Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A surreal television experience

On Friday I played on a morning infotainment television show on the local CBS station in Sacramento. I think this is the kind of program people must watch as they are getting ready for work, its got a little bit of everything: the weather, what's going on this weekend, a little cooking, a bit of "lite" news. The "news" on Friday was Paris Hilton. She'd been released from jail the night before and a drama was unfolding as to whether or not she'd be ordered to go back. So in between the cooking demonstrations, the traffic reports and some guy in a cowboy outfit at a rodeo, the cameras kept cutting back to what was going on outside Paris' house.

I had gotten to the station at the un-rock hour of 7am, set up my gear, did a soundcheck, powdered my nose and made myself ready to play. I've been on the set of these shows before, but never to play my solo work, and I was feeling more than a little out of place culturally. I tried not to think too hard about the weird juxtaposition of my music with what was going on, but instead focused on how extremely nice the crew and the anchors were to me, and how happy and grateful I was for this little bit of publicity and a couple free donuts. I don't have a television, but maybe this is the way people enjoy it...by not thinking too hard about it?

Anyway, lights, camera, action! I do a wee interview and play a song...all good. Then I go to hang out with Jeff in the green room until it is time for me to do it all again 45 minutes later. There are television monitors everywhere, showing the two channels produced at the station, and they are all showing different shots of Paris Hilton's house. Jeff and I were feeling a bit claustrophobic, so we go outside, but all the cars in the hot parking lot make us feel worse, so we wander back in.

The time for my second segment rolls around, and I tiptoe back out onto the set to sit back down with my cello. One of the anchors comes over to prepare what we're going to talk about. Meanwhile, the Paris Hilton thing is hitting the fan. I'm only following loosely...she has to go back to jail? A police car is picking her up at her house? People are calling in to the show with their opinion. Me and the anchor lady are sitting there waiting, any second now. Then things start getting really surreal. In walks a psychic in flowing robes. Yes, you did indeed read that correctly. A psychic walks onto the set at sits at the newsdesk. No one seems surprised by this, so I'm guessing this happens regularly. We are in California after all. I can't hear everything she's saying because the microphones are for obvious reasons not piped onto the set, but she's answering calls and telling callers how their problems will be resolved. Did she give Paris any advice I wonder?

Anyway, the cameras are training on me and the anchor now, and I see some of what she is going to say in the teleprompt "...one of the world's best avant cellists...". I get the signal to be ready and we're waiting again. I'm trying to restrain my strong desire to make insane facial expressions and devil horns over the anchor's head. Waiting, waiting...but no, something important is happening! I'm not sure where the decision comes from, but some guy with a clipboard holds his hand in a stop signal. "Wait" the anchor whispers to me, "they're changing something". The guy with the clipboard is talking to someone else, and then makes a cutting-your-throat gesture to the anchor next to me. She raises her eyebrows, shakes her head and makes the same throat-cut gesture back like a question. The guy with the clipboard nods his head vigorously and points to a television monitor I can't see. "I think they're going to go with the Paris Hilton story..." she says "I'm sorry".

And that was that...bumped off the news by Paris Hilton.

But at least I got to play once, and it sure does make for a good story. Just like the way older people remember where they were when JFK was shot, or for our generation where we were when the twin towers were hit...well, now I'll always remember where I was on the momentous day Paris Hilton was dragged back to jail in handcuffs.

Watch the segment: