I originally posted this to the newsgroup alt.fan.letterman in 1999.
When NBC announced that "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" would tape for a week in Los Angeles, I sent off five postcards for my chance to get tickets. I sent off something like 15 or 20 postcards to get tickets when the Late Show came to San Francisco and struck out, so my expectations weren't high when I asked for Late Night tickets. But one day an envelope from NBC turned up in my mail box with two tickets to Late Night for Tuesday, Nov. 9.
Since I was going to be in Los Angeles, I decided to be a loyal Letterman fan
and also make the trek to see "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn." I tried
on an earlier trip to Los Angeles this year to see Kilborn, but he wasn't taping
that week and in fact was a guest on "The Late Show" that week.
Using the Kilborn site at http://www.cbs.com, I called on Oct. 20 to see if
there were tickets for either the Nov. 8 or Nov. 10 show. Some audience company handles the tickets and I left a message. I just wanted to know if tickets were still available so I could write and get them. We played telephone tag and
finally I talked to the ticket person. Rather than me sending in a written
request, he said he'd just send me the tickets in the mail.
So I was expecting actual tickets in the mail. A few days later I checked my
mail box and there was a single sheet of 8.5-inch by 11-inch typing paper folded
in thirds and taped shut with my name and address scribbled on the middle panel.
I almost threw it away as junk mail when I noticed the return address being from
southern California. I opened it and that was my "tickets" to see the Late Late
Show. They had taken a regular ticket, photocopied it and wrote in the pertinent
information. Well, I had my tickets and I was set to make my pilgrimage to see a
World Wide Pants production.
The "tickets" said to be there by 4:15 p.m. I had something else to do the
afternoon of the Kilborn taping in the West Hollywood area near the CBS studios
and was having a blast when I pulled myself away to go to the Kilborn taping. I
was kind antsy about not getting in -- I can be anxious that way -- and left at
3:45 p.m. I parked at the Farmer's Market and walked next door to the CBS
studios. A security guard met me at the gate and wanted to know what I was doing there. I showed him the Kilborn tickets and he told me to check in with the
red-jacketed pages at the center of the studios. I talked to them and they told
me to talk to the red-jacketed pages at the far end of the building. They
handled the Kilborn tapings. I showed my ticket to one of those pages. He looked at it and said, "This is a ticket?" I turned it over and showed him the
handwritten address, the postage mark, everything. He confessed he had no clue what to do and suggested I check back in after about 15 minutes.
As a Letterman fan. I'll sometimes criticize Dave and show. But in my modest
ways I try to promote all things Dave. This would extend to the Kilborn show,
which is a production of World Wide Pants. When I'd get press releases or
stories about Kilborn, usually positive, I'd post them to alt.fan.letterman.
With lists of upcoming guests, I'd cross post the schedules into newsgroups
related to upcoming guests. With one Kilborn schedule with Lisa Nicole Carson,
for instance, I cross posted it into the newsgroups for Ally McBeal and E.R.
Believe me, I understood that at best I might get an extra 10 people to watch a
show. And I knew that the people at World Wide Pants didn't know about it and
wouldn't care much if they did. But I labored under the illusion that I was
pulling for Dave and maybe there'd be some good karma built up.
Late Late Show audience coordinator Ali Simon cured me of that illusion.
When I returned at 4:15 p.m., I saw the page I had spoken to earlier and
approached him. He was still befuddled with what to do with me. He called over
Ms. Simon. She wore a black Kangroos hat pulled tightly over her head and some of pseudo animal prints shirt. The hat gave the suggestion of a "I didn't wash my hair and I'm hiding it." Ms. Simon looked at the ticket and seemed a little befuddled by it, too. She said something about the ticket people taking an
ordinary ticket and photocopying it several times to enlarge it. One studio page
had a clipboard with an 8.5x11 sheet of paper marked into quadrants. She told
the page to mark me in the CBS quadrant. He wrote down the number 2 (I asked for two tickets) and circled it. I was the first mark in the CBS quadrant.
There were three rows of benches with pillars bisecting the benches after about
40 feet. Ms. Simon told me to sit in the middle row of benches after the first
pillar. There was one other person there, a nice man from England who spoke too fast for me to converse with. But I was able to find out he had arrived at the
studios with the intention of seeing "The Price is Right." He wasn't able to get
in to see that, so he got a Kilborn ticket instead. So I sat down and began
waiting to go into the show. He and I were the only people in that section for a
long time. Just before they started lining us up to go inside, two other men
joined us in that section. They said they were from Chicago. They had been at
Mann's (or is it something like Grauman's?) Chinese Theater when someone was passing out tickets to see the Late Late Show. They were perplexed as to why they were seated where they were, too. Then they started calling people to line up to go to into the studio. People who were handed tickets at the Chinese
theater just before the two Chicago guys in my section were among the first
people to go in. Spillover audience members from "The Price is Right" were among the first to go in. Me, who called in three weeks in advance? I was third from last, only ahead of the Chicago guys. The two guys from Chicago and I began questioning the red jacketed pages about ticket priorities and why we were at the end of the line. We got conflicting answers from different pages and when they realized we had caught them in conflicting answers we got no answers at all. Ms. Simon walked by and I asked her. She ignored me.
This is one of the things that really ticked me off about The Late Late Show.
Think about it: People hustled off the street, people who couldn't pick Craig
Kilborn out of a lineup that included Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, Dan Patrick
and a handful of stand-up comedians, were given priority over someone who
requested tickets ahead of time.
Way to build that fan base, Craiggers.
Like "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "The Late Late
Show" has a metal detector. So one of the delays is getting everyone through the
metal detector. There's a large elevator on the other side of the metal
detector. Someone said people going to see "The Price is Right" get to use it.
But if you're going to the Late Late Show, you don't. You walk up two flights of
stairs to the third floor and then stand in line again. The third floor studio
has high ceilings. The decorator motif is gym air shafts. As you're standing in
line, there's a canvas draped along the hallway to your left. This is what
separates the audience waiting in line from the celebrity dressing rooms. Don
King, one of the guests that night, had to walk past the audience a few times.
Finally we got to go inside. As you move closer to the studio, the building
cheers up. Once I was inside the studio, an usher pointed me to a seat at the
far right side, about half way up. The studio is small. It holds about 90
people. Kilborn's set is amazingly small. It's about the size of a medium to
large sized living room. I'm surprised it always takes guests so long to walk
over to the desk.
I was sitting there soaking up the set when Ms. Simon walked over, got right in
my face and snapped, "Take off your hat!" I was wearing a Late Show baseball cap that was a gift from the Late Show. Again, this was in my dumb belief I was
promoting all things Dave. A simple request would have sufficed, but Ms. Simon
had to adopt her felony PMS attitude.
The warm up guy was Louis Dix (maybe it was Lewis). Unlike Ms. Simon, Louis is an instantly likable fellow. I think we're all lucky he's doing entertainment
and not selling illegal time share condos, because he's got one of those
infectious personalities that's hard not to have a good attitude towards. Louis
had his standard pre-show banter down. He has some good jokes. He did a game where if you told what city you were from, he'd guess your area code. But then the show ran into problems. It got to be 6 p.m. and they weren't ready to tape.
Then it was 6:15 p.m. and they weren't ready to tape. Louis just flat out ran
out of material. He needs to put in some time as a stand-up comic so he's got
more than his personality to pitch to the audience when things go wrong.
Not long after we first arrived in the studio and were seated Louis passed out
Hostess Ding Dongs and a bottle of water to audience members. When audience rejects from "The Price is Right" and possibly other shows that tape there, like "Politically Incorrect," were brought in to fill up the rest of the audience,
they got the sugar rush and water, too. I think the Ding Dongs are more for
them. They've been sitting and waiting as standby, I assume, for God knows how
many hours. It's the end of the day and they're getting to see a show done by
someone they've probably never watched before. I think the Ding Dong is a little
bit of instant energy. At one point an usher walked along to collect garbage. He
asks for me Ding Dong foil. I actually decided to save it for you people so I
could photograph it (see left). I patted my shirt pocket, where I stuck the foil, and he nodded understandingly and said, "Ahh, a souvenir." I was surprised. I guess
people actually save things like that.
Before Kilborn came out, they showed a short videotape of some of Kilborn's
taped bits to explain who he is. Then Louis preps the audience to make sure they yell out the names of "their favorite guests" when Kilborn comes out. He
mentions Catherine Zeta-Jones, who ate a strip of bacon with Kilborn a la the
dogs in the Disney movie eating spaghetti, and a few other names.
Finally, Kilborn comes out to say hello to the audience. When I watch him on TV,
he seems a little stiff. But he's got a great presence about him in person. I
don't know why that doesn't translate to the TV. Kilborn joked a little bit and
then asked for the names of the guests on his show the audience members liked.
The audience dutifully recited the names Louis has given them.
They tape a cold opening with Don King that's just so-so. Then they begin the
show. Kilborn says joining King as guests that night are male porn star Arnel
Schwarzenegger and singer Beth Hart.
During his in the news segment Kilborn does some good jokes and a few lame
jokes. You can hear me booing during the second lame joke.
Don King comes out to promote the Lennox-Holyfield fight. Remember, people:
Brandon Tartikoff wrote in his autobiography that he wanted Don King to be
Letterman's sidekick on the original Late Night. King wasn't exactly a bad
guest, but he didn't have enough to say to carry two segments. After one
commercial break, they trotted four people onto the stage. Kilborn said they
wanted to see if King's entourage could match the biggest entourage ever brought to the show before, which was four people with Vern Troyer, the guy who played Mini Me in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." Kilborn did a lame interview with the four. It never made it on the air. Those four were members of a video crew for King. Shortly thereafter they did a quick interview with Kilborn on his set.
At this point in the show the woman sitting next to me had to use the bathroom.
Who ended up being her seat filler? Ms. Simon. She sat next to me with her arms folded and a felony PMS look on her face. When the show continued though, she laughed heartily at Kilborn's jokes, even the lame ones. So she seems to be a loyal employee of the show. And what did Ms. Simon have on her head? The Kangroos hat. If *I* have to take my hat off, so should she. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Especially if she's going to be so snotty about it.
The other audience member returned to her seat and when Beth Hart came out she got excited. While she went to the bathroom, she ran into Beth Hart in there.
Beth Hart was smoking a cigarette and they chatted. She didn't know she was a
guest that night. Beth Hart a cigarette smoker? Who'd a thunk?
They rolled out a piano and Kilborn introduced Hart. She was performing without
back up. She said it was a really special performance that night because her
family was in the audience, but that part never made it on the air.
Before the show, they were playing some music for the audience. At first it
sounded lousy, like it was coming out of a P.A. system they got on sale at
Radio Shack. Then they either added new speakers or switched to different ones and it sounded a whole lot better. But during Beth Hart's performance of "L.A. Song," which she also performed on the Late Show, she sounded terrible. I
thought it was her performance. I record songs I like as a .wav file onto my
computer and I had no plans of recording that version of "L.A. Song," especially
since I had the Late Show version that I liked.
But when I got home and listened to the performance on videotape, it sounded
great. I think they played her performance through the Radio Shack P.A. system
and that's too bad.
The only other tidbit to tell you about is the free T-shirt giveaway. Louis Dix
said Don King brought enough T-shirts to give one free to everyone in the
audience. After King appeared they started passing them out. I didn't get one
and I'm not disappointed about that. But they didn't even have enough for a
third of the audience. I was sitting half way up and the free T-shirts stopped a
few rows in front of me. Louis had to take some back from people who came in
groups if one person in that group got a T-shirt so he could try to distribute
them more evenly. I think Louis needs to learn to count better.
So the show ended and we trudged out of the studio and down two flights of
stairs. I arrived at 4 p.m. and now it was past 7:30 p.m. It was a long damn
time to spend for such a mediocre experience.
And the lesson to be learned from this? Don't call ahead to get tickets to see
the Late Late Show. Let them hustle you off the street like someone who's never
seen the show. They treat you better.