Back in the day, long before the word terrorist became part of our everyday vocabulary, and the term stalker was only used in jest, because you wanted to see someone famous up close, things were a lot safer and a heck of a lot simpler.
In the early years, when I first started at CBS, there were no identification badges, no guard houses, except for the rear guard shack, and definitely no surveillance cameras. And instead of a security guard inside the main entrance, youâ€™d be greeted by a receptionist. She would question you, only if you looked like you were lost, or if you needed to be announced to the person that you were there to see. In which case she would happily make a call for you. But if you just walked past her desk, the most you would get would be a welcoming smile. The trick to getting inside CBS back then, was just to pretend you belonged and act like you knew where you were going. But like everything else in this world, things have changed.
Today, all employees must wear a picture ID badge. You can only gain entry into the building, either by using your badge that has a built-in sensor to unlock doors, or to go through an entrance that is manned by a guard from an outside security company. Even then youâ€™ll be asked to display your badge. Once the guard is satisfied youâ€™re okay, he unlocks the doors, using the controls under his desk. We call it being buzzed in. But even before you can drive on the lot, you must use your ID badge to open the guard gate or else have someone working for the company give you clearance. As far as surveillance cameras, theyâ€™re now all over the place.
If a family member or friend wanted to visit you at CBS in order to catch a peek of their favorite celebrity and get an autograph or two, you didnâ€™t need permission to bring them in the studio. If anything, you could get them through with a hand printed paper pass pinned to their lapel. But for most instances you didnâ€™t even need that. When I did bring someone in the studio, the only instructions I gave them was, â€œAct like you belong and be careful where you walk.â€ You never wanted production to be stopped because your mother walked in front of a camera during taping. How embarrassing would that be? But putting a visitor on set, was like putting a baby in a stroller. It kept them entertained and out of trouble for the entire day.
As for myself, thereâ€™s only been a handful of times when Iâ€™ve either been asked not to go on a stage or to leave the studio. Once was while they were doing a revision of the old â€œPlayhouse 90â€ TV show. A play called â€œThe Lieâ€. The stage manager stopped me just as I was about to open the door, and said, â€œHoney, you donâ€™t want to go in there.â€ â€œYes, I do,â€ I answered. He said, â€œNo, you donâ€™tâ€¦theyâ€™re shooting a nude scene.â€ He was right, I didnâ€™t want to go in, and I didnâ€™t. By the way, it was okay to call someone honey, back then, too.
Another time I found out that John Lennon and Yoko were going to be doing an interview on Stage 43. And even though the sign said â€œClose Set-Stage Crew Only,â€ silly me thought, that certainly canâ€™t applied to me. (Side note: I was working in the credit union at the time and had nothing to do with production.)
Sitting in the audience of the close set, I sat eying John and Yoko as they prepared themselves for their upcoming interview. When a stagehand asked me what was I doing there, I panicked and I blurted out the first name I could think of. I said, â€œIâ€™m looking for Ben Hill.â€ Ben was a director of news. Little did I know this helpful stage tech would buy into my lie and go tell Ben that I was there. But as soon as he saw me, it was obvious to Ben what I was really there for. He nodded, greeted me by simply saying my name and then turned away and headed back towards the directorâ€™s booth. Neither one of us ever mentioned the incident, again.
As far as John and Yoko, to this day I canâ€™t tell you what the interview was about. I was too in awe of being in the presence of one of the Beatles. But I do remember that John was not the same playful character as I had been used to seeing when he was part of the Beatles. Now he seemed much more serious. And it was unmistakably clear the way he talked to Yoko and included her in conversation that she was regarded as his equal in every aspect of his life-personally and professionally.
Unfortunately, there was one Beatle I wanted to see, but never did, and that was Paul McCartney. However, I did get to see his ex-wifeâ€¦Heather Mills, when she was coming out of her trailer while doing â€œDancing With The Starsâ€ (DWTS is filmed on the CBS lot). She smiled and said hello. Thatâ€™s as close as I ever came to seeing Sir Paul.
Although, I did get to see Ringo. It was one of the rare days when I threw caution to the wind and instead of packing a healthy lunch, I made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich. My favorite. And you might be asking, so what does a peanut butter and banana sandwich have to do with Ringo. Nothing really. Except that I thought about that sandwich all morning longâ€¦but before eating lunch, I wanted to check out the â€œLate, Late Show with Craig Kilbornâ€. This was before Craig Ferguson took it over. It was rumored that Ringo would be rehearsing about the time I was suppose to be eating my lunch. And because Kilborn normally did have great musical guests, I was sure the rumor was true.
I wasnâ€™t crazy about Kilbornâ€™s frat boy humor, but I definitely loved the musical guests that he brought to the show. Where else can you sit and watch Harry Connick playing the piano, while singing some of your favorite songs? I think I fell a little more in love with him when he improvised by added the word â€œSugâ€™arâ€ to the lyrics of one of his songs, singing it in a slow, southern drawl. Besides being cute and witty, he was downright sexy.
Another time, I sat a few feet away from the great Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, as he powerfully belted out several of his classic hits. It was like having my own personal Bocelli concert. And at the end of each of his songs, his Italian entourage which consisted of about five or six people would yell out â€œBravo, bravoâ€¦â€ and you know what, so did I.
So, yes, when I heard Ringo was going to be on Stage 56, I believed it. And apparently, so did about thirty or so other people in the building.
When Ringo arrived on stage, it seemed like it took forever for his band to set up, but once they did, he started to sing right away. No longer wearing the mop-top Beatle hairstyle, his hair was cut short, and he was now sporting a beard. And he was still wearing some bling–a gold earring and those infamous rings on his fingers. Some people get better with age, and I believe heâ€™s one of them. I was also surprised to hear how well he sounded vocalizing, since most of the attention in the heyday of the Beatles was focused on Johnâ€™s and Paulâ€™s singing.
Just as he was about to begin his second song, there was a technical problem with the lighting, which meant more delays. Finally, everything and everybody was ready to go. And thatâ€™s when the stage managers and several of the ushers went around, asking everybody who wasnâ€™t with the show to leave. Again in denial, I couldnâ€™t believe that meant me, too. But it did. According to the stage managers, they were just following the producerâ€™s orders. So reluctantly, I left. Only when I was outside in the hallway did I realized I had left my treasured lunch behind.
It took some effort on my part to convince a stage hand, who I didnâ€™t even know, to go inside and search around the bleachers for my brown paper bag containing my peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Success! Within a matter of moments I was sitting outside on the patio, basking in the sunshine, enjoying my P&B and satisfied that I had managed to see Ringo and got to hear him sing at least one of his songs. Yeahâ€¦Yeahâ€¦Yeah.