The cast of "Hot in Cleveland" is in Northeast Ohio these days, and you can find my story from last night's event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here. After the jump are some notes about the event that yielded the story.
Last night's doings were clearly labeled a photo op, and that it is what it proved to be. But that doesn't mean news media were not going to turn out. There were camera crews and reporters from the four TV news operations, some ink-stained wretches like myself, bunches of photographers and a couple of hundred fans outside the rock hall along a red carpet, forming the gauntlet that the celebs would have to walk to get into the hall, where a private party was to be held later in the evening. Most of the red carpet was set for people to line (though not too closely -- several times, hall security asked them to move back so there would be enough room for people to actually get down the carpet). An area nearest the door was marked off with rope and stanchions as the media area, where TV and the print reporters were allowed to operate. (Still-photographers were in another area, near where the stars' limo would pull up, to get their shots before the celebs melted into the crowd.)
The security was quite diligent about keeping members from the public from clustering in the media area -- we press folks had special rock-hall badges -- and took some heat for doing so. I heard more than a little muttering, and one woman angrily declared that she was too short to see over the crowd lining the rest of the carpet -- AND she had been waiting four hours to see the stars. Somewhat amusing, though, was the arrival of one woman by the carpet without a media pass; when she should move on, she pointed out she was a curator for the hall -- and trying to talk to her boss on the other side of the carpet. She was passed through.
I got there about 5, picked up my pass and was just watching the whole scene, but until about 6 there wasn't much to do.
I thought about taking a peek inside the Johnny Cash tour bus outside the hall, but waited in my spot instead. I've done things like this before locally, for Halle Berry and for Will Smith, and you need to guard your turf. Besides, by hanging around, I heard that White had been at the Cleveland Zoo that day, and got a decent quote from her when I asked about it. And I had a chance to see Larry Jones, president of TV Land, and have a chat with him about "Hot."
I saw a couple of stations doing live reports during the 5 p.m. hour, well before the stars arrived. And the idea of stardom was very focused. The arrival of Darlene Love, the great singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, was announced -- but the reporters barely budged as she walked briskly into the hall. (Had I been able to catch her eye, I would have genuflected. Hell, it was Darlene Love.)
When the cast arrived, it was immediately clear whom many had come to see. There were chants of "Betty! Betty!" near the limo and the crowd seemed to swallow the diminutive White as she worked her way up the carpet, still photographers in front of her, their cameras raised over the heads to get better shots. In the media area, she spoke briefly with the TV reporters, then was turned to chat with the print folks, too. (The TV Land publicists who made sure she also spoke with print are now my best friends.) Most of what she said is in my story this morning, and you can see that she was very much as she appears on TV -- quick, witty, sharp. Also elegant as all get out. The "Hot in Cleveland" cast had dressed for the occasion, and I was somewhat glad I had thought to wear a tie.
One item that didn't get into my story: A reporter asked her if she would host "Saturday Night Live" again. "I hope not," she said -- though she added, "I had a good time. I was scared to death, but I had a good time."
Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves had been somewhat grouped together, talking to TV, before they headed in. I had a moment to ask Bertinelli if her husband, Cuyahoga Falls' Tom Vitale, was with her; she said he was, but was swept along in the crowd before we could say much more. At this point, things were a little intense.
Behind the reporters on both sides of the carpet were fans, calling out to the stars, waving photos of them, asking for autographs. On one of my audio recordings, people running the event are calling to the public, "Everybody needs to take five steps back! Five steps back!" It was clearly time to get the "Hot in Cleveland" folks into the hall. But I did get a moment with Malick and Leeves, and you can see what that yielded in the story, too. Then they were off, and so was I.
The whole thing lasted about 15 minutes. I talked to Betty White for about 2 of those. But you can get a lot done in 15 minutes. And one of the perks of this job is that getting to talk to White, Bertinelli, Leeves and Malick -- something a lot of people would be happy to do for just a few seconds.