On Veteran's Day, Wednesday November 11, 1999, my daughter Jamiann and I ventured into New York City on a whim. We truly exercised our faith that day, traveling approximately eighty miles in the pouring down, cold, November rain in hopes of obtaining stand by tickets for the audience of The Rosie O'Donnell show.
The show would air on Friday November 13, 1999, the guests were Matthew Fox, Barry Manilow, and Rosie's longtime friend Jeannie Davis.
My daughter Jamiann who was nineteen at the time, was a die hard Barry Manilow fan since the age of nine when my sister Irene had won tickets on a radio show to be chauffeur/limo driven, complete with long stem roses to the Stabler Arena to see Barry in concert. Irene chose to take Jamiann along with her that night, which led to a fourteen year fantastic journey into the world of the Maniloonies. When Jamiann learned that Barry would be a guest on a taping of the show on Veteran's Day, and that I was going to be off of work that day, a plan was put into action.
Upon arriving we parked a few blocks away from Rockefeller Center where the show was taped. We both were in dire need of a restroom, and despite its disgusting condition we had to use the one in the parking garage. In our moment of excitement, coupled with a painfully full bladder, we both forgot our umbrellas in the car. We knew we needed to be in line before 8:00 AM in order to obtain stand by tickets. We did not realize just what odds were against us.
After what seemed like hours of trying to find shelter from the rain under an above ledge just outside of the entrance where the line formed, a young lady dressed in Rosie show garb, came out with a top hat in hand. Inside the hat were numbers to be picked by each group of potential audience members. I allowed Jamiann to reach into the top hat and pick. She picked a low number, I believe it was the number three if my memory serves me right. While we stood there rumors were spreading that they call out higher numbers first, and we started to become discouraged. We were then allowed to file into the building. We took our wet coats off, and used the restroom to try and make ourselves presentable.
It really seemed like hours passed again, and I was silently praying for Jamiann's sake, that we would be chosen. But, I must admit, I too wanted to get the chance to see Rosie in person. I realize since then that Rosie has alienated many, but I still like her. She has done a lot for many who needed help. She has always been down to earth, and forth coming. Perhaps her candid way of expressing her thoughts has earned her a reputation of being a bit too liberal, but much of what she has said is the truth. I do not agree with all of her ideals, but I do agree with her position on peace, adoption, unconditional love, and gun control. She is also a very funny comedian, and excellent actor.
Finally, the young lady from the Rosie show appeared again and called out our number, and we were escorted to an elevator. Suddenly a commotion erupted by a nearby entrance to the lobby, and there approaching us was the legendary comedian Nipsey Russell and his entourage. We stood in line there and also went through a metal detector. Once we entered the elevator, I began to get butterflies in my stomach. We reached the floor of the Rosie studio, we walked down a long hall way with photos of Saturday Night Live Shows on the walls. The excitement of the moment kept building inside me, and when we walked through the studio doors I actually had tears welling up in my eyes. I was not just happy for myself, but thrilled for my daughter that her dream was coming true, and my adventurous nature was instrumental in making it happen.
We were seated in separate rows, and didn't mind, as we just felt so fortunate to get in. We in fact were just filling in empty seats. As Jamiann was positioned in front of me, she was led to a seat near the front on the left side, just behind John McDaniel and his band. I was seated directly behind a roving camera on the ceiling, and practically every time they either cut away or came back from a commercial there I was smiling and waving. On the following Friday when it aired we taped the show. My big moment of television history, being a silly, excited fan in the audience of the Rosie O'Donnell show.
I really did want to see the expression on Jaminann's face when Barry Manilow appeared on the stage. He first came to Rosie's desk to be interviewed. Barry was promoting his Frank Sinatra tribute album, Manilow Sings Sinatra. It was evident that he had a nasty head cold. He asked Rosie to help him sing and they sang Strangers In The Night.
And in the typical Rosie O' Donnell show fashion she shot Koosh Balls into the audience, gave us a snack, and a goodie bag full of nice things, including Old Navy mittens and an ear warming head band, a toddler toy Billy Blaze, a Koosh Ball, a Rosie T shirt, and a Christmas ornament.
She also had a cooking segment where she joined her life long friend Jeannie "Weanie" Davis making a squash recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner, which ended in a food fight.
In between commercials they inserted a pre-taped interview with Matthew Fox who at the time starred in the television show, Party Of Five. Today Matthew is well known as playing Jack on Lost.
We later received tickets by mail a year later to be in the audience of the show with Al Pacino as the guest. After we filed into the audience seats we discovered that Mr. Pacino did not want to be taped in front of a live audience, and instead two shows would be taped to be aired during the holidays. To our amazement and utter joy the guests were Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, James Garner, and even Florence Henderson popped in sweeping the floor as it was "Sweeps Week".
We took along Rosie O'Donnell dolls that she autographed for us. I also had the pleasure of occupying her audience one more time with a group of Barry Manilow fans in the fall of 2001.
Here is a link to the day we saw Julie Andrews:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqR2YufBzoM