this petty bullshit so I just thanked him.  What pissed me off about the compliment was that someone was reporting back to him about my progress.  I could see Linda eyeballing me every weekend we ended up working together from that day forward.  But I couldn’t tell if Linda or Roger or both were informing on me.   

I did get to know security really well.  They were cool people.  I learned that the security company was not affiliated with the Late Show.  They were affiliated with an outside company affiliated with the building.  The security people were some of the coolest people working there and I related to them much easier than Roger and friends.  There was Jimmy who was from British Guiana and explained how Social Security worked.  We had a man named Leo who constantly told a story about how he gave a homeless woman a dollar everyday and when she died it turned out she had 8 million dollars in cash in her smelly shopping carts.  One of the more interesting guys was Jack, a retired army sergeant who did security, ran a dog walking business and was trying to convince me to join the army and work in their USO program.  I was really close to graduation so I was open to career options at that point.  I became really close with Carlton who was only a year younger than myself; we hit it off really well.   He’s another person I wish I’d kept in touch with.  All the guards there had a sense of humor and laughed at my lame jokes and I never felt boxed out or not included by them even though they were security and I was a page.  I don’t think I had a single life experience similar to any of them but it was never a factor. 

They were super awesome!

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