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And the Emmy Goes To….

September 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Bobbie Cimo

Have you ever noticed that when the cameras pan over the audience at an awards show, you very rarely see an empty seat? That’s because they have seat fillers. Yes, even when someone has to get up to go to the bathroom, the director wants those seats filled.

No, it’s not a paying job, but the list of volunteers is aplenty–as you have to know somebody to be put on “The List”. But once you’re on “it,” it’s like being in the Senate…you never get replaced, until somebody dies. You can see why–I mean who wouldn’t like the opportunity to play dress-up and be admitted to the hottest ticketed show in Hollywood, excluding the Oscars?

The year my name was added to the list, nobody actually died, but a new firm was in charge of handling the seat fillers, plus the network I work for was televising the show. (Update, here) Since then, my name has been removed, as the company handling the seat filler have made new friends of their “own”. Proving once again, that old adage–“It’s who you know in this business” (sadly, even for seat fillers).

I was thrilled when I learned I had two tickets (one for myself and my sister, Tricia) to attend the 53rd Annual Emmy Awards ceremony, scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001. But then came Sept 11th and for obvious reasons, the show was cancelled. Later, we got word that the show had been rescheduled for October 7th. Our hearts weren’t in it, but like the rest of the country, we felt lost and didn’t know what else to do, except to grab on to something that felt normal–like going out for an evening.

A few weeks later an inter-office memo was issued, requesting a photo ID and informing us that the FBI would be running a background check on everyone attending the ceremony. And because the show would be taking on more of a somber note, all attendees were told that they should be dressed in dark business attire, rather than tuxedos and ballroom gowns.

On October 7th, after finishing our box lunches served on Stage 33 at Television City, and before boarding the bus heading for the Pasadena Civic Center–just hours before show time, once again the show was cancelled. This time due to a US air strike in Afghanistan.

Then the fate of the 2001 Primetime Emmy Award Show became even more uncertain, when it was learned that Don Mischer Productions(who has produced the show seven times before) might have to scratch the Emmys altogether, because of previously made commitments to other shows.

They say the third time is the charm, but in this case it was the forth time. Finally, a new date and a new location had been set for the 53rd Annual Emmy show for November 4th at the Shubert Theatre. But instead of busing us as previously planned, this time we were told we had to drive ourselves.

If the cement barricades and the closed off streets that were lined with police offices and FBI agents didn’t make it seem surreal enough, then the mirrors placed under our cars, searching for bombs and other explosives, certainly did.

After enjoying a catered dinner and listening to some live lounge music in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, we were escorted through a secret passage to the Shubert Theatre. Once inside we were led around a narrow path around backstage. I see a few familiar faces of Stage Managers, and after giving a few Hollywood kisses on the cheek, I was back to marching with the commoners(seat fillers). Deep down I had hoped one of the Stage Managers would have pulled me aside and said something like, “What are you doing there? Here, I have some extra tickets”…but it never happened.

I can’t remember exactly when, but somewhere along the line we were handed our duel badges. One had our picture with our name and a number printed on it. (think mug shot here), the other simply stated the following: “I am filling this seat TEMPORARILY (in bold lettering) in order to avoid empty seats for camera purposes. THANK YOU.” This apology–disclaimer or whatever you want to call it (embarrassment was the word that came to my mind) I’m sure was for the purpose of not freaking out some celebrity who might be wondering what happened to the person who had been seated next to them and now was gone. Both badges hung around our necks on black lanyard that seemed more like a rope.

We were told that under no circumstances were we to talk to any of the celebrities…not even to tell them how much we enjoyed them or their shows. And when we walked down the aisle, we had to remember to swing the lanyards around our necks, so our badges couldn’t be seen on camera. Two things happened by doing this, 1) I felt like I was strangling myself and 2) I inadvertently slapped the person behind me with my badge.

You could have almost heard “action” when that first commercial break happened and the doors of the lobby flew open. Like a heard of cattle we trampled down the aisles, wondering which row we would be entering first.

Hurry, hurry, hurry” are the only clear words I remember hearing, as a silhouette stood in the darkness, waving his arms like a traffic cop, directing me where to go.

Not only were we told to walk fast and to cover up our badges, but we also had to remember how to enter the row to get to our seats. I think we were told we had to face the people, rather than put our backs to them. Or maybe it was we had to keep our backs to them, and not bother looking them in the eye. Either way, it seemed like a lot to remember just to get to a seat–a seat that was only going to be mine until the next commercial.

Ten minutes later, snapping fingers told me to get up and once again I was on the move, stepping on important people‘s feet as I made my way back into rotation, awaiting my next assignment (seat).

By this time, my sister and I were separated, so I have no way of knowing if she’s landed a good seat or not. However, I did find out later that she had a terrific seat for about a minute when Megan Mullally (Karen on Will and Grace) claimed it back. My sister, absentmindedly, asked, “Now?” In which Miss Mullally replied, “Y-E-A-H!” And begrudgingly, my sister got up.

On my third time around, I was placed in the third row, center stage–prime territory by any standards.

When the curtains opened up, Ellen DeGeneres stepped out and continued with her job of hosting the 53rd annual Emmys Show by introducing, Barbra Streisand, who just happens to be my sister’s favorite singer.

I briefly looked around, wishing I could switch places with her, so she could take my seat…and then it hits me like someone who should have had a V-8,….was I crazy? This wasn’t even my seat to be giving away. Besides in this Army it’s every person for themselves. I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the song. And hopefully, my sister was somewhere close, doing the same. (I later found out, she remained in the lobby not only during Barbra’s performance, but for the rest of the show, along with a bunch others whose services were no longer needed)

As for me, I had the feeling I must have had either Ellen’s seat, or someone who was a sore loser and had walked out on the show, because no one claimed my seat for the rest of the evening. I was, however, afraid to make eye contact with any of the people in charge of seat fillers–fearful, that once they saw me, they might ask me to move.

Did I break any of the rules that night? A few, when I smiled cordially at a few of the celebrities who sat around me.

Would I ever be a seat filler again? In a New York minute! Let’s face it, I couldn’t have had a better seat, than if I had been up for an Emmy myself.

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Omigosh, I Think I’m a Cougar!

August 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Bobbie Cimo

I know I’ve have had more than my share of adolescent crushes when growing up either on actors, teen idols or singers.

By the time I reached my thirties all of those girly crushes were behind me–so I thought, until a young singer came on the scene by the name of Michael Buble. I told myself that I really admired this young man’s singing. The energy he put in his songs reminded me a lot of Bobby Darin. His style was a throw back to the “Rat Pack, let’s be cool ”era. So I know for a fact, if he had been popular when I was in my teens or early twenties, he would have been the devilishly charming, bad boy type that I would have had a crush on.

Because I’m such a fan of big bands, and of the Great American Song book, I always have, either on my computer or my satellite radio, a station that plays the standards. So when Mr. B. first came out, I like to think I discovered him before anyone else did. At least it felt that way, since whenever I asked anyone about him or his music, nobody seemed to know who he was.

By the time his first CD came out, he was doing small concerts, and I made a point to see most of them.. Then one day I got word he was doing a free outdoor concert, right next door to where I work, at The Grove. You know I wasn’t going to miss that. As it turned out, it was one of his best shows…not that I’ve ever seen a bad Michael Buble show.

After his performance, he was escorted a few yards away, over to the third floor of the Barnes & Noble. If you had bought his CD that night, you were given a paper bracelet, which granted permission for you to stand in line to meet him on a one-to-one basis. I figured I was ahead of the game, as I had bought my CD at B&N two weeks earlier, even before I knew there was going to be a concert. Unfortunately, B&N didn’t believe me…they wanted a receipt. One that stated that I had bought the CD that night and at their store. I won’t bore you with all the details, but after much negotiation, Barnes & Noble finally saw things my way and at last I was permitted to stand in line, not only with a different colored paper bracelet than the rest of the people, but with one stipulation. I had to be at the end of the line and every time a new group followed me, with the right colored bracelet, I had to agree to move to the back of the line.

Okay, for anybody who knows me really well…the word patience and Bobbie, just don’t go together. So after being asked to move to the end of the line for the third time…it was now renegotiation time. A settlement was reached, whereas if the manager asked me to move one more time, he wasn’t ever going to see his next birthday.

As I waited in line, I was captured by two things: First, how the buzz of excitement around you can become infectious and secondly, how all the fans in line were so much younger than me.

That‘s when I asked myself, “What the heck was I doing here, acting like a groupie?” But as the line moved, and we snaked around the aisles of books and I got closer to Michael, I saw more and more women my age ahead of me. Some with their daughters, some alone and some even older than me. Which made me realize, that there is no age limit for someone to enjoy good entertainment. Would we have someone in their forties, fifties, or sixties…even seventies, not read one of our books because it was about some twenty or thirty year old hero and heroine? Or think it was silly for a fan to stand in line to have their book signed and tell one of our authors that they loved her/his work? There is no age limit to enjoy someone’s talent–no age limit to receive praise or be given admiration.

Finally my moment with Michael B. was upon me. As I handed over my CD for him to sign and was babbling on about how much I enjoyed him and his work, I suddenly found myself saying, “I feel a little bit like Mrs. Robinson, here.” The next thing I knew, Michael had taken my hand, and began to sing the words of Simon & Garfunkel’s hit song from “The Graduate,” Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. Coo coo ca choo, Mrs. Robinson. Then, without any prompting, he leaned into me as a picture was snapped of us together. I heard some oohs and aahs, from the girls standing around us. And I walked away, one happy fan.

To be honest, “Mrs. Robinson” was never one of my favorite songs. But now when I hear it on the radio, I turn up the sound, smile, and inwardly growl like a contented cougar. Grrrrr

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My First Grown Up Kiss

July 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

Okay, the truth of the matter, my obsession with Hollywood started in my early youth. Even in my pre-teen days, I would inwardly swoon, over an on-screen Hollywood kiss. I was the little girl who cried when Rock Hudson got married, ’cause he didn’t wait for me to grow up so he could ask me to marry him. Of course, this was before I knew he was gay and even if he had waited for me, chances are I wouldn’t have been the one whose hand he’d be asking for in marriage.

Years latter, when I was grown up and working at CBS, I got the chance to see my idol, while he was rehearsing for the Carol Burnett Show. I even brought my mother to work with me, so she could see him, too. But she couldn’t understand, why, when I finally had my opportunity to meet my “first crush,” I wouldn’t look at him. I just keep looking straight ahead, even when he sat right across the aisle from me. It took me years to finally admit that I was hurt, not only over all those years of unrequited love–but deep down inside I felt deceived, cause I didn’t know he was gay. Not to mention that if he did look at me with those magnificent laughing eyes of his, there was good possibility that my legs would have buckled beneath me.

So after recovering from my loss of Rock as my dream boyfriend, I moved on to more hunkier hunks in the movies and on TV. Which is probably the force behind me writing romance novels today. I usually went for the tall, dark, handsome ones, but than came along a tall blond, blue eyed fellow, who some of you might recall. His name was Troy Donahue. I first saw him on an old TV detective show called “Surfside Six”. He later moved over to “Hawaiian Eye”. Under contract for Warner Brothers, who believed in utilizing their actors as much as possible, he was soon moved onto the big screen, starring in such flicks as Parrish, Susan Slade and A Summer Place. The latter he played opposite Sandra Dee. Yes, I was also a Gidget freak, too. So what could be more perfect than my two favorite people being matched together in a movie? Forget about the fact that the movie was dealing in such mature matters as adultery, deceit, and teen pregnancy…my only focus was the young stars. What could be more perfect than Troy with Sandy? One thing. Me with Troy. Well, the moment came, when I learned that he was appearing in a new movie, called “Palm Springs Weekend”. Not only was he appearing in the movie, but he was making personal appearances in the local movie theaters as well.

Oh, my poor mother, father and sister as I went around the house that whole week, holding up several different outfits in front of me, asking them which one did they think Troy was going to like me best in. I think it was at this point my family should have either had me sent off to a convent or put me in a mental institution.

The day finally came and I went out of the house, as giddy as a pre-teen going on her first date, as I headed to the movies in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I took the best seat I could get which was ninth row, center stage. The movie went on with the promise it would be stopped as soon as the star arrived. An hour into the movie the lights came up and in an instant walked out this tall, almost too pretty to be true, blond hunk. He and the announcer did some small chit chat about the movie, none of the dialogue which I can recall now. Then the announcer, whose name was Freddie, said Troy would be taking questions from the audience.

My opportunity came. I flung my arm up in the air, competing with a movie house full of teenagers, hoping and praying that by some miracle he’d pick me. After a flurry of such sophisticated questions from the audience like, “What’s your favorite color? Do you have girl friend? How tall are you?” My prayer was answered and I was chosen to ask the million dollar question–the one that was going to lead me directly to Troy. I personally thought it was brilliant, and after all, it really was a question–well, sorta. “Can I have your autograph?” Unfortunately, I was the only one who thought it was “the question of the year,” ’cause the announcer told me to sit down, as he explained, Troy doesn’t do autographs.

I slumped back into my chair, but a few moments later it was as if the clouds of heaven opened up to me, when I heard announcer ask, “Where’s the young lady who asked for the autograph?” He waved me to the stage. I don’t remember how many pairs of feet I had to stepped on–but I made my bee line for the stage.

Announcer Freddie stood between me and Troy and shook my hand. He asked my name, which luckily I did remember. But when he asked me where I came from, I replied New York, which got snickers from the audience. He meant, which school did I go to. Then he said, “Troy can’t give you an autographic but he has something else for you.” He then introduced me to Troy, who took my hand and said in his rich baritone voice. “Well, hello”. And than he put his arms around me, and bent me backward, as he brought his lips towards me and kissed me fully on the lips. My first real kiss in front of everybody and God (wait, that’s a line from a Troy Donahue movie). Okay, my first real adult kiss on stage in front of a full audience. The kiss was long enough for me to open my eyes in the middle of it, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Troy kept his closed. I also remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, I’m actually being kissed by Troy Donahue. I had to say his full name, like I was going to confuse him with another Troy.

I do remember hearing a roar of screams filling the theater, and two ushers helping me back to my seat. After the movie, I felt like Brittney Spears, being chased by paparazzi–only I was being bombarded by teenagers, wanting to know what it felt like to be kissed by Troy Donahue.

So that’s the story of my first kiss. But the story doesn’t really end there. Many years later, now living in Hollywood, I was at cocktail party with a male friend of mine. Over a drink, I told him my amusing story of my first kiss with Troy Donahue. My friend excuses himself. A short time later he returns but not alone. Once again, standing next to me is Troy Donahue. The years had not been kind to him. A life filled with failed marriages, addictions and unemployment has taken its toll on him. It showed in his eyes and on his face, but his voice is still as rich and as deep as it was in his youth.

My friend John, knowing Troy was at the party, had purposely brought him over to introduce him to me. I shared the story of our kiss, that had happened so long ago. I laughed and I tried to be sophisticated as I sipped on my drink…but deep down inside I felt a sadness, seeing what had happened to this one time, teen heartthrob, who now was hardly known at all. After I finished my story in that wonderful baritone voice, he whispered to me, “Well, I think it’s only appropriate, I say good-bye like this–shall we?” And then, so gently, he lightly brushes a goodnight kiss against my face. And he’s gone.

Update: Troy died 2001 of a heart attack in Santa Johns Hospital in Santa Monica. He had turned his life around and was known for helping others in their own time of need. Connie Stevens, who co-stared with him in many ventures, including “Palm Springs Weekend”, paid him a hospital visit, the day before he died.

Five years ago, author Hal Lifson who wrote a book on the history of pop culture hosted a “Palm Springs Weekend” reunion party. When he heard of my story, he invited me to be his guest at “The Palms Springs Weekend” reunion party, in Palm Springs. It was there, I met my other favorite actress, Connie Stevens, who generously gifted me with a $100 gift certificate to her Day Spa, when I presented her with DVD’s of her old “Hawaiian Eye” TV show.

As for my first idol, Rock Hudson, as coincidence would have it, he died the same day as my father, on October 2, 1985. Rock Hudson was the first high-profile Hollywood celebrity to die from AIDS, and his greatest legacy may have come in death when he put a recognizable face on the disease and dramatically increased public awareness of AIDS, which has helped so many others, who were diagnosed after him.

Bobbie Cimo is the OCC/RWA Programs Director who has brought us such notable speakers as Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, Jackie Collins and Robert Crais.

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Eye on Hollywood: Lend Me A Hand(s)

June 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,
by Bobbie Cimo

One day while sitting at my desk, doing some boring administration work, I got a call from Murray Neitlich, head photographer of the CBS Photo Department. A nice man, who was known for his relaxed personality and creative talent behind a photo lens. Not only did Murray shoot all the publicity shots for CBS, but he did album covers for Simon And Garfunkel, Sly and The Family Stone, and Neal Diamond, too.

Murray started the conversation with, “Bobbie, can you come down to the Photo Gallery. I have some hand models here that I’m shooting for the Emmy’s, but then I remembered your hands . . . and I want to try something different”

I looked at my hands . . . yep, my nails were polished — and luckily they weren’t chipped, like they usually are. Keep in mind this was before nail salons popped up on every street corner like a Starbucks does today. Most people back then did their own nails. And as a matter of fact, up until about ten years ago, I never had a professional manicure in my life. Also keep in mind, I have a bit of Dennis the Menace in me, as I find it hard not to get in trouble–I’m always into something, using my hands. So to sit still while waiting for my nails to dry is a challenge in itself. And when I do my nails it’s usually very fast, using quick strokes of the brush. I’ve never cut my cuticles, and only use hand lotion when I’m reminded by seeing someone else using it. I know, I’m hanging my head in shame, as I’m writing this.

Knowing I could never compete with professional models I was hesitant, but then realizing it was a way to get out of the office, I jumped at the chance.

The whole session took less than an hour. Most of the time was spent on choosing the right back drop to match my nail polish color and to calibrate the lighting for the right effect. I was given instructions on how to hold the Emmy for several different poses and that was about it. Except I do remember thinking how heavy the little sucker was. After the session wrapped, I happily went back to my office. When I returned to work, I told my boss “these hands” (posing them in the air) were too important to be doing office work today. “Don’t think so,” he replied, as he handed me a stack of stuff that needed to be typed.

Three weeks passed and I heard nothing about the photo shoot. So I just assumed they had decided to go with a professional. After all, it was for the cover of the LA Times’ TV Guide.

The Sunday that the cover came out, I was on my way to Hugh Heftner’s Playboy Mansion for an all day charitable event, benefiting the John Tracy Clinic (named after the deaf son of the late actor Spencer Tracy). On my way to Hef’s place, curious to see my competition‘s photo, I double-parked in front of a news stand in Westwood. The first opportunity I got to open the papers was when I stopped for a red light. Staring back at me was an 8 x 10 color photo of my hands inside the paper, on the cover of the TV Guide. After I got over my shock, I went back to the newsstand and bought five more copies.

Bobbie Cimo is the OCC/RWA Programs Director who has brought us such notable speakers as Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, Jackie Collins and Robert Crais.

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Eye on Hollywood: Why I Probably Never Got Invited To Neverland

May 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Bobbie Cimo

One year I was actually invited to go to the Grammys as a guest. To be honest, it was an era when I actually didn’t know most of the performers. I wasn’t up on the music or the people singing the songs. In other words, there were very few songs nominated that year that I was going to go home humming in my head. But yet, it was a fun experience–sort of like a circus atmosphere, with wild clothes and weird hand shakes.

There were a couple of things I found memorable about that night. One was seeing Paul Simon, of Simon and Garfunkel, wandering around the floor–mostly looking lost. I was surprised to find that he was barely over five feet tall. I also realized that I had a terrific seat– cause I was seated in front of people who had either been nominated or won awards, including Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo of the famed Fifth Dimension.

Oh, and I also remember being horrified to learn that two other women were dressed in the same gown as I was, only wearing it in different colors. Nothing thrills a woman more than knowing two clones of her dress are floating around on the dance floor. Only when I came to the realization that my white dress looked smarter and more elegant than the cheap green and pink copies (no bitterness here) did I feel better. However, I continually tried avoiding the harlots who stole my look…not wanting to be confused as one of the lost Andrew Sisters. (For those of you too young to know, the Andrew Sisters are three sisters who sang together and dressed alike during WWII)

But this dress was doomed from the beginning of the evening when I was seated in the audience next to a young man, with ebony skin, a winning smile and nervous leg that wouldn’t stop shaking. This kid, seated next to his four brothers, put new meaning to the phrase, “had ants in his pants”. All five brothers were dressed in white suits, with studs running down the outside of their pant legs. But I had the honor of being seated next to the one who couldn’t sit still if his life depended on it. And of course every time he would nervously shake his leg, he would get caught to my dress. The first few times followed by an apology from him, I would smile and say it’s okay. But by the fifth time, my smile had faded and so had my patience. Without being asked to, probably out of fear for his life by my cold icy stares, this young man got up and asked his older brother, seated two seats away from him, to change places. His brother didn’t want to, until he explained the situation. If I had to take a guess at some of the conversation that was exchanged between the two, I can only surmise it went something along the lines of, “Like dude,…seriously, the woman is going to kill me!”

A few minutes into the show, the singer with the nervous leg, seated in his new seat, leaned forward and turned to look at me. He waved, I smiled, and we remained friends throughout the rest of the evening. As you probably have guessed by now, the five boys were the Jackson Five and the young man was pop icon, Michael Jackson.

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