So yesterday may have been just about the most surreal experience of my life.
I was up at 4 am and headed for the airport, where I had a 6 am flight to Los Angeles (with a stopover in Las Vegas). We actually made it to L.A. early, so I changed into a less-warm top (the temp was probably 40* warmer than what I'd left behind) and met up with the others. We were able to check into the hotel early, which was nice.
We made a quick reconnaissance drive down to Warner Brothers studios and scoped out the area, then had lunch followed by a return to the hotel to get ready.
The filming was at 6 pm, but we wanted to be sure to get good seats so we got to the studio before 4. The holding area was actually inside the visitors parking lot, with a bunch of long benches in rows. The first side of the first row was already filled, as was another row at the back of the holding area - we found out later it was for groups. We sat down and waited, wondering if anyone else there was attending for the sole purpose of seeing Eric perform live.
About half an hour into the wait, Carol (Pin from ESS.com) came over and introduced herself. Her husband held her spot (in the first waiting row) while we chatted. At about 5:15 or so they started walking people across the street to the studio. The first side of the first row was escorted across, followed by the first row from the group section. (I may have muttered something about how they'd better not take all the groups in before us, since we'd been there longer.) Carol and her husband gave up their spots so they could go in with us, which was sweet. We walked across the street and got in line for the security check. All of us made it through and continued on down the street, past big studio buildings.
Finally, we were escorted across the street to building 19, where the pilot was going to be filmed. There's a placard on the outside of the building next to the door listing all the movies and TV shows that had been filmed there - everything from Key Largo to The Last Samurai to Life Goes On to Ocean's Eleven (both versions). I thought it was appropriate that The West Wing was also on the list, since Eric named it as the show he wished he could go back in time and be on.
We were led into the theater to the seating area, which was on a riser set up with chairs, six rows deep. Our seats were in the fourth row, directly in front of what looked like a kitchen set, though the majority of the set was masked by black-fabric-covered barriers. A black fabric curtain hung down in front of the audience seating, just far enough to block the television monitors and microphones from the view of those on set. The monitors were there for us to see what the show would look like with the camera cuts. Also, because of all the equipment between us and the set, it was actually easier to see the show on the monitors than to watch the actors on set.
There was still some time to kill until filming started, so we amused ourselves by trying to identify what the other sets were by the little we could see over the barriers. There's a coffee shop set, which of course made us speculate whether Noah would be there wiping the counter or not.
About 15 minutes before the show was scheduled to start filming, a warm up comedian came up into the audience and started trying to build enthusiasm for the show. There was a competition between the two halves of the audience to see who could cheer and laugh the loudest (our side won, of course) and asking where people were from and why they were at the filming. Then he brought me up in front of everyone and asked where I was from and why I was there. I responded that I was from the Northwest, and was there with other Eric Sheffer Stevens fans from all over the country. He said that there was a name for that - stalking -and asked if we wanted a lock of his hair or something. (I told him no, that was kinda creepy, and all we wanted was to see Eric perform live.) Then he went on to make fun of me for being a romance writer. Ah, good times.
By then, it was time for filming to start, so I went back to my seat just in time to see the cast walk out from behind the barrier DIRECTLY BEHIND ME, WHERE THEY'D BEEN THE WHOLE TIME I WAS INTERVIEWED. Eric had heard the whole thing. I was *mortified*.
I'm going to skip over the details of the filming, because that's going to be a separate blog post on Monday. But I will say that the warm up guy NEVER LET GO of the whole stalker/fan thing. Every damn time Eric appeared on set, he'd say something to us like, "Now's your chance! Jump the barrier and get a hug! You may end up in jail, but you'll have what you've always wanted!" or "Look, there's Eric! Don't you just want to be his jacket? I bet he can feel the vibe of your jacket love." Let me tell you, it got old REALLY fast.
Oh, and one very cool thing? They passed out bottled water and pizza halfway through the filming so we didn't starve to death. It was very nice. Almost made up for having to sit in a meat locker for four and a half hours.
Finally, the filming was over, and Traci and I and a few others waited for a few minutes to see if we might have a chance to say hi to Eric. He was busy talking to some gentlemen in suits, though, and the ushers told us we'd have to leave. We walked out, feeling a little disappointed, but overall very happy with the experience.
We were more than halfway back to the garage when we heard someone running up the road behind us. We turned around and it was Eric, chasing us down to thank us for coming.
Um. Yeah. Eric Sheffer Stevens. Looking for us.
I may have died a little.
He said he was sorry, that he didn't know they were going to make us leave before we could talk to him, and wanted to make sure we didn't leave before he said thanks for coming. I got to shake his hand, and all I could think to say was "I am so sorry!"
He responded, "Why? For making me run?" I said no, for talking to the warm up guy and causing the long-drawn-out teasing. He said he was glad it happened because it let him know we were there. He took a little time to talk to everyone in our little group, and then had to go back to the theater again, so we said goodbye.
Then we walked to the crosswalk pretty much on air.
(Also, as we waited for the light to change at the crosswalk, someone in the group mentioned the interview I'd done with Eric, and the woman standing next to me said, "Are you Kate Davies? I loved that interview!" So I had a brief moment of being recognized as well.)
It was an amazing, surreal, fantastic experience and I wouldn't change it for anything. (Except for the annoying warm up guy.)
And I was so glad to be with friends I could share it with!
(And stop by Monday for more detail on the actual filming of the show!)