Yesterday was my first whirlwind day of the Ford Great Escape blogger extravaganza. My husband drove me to the airport and I immediately learned that my flight was delayed by at least a half an hour. Oh goody. That meant I wouldn't get into L.A. until noon. Strangely enough, I ended up sitting with a co-worker and his family on the flight.
Once we landed, I made my way down to baggage claim, where I was met by a young woman holding a sign with my name on it. I felt bad that she'd probably been standing there for an extra 30 minutes or so.
A car service brought me to the Roosevelt Hotel, where I received a packet of information about our itinerary, everything you'd ever want to know about the Ford Escape and Ford Escape Hybrid, and a huge name badge/itinerary on a lanyard.
My room wasn't ready, so I checked my suitcase with the bellman and dragged my laptop case (also full of books), up to the penthouse for lunch. I sat with Jen of Jen is Famous, Alex and Stefan of Elephant Larry, Liz of Everyday Goddess, Brian of Welcome to Tardville, Michelle Kenobi Osorio (who is videoblogging the event at Stage6.com) and one of the Ford marketing executives. Michelle and I have blue-highlighted hair in common.
After we ate, we got a quick introduction to Ford's current marketing programs, including their Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson partnership and their Boredom Hurts campaign site. Then we paired up and drove Escapes to CBS Studios for our behind-the-scenes tour at On the Lot. I drove a black non-hybrid one, accompanied by Michelle Osorio. We ignored the GPS, followed the map we'd been given, and took a wind-y, scenic route to the studio.
They weren't kidding about behind the scenes. We toured the entire office, all throughout the soundstage and even inside the mobile control room, thanks to executive producer David Goffin. Everyone was very friendly and seemed happy to take time out to talk to a bunch of bloggers, even though their production schedule is crazy.
Then we all ended up in the studio audience for the live show. I wasn't expecting that or I might have rethought my wardrobe choices. As it was, the production crew decided that my "Rick's Cafe" shirt from Jamaica was too noticeable on camera and might represent a copyrighted image that they were unwilling to show, so I had to borrow a jacket from one of the PR reps and cover it up.
Until now, my sole TV studio experience had been answering the phones during the pledge drive at the local public broadcasting station. This was considerably different. The set was really beautiful and far more substantial-looking than I would have expected. Even in places that never show up on camera, there are framed movie posters for the contestants' previous films.
Once we were seated, Mark Burnett came over. He seemed like a down-to-earth guy and talked about how America is a country where people value results. He brushed off praise about his status as one of the top risk-taking producers and said he'd learned that a pat on the back and a kick in the balls are more or less the same. The effects of both are short-lived. (That's a paraphrase - I'd stopped taking notes by then.) He seemed genuinely charmed when Liz Rizzo gave him one of her "Living the Dream" stickers.
Liz, an aspiring filmmaker, really impressed me with her gung-ho networking while we were at the studio. She already knew several people who work on the show and she did an amazing job of expanding her circle while she had the chance.
The broadcast was fascinating to watch. My hands started hurting from clapping on command by the time we reached the halfway mark. Before we left the stage area, we got a chance to quickly interview the program judges Gary Ross, Penny Marshall and Carrie Fisher, and host Adrianna Costa.
Afterwards, we went to a cocktail party in the bungalow area where the contestants live throughout the run of the show (at least until they're eliminated). We were told that the part of the lot where we were standing was once the Gilligan's Island set and that the koi pond is all that remains of the lagoon. The koi pond part sounded a little too neat, but it was cool to think of all of the shows that had been filmed at the studio over the years.
We got to meet the five filmmakers who are still in the running and they later joined us for cocktails and dinner at Social Hollywood.
By the time we got back from dinner it was nearly 11:00 p.m. L.A. time, which meant it was getting close to 1:00 a.m. my time. I finally got my room key and big bag o' schwag from Ford. It was a thrill just to be able to stop lugging around my laptop bag.
My room is huge and very modern. I'd take a picture, but I somehow got separated from my camera last night. I'm guessing it may have fallen out of my purse in the car when I was on my way home from dinner, but I might have taken it out during check-in and left it on the counter. I hope I find it.
I called my husband when I got to the room because I knew he'd be awake. There was yet another cocktail party out by the hotel pool, but I'd had all I could take. I checked my e-mail and went to bed.
More fun activities await today, but first I need to do a solid yoga practice to try to undo the laptop bag damage done to my shoulders. More later!