I had just seen The Muppets for the second time in three days--two weeks before its actual release date. To say that I was on cloud nine would be a major understatement. As I made my way out of the theater and into the lobby of the El Capitan Theatre, I waited amongst the crowd to catch up with the Barrettas and find out what the Dancing With the Stars situation was. While I was waiting, a horde of celebrities walked out past me. It's such a bizarre thing to be standing somewhere that Anthony Hopkins is... even when he's just walking past you. Anyway, I finally found the Barrettas--who were surprisingly unsurprised that I managed to get in to the screening--and I think I basically asked when and where I should meet them to go to Dancing With the Stars. What happened next changed everything (it's amazing how many times everything changed on this trip). Cristina Barretta pulled off her Guest badge for the premiere (see right) and handed it to me. "Here," she said with her wonderful grin, "take this and meet us at the after party. We'll leave from there. Go have fun!"
So, mouth agape, cloud flying even higher, I floated across the street to the Kodak Theatre (where, you know, they have the Academy Awards) and up a few escalators, past some security, and into a huge room decked out in Muppet Theater Curtain crimson and adorned with countless Muppet posters, movie props (including The Muppet Show sign and the portraits from "Pictures in My Head"), four bars, and two desert stations. It was completely overwhelming and I had never experienced anything like it... nor will I ever again. Oh, and celebrities were literally everywhere I turned.
I met so many incredible people while at the after party, including the winner of the Yamaha Entertainment Group contest, Jeremiah Lance, who was about as excited as I was (I had a slight advantage because I'm an obsessed Muppet fan). I didn't have anything at all to eat or drink while at the after party, because I was too busy meeting icons and personal heroes and super talented people. I shook hands with Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) and Rashida Jones signed my poster, and I met and got pictures with Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), Darren Criss (Glee), Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords), Joel McHale (Community), Bret McKenzie, Amy Adams, and Jason Segel. I honestly don't remember what I said to Amy... she is so stunning and sweet and charming in person that I lost all sense of anything. Thank goodness I have the picture below to jog my memory...
My life had been made, my happiness level had never been higher, and somehow... it still wasn't over. Cristina came to find Jackson and I, we grabbed gift bags (with OPI nail polish and pistachios, plus a free copy of Disney twenty-three magazine), and were escorted out onto Hollywood Boulevard where a private car was waiting to drive us to CBS studios for the filming of Dancing With the Stars. As we drove, I just sat and absorbed everything that had just happened. I still couldn't believe any of it. I just kept looking through my pictures and smiling until we got to CBS. We went in the "VIP Entrance" and the Dancing people (they weren't really dancing) took us to the main stage where the Muppeteers and Muppets were rehearsing. Kermit and Steve Whitmire, Miss Piggy and Fozzie and Eric Jacobson, Gonzo and Dave Goelz, Pepe and Bill Barretta, Walter and Peter Linz, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Rowlf, Sam Eagle, Dr. Honeydew, Beaker, Animal, and The Swedish Chef... everyone was there.
The Muppet Wives weren't the only ones I got to meet that night... I also met the Muppets!! The experience of meeting a Muppet will turn you into a seven year old immediately. You completely forget about Bill or Dave or Peter... and you just buy into it 100%. It started when Bill came over with Pepe on his arm. He started entertaining his son with Pepe. And then... Pepe looked at me. "Hola! You having a good time?" I responded with a laugh and an affirmative, then I asked Pepe--Pepe, not Bill... I was a mess--if I could take a picture with him. "Si, si, come on!" Pepe told me. then this happened...
And then they performed and more magic happened everywhere you turned. Whether it was Kermit playing the piano, Eric Jacobson performing Miss Piggy, Matt Vogel dropping rose petals ("Sometimes... you just need a guy to drop a few rose petals."), Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire cracking up Tom Bergeron as Statler and Waldorf, Peter Linz making Walter whistle, or David Rudman just being spectacular bringing Fozzie to life... magic was everywhere. Did I mention that they filmed the entire "Life's a Happy Song" performance in one take? Because they did. Brilliance abounding.
Before I knew it, it was over, and the Muppets were whisked away, and the Muppeteers with them. I stayed with the Muppet Wives until someone from Dancing With the Stars came down to tell us that they were taking the family up to the green room. I hesitated and said I could just go, but Cristina grabbed me and pulled me along with them. Indirectly declaring me part of the family. I seriously could have cried. We went upstairs, and there we were... all of us just hanging around. Me, a 21 year old kid from Illinois, hanging around with the seven main Muppet performers and their families. Again... it just didn't add up, but I didn't bother rechecking the math.
I chatted with each and every performer and shared an amazing moment with all of them. Steve Whitmire was thrilled to see me, "Ryan!" he shouted. "So glad you finally caught up to us!" Eric Jacobson was so pleased that I liked the movie in his quiet, brilliant way. Dave Goelz was hilarious and kind and remembered that he met me in St. Louis. "Are you from there?" Dave asked. I told him I was about two hours from there. "So you drove two hours just to see me?!" and then, a beat later, "Wait... you came all that way just to see us here?!" Amazing. David Rudman told me some incredible stories about Richard Hunt, and when I told him how great Scooter was in the movie, all he did was talk about Richard. Matt Vogel was brilliant and so much fun as he talked about his rose-petal-dropping prowess, and again, when I talked about how great Floyd and Uncle Deadly were in the movie, he just talked about Jerry Nelson. And, finally, Peter Linz... who was possibly as excited to be there as I was, was elated to show me the pictures he had taken at the green carpet. And as they all left, every one of the Muppeteers said goodbye to me, told me we'd talk soon, and bid farewell. My night ended with me being driven home in a private car, taken back to my hotel. My night ended with me being happier and stunned and higher than I ever had been in my life.
I said this when I first started writing the series... but life will always surprise you in amazing, unbelievable ways. If you had asked me, two years ago, when I started The Muppet Mindset, if I thought that I would ever get to do any one of the things I did between November 10th and 12th, I would have laughed. I would have laughed and shook my head if you asked if I would ever see a Cast and Crew screening of a theatrical Muppet movie. I would have laughed if you asked if I would ever be a member of the crowd at the World Premiere of a theatrical Muppet movie, much less get into it. I would have laughed if you asked if I would ever meet Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Pepe, Gonzo, Walter, any Muppeteer, or any number of other people. If you had asked me if I thought I would ever, in my wildest dreams, get to hang out with seven of my heroes in a green room after their performance, I would have told you to stop getting my hopes up with such ridiculous questions.
But all of these things happened. All of these things changed my life. All of these things reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people. I can't express enough just how wonderful and incredibly nice every single person was to me. I have way too many people to thank for all of this... here's a list that probably doesn't include someone... I can never, ever thank these people enough: Cristina Barretta, Bill Barretta, Mary Jacobson, Peter Linz, Rocco Fonzarelli, Jill Breitzman, Lylle Breier, Kevin Frawley, Jason Segel, James Bobin, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, and David Rudman. Each of them made my trip what it was... and it was unreal and indescribable (trust me... I've tried to describe it for a month and still come up short).
Oh, I just remembered someone I didn't thank... YOU. You, and you, and you, and you, and you--well, all of you. If it weren't for each and every one of you and your undying support and undying passion, none of this would be possible. Everything I do here at The Muppet Mindset, out in Hollywood, anywhere, is for you the fans. You're the reason for The Muppet Mindset, and The Muppet Mindset is the reason for this trip, and so you're the reason for my life changing. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To see each and every picture from my adventure in Hollywood, check out The Muppet Mindset on Photobucket. There are countless pictures that didn't make it into the three posts, so if you wish to see them all, now's your chance!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com