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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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March 13, 2010 by in category Archives tagged as ,

The first time I heard the radio DJ announce the name Engelbert Humperdinck, I thought it was a joke. I mean who in their right mind would have the nerve to call themselves that, outside of the German composer, who in 1893 wrote the opera “Hansel and Gretel”?
The song being sung by this new Engelbert was called, “Please Release Me”, which I didn’t care much for either. It was a long drawn out melody about a man who didn’t love the person he was with and wanted to be free so he could be with someone else. Who could love a guy like this?

The day came when this unknown singer from England was to make his American television debut. It was on a Saturday night, and the show was called “The Hollywood Palace”. Finally, I was going to see the face behind that voice. And when I did, it was love at first sight for me. The well built 6’2 hunk who was dressed in a tuxedo made his way center stage, singing that song I had grown to hate–but it didn‘t matter what he was singing, all I could do was concentrate on his exotic looks, sensuous lips, and those way too long sideburns. When he spoke, he had this delightful, charming, English accent. What I found even more endearing was his presence. He was on National TV in front of millions of people and yet, he seemed to be shy. And that’s when I became the number one fan of the English crooner, who would later be billed as “The Last of the Romantics”, because of all the romantic ballads he sang.

In the years that followed, I bought every new album of his as soon as it hit the stores. Not to mention I went to every local Engelbert concert, as well. Once, when I was in the audience, he actually took hold of my hand and serenaded me. Of course, I was mush for the next few weeks.

Because he had made guest appearances on some of the shows at CBS, I was given the chance to have my picture taken with him, during the different stages of his career (when he was clean shaven, bearded, with sideburns–without, long hair, short hair, dark headed, blond). With all of our encounters together, do you think he remembered me? Probably not. He had too many fans to keep up with. But that’s okay, I remembered him.

My most memorable meeting with Enge (as he called himself) was when I caught him coming out of a secret exit of the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas to catch his limo ride. I ran up to him and when I did, he held me in his arms and kissed me. This was a common practice of his with his fans. But instantly, the mood was spoiled when one of the guys from his entourage started to grope me from behind. The magical moment was gone when I turned around and told the guy if he didn’t get his hands off me, I was going to slap him. The threat sobered him up quickly. When I turned back to Enge, he was inside his limo, ready to be driven away.

When I met up with him again it was at CBS, when he was appearing as a guest on The Jim Nabors Show. During his week of rehearsals I got to observe him, not as a fan watching her favorite singer, but as a show business insider, watching a professional at work.

For all the hours upon hours that I observed him at work (okay, let’s call it like it is, stalked him in the studio), he was always on time and well prepared for his performances. The cast and crew liked him and I never saw him push his weight around because of who he was. He was also a perfectionist when it came to his music and knowing what he wanted from it. He had all the traits of a true professional.

All the times I saw him, he never denied me a picture whenever I would asked him to take one with me, and was gracious when I introduced him to my parents. As for them, they were so thrilled to meet him, you would have thought I was introducing them to their future son-in-law (if only).

I’ve also seen Engelbert at his worst, when he was in so much pain that they had to shut down production early so he could be rushed to a local dentist’s office because of a nagging toothache that he had been plagued by all week. But seeing him at his worst also gave me the opportunity to see him at his best. As he was being whisked out the “Artist Entrance” by staffers for his emergency dentist visit, he was stopped by a fan who told him that her little girl was his biggest fan. Putting aside his pain, he stooped down to the child’s level. “Come here, baby”, he said coaxing her over to him. When she came to him, he put his arms around her and gave her a kiss. Then he was off to the dentist. As for me, I fell a little bit more in love with him that day.

I remained a loyal fan for many a year, until the ballads he sang weren’t as romantic as the earlier ones were. The shyness he used to display was no longer there and his act was replaced with silliness. The same way Elvis changed his attire from wearing black shirt and pants to wearing jumpsuits, Engelbert’s trademark tuxedo was replaced with flashy outfits. But I suppose all of it was just a sign of the times.

My infatuation with the superstar truly ended when I learned he had had numerous indiscretions with women he had picked out from his audiences. Several of these liaison produced illegitimate children for this father of four, who was still married to his wife.

Although knowing what I know about rock stars and super heroes today, this probably shouldn’t have surprised me…but I guess I had expected more from someone once labeled “The King of Romance”.

Would I ever go see another one of his concerts again? I have and I will. I mean, if his wife has forgiven him, I guess I can. I did buy his autobiography but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’m not sure I’m ready to read about all of his “naughtiness” (as he calls it) in print.

I will always think back fondly of the time I was enthralled with the singer called Engelbert Humperdinck. His voice, his looks and his charm, just made me fall more in love with romance. And what could be more inspirational for a romance writer than that?

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The People’s Choice Awards by Bobbie Cimo

January 13, 2010 by in category Eye on Hollywood by Bobbie Cimo tagged as ,

Not so long ago I received an E-mail from the Nokia Theatre, advertising for the People’s Choice Awards. The ad said they were on sale at a 50% discount. The $40.00 tickets were going for $20.00 and the $200.00 orchestra seats were now $100.00.
Surprised by the ad, I blurted out loud in the office, “They’re charging for them now?” It never dawned on me that they were probably always charging for these tickets, only I didn’t know it. For one reason, I think in the back of my mind, I always thought the attendees were invited guests of the celebrities who were receiving the awards. However, I did know who the people in the cheap seats were–the ones in the balcony. They were people like me, who got their tickets for free.
Every year at the end of November a flyer would come around the building at CBS, announcing the possibility of free tickets to the “People’s Choice Awards”. It stated very clearly that the dispensing of tickets depended solely on the availability of the production company. Which meant we wouldn’t know for sure if we had tickets, until somewhere between Christmas and the end of the year. That was cutting it close, considering at that time the event took place on the Sunday following the holiday. We were instructed to limit our request to four tickets per employee and asked to dress as though we were attending a party.

There was one more stipulation. If after making your request, you pulled a no-show, you’d be banned for life from requesting tickets again. Okay, maybe “for life” is a little strong…but the word “forever” was implied when signing the dotted line.

I have to tell you what sometimes seemed like a perfectly wonderful idea at the end of November, doesn’t necessarily seem so terrific by the following January. Especially after you had devoured every fattening type of food imaginable, in the past thirty or so days. So your first obstacle is finding something to wear that isn’t going to be showing every lump and bump you’ve just developed in the last month. And then there’s the shoes. Besides being dressy, they’ll have to be comfortable–keep in mind, you’ll be standing in line for approximately three hours. Did I mention, when you gain weight, your feet get fat, too?

Now if you’re lucky, it’ll be a cool January day, which means you’ll get to cover up your holiday sins with a lovely dress coat. Mine was velvet. Hopefully the day will be dry and you won’t have to worry about lugging around an umbrella or dripping water on anyone around you–or worse, ending up having a really bad hair day. And occasionally, like me, your friends at home will see you on TV. And thanks to the rain, you‘ll be easy to recognize, as you’ll be the one with the frizzy hair.

Anxiety grows as you stand in line, wondering if you’re going to get a good seat or if those annoying teenagers with the high shrieking voices ahead of you will be seated next to you. But as time goes on, you make friends with those around you. Your feet stop hurting, and you bless the person who invented the elastic waistband on your pantsuit.

Then miraculously, once you’re inside you find there are no bad seats. And the excitement of the audience, especially coming from the cheap seats, fills the air as everyone points out to each other the celebrities they’ve spotted below.

When the show was held at the Pasadena Auditorium, after the ceremony, you could actually stand on the proverbially red carpet and mingle with the stars as they waited for their cars. Some, if asked nicely, would even pose for a picture. The superstars like Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, would usually slip out a side exit into a limo. But even then, you could still manage to get up-close and personal and snap a picture or two.

Now, if you had asked me earlier this year if I was sorry that we still don‘t get free tickets to this event, I would have said no, that I had my fill. But that would have been before I knew that Johnny Depp and Hugh Jackman were both attending this year’s ceremony. Trust me, if I had, there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would have found an outfit and happily poured myself into it just for the occasion.

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