Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Friday, February 17, 2006

February 17, 2006 -- Letter from Manhattan Beach


I Found It at the Late Late Show (Part 2)

Standing in lines is part of life. I'm thinking that one of the reasons people are so enamored with cell phones, iPods, pagers, text messaging and that whole technological menagerie that is designed to "keep you connected" is based on the false hope that they will make lines a part of a quaint and receding past. Maybe. Probably not.

One of the first things the CBS studio guards did while we stood in securty line #2 was require that everyone with a cell phone or other such device stash it in their car or turn it over for safe keeping. As I am a totally "not connected" person in regards to instant communication, I could smugly ignore this request/demand. To my mind, the "instant" and the "communications" part of this march into a future of connectedness is problematical. The "instant" part appears to work-- but only if you're standing in exactly the right place and only if you're speaking in a very loud voice and only if the recipient of your urgent communique feels like punching you into their gizmo. The "communications" part, what is said and what is listened to on these wizards of so many wasted words is a whole other subject. My research, wholly based on eavesdropping while standing in lines, would indicate that very little that could be classifed as "communication" really takes place.

Anyway, for the connected Late Late show crowd, a very large container was filled with cells of various sizes, shapes and colors. Check slips were handed out, but some of the people depositing these devices into the care of others turned away from this bin of electronic shells with a look that must have resembled the giving up of the first born to the Lord of the Manor in medieval times. Others only grimmaced, the amputation of a body part not being as nearly painful as expected.

We Late Lates now huff and puff up several flights of stairs. There are only one-hundred of us. We walk down a nicely carpeted hallway which is flanked by walls that have, to be kind, a distinctly weathered look. The entire route looks as if it is a converted warehouse, which perhaps it is. On turning a corner, you half expect to see a fleet of fork lift trucks coming at you.

Along the way, young people in official CBS gear are smiling brightly. A raft of people, dressed very casually. They all are working hard at looking indifferent. I presume they all must have titles beginning with the term "Assistant." We stare at them, they stand talking to each other, ignoring us.

We're just another 100 here for what? To fill up the seats, of course. I'm not in a sour mood (though this may sound like it), but I start wondering what they call The 100 when they hold all those important meetings they must have. I start thinking about what label or shorthand term is slapped on The 100 Late Lates that troop into their oversized garage every afternoon. I'm certain it's snarky and always delivered in the tone of a sour school marm.

Now I've done it. I turn as sour as that imagined school marm. I start thinking about the Andy Griffith movie "A Face in the Crowd." It gets worse, now I'm thinking about "The Larry Sanders Show."

The Important Assistant does the seating. He works at making his job appear to be a really, really important job. I'm guessing that he regularly congratulates himself for having a good eye, taking in the look of each and every one of the faces of The 100. He chooses the location where each and every person sits in this cramped venue. I'm looking around and thinking (sourly, of course) to myself that I've been in more inviting basement spaces created by struggling experimental theater groups.

Important Assistant seats my companion (OK, it's the very same person with insomnia I mentioned in yesterday's Letter) and myself in two seats up front and isolated, no one next to us on either side. It looks good to us, but this is not be. Important Assistant decides he has to fine tune the seating. He comes by ten minutes later and tells us we will have to move.

"Where?"

Oh, up and over to the side, and he points to seats right next to what looks like a damp, greasy wall. I almost pulled out my Indiana Card, but I have a self-imposed rule against using it more than once a week. Instead we frown, we respectfully complain, we point to a row of almost empty seats up front and center. Happily, that's where we are relocated.

Our satisfaction fades with the start of the show. The sight lines of these seats turn out to be partially blocked throughout the taping by a very large TV camera swooping and cornering in front of us. My companion has to watch the entire opening monolgue on monitors hanging on, yeah, a damp, greasy wall. I think I hear Important Assistant chortling with that snarky laugh of his in the back of the studio.

Quickly now: audience members of some significance. Two come to mind. One, the Cinderella of the Hills, an instant communicator who had given up her cell phone with startling aplomb. She is a youngish woman in bright, tight clothing and absolutely amazing shoes. She's short, but her height is lifted a good two to three inches by the platform shoes she's wearing. And these shoes are made entirely of glass. It has to be glass. Even space age plastic has not reached this level of translucence combined with strength. I stared at those glistening shoes, expecting to see tiny goldfish swiming within the confines of the space created by these not so classy glassy lifts.

The Cinderella of the Hills was seated by the Important Assistant in front row seats on the left. These seats turn out to be the best in the house. In her row of four, I also note the presence of Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty. When the show starts Craig Ferguson appears to glance and wink in their direction as he notes, "Once again we have our favorite VIPs in the audience." Perhaps a part of the Hollywood Dream, the fractured fairy tale of casting couches and personal assistants that get real personal, has unfolded right before my sour eyes. But I bring my imagination to heel. After all, the Cinderella of the Hills and her posse are part of The 100--solidarity trumps cheap musings.

Seated directly next to me was a woman closer to my age. As "Chucky Cheesy" (aka Chunky Dee) warmed up the audience with a combination of ass kissing ("You're the most important part of this show.") and bad dirty jokes intended to teach us how to laugh and clap heartily at anything Craig Ferguson might say or mug, this woman looked somewhat flustered. I met her and her son in line #1 earlier. They're from Kansas and without cell phones, naked and vulnerable. I couldn't resist turning to her and mumbling the line she has probably heard thousands of times in her life: "I guess you're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy." I instantly felt like a cleaned up, lame Chucky Cheesy. She gave me a wan smile. I wondered where she parked.

The show itself? I give it an 8.4. Craig Ferguson is lively and intelligent. I give him extra points for just being of Scotch heritage, sounding like it, and "making it" in the cold, cruel and demanding world of show biz. His lengthy opening monologue is always well crafted and seemingly delivered extemporaneously. He picks a theme and weaves it through the five to ten minutes given over to this part of the show--a little like Garrison Keillor without a hint of the Lutheranism. He's a talented guy.

When I manage to stay up Late Late, this is what I stay up to hear. I just don't think I'll be a part of The 100 again anytime soon.

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