Sunday, November 8, 2009

Live...From New York!

Dana Carvey, my brother John & me at SNL (1990)

Saturday Night Live (1990)

In 1990, wanting to open my brother and me to all types of culture, my parents decided to take the family to New York City on vacation. I was ecstatic; New York was the home of Woody Allen, Saturday Night Live and fake Rolexes. We stayed in a hotel on 11th Street, two blocks away from the theater where Cats was enjoying an extended run. Every night, I fell asleep to the heavenly calamity of Manhattan traffic.

While I was in the city that never sleeps, I was determined to see Saturday Night Live. I was a massive fan of the show, and would beg my dad to let me stay up late on Saturdays to see it, and religiously watch the reruns from the 1970s every Sunday night on one of our local stations.

Unfortunately, getting tickets was not as simple as we had hoped. In our naivety, we didn't realize one had to order tickets many months in advance if you wanted to be guaranteed entry. But...there was a plan B – The Hard Way. We decided to camp out overnight on the hard green marble floor of Rockefeller Center with many other hopefuls, with the final prize, a chance to get free tickets to that Saturday night's show. With all that's happened in this world since 1990, I'm not certain if they even allow this any longer, but it was the best chance we had at the time to see the show.

It was a long night, and Manhattan was unnaturally hot that March. We were tired, cranky, and sweltering. Sleep was impossible. Line mentality started around 2am and we all became fast friends. Out of everywhere in the world, we were lined up beside two guys from Medicine Hat, Alberta. We bonded with these fellow Canadians who had made the pilgrimage, and exchanged jokes and addresses.

Some played cards, some slept. I wrote everything I could on the small scraps of paper in my pockets for posterity. Around 9am, the NBC ushers hustled us into a makeshift line and we were confronted with what we had waited for all night–a shot at getting in. There was a choice to go to the dress rehearsal or the live show. The dress, as the "regulars" told us was more relaxed and creative, and after watching, you can go home and see what they decided to cut or leave in. You're more of a "test audience" in the dress, since your laughter determines whether a sketch will hit or miss. (Not sure if they still do this, either.)

We chose the live show, since I wanted to see everything as it happened.

Dana Carvey, my brother John & me at SNL (1990)
Again with the blue glasses...and what's with my hair?

If you walk through Rockefeller Center and just loiter, you're bound to see some stars. I was very fortunate and met my hero at the time, Dana Carvey. He was very sweet and kind (even though in her excitement, my mother called him “Church Lady”(!) as she took this photo). I still remember the feel of his thin back and his silky black baseball jacket when I put my arm around him.

After receiving our makeshift blue square tickets, the four of us bid our line mates farewell and went back to the hotel to sleep. I fell into an instant coma and dreamt of standing in a neverending line, that stretched as far as I could see, waiting for what seemed like forever.

A short rest later, we ventured back into the NBC building for the daily tour. During the tour (which I recommend highly!) we got to see the SNL cast doing a run-through of that night’s show. The whole tour literally halted so people could press their noses against the large glass panel that looked into the studio to watch Dana Carvey rehearsing a sketch with a George Bush doll that had extremely large genitalia. When we went that night, the sketch had been cut. Behold the power of the dress rehearsal. Or the censors...

The Golden-Blue (Standby) Ticket
I only still have this ticket because one of our friends decided not to go. The black marks on the ticket are from magic marker ink bearing our number in line on the other side.

The evening of the show, we arrived at 30 Rock at six o’clock sharp. After we flashed our precious blue entry tickets, we were whisked quickly past the security guards. Written in bold print on the tickets was the warning that no one under sixteen years of age was allowed entry to the show. My younger brother John was not yet thirteen and small for his age. (He's since outgrown us all.) And I was still under the legal line at fifteen. As we dashed into the studio, one of the guards at the door called after us, "How old is that boy?" Without missing a beat, my mother hollered, "Sixteen!" at him and kept moving. And with that, we both became illegal SNL stowaways. (Sorry, Lorne!)

Our backs pressed against the 8H's far wall, we squeezed together, trying to get as comfortable as possible in the tight space. There was no other choice–these were the “nosebleed” tickets we mere spontaneous mortals were allowed. Right in front of us were the large, complicated control panels that put the chyron wording on all the television screens. We could tell what the next joke was according to the queued up chyron message. My dad got brave and asked for the program notes for that night's show, consisting of a rundown of all the sketches and the cues for lighting, sound effects and other technicals.

It was the St. Patrick's Day show, so we were treated to Rob Lowe as host and The Pogues as musical guests.

Dennis Miller did the warmup before the show and was pretty funny. I had a crush on him then, so I was in heaven. The show was really good (there was a classic “Church Lady” with Rob Lowe being beaten for his sins - “Thank you Church Lady, may I have another?”), a silly sketch about helmet head ("Soapy water...soapy water?!"), and even a "Dieter's Dance Party" sketch (in which The Trout was invented)! I was as happy as a little girrrrl. ;) You can even hear my dad's booming laugh during some of the sketches.

I wish I could find clips of the show online, but stupidfreakingNBC has decided to put a stranglehold on them, so you'll just have to take my word that it was awesome.

Mike Myers & Me at SNL (1990)
Check out my Blues Brothers shirt!

I met Mike Myers on the night we saw SNL. Things were crazy after the show, and all he could mumble was "hi," before my mom snapped the photo.

Mom also snapped pictures of A. Whitney Brown, who was just recovering from a broken leg during that show, G.E. Smith and others. Chevy Chase was a surprise guest at the end and was bombarded with people (and strangely, fur activists), so we just have a few shots of him far away.

After the show, at 2 a.m., we roamed the streets of Manhattan, hungry and elated, finding ourselves at an all-night pizza joint that was packed. As we ate, we reminisced about the show, an experience I will never forget.

Read more of my Adventures in Fandom meeting celebrities here:

Early Kids in the Hall adventures

David Cronenberg

No comments:

Post a Comment