On Saturday, November 12th, I already knew that I would be spending my day on Hollywood Boulevard at the El Capitan Theatre celebrity-spotting on the red carpet for the World Premiere of The Muppets. I, of course, did not have an invitation to get into the premiere, but I was more content to just stand on the sidelines and watch with glee as Muppets, Muppet performers, and big-time celebrities made their way down the carpet. By about 3 o'clock that day, all of that would change.
I arrived on Hollywood Boulevard around 9 o'clock in the morning and found out that the proceedings weren't set to start for the carpet-walk until 1 o'clock that afternoon. It was rainy and gloomy, but my spirits were not dampened at all. I took a spot at the closest possible place I was allowed to be for autographs and pictures and... waited. It quickly turned out, however, that waiting was a fantastic thing to be doing that early in the morning, because all seven of the main Muppet performers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Eric Jacobson, Bill Barretta, Matt Vogel, David Rudman, and Peter Linz) were arriving early to rehearse for the carpet walk!
Once again worried that I wouldn't see any of them again, I said hi to Steve, Bill, and Dave (all of whom I had met before). The night before I went to see The Tonight Show because Kermit was the scheduled guest. Unfortunately, the Frog had to cancel because he was at the Latin American Grammys on Thursday night. When I saw Steve Whitmire, not only was he excited and surprised to see me, he remembered that I was going to The Tonight Show and asked, "Were you at Leno last night?" When I told him that I was he responded, "I wasn't!" And we laughed... and it was awesome. Then when I saw Bill Barretta he was thrilled that I was there (even though he knew I was going to be) and gave me another big hug. By this point not only was I the envy of all of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers (thank you, smart phones!), but also the envy and confusion of everyone around me trying to figure out who the heck I was and why all of these people knew me.
Did I mention that when I got there I was treated to a feast of amazing Muppet goodness in the form of decorations and set-up for the premiere? Well, I was! The entire marquee for the El Capitan Theatre was Muppe-fied and the carpet the celebrities would be coming down was green. Spectacular. They also had a huge sign toting "The Muppet World Premiere" logo (see at right with me in front) and a crazy amount of Muppet posters featuring everyone from Kermit to Watler to Rowlf! It was unbelievable. Right next door to the El Capitan is the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store, which also had a lot of Muppet stuff going for it. All of the plush dolls from the Disney Store, plus the Muppet issue of Disney twenty-three magazine, The Green Album, Jim Henson: The Works book, and a lot more I probably don't remember.
So 1 o'clock rolled around finally and... well, to steal a phrase, it's time to get things started. The first ones to come down the green carpet were, obviously, the Muppets. Sweetums came barreling down the front, even getting interviewed by a few journalists, then Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Rowlf (!!!), Animal, and Walter came riding down the carpet in a Chrysler Jeep. The latter five were sticking out of the roof and Kermit was talking to the press from the side window (which I couldn't see, unfortunately). Miss Piggy followed suit in her trademark Piggy fashion... looking ravishing in her own private convertible. Perfection. Being close to Muppets is such an incredible thing. They're just... real. I'm sure you're the last people I need to convince of that, but it's so, so true.
After the Muppets made their exit, the Muppet performers got to walk the carpet with their wives and families. I can only imagine how special it must have been for these guys to get to walk the carpet of their premiere as themselves. It was amazingly special for me--and I just kept taking pictures of them. Suddenly, I got a text message from Cristina Barretta saying, "Ryan--we want pictures of the performers and their wives." Thinking I was already doing that, I responded, "No problem! Taken care of!" and thought little of it... that is, until Cristina waved at me from the green carpet. She had Bill and their son Jackson and were standing right in front of me so I could take a picture. What happened next was insane... as Cristina grabbed every performer she could to have them pose for a picture by me. Here they are below:
|Matt Vogel and his wife Kelly|
|Eric Jacobson and his wife Mary|
|Peter Linz and his wife Marlene|
And then the big-time celebrities started to arrive. Not all of them came over to the group of fans wanting pictures and autographs, but some of them did. The amazing group that came down included Mickey Rooney, Cat Cora, Darren Criss, Neil Patrick Harris, Allyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor, Joel McHale (who, when I asked him to sign my Muppet poster, said, "I'm not even in this movie! Here, I'll sign it as Donald Glover. He is."), Kristen Schaal, Rico Rodriguez, Anthony Hopkins, Bret McKenzie, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Amy Adams, and Jason Segel. That's all well and good... but again it isn't the most incredible thing. The most incredible thing happened, once again, thanks to the Barrettas. As Neil Patrick Harris was making his way inside the theater, presumably just to take his seat, I see Bill Barretta rush towards him, grab Neil's arm, point at me, and say something to him. The next thing I know, Bill Barretta and Neil Patrick Harris are standing directly in front of me and waving so that I could take a picture. That picture is below...
|Cristina Barretta brings Jason Segel over for a picture|
I know Lylle through email correspondence and I had a meeting with her last summer, but I never expected her to remember me. I casually said hi to her and reintroduced myself and she did a double take. "Ryan," she said, "what are you doing?" I said something along the lines of, "Eating and sitting," and she dropped what she was doing (which looked important) and said, "No, no. You can eat later. Come with me." So, not being one to say no to Disney executives, I left my table and followed. Lylle took me in the side entrance of the theater, out to the front where she had me check my camera, and where I met Kevin Frawley, Vice President of Special Events for Disney, who knew who I was without me introducing myself. He introduced himself, however, with a big hug and by saying, "Thank you for all you do. You don't know how much we appreciate it. If you need anything, you ask me." Stunned, confused, elated, I nodded and thanked him and barely heard when he said he'd bring me a business card later. Again, I was floored by the kindness, willingness to please, and attentiveness of the people here. Both Lylle and Kevin had absolutely no reason for needing to get me into that screening... but they did it, because they care and they're passionate and they're fans. And because they're just incredibly nice people.
Kevin swept me away after that and took me into the theater where hundreds of people, most of them celebrities, were already watching The Muppets. He pulled a covering off the seats in the very back row and sat me down with a bucket of popcorn and a water bottle (both free) and told me to enjoy the movie... as if it was physically possible for me not to at that point. So I sat, and I watched, and I laughed, and I teared up, and my spirit soared listening to every single person in that theater with me laugh at the Muppets. Some of them even started singing along to "Rainbow Connection." There was applause for every celebrity cameo. There was applause after "Life's a Happy Song." A standing ovation at the end. It was magic. And the best part about all of it? The day was just getting started.
And I think that's as good a place as any to top for today. Originally this series was intended to be two parts... but I realize now that it's going to take three to fully and perfectly tell this story. I appreciate you sticking with me through all three parts! Check back tomorrow for Part 3, chronicling the after party, meeting Jason Segel, backstage and the green room at Dancing With the Stars, and meeting not one, not two, but three Muppets!!
|I'm the one who couldn't care less about whatever celebrity was there.|
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com