Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sweet Baby James

Being a page for The David Frost Show was a pretty simple job. I only had three things to do; whatever I was told, seat the audience, and stand around and look busy. I did them all pretty well. But there were some days that were better than others.

On this particular day, my assignment was to help ‘seat the audience’ and greet people and VIP guests in the box office lobby. Easy enough, right? Well not on this day.

Each guest’s appearance on the show was the responsibility of the producer and a booker. We had a great staff of talent coordinators and producers. Karen Prettyman was one the show’s best talent bookers working for producer Bob Carman. She looked like Cher…tall and pretty (like her name) with straight dark hair and piercing eyes. She was also the lead music booker for the show…and we had lots of great musical acts.

I usually arrived at 3pm in time for rehearsals, but on this day I was 30 minutes late and the rehearsal was over. James Taylor was the musical guest for the show. I don't remember who else was booked. The audience started lining up at 3:30, and we started seating at 4:30 for the 5:30 taping. The reserved seats in the audience were roped off.

My assignment that day was to be at the box office and greet the VIP’s. All was going pretty smoothly. I escorted guests downstairs to the dressing room and did what I was told. About 5pm a man wearing jeans and a long winter coat comes into the box office. He looked a bit confused and lost. I asked if I could help him and he said he was there for the show.

Ok. I asked him if he wanted a seat, and he looked at me strangely and said sure. So, I open the door and escorted him to a seat in the downstairs audience right section. Everyone was settling in. The cameras and sound were getting set, the show photographer was taking his place and I returned to the lobby.

10 minutes before taping and Karen comes running into the lobby. She’s panicked. She picked up the box office phone frantically trying to get information. Naturally, I ask her if I can help. She tells me that her musical guest for the show, James Taylor hasn’t shown up yet. It’s a disaster.

Then I ask the absolute dumbest question of my life. How do I know it’s the dumbest question of my life? Because its 35 years later, and I still remember it!

I turned to Karen and said: “Who is James Taylor?”

She gives me one of those ‘if looks could kill’ stares and says something like; Oh he’s only the hottest musician today, with the #1 hit that’s playing on EVERY radio station, Fire and Rain. THAT James Taylor!

I then ask the second dumbest question of my life. ‘What does he look like?” Again, with the look. "He’s tall, with long hair, looks like a hippy and is wearing…. "

Oh my God! I sat James Taylor in the audience!

Karen to follow me inside to the theatre and I said, "Is that him?', pointing to the tall stranger I sat in the audience.

I don’t know what the expression on my face was, but I could feel the blood draining from my body, and my dreams of career in Television rapidly turning into life as a ditch digger.

We got him backstage in time, and the show went off, as they say, without a hitch.

So today, when someone asks me what I was doing the first time I heard James Taylor sing Fire and Rain, I know. Believe me, I know!

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