October 7, 2005

A Chicano at the Emmy’s

By Al Carlos Hernandez

The whole adventure began eight months ago when I wrote a column, “Emmy’s en Español Esuck” at LatinoLA.com (http://www.latinola.com/story.php?story=2430). Todd P. Leavitt, President of Academy of Television Arts & Sciences read the article, sent me a positive and encouraging email. The goal of the Emmys should be integration not segregation.

This should be a major encouragement to Mario Cruz of President of LatinBayArea.com, and Abelardo de la Peña Jr., CEO of LatinoLA.com to know that industry heavy hitters are reading.

To make a weird story short, Leavitt had dinner with Gary Marenzi, former president of Paramount TV international an old friend of mine from Spanish radio who still returns my calls at the film festival at Cannes, France. My name came up; two weeks later Marenzi, Leavitt, and this Latino had breakfast in Santa Monica.

Smart, slick and focused, Leavitt gave me some advice about breaking into TV. Up until now I only knew how to break in and take a TV. There was an awkward silence when I asked him for Emmy tickets. Marenzi said you have to know somebody. I reached into my pocket for Todd’s card and said, “I know this cat who is a sharp dresser with juice…”

Months later, I emailed Leavitt, reminding him I wanted tickets just as long at it didn’t require working as a valet parker. His reply was, “The Shrine Auditorium may need the hedges clipped” …I knew he got me, which at that point was reward in itself.

It is weird to ride in a short bus dressed in a tuxedo. It would have been stranger if the bus was yellow, and it was bizarre that the bus dropped us off in front of the Red Carpet for the 57th Primetime Emmy awards.

Alba (the writer’s wife) and I walked with an overdressed throng to a staging area on the perimeter of the red carpet portal and passed though airport-quality security. Embarrassingly, I had my keys hanging on a biker chain from my pants.

We cleared security and entered Pandora’s box, a Technicolor, THX, sun-bleached fairyland, (I chose that phrase advisedly), and found ourselves literally rubbing elbows. In fact throwing a few elbows with Hollywood’s elite, flanked by beady eyed Nuevo-bald barristers and mega watt starlets trying to get a Jimmy Chew foot in the door.

On each side of the wide path that led to the majestic double doors of the Shrine Auditorium were walls of photographers and TV tabloid shows, fishing the Who’s Who out of the stream to do interviews.

Positioned in five foot intervals were black-suited security guys, who politely told us to keep moving along since we were nobodies. I managed to get a few “Bite Me”s, and “Yo Mama”s, before Alba pulled me through popping lights, and roving TV cameras, as I stood behind every celebrity I could, looking interested in their interview, trying like Lucy to get into the picture.

I had a plan, strolling over to the wall of photographers over to a distinguished Black man, who I later found out to be legendary Hollywood photographer Bill Jones, (http://www.hollywoodinblack.com/ ). I told him if he would take our picture, I would purchase the pictures. He handed me his card, we posed, he snapped away, and then about 39 others did. From then on security didn’t hassle us.

My first stop on our journey upwards to the VIP balcony - thanks to Todd Leavitt we weren’t in the nosebleeds - was the men’s room, which looked like someone’s New York flat apartment. There was a man in formal attire in there who sold smokes, gum and what have you, on a small table. After you washed your hands, and you had to because he was watching to see if you are a Cochino or not, he would hand you a paper towel, and most were socially obliged to lay down a tip. My tip for him was, “Yo Homie, quit hanging out in bathrooms, or people will start to talk.”

The Shrine is shrine to the glam and ornate gold, bronze, grey velvet days of entertainment. We were perched in the Second Balcony aisle seats. I forgot the binoculars. Below left were cast and crew of Raymond, below middle the Desperate Housewives crew, far right was Halle Berry and, I didn’t notice the rest of the schmendricks in that row.

Lights dim, the producer comes out warning to winners not to give long speeches or they will be “played off”, which means the music will start as they are still talking, which is different from being “played out,” meaning you will never work in this town again.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, applause in the house please, Thank You”…

The curtain opens and there stands Earth, Wind and Fire who begin a whacky rendition of “September” with TV talk lyrics. It then occurred to me that there were more Black men in Earth, Wind and Fire, than in the entire audience.

I will not try to recreate the show - there were 18.5 million viewers - and if you didn’t watch you wouldn’t be reading this anyway. Suffice to say Ellen did a great job and should have been used more, and the awards are shot beginning at 5 pm in the afternoon until 8 pm.

Here we were at the Emmy’s, and there I was watching the TV monitors, all of the TV folks are cuter and smaller in person and that’s not because we have a big screen at home either. The women strikingly beautiful, the men, with the exception of Raymond’s brother, strikingly short.

When it was over, we were flushed into a sea of drooping hairdos and a run at the bars. Alba and I got back on the shuttle with a group of industry insiders and one guy who insisted on singing corny karaoke tunes the whole way. He then sarcastically babbled that the increased security was to thwart supposed terrorists. I commented that maybe the terrorists were trying to break our will power by singing lame tunes, it was quiet after that.

We returned to the Roosevelt Hotel only to find the street blocked off with media trucks outside. We were invited to the TV Guide official party held at our Hotel. Guests will include Paris, Jessica, Christina, and lots of other pop star divas and really famous short dudes.

CUT TO: Bright white search lights penetrating the evening sky. A huge TV guide image glowing off of the Hotels 9th floor. Lines of SUV limousines and screaming fans across Hollywood Blvd.

Not sure if we wanted to go.

Fade to black.

(Editor’s Note: This is a condensed version of a three part story. For the complete story visit LatinoLA.com.)

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