Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I never Wanted to Be A Star: Part 2, and Not a Moment Too Soon

[Have been reading Mitford sister letters & it makes me want to make up obscure in-jokey nicknames for everyone. and to write in telegraphic breathless shorthand, e.g. "must dash!"

Somewhere in the 800-odd pages-- I've been looking for it but can't find it--Jessica writes to her sister, Deborah, something like "SO sorry haven't written you for years but I didn't know your address or in fact your NAME."

So: SO sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth mid-television saga; of course I wanted so much to make a complete record of it that I scared myself away and procrastinated and in the meantime avoided writing about other things. It's the book report problem: the book you have to report on immediately becomes uninteresting, but you can't read anything else because you feel obligated to read the Report Book first.

In any case, here is the rest of it:]

No one said anything to me after my faux pas with the water cooler; maybe it wasn’t such a big deal after all, or maybe they’re just used to that kind of thing—I mean, they do run their morning news show IN THE LOBBY, so it’s bound to happen. I don’t even know whether anyone glared at me, because I resolutely did not look at anyone for a few minutes. But in any case I was soon saved from my embarrassment by a chirpy young person who came to escort me to the Green Room.

Now, I have been in many a theatrical Green Room, and they have never, ever been green. So I wasn’t actually surprised that this one wasn’t green either. One day I hope to see a truly green Green Room, but this was not the day. However, in other aspects it fully lived up to expectations: There was an assemblage of chairs and a sofa and a coffee table. There was a big TV screen broadcasting the morning show going on just outside the door. There was a makeup alcove in the back, with a long mirror and bright lights. There was a plate of dubious-looking pastries which no one touched or even glanced at for the whole two hours I was there. There was coffee and tea and water.

But mainly, the Green Room was full of people. It wasn’t that big, so there seemed to be a lot of us, and it took me a while to figure out who everyone was. First, there was the chirpy young person who’d brought me in, who offered me coffee and made chirpy conversation and whipped out a clipboard to confirm all my information: name, title, main points, organizational website. Then the hosts rushed in during the commercial break, got their makeup touched up, and rushed out again. Then there was another station employee, not so young as the first one, who breezed by periodically and made friendly conversation with the rest of us.

Then there were some more random people sitting around, who I slowly figured out were the other guests. There were a man and woman sitting on the couch looking about as tense as I felt, about to go on and talk about the wildlife paintings he'd done. The two women who were getting made up when I was hustled in turned out to be documentary filmmakers whose film was being aired on CBC that night. They asked what I was there to talk about and I obligingly pulled out all the books I'd brought and talked them up, and they started writing down titles and telling me about how they go to the library I work at all the time, and it was all very friendly and I started to relax, sort of.

So, first the filmmakers went on, and they came back in and we all told them what a good job they'd done, and then the painter went on and came back and was reassured, and then just as I was wondering whether I should ask about makeup or if that would make me seem embarrassingly conceited, I was whisked into the back and one of the chirpy young people did a brisk and thorough job putting on more makeup than I've ever worn in my entire life, including when I was 14 and used to wear mascara every day. At the end I looked in the mirror, and lo and behold there was someone with the vague outlines of my face but looking strangely more polished and sort of plastic.

Then it was the commercial break and out I went to the lobby/studio, and got wired up for sound right there in the hallway next to the bathroom; the sound guy gave me the mike cord to thread up my own shirt as it didn't have a collar. I spread out the box o' books on the table, and perched up on a high stool, and the host made deliberate eye contact and conversation and got my name right and chatted about the books her daughter likes, and then the commercial was over and we were on.

It's not just because it's now weeks later that I can't remember anything about what I said for the next five minutes-- I couldn't remember anything right afterwards, either. Part of the problem is that I'd been practicing on my fellow guests in the green room, trying to work up something vaguely articulate on the topic, so now I can't remember what I said to them and what I said on the air. But I think there's a strange amnesia that comes with being on television or radio or in a big public-speaking situation in any way. I've had versions of it before.

In any case, all I remember is that I was looking at the host, not the camera, because that's what they'd told me to do, and that she was incredibly good at keeping the conversation moving briskly along, based on the few notes that she'd been given by the chirpy people. So the whole time while I was blathering on about books and teens, I was thinking, "Wow, she's really good at this. But I guess that makes sense: this is her job, to make interesting conversation on live television every morning. With people who mostly have never been on TV and are terrified. And about things she's probably never heard of before that day. Gosh. Wow."

And then, zip! We were out. And I gathered my books and unthreaded my mike and went back into the green room to collect the rest of my stuff and get reassured in my turn. And then I was back out on the street, lugging my books back to the car, thinking about how I was going to navigate my way to work from downtown.

Halfway to work I remembered all that makeup, now sitting greasy on my face and feeling like it was about to all slide off. So the first thing I did at work was to run to the bathroom and scrub. And then it was time to get ready for the baby story time, and an hour later I was singing "The Wheels on the Bus" to a passel of 1-year-olds and their parents, and resisting the urge to tell all of them how FAMOUS I am now.

Rachel kindly and valiantly taped the show, so I have it for posterity. I haven't yet had the courage to actually watch it, though. Because what if I actually had something hanging from my nose but no one wanted to tell me?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put it up here on the blog. We'll watch it FOR you. And tell you if there was a booger.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Arwen said...

YEAH! Do that!

10:04 AM  
Blogger liz said...


And did you mean to use a real name in that last PP?

7:05 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

I'd do it if I knew how to get it off the analog videocassette!

And thanks for the heads-up, Liz, but no worries-- Rachel's real name does double duty as her blog name, so I'm not blowing anyone's cover. I was just too lazy to link.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous MonkeyPants said...

Can I borrow it from Rachel so I can tell you how great it was?

11:03 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Put it up on Google Video or something! I want to see!

Oh and "must dash!" ... I can't wait to read that book. So appropriate for all us bloggers who don't know each other's real names or addresses either!

9:52 PM  

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