.An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD! HOW TO TAKE IN A PLAY, A MEAL, AND A COMEDY ACT ALL FOR FREE- AND IT'S NOT A TIMESHARE!


I have a confession to make. I love sit-coms. I'm a sucker for a sarcastic quip. I love anything that can make me laugh. I also live less than two hours from Hollywood, the epicenter of television and every once in a while I like to go all touristy and watch the making of a sitcom in person. So whenever I get the urge, I go to AudiencesUnlimited.com and book a taping. This is usually done late at night after a glass or two of wine, when wanderlust hits. So when I saw an opening for two of my favorite shows I grabbed them and it was Hooray for Hollywood!

My husband loves Puddy, everyone remembers the straight talking auto mechanic from Seinfeld and he is one of the animated voices from 'Family Guy,' the most beloved show of all post - adolescent males. On this show Patrick Warburton stars with Megyn Price an alumnus from one of the most underrated sitcoms of all times 'Grounded for Life.' Throw in David Spade from 'Just Shoot Me' and how can a show fail? Their show 'Rules of Engagement' films in Culver City and we were there at the appointed time, 4:45 p.m. our printed vouchers in hand waiting in line for the taping in a few hours. First you get checked out by the security guards; don't even think about bringing in a camera. In this line you meet interesting people from all over the globe, beside us were a couple that had flown over from London for a week just to attend tapings of their favorite American shows. The girl next to us was from Poland, and we took her under our wing.

The Cast of Rules of Engagement taking a break!
                                                                    
After a short wait you are walked through the studio and onto the sound stage where the sets you see every week on your television are right there in front of you. Oh, there is Jeff and Audrey's living room that looks so much larger on television, and to the left of it is the diner which is apparently the only restaurant in New York City. The stage is a jumble of cameras, and lights, which can partially obstruct your view while the filming is going on, but it's all part of the process.

Before the show a warm up guy greets the crowd and starts to perform a comedy act, sort of like an improv picking on foreign visitors and locals alike. The act is designed to rouse the crowd and work everyone into frenzy. Seated at the end of our row was guy wearing a Patrick Warburton celebrity golf tournament t-shirt. We later found out that this fellow was such a rabid fan that he had attended all the episodes for the last six years of the shows taping. We are given our instructions, no yelling or screaming allowed, just laughter. Followed by a short reel of the shows highlights played on televisions located directly over the stage. Then just before taping start the cast of the show appear to thunderous applause.

For the next few hours the cast and crew act out the shows script. It is like going to see a funny play. Writing comedy is hard, I know because my novel Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships is funny. Making that sit-com appear funny so effortlessly on your home screen is a lot of work. Each line has to be delivered with the right inflection, the lines can't be flubbed and the jokes can't fall flat. So each scene is shot multiple times, while the director searches for the perfect take. But that is the fun of a live taping you are there to witness the bloopers, and believe me sitcom actors are always flubbing their lines and cracking each other up. When the directors yell cut, the writers confer with the cast and the same scene can be re-shot several times with new lines added or old lines deleted.

Laughing can work up an appetite, and since a taping can run for over three hours, to control the crowd the interns fed us sandwiches and cookies. It is a small gesture but it makes you feel like they really appreciate you showing up and doing your bit.

The show was hilarious and for three hours we were in the Hollywood bubble making television. When the last scene wrapped, the cast graciously lined up to greet us as we left the sound stage. Then it happened, my husband Ray leaned over the railing that separated the cast from us, and Patrick Warburton shook his hand. I don't think he has washed that hand since.

So the next time you are planning a trip to Los Angeles make sure you catch a taping of you favorite show. Where else can you go see a play, dine and even catch a comedy show for free! And with plays coming in about $100 a seat, free is good.

Next time I'll tell you about Hot in Cleveland.

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