Whoosh! Issue 88 - April 2004

BURBANK CON REPORT 2004
By Sarah Packard
Content © 2004 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2004 held by Whoosh!
22,725 words

Page Two



Thursday, January 29th

[08] Thankfully I got to sleep in a bit on Thursday morning... :) Everyone in the XOM room was going to Universal Studios for the day (it's really close by), and they wanted to leave at 10...except for Molly, who was taking the bus by herself to some beach to go surfing, and me, who just had to be at "The Tonight Show" at 3 pm. So I was content to let everyone shower first and such, and lazed about getting a late-ish start. I think I was the last to leave the room. Wearing my navy blue Xena Palace t-shirt, I went down to the lobby and asked the hotel folks to hold onto my suitcase and backpack for the day. (I woulda brought the backpack, but the Leno ticket said no bags...) They were confused by my request, but I tried to explain that I couldn't check in because my roommate wasn't there yet...I bought a $2 raspberry peach Snapple from the hotel lobby (oh, my breakfast had been 2 slices of leftover cold pizza in the hotel room, lol! I also had one of my packets of peanut butter cracker sandwiches. Ah, the nutritious things we eat at cons!), and waited outside for my taxi to NBC studios. It was so beautiful outside; sunny and warm enough for a t-shirt and light jacket (I think I even tied the jacket around my waist eventually). I could see the mountains (and palm trees!) from the Hilton parking lot! Such a welcome change from Michigan.

[09] The cab ride to NBC was fairly short, and cost only about $9, yay! I got there sometime after 11 am...I had no idea where the driver should let me off (and neither did he), cuz the NBC compound is MASSIVE! Like, several blocks...and the signs were really confusing. He just dropped me off in a random place, and I wandered around for ages trying to find the gift shop (where the studio tour starts from, it's $7.50)...I had to ask a bystander and a security guard, and walk all around the building(s). I could see the building for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (which is a Warner Bros. show but is based on the same studio lot for some reason), it had the name in big letters on the outside. :) I also walked past the Leno studio, also named, which was closed of course. The gift shop is on the California St. (Ave.?) side of the lot. That's where you can get your free tix for Leno and whatnot (available the day of the show starting at 8 am, so people line up before then)...I already had mine printed out from online though (thanks to Tvtix.com!!), so I was set. I asked when the next tour was, and it was at noon, so I only had 15 mins to wait! The gift shop had some cute NBC show merchandise; I admired the "Will and Grace" t-shirts, but they were all like XL, grr. (And kinda expensive, too.) A group of people accumulated waiting for the tour, all way older than me, lol. Quite a few senior citizen types. :)

The former home of Manimal
NBC Studios

[10] The tour itself was definitely worth taking, very interesting stuff...we got to see the Leno set of course (which is *freezing*, as I'd been told! They keep it cold cuz the studio lights on-air make things hot), the sets of "Days of Our Lives," and even some Telemundo news show set, lol...and hair and makeup, and the "Access Hollywood" (or "Extra"? It was one of those entertainment shows) set, except that one was closed cuz they were taping it while we were there! Our tour guide was a young guy, very nice and even kinda cute! I saw him again later at the Leno taping, he was working there as well. (And during the tour he informed us that Holly Hunter was gonna be on the show instead of Bernie Mac! Yay!) I think everyone on the tour ended up going to Leno that afternoon too. By the time the tour ended at 1:30, the line for Leno had already started around the front of the building...I quickly got in it, and was close to the 20th person I believe? I know I was in the first 30 people, cuz they let the first 30 in way before everyone else. :) So I had to wait in line outside from 1:30 to 3 (and was starving; I dashed across the street to the licquor store and back to get some trail mix), but it was fun - it was sunny and nice, and everyone in line kinda chatted with each other and introduced themselves. People were of course from all over the States, I sat next to an old guy from Minnesota. Everyone was impressed by my Internet ticket; they'd all of course gotten to the studios early that morning for their tickets, and didn't know you can get them online, heh. :) There was this one guy who'd seen the show 100's of times and was a "regular" in the line; some people found him obnoxiously arrogant.

[11] At 3:00 they let the first 30 people into the studio lobby, where we had to sit and wait for another half hour or so...we had to go through a metal detector like at the airport too (ditto for the NBC tour). A studio page girl asked everyone where they were from, what they did, etc. One woman had come all the way from Kuwait! She was there with her daughter who lived in Maine. One guy said he was a stripper, lol. They let us into the studio at 3:30, still in the same order as we were in line, and they placed us in our seats...there are 2 rows of seats on the floor, and then bleacher type seats going up. Unfortunately, the front row was taped off, reserved for special people. :( So I didn't make it into the 2nd row of floor seats; I was only 1 or 2 rows up though, dead center, right by the middle aisle next to the cameras and behind the seat for the announcer guy. Not bad! :) Still, next time I'd wanna be in the first 15 or so, so I can be on the floor...the floor people are the ones who get to shake Jay's hand at the beginning of the show (although you can only see their backs onscreen, really)...the studio was indeed chilly, and I was grateful for my light jacket. Since we had about an hour before the taping actually started, they kept us entertained as everyone filed in by showing musical performances from past shows on the big mainstage screen. When I first came in it was Prince!! :) They showed everyone from Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z to Ringo Starr, and everyone's feet were tapping. I chatted to the Asian grrl next to me, she was pretty cool.

[12] Finally close to 4:30 this guy came out to kinda warm up the crowd...had everyone stand up and cheer and such, and picked 6 people out of the audience (I didn't volunteer, was too shy :) ) to come up onstage and dance in front of everyone for free t-shirts, cups and things. Eventually Jay Leno himself came out, just wearing his regular clothes, and talked to the crowd! He jokingly urged us all to laugh during his monologue, lol...people could ask him questions, and it quickly became a "can I get a picture with you?" session. He picked a few people (an Australian guy, a cute young blonde, whom he flirted with, the woman from Kuwait, etc.) to come onstage and get a Polaroid with him, and he talked to them about their lives. I was also too shy to raise my hand for that. Jay seemed very friendly and natural, quite the people person. He retreated and changed into his suit backstage, and the Tonight Show band (Kevin Eubanks!) came out and started playing...the show started at about 4:30, and taped for exactly an hour. (They pause for the exact time of the commercials, and even show some of them silently on the monitors in the studio! So I knew which commercials were gonna air that night in advance too!) During the commercial breaks the band plays cover songs mostly, some cool stuff too - Bjork, Sly and the Family Stone, you name it! They had a black female singer who belted out the songs, and the horn players came out in the crowd and played in the bleachers too. Very festive.

[13] The whole experience was all so very surreal...I'm so used to watching the show at home, it was weird to be actually there as Jay did the monologue and interviews. (They did a "Jaywalking" segment too, and showed a few taped skits..alas, no "Headlines," I love those. :) ) Everyone applauded on cue, and kept quiet when we were supposed to...during commercials I could see Jay getting his hair and makeup touched up, and he'd walk around preparing quietly, or talking to the guests. The first guest to come out was Holly Hunter, who looked *gorgeous*!! Wow. She never seems to age, does she? She was wearing this short skirt and tall black boots, with long wavy blonde hair, and Jay commented on her hotness. She was promoting her brilliant film "Thirteen" (in which she plays the mom!), which had just come out on dvd that Tuesday, and which she had just received an Oscar nomination for, yay! :) It seemed like not many people had actually seen "Thirteen," but when Holly asked the audience who had, I cheered my head off, as did some other girls...they played a clip from the movie, too. Jay also talked to her about her cousin who's some famous baseball player, and how she just recently found out he was her cousin. They played a clip of Holly throwing the first ball out at some game (she was awful, like me), and she got very embarrassed and jokingly started to walk off the set... :)

[14] The second guest was a NASCAR racecar driver guy named Jeff Gordon...I could care less about Nascar and didn't know who he was, but people tell me he's pretty big. :) He seemed nice, anyway. They showed a funny clip of him racing cars as a little kid. The musical guest was this up and coming country singer guy named Keith Urban, who is apparently from Australia! He was surprisingly yummy, with long floppy blonde hair and soulful good looks a la Travis Fimmel. He definitely didn't look like a country singer, and didn't sound too much like one either; no twang, no cowboy hat, it was more of a pop ballad-y type performance. I drooled. While he played, Jay stood off on the side watching (off-camera), and beckoned Holly and Jeff over, so they came and stood by him to watch. After the show no-one hung around though, Jay included; I was hoping maybe I could meet Holly or at least Keith or something, but oh well! I watched the show that night, hoping to catch a glimpse of myself in the audience. :) I need to watch it again on tape so I can pause and slow-mo; I think I saw myself for a few seconds a couple times in the beginning though, when the camera panned across the audience! I saw my blonde hair, anyway, since I know where I was sitting. Anyway, it was a very cool experience, and now I wanna do it again! And go to Ellen too! I've already been to Conan O'Brian at least, in NYC...

[15] After the show, I went across the street to the Mexican restaurant, I can't remember what it was called. I ate some greasy, overpriced quesadillas that weren't so good, and read some free L.A. area papers I'd picked up. I was a little worried about getting back to the hotel by myself, as in how to get a cab...it was now dark, and after 6 pm...I ended up calling for a cab from the pay phone by the licquor store, and had to wait alone across the street (in front of the studios). I felt kinda apprehensive being on the street by myself in the dark, but the streets were mostly deserted by this point anyway. My cab eventually came and took me back to the Hilton. Laura hadn't arrived and checked in yet, and Molly, Annie and co. still weren't back, so I just hung out in the lobby. People were definitely arriving for the con by this point (I had recognized a few people Wed. night too, like Mike Ownby from the Hudson fan club), and checking in/milling about. Registration for the con (for gold and preferred tix only) was to start at 9 pm, at the adjoining Hilton convention center.

[16] I sat in the lobby for maybe an hour, just reading...Annie and Kathy came back, and I got to wait in their room a little while too. Finally when I tried the front desk sometime after 8, they said Laura had checked in! (She arrived early, yay.) It was perfect timing; I got my bags up to our room (801; Molly and co. were in 612) with just enough time to chat with Laura and then rush over to registration. (Laura couldn't come cuz her tix were gen admission...) There was a line for registration already (inside the building, at least) even though it was maybe 8:45...I'm glad I got there early. I stood in line by myself, but started talking to the people in front of me, a guy and a girl. The girl's name was Katie (more on her later!) and the guy was Skip...and James from Xenaversity (another old con friend I hadn't seen in years!) came around and passed out free posters to everyone in line, wahoo!! :) (He was working for Creation all weekend...) I got a Xena one at first and then traded with someone else to get a Gabby one, as did Katie...it's the same pic as on the red Gabby shirt I have, of her in her red Season 6 velvet outfit, short hair, brandishing the sais. Hooray for free stuff! It turns out us gold ppl were entitled to 2 other free gifts too, also posters, both Xena ones. (One of Xena in the Amazon bikini outfit from Season 6's DANGEROUS PREY? The other was an old one with Xena's eyes, Xena on Argo, etc...not sure if I want that one, I might give it away to someone actually!)

Elvis has left the building
Hurrying up and waiting

[17] The actual registration process wasn't as involved as I was anticipating - no checking of our names or anything. We just handed over the ticket, and they gave us a wristband! (And our ticket back of course, we needed that all weekend for autographs and other things.) Then we were free to check out the big ol' dealers room area with all the merchandise already set up...I made a beeline to the photo table, of course!! At this point I didn't have enough cash on me (had to use the hotel ATM on Friday) to buy *all* of my 8x10 photos of the con guests for autographs, so I just got some of 'em...I think I got Hudson, Danielle, Gina, Vicky, Alison Bruce and Charles Mesure. (I got the rest the next day.) Photos were selling fast, too...Katie from the registration line ended up behind me this time, and I complimented her on her homemade t-shirt...it had a pic of Gabby I think, and the url of her website, Soft as Steel. When I asked her about her site and she told me the name of it, I realized, I'd talked to her online that week!! During a google search for the Burbank Xena con (trying to find ppl to room with Wed night), I had come across her site, saw she was going to the con, and emailed her briefly...we'd said we'd hopefully meet at the con. And funnily enough, we just happened to meet and strike up a friendship before we even knew who the other person was! :) Weird. It was Katie's first con, which is always exciting...it was my hotel roomie Laura's first con as well, incidentally. (And her first time meeting Hudson, which is quite a thrill let me tell ya! ;) ) Katie also had gold seats.

[18] Anyway, after I'd gotten my photos and free posters, and perused most of the other stuff (there was a $5 table, sweet!), I headed back to the hotel...I was tired, and wanted to be well rested for the first convention day!! When I got back Laura wanted to see all my stuff, especially my autographed photo binder (which is now quite thick and heavy!). I'd also picked up 2 copies of the con schedule for the weekend, one for her as well, and we pored over it...the 2 "happy hour" events (the "Villainous Happy Hour" Fri night with Hudson and Charles Keating and the "Amazon Happy Hour" Sat night with Danielle, Vicky and Alison Bruce) were both sold out, to Laura's dismay...I wasn't gonna go to those anyway, cuz they were $50 and $40, and I figured I was already going to the Sat night "Dionysian dessert dance party" and the Sun. morning charity breakfast, both part of my gold ticket. That night we stayed up to watch my episode of Leno :) and then went to bed.


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