Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rubbing Elbows

Once again, this isn't exactly R2 building, but it relates to it.

I had an interesting night last night.

I'll try to keep a reaallly long story short(er). Mike Senna was asked to have his R2 appear on stage last night, at the Shrine Auditorium for the Jules Verne Adventures Awards. I was lucky enough to have Mike invite me along. They were honoring George Lucas, Harrison Ford and Jane Goodall. That meant being backstage at the curtain for R2's appearance.

But first things first. Here's a rough timeline of the evening:

3:00pm-3:30pm: Mike arrived for rehearsals with stand-ins
5:00pm: I arrived
7:00pm: Red carpet arrivals
8:00pm: Scheduled start of show
10:00pm: Scheduled end of show, start of VIP party

The folks at the box office weren't all that helpful when I got there ("we don't have your name here"), so I called Mike and Amy and they got me in.

Mike asked if I wanted to be in the audience during the show, or backstage with him, where R2 would be waiting to go on, along with the honorees and celebrities. Ummm... backstage, please.

Mike had a magical yellow backstage pass, but I sure didn't. Still, Mike lead the way backstage (and on the stage itself since it was still early), to where R2 was. Later, we were able to secure extra backstage passes, and I was relieved that I wouldn't get the boot. Just that was cool enough, but it gets better.

When we went back outside around 7:00pm, celebrities started arriving on the red carpet, including: Malcolm McDowell (MC of the show), Ray Harryhausen (who made the original black-and-white King Kong, and many other famous movies), Walter Koenig (Chekhov from the original Star Trek), James Cameron (director of Titanic and other blockbusters), Jane Goodall (lifetime of research of chimpanzees), Harrison Ford with Calista Flockhart, and ... George Lucas. There were a bunch of other celebrities that I did not recognize, some from the more contemporary Star Trek TV shows. About a dozen members of the local 501st were there, and got pictures with George.

After the red carpet, we went to the green room and dressing room areas, where Mike met up with Malcolm McDowell to go over their routine for the show: After Harrison Ford received his award, R2 was to interrupt Malcolm on stage, bump into him lightly, they'd exchange "words," and then R2 would continue driving off stage (stage right, we were stationed behind the curtain at stage left). More on that in a moment (I'll tell you now it went fine, no horror stories to tell).

The show started somewhat late. We took up our position back stage (along with a few of the 501st crew), right behind the curtain. It was very dark, and there was a wall of sound equipment next to us, with fans that pretty much drowned out anything being said on stage.

The first to go on was Ray Harryhausen. The "unveiling of Kong scene" in Harryhausen's King Kong was filmed in the very auditorium we were standing. As a special surprise, with Ray on stage, they revealed a prop I was told is now owned by a private collector: The original skeletal armature of the miniature King Kong model. I don't know how often Mr. Harryhausen gets to see it, but it was a special moment. Later, Mike got a picture of himself, Ray and the prop.

Next to go on stage was George. Before each person went on, they played a 5 minute clip highlighting career work. So George was standing not five feet in front of me backstage, watching an HDTV with a few of us behind the curtain that let us see what the audience was seeing projected on the main screen. We could actually take pictures back there, provided there was NO flash photography. That meant I got virtually NO good pictures back there. Still, it was worth it.

You'll have to take my word for it, that's George (from the back) to the right of the TV.

George went on, spoke for a few minutes (what he said, we couldn't hear), and then invited James Cameron to come up from the audience to join him. James said a few words, and they exited stage right.

Next up, Harrison Ford. Harrison took up his position backstage, watched the TV as they showed his clip, and then went out and gave his talk. Mike's turn was coming up.

As Harrison was wrapping up, Mike started powering up the dome and test driving a couple of inches to make sure all systems were "go." They were.

Mike drove R2 out from behind the curtain perfectly. R2 interrupted Malcolm with his beeps and boops, and on cue, nudged Malcolm. Malcolm ad-libbed something funny that we couldn't hear, and R2 drove off stage right. Perfect. We were done, we were psyched.

At this point we could walk around the back of the stage, which had a curtain in back that we could walk behind, and go back to the green room and dressing room areas. Mike went to retrieve R2 on the other side of the stage, while I made a few trips back and forth behind the curtain to gather the dolly and a few boxes Mike had brought.

Once at the green room, we hung out just outside the door, hoping for the best. Pictures? Autographs? Who knows. As the opportunity arose, pictures were taken.

Mike had been dying to get Harrison to sign R2's back door, where almost all the main actors from the original trilogy (and many from the new trilogy) had signed. When Harrison came out of the green room, Mike asked for a quick picture with him, Amy and R2, followed by the signature on the panel. He got both!

After the show was over, Mike and Amy were supposed to be invited to the VIP party. No such guarantees for the rest of us. But, we all went up and crossed our fingers. When we got there, we were met by burly security guards, who informed us we were not on "the list." Mike and Amy were assured by the folks running the show they'd be in. They got stabbed in the back.

When the folks in charge were finally contacted, they first said no one gets in. Later they said only Mike could go in with R2, but not Amy. Mike said if Amy doesn't go in, R2 doesn't go in. They didn't go in.

Much later, they finally let Mike and Amy in with R2. Mike and I were in occasional radio contact, and I was chatting with the guards (I wasn't mad at them, they were doing their job).

Well, much, much later, after almost everyone had left, they finally let a few more of us in. So I finally managed to get a picture with the only person remaining that I recognized, James Cameron.

By the time we left, it was 2:00am. After an hour drive home, I had to post at least one picture to the board, so I hit the hay close to 4:00am. It was a long day, but one that will be unforgettable. Thanks, Mike, for the opportunity I would never have had otherwise. I'm looking forward to Celebration 4!

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