Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Plaza Blues

I had an interesting day at work the other day.

Last week, I worked as a cameraman on the Gold Glove awards at the Plaza Hotel. The Gold Gloves are yearly awards given to baseball players outstanding in the field… Some very famous baseball players were there, though I knew none of them except for Willie Mays. I mostly know his name because it comes up in
the Belle and Sebastian song "Piazza, New York Catcher" which mentions the Willie Mays statue in San Francisco. When it was time for Willie to speak at the podium, he did a great job the first time, giving a heartfelt if rambling speech and relating some great stories from the good old days. But when it was time for him to come up and introduce two young baseball players winning awards, he completely lost the plot. He went off script and derailed the whole award show, which was running like clockwork until then. It was a little sad to see the old guy struggling, but he seemed happy to be on stage and didn't want to leave. All in all it was a refreshing change of pace from the usual dog and pony shows.

Joe Piscopo was the MC, and when he showed up for rehearsal in the afternoon, he recognized me and said hello. I had worked on an event a few weeks earlier at which he was the MC as well, and he remembered me. He is a really nice dude, a salt-of-the-earth type who tells dirty jokes and shakes everyone's hand. He is truly a generous and kind soul and he makes everyone feel welcome. Who knew when I was watching Saturday Night Live as a teenager that I would one day be buds with the guy who sang "Ebony and Ivory" with Eddie Murphy.

At that same event, the guest entertainer was a comedian named Kevin James. He is an actor best known for being the lovable, obese douchebag with the unrealistically good-looking wife on the TV show King of Queens. He came on stage and surprised me for two reasons; First, he is much fatter and more unhealthy looking in real life than on TV, and second, he is really really funny. He basically makes you laugh at him for being a confused, lovable schmuck struggling with obesity but not really giving a fuck. Somehow it works, even though it is not at all my usual 32 OZ cup of soda...

And then the event ended and things got really weird. I was told that the Blues Brothers were playing at the after party on a lower floor of the Plaza. I considered going down to watch some of the show, but I was tired after a long day, I wanted to get home, and I really don't like the Blues Brothers that much anyway. Any band with the word "blues" in the name is usually a major red flag for me. So I packed up my camera and I took the freight elevator up to the fourth floor to put it away. When I got out of the elevator, the hallway door was blocked by a security guard, and a stream of people filed into the room next to the elevator, trapping me inside. I realized it was the Blues Brothers band going down to do their show. Last in the line of people, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi filed past me. The elevator didn't arrive, so we were all standing in a small room, like a storage area. Some of the musicians were taking pictures of each other, so I took out my phone and snapped a photo of the whole group. Jim Belushi does nothing for me but Aykroyd is a legend. I didn't realize my flash was on. When he saw the flash, Jim Belsuhi came right up to me, looking very pissed off, and asked me who I was with. I told him I was a cameraman for the event and I apologized for snapping the pic. I left the room and went off to put away my gear. When I came back five minutes later to take the elevator to leave, the whole band was still in the little anteroom waiting. I waited outside, but the door was open and once again Jim Belushi spotted me. He came over to me looking like he wanted to punch me. I once again apologized for snapping a photo. He wasn't satisfied. "Give me your phone," he said. I took out my phone and showed him the photo, which was completely blurry and illegible. He made me delete it. All this was very strange considering when he and the band went down to play their corporate after-party, every person in the room took out their phones and snapped photos and videos. I guess you have to admire the guy for wanting to control his image. One more reason for me to hate the blues...