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Looking For Harry

October 13, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Bobbie Cimo

Last week while I was on my lunch hour taking my daily siesta in my lounge chair that’s comfortably situated on the helicopter pad at CBS, I got a text from one of my co-workers that read “Harry Connick will be at the Grove at 4 today.” My response was simple, “So will I.”

When I got back from lunch, all my other co-workers excitedly asked me if I got the text about Harry. It was easy to tell by the smile on my face, I had. When 3:45 PM rolled around and I was about to leave for my clandestine meeting, my working cronies cheered me on, like I was the lead-off batter at a baseball game.

As I walked through the turnstile that connects CBS to the Grove, I wondered how many people were going to be there. On a normal day, when Mario Lopez of “Extra” does these interviews, it’s to a fairly small crowd. I was hoping that today, it would be even smaller. I wanted to get as close to Harry as possible. It isn’t that I haven’t been close to him before, because I have. But to me he’s like a drug that you can’t get enough of. Like the song said, “The more I see you, the more I want you.”
I cast my eyes on the spot in front of the three story Barnes and Noble, where these little interviews are customarily shot. No cameras, no crew, no Harry.

I took out my cell phone and called my office. My office posse assured me they saw the sign, announcing Harry’s scheduled appearance. They even told me where the sign was. Not that I didn’t trust them, but I had to see it for myself. They were right. When an unsuspecting security guard passed in front of me, I pointed to the sign and asked, “Where’s Harry?”

He looked just as confused as I felt when he looked towards Barnes and Noble and saw there was no action in front of the bookstore. And then, as if a light bulb went on over his head, he said, “They probably moved it to the front of the fountain”. Not that I needed it, but he offered to escort me over. But again, there was no Harry nor any evidence of any sort of production going on.
So what does a security guard do when he can’t find an answer? He gets back-up by calling over another security guard. This other guard was more creative in his thinking, he was sure that “Extra” was doing Harry’s spot in the park next door.

I looked at him incredulously and asked, “Are you sure?” I think I scared him because he responded with, “Let me take you to the concierge.” Yes, the Grove does have a concierge who dresses in a suit and stands behind an outside desk. As a matter of fact they have several. As helpful as he tried to be, the concierge did’t have an answer for me, so like the guard, he called over back-up, another concierge, who knew even less than he did. I should have walked away then, but it was too late. They had now called over a PR person for the Grove. And in a matter of moments, I had several guards, a couple of concierges, and a PR person, all looking for Harry Connick, Jr. It’s when they pulled out the walkie talkies that I knew that this had gone way too far. But it was too late to walk away, they had me surrounded. Finally, with three security guards, two concierges, a PR person and a partridge in a pear tree, they had an answer for me. Harry had canceled his visit.

My office gal pals all shared in my disappointment when I told them of my defeat. The ironic thing about all of this was, that very night Harry Connick was less than a football field away from me, appearing on “Dancing With The Stars”. Since DWTS is an ABC show, not a CBS one, and because of the threats made against some of the celebrities on the show, it’s practically impossible to get onto the set. To put it bluntly, a terrorist has a better chance of getting passed customs, than a CBS employee has of getting on the set of “Dancing With the Stars”. That is unless you have a special badge, that’s only given to people at certain levels. And I’m definitely not one of them.

As I sat down at my desk, I mumbled out loud of my discontent and how unfair I thought it was to be so close to Harry, and yet not be allowed to see him. Then I heard someone in my office say, “You’re right”, and the next thing I knew, a manager who owns one of those special badges handed his over to me. He then got on the phone and called the head stagehand of “Dancing With The Stars” and asked if he could find a space for me in the audience.

In less than thirty seconds, I was out the door, without my purse, no lipstick on, but a special badge around my neck.

Not only did I get to see Harry Connick, but I also got to hear him sing in person, as well. So I’m happy to report I went looking for Harry, and finally found him, too.
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September 13, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

by Bobbie Cimo
With the end of summer near, I realize two things; One, I hate to see the summer end and two; I grew up loving those teen beach movies. Don’t know why, since I couldn’t swim or surf. However, I did manage to learn how to float on my back in case of an emergency, like if I were lost at sea and had to wait it out to be rescued. Luckily, I never had too.
I guess the real draw about those movies for me, were the cute guys who played in them–because it certainly wasn’t the plot or storyline, since most of them didn’t have one.
Like all people, who didn’t grow up near an ocean, the first thing I wanted to see when I moved out to California was Malibu. And with all the enthusiasm of a seasoned swimmer, when I did see it, I ran out to sea. I got about knee high into the water, when I felt my lips turn blue (okay you can’t actually feel your lips turn a color), but if one could… Nobody told me that the Pacific Ocean was freezing, even in July.
If I couldn’t enjoy the ocean, I could at least enjoy the sunrays and work on my tan, by basking in the California sunshine. Well, I could if it wasn’t for the fact that with every initial sunbathing session, I tend to break out with a zillion red dots on my legs (maybe a zillion is a little bit of an exaggeration). But enough red dots to make my legs look like I went stomping in a vat filled with purple grapes. The doctors call it sun poisoning. I call it annoying. Once the purple fades away, I usually end up with a pretty good tan.

Ah, then there’s all that lovely beachy air–unfortunately, I have a problem with that too. It seems whenever I’m near anything that has to do with humidity or dampness, my hair comes down with a terminal case of the frizzies. In other words, if I had red hair, I could easily be mistaken for “Little Orphan Annie”
So just because I couldn’t be a surfer, didn’t mean I couldn’t like those silly beach movies or have my picture taken with a teen idol, like Frankie Avalon, who played in them. And I could do it, without the blue lips, blotchy skin, and frizzy hair.

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June 13, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Bobbie Cimo

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, you’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 you’ll be asked to display your badge. Once the guard is satisfied you’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, they’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 didn’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 didn’t even need that. When I did bring someone in the studio, the only instructions I gave them was, “Act like you belong and be careful where you walk.” 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, there’s only been a handful of times when I’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 “Playhouse 90” TV show. A play called “The Lie”. The stage manager stopped me just as I was about to open the door, and said, “Honey, you don’t want to go in there.” “Yes, I do,” I answered. He said, “No, you don’t…they’re shooting a nude scene.” He was right, I didn’t want to go in, and I didn’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 “Close Set-Stage Crew Only,” silly me thought, that certainly can’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, “I’m looking for Ben Hill.” 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 director’s booth. Neither one of us ever mentioned the incident, again.

As far as John and Yoko, to this day I can’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-wife…Heather Mills, when she was coming out of her trailer while doing “Dancing With The Stars” (DWTS is filmed on the CBS lot). She smiled and said hello. That’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 long…but before eating lunch, I wanted to check out the “Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn”. 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 wasn’t crazy about Kilborn’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 “Sug’ar” 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 “Bravo, bravo…” 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 he’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 John’s and Paul’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 that’s when the stage managers and several of the ushers went around, asking everybody who wasn’t with the show to leave. Again in denial, I couldn’t believe that meant me, too. But it did. According to the stage managers, they were just following the producer’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 didn’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. Yeah…Yeah…Yeah.

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May 13, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

by Bobbie Cimo

For a brief period of my youth I lived on Long Island, New York. It was quaint, quiet and pretty dull, even for a girl raised in Birmingham, Alabama. Also, a far cry from the bright lights, glamour and excitement of the big city. But once in a while, on a Saturday, my sister would take me on an outing to Manhattan, where we would do a little shopping, catch a Broadway matinee, have an early dinner and then go star gazing outside of Sardi’s Restaurant.

Sardi’s, located in New York City’s theatrical district, was the pre-and-post theater hang-out for all the Broadway stars. This toast of Broadway, as it was sometimes referred to, was also known for the hundreds of celebrity caricatures that adorned it’s walls–much like the West Coast’s Brown Derby.

It was just by chance, while wandering in front of Sardi’s, that we became junior stalkers–we didn’t mean to, we just kind of fell in with the wrong crowd–literally. Well, actually, it turned out to be the right crowd, as far as we were concerned.

It all happened very innocently when we found ourselves being blocked by a small group of people, gathered in front of the famed restaurant. We couldn’t figure out what they were all doing there, when suddenly the crowd grew excited and a flurry of flashing lights went off. It didn’t take us long to realize the hullabaloo wasn’t for us, but for some famous personality emerging from the restaurant.

Most of the Broadway stars coming in or out of the eatery appreciated the admiration and would stop to sign Playbills (programs) for their fans. And sometimes, on a good night, we even got to see a few, genuine movie stars, walking down the street. Like the time Paul Newman walked briskly past everyone, trying to avoid the crowd.

In my determination to keep up with him, I found myself walking backwards, so I could keep facing him as he walked down the block. He wasn’t very tall, but what he lacked in height was more than made up for by his illuminating blue eyes. Both he and his eyes held up to their much publicized reputation. Absolutely gorgeous. When I asked him for his autograph, he responded with what I later found out was his standard answer to the public, “Sorry, I don’t give out autographs.”

In retrospect, I think I could’ve eventually worn him down–if I hadn’t walked out of my shoe and had to stop to retrieve it to put it back on my foot. The last I saw of Paul Newman, he was running down the sidewalks of New York and away from me.

Then there was Lauren Bacall, (the widow of Humphrey Bogart and then wife of actor Jason Robards), who came out of Sardi’s with her arm draped around her young son’s shoulder. When asked for her autograph, she let out a husky laugh and said, “I can’t stop–do you believe it, we’re off to see the Beatles?” Getting a whiff of her breath made me wonder if it was possible to suffer from second-hand intoxication. Giddy and a little tipsy, Lauren scampered away to enjoy her rendezvous with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

On one particular evening, I witnessed the full craziness of the paparazzi, like I‘ve never seen it before. Flashbulbs were flashing fiercely, like lightning in a thunderstorm, as the media elbowed their way through the crowd and towards their latest prey. I remember a lot of pushing and shoving between the reporters, photographers, and the fans–all sharing the same common goal of getting as close to the person as they could, who was being escorted by two bulky bodyguards to an awaiting limousine. Curious to see what was causing all of the brouhaha, I somehow managed to do what few were able to do. I got between the press, the fans and the bodyguards and found myself standing next to Elizabeth Taylor. I was so close to her, if I wanted to, I could reach out and touch her. But I didn’t. Knowing the moment wasn’t going to last forever, I tried taking in as much inventory on her as I could.

Mostly, I was surprised at how tiny she was compared to the larger than life persona that she projected on the big screen. And I couldn’t help but wonder if she had intentionally worn purple that night to show off her violet eyes. But it was too dark out to tell the exact color of her eyes, or if they really were violet, as rumored. When I felt the commotion become too much for me, I purposely stepped back, as her bodyguards swept her towards the limo and the crowd who acted like a swarm of bees, surrounded her, and then followed her to her car.

As for Richard Burton, he was a few feet behind me, being detained by several adoring fans, asking for his autograph. Because it seemed a lot calmer and definitely safer than the mob scene that I had just escaped from, I decided to get a closer look at the Welsh born star, who had gained most of his notoriety because of his notorious love affair with the well known Miss Taylor.

Yes, he was tall and fairly well built. But his face was covered with pockmarks and the glow to his skin seemed to come from a sunlamp. His hair, a tawny-gold, was tousled and his blue eyes, although kind, were a much paler shade than Paul Newman’s. But once he spoke, his resonant voice brought out his European charm and all imperfections were forgotten. When he stopped to shake my hand and looked me in the eyes, I suddenly found myself being mesmerized by the man who stole Elizabeth Taylor away from Eddie Fisher. And it became perfectly clear to me how this ruggedly handsome actor, with what seemed like raw sex appeal, had managed to steal Elizabeth Taylor’s heart, not only once, but twice–and perhaps even kept it, until her death.

I don’t know if after all these years, Sardi’s still holds the same popularity as it once had. But if you’re ever in New York, you might want to venture over to this iconic restaurant and hang around for a few moments. You never know, you might get lucky and see someone famous walking in front of you.

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March 13, 2011 by in category Archives, Eye on Hollywood by Bobbie Cimo tagged as ,

When Bob Barker announced he would be leaving “The Price Is Right”, I must admit I was a little pessimistic that the show would continue with the same success as it had in the past.

Well, it’s been over three years now and I’m happy to say the show is still on the air and a whole bunch of people are still employed because of it. Drew shows his appreciation to everyone associated with the show by throwing the best wrap party I’ve ever been to and pays for it out of his own pocket, too.

The first party he hosted was on a Saturday night in some hot spot in Hollywood. I wasn’t familiar with the name of the club, but I was told by my co-workers it was a popular place. But the thought of driving into Hollywood on my day off, after a long work week didn’t appeal to me, so I passed on the invite. A decision I regretted when I heard how fantastic the party was that I missed. Not only did he fly in food from New York and his home state of Ohio, but he gave all the employees who attended a gift. It was a video recorder you can play back on your computer. Not being computer savvy, I’m not sure what it’s called.

The next year when the invitations went out, I was the first one to RSVP. That year, the party was held at the Congo Room in downtown L.A. and Drew brought in entertainment. It was The Brian Setzer Orchestra, (formerly frontman of the “Stray Cats”). The food was delicious and as enjoyable as the music was, it was loud–good, but loud. And the gift was an iPod Nano (which I have yet learned to use).
This was also the year Drew lost over forty pounds and decided to become health conscious. So there were no signs of fried chicken, spare ribs, or macaroni and cheese dishes (some of the fattening food served the year before). This time it was all sensible eating inside the party except for the Lemon Drop Martinis and Cosmos that were flowing freely. And if you really wanted to be sinful, there was carnival type food outside the hangar, like hot dogs and cotton candy. I’m sure this was done to keep all temptation out of Drew’s vision.

All and all the party was a huge success and I can’t wait to be invited to this year’s shindig…only this time I’ve promised myself to go easy on the Lemon Drop Martinis.

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