Thursday, December 20, 2007
I know from the above headline that perhaps you were expecting something more lurid or obscene. Perhaps Ellen and a cartoon getting it on for the big screen or something similar. Although I am sure that would be fun, what you have to look forward to instead is our very own Hello Kitty. As in, our frequent commenter, Hello Kitty who attended a taping of Ellen last week. Knowing that many of you would like to know what goes on behind the scenes of a typical Ellen show, she was kind enough to write down her experience at the show and share it here.
First you must keep in mind that you have to sign up for tickets on her website. They allow you to go once a season and you can't put in multiple requests to sweeten the odds. I had tried twice last spring, but finally got lucky at the beginning of the new season last fall with tickets.
The tickets come in the mail in the form of a confirmation letter that was for guaranteed seating. They also have back up, standby seating, and those that don't get into the audience end up in the riffraff room next to the stage, separated by a partial wall, and only have a monitor to watch.
People come from all over to see the show, getting there early to stand in line, even earlier if they don't have a guaranteed ticket. We had received a call to get there by 2 pm, but when we got there at 1:30 we were already towards the back of the line. The ladies next to us had been a couple times already, and have a nice picnic lunch in the park before getting in line. Others would send one person to get food while they stood in line.
Unfortunately our original tickets were the week of Iggygate. When we got there, most everyone was already gone. The audience coordinator came out and advised the few of us remaining that we could come back another time so we were rescheduled for a December show, one of the 12 Days of Christmas giveaway days that others would have killed for. There were quite a number of us that ended up in line last week for the same reason, and since we did have to wait for 2-3 hours before taping at 5 pm, we ended up getting to know some people pretty well.
One game that our buddies played was guess the story of someone in line -- how old she was, how recently divorced, etc.
I was amazed at the range of people in line, all walks of life, mostly female, but with good male representation. We all had gifts for the Toys for Tots drive that the Ellen show was helping collect gifts for, and ended up sharing pens when the information sheets finally turned up. Audience coordinators came out around 2:30 to make some announcements, bring us in, and assign numbers (we were 122 & 123.)
You may wonder if we had to cross any picket lines, and there were a handful of picketers that walked up & down across the driveway, on the sidewalk, with a table across the street for organizational purposes, but once we entered the Ellen audience outdoor holding area, we were separated by a wall and a hoard of people.
To get to the next waiting area, were were escorted in groups to a security screening area. All it was missing was the x-ray machines and the requirement to remove our shoes, since the requirement to have no hazardous objects (knives, guns, lighters) was much the same. We also got escorted in groups to use the bathrooms, and were monitored to make sure we didn't wander off.
The holding area outside is a series of wooden benches under a canopy, with monitors playing the show that was aired that day and the day before. That way, we had some idea of what we might have missed if we hadn't recorded the show broadcast that day. They do have a small food concession right near the benches, so there were drinks, sandwiches, salads, and snacks for sale, and the marines were standing a few yards away collecting the toys.
Finally at 4:30 they line us up by numbers 1-200 with the guaranteed seating on the one side of the pavement and the rest on the other to be seated in the riffraff room. They all looked so sad as we walked past.
Anyhow, there was no guarantee that your party would be seated together, My friend and I were seated together, but the guy next to me was separated from his son. We walked though a room filled with toys and the Ellen gear shop, and then up some stairs to get to our seats. We were near the top on the aisle. The crew generally seemed happy to be there, and not just because they were working while others had been shut out or laid off.
They have a warm up guy that comes out and directs dancing contests - best dance moves and best dancers per section. My friend got the first shirt, but I'm guessing it was that she had that cute little old lady thing going, and not for the most jiggy moves. We also got a little practice in standing, cheering and applauding (no words or names, just loud woots.) We were also reminded not to touch Ellen or ask for autographs.
The stage is a large, multi sectioned set, with Xmas in the back were Ellen and the guests come in , an area on the side for various bits, and the host and guest chairs on stage right. The DJ is almost in the audience stage left, and once he comes out the show gets going, music blaring & everyone on their feet.
Ellen's opening monologue was about present wrapping, a monopoly set that was quickly wrapped and delivered so that we could get to dancing. There was a secret product promotion reveal for head and shoulders involving a bit where she washed an assistant's hair, and then to commercial.
Just so you know, the show runs in real time, so when a broadcast would go to commercial, we would have a 3 minute break to adjust the set & freshen up the host (the old tweak of the hair and touch of powder.) What you would have seen in terms of guests during the taping was pretty much was would end up on TV, everything in one take.
Of course we were taping day 8 of the 12 days of Christmas Giveaway. All the past week, my friend had been telling me what some of the other giveaways were -- cameras, phones, clothing -- and what the dollar value of said gifts were. Our gifts were a Gucci Hobo Bag, Calvin Klein sun glasses, a gift certificate & lotion from a spa, and a necklace that will be sent to the house. Remember, thought this stuff is free, we still had to fill out a tax form to get the gifts of an estimated value of $1300, and may need to pay taxes on it.
A week later it's all gotten to be a blur. Taped bits are show in the on set monitors, and there are several of them. There are cameras everywhere, but my friend only saw her hand and now our faces on tv. It's a pretty big set, bigger than what you would expect from watching it edited down on a small tv screen. There are feed back monitors in the audience so that you can hear what is being said, but in terms of view, there isn't a bad seat in the house.
Guests were Jane Seymour taking about her painting classes, the guy from Flipping Out talking about simple kitchen remodels, and the guy who jumps cars and now has a Nike internet ad.
By the time it all wrapped up and the tax forms were complete and turned in, we were tired. We walked out the way we came in, and were given all the swag out in the parking lot. On the way to the car, a lady in a car stopped and asked us where we had gotten the Gucci bags (easy enough to see when the bag says Gucci.)
I'm still trying to figure out where to got to use the spa gift certificate, but we both agree that we're going to try to go again in December next year.