Brush with Greatness


America's Got Talent Taping - Thursday, April 12, 2012

I haven't been going out to any Stern related events for the past couple of years so I haven't written any Brush with Greatness stories. I figured it was about time to do something about that. The America's Got Talent show came to New York City so I signed up for a couple of free tickets. I'd heard from a few fans that these tapings were definitely worth seeing in person. I wasn't a fan of the show in past seasons so I never would have done this if Howard wasn't one of the judges. This event was definitely a Howard Stern event. I'd guess that the majority of fans in line were Stern fans.

I took my wife with me to the 5 o'clock taping at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. There were two tapings the day before and one at Noon this day. I knew we were going to have a pretty long wait outside based on what I'd read online. With so many fans around it wasn't so bad waiting though.

The first person we ran into was Joey Boots. Boots was hanging next to the general admission line with Joe Mooski from Stern Facebook Superfans so I met Joe for the first time in person. Joey told us to keep an eye out for Jon Leiberman from Howard 100 News and ask him to get us on the VIP list. We got in the general admission line just in case we didn't come across Leiberman. Ass Napkin Ed wandered by as he headed down to the VIP line.

After 15 minutes or so Joey came back and hung out talking to us for a few minutes. MTV News was there filming fans and they asked Joey for an interview. Joey did the interview and I was on camera next to him. You can see the video here. Joey took a stroll after the MTV interview. Not too much later Joey came back and told us to come with him. He'd gotten us on the VIP list thanks to Jon Leiberman. Awesome!

People like Mariann from Brooklyn and Bobo were on the VIP list and waiting in the VIP line on the other side of the theater entrance. We took a walk down and Mariann was in full Superfan mode. She had her signs and was out pumping up the fans. There were news cameras and screaming fans all over the place. I spoke to Mariann and Bobo who seemed pretty happy to see me there. That was a pretty great feeling. A bunch of other great fans were saying hi and seemed happy to see me too. Again it was awesome. This really was a Stern event.

Mariann walked along the line getting everyone going while we followed along. Jon Leiberman was there reporting on what was happening. After he did some interviews with Mariann, Ass Napkin Ed, Joey Boots and a bunch of others he grabbed my wife for a quick interview about what it's like being ''Mrs. Friggin.'' I got in on that a little bit as well. (It aired a few weeks later. Hopefully the link still works.)

We all headed back to the VIP line since the show start time was getting a little closer. We still had a couple of hours to kill though. While we waited in the VIP line some more Wack Packers like High Pitch Eric and Double A showed up. Dan the Song Parody Man came by too. Gary Dell'Abate walked by after leaving the first taping. Then Richie Wilson and Rachel Fine came by and said hi. It was great to meet Rachel for the first time. I met a few other fans who I'd been in touch with over the years. One of my favorite reactions was from Ultimate Stern Superfan Trivia winner, Barbara Younger. I don't think I've gotten reactions like that from my own family. This whole night was amazing already.

After going through a security check, where they took everyone's cell phones and cameras, we were seated in the ''VIP'' section of the first balcony. Mariann, Bobo, High Pitch Eric, Double A and Ass Napkin Ed were all nearby, but not for long. Down on the main floor there was another VIP section. It wasn't long before Mariann and Bobo were moved down there. They were maybe 20 feet from where the judges would be sitting. I was jealous but I had Ass Napkin Ed sitting in front of me. That turned out to be a show in itself. More on that soon.

While people were being seated in this VIP section I noticed Fred Norris, his wife and daughter about 15 feet away. They were being seated up here? Behind High Pitch Eric? The hell? The event staff obviously didn't know who they had up there. Once again it wasn't long before they moved the Norris family down to the VIP section on the floor.

Robin Quivers showed up not long after Fred. Ralph Cirella, Benjy Bronk and his girlfriend, Doug Goodstein, Mike Gange and a bunch of other Stern Staffers were down there on the floor as well. It is Howard's home town so I guess it's no surprise that so many of the staff showed up.

It wasn't too long after we got in that the warm up guy, Jay Flats,came out and warmed us up. This is where the magic of TV kind of goes away. They have the audience faking reactions for funny or shocking things. I guess so they can insert some of these phony reactions into the show. That was kind of a bummer to be a part of but that's the way they do this stuff. So be it.

Next up they brought out the judges. Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne got applause and cheers but when Howard came out, the cheers were deafening. Not long after they came out the first act came out and the show started. I guess they don't want anyone spoiling who is moving on to the next round or lost out so I won't give any spoilers. I will say that there were a couple of pretty cool acts during this taping.

The taping is a pretty slow process. We got in shortly after 5 and didn't get out until about 9pm. I don't know exactly how many acts we saw but it didn't seem like more than about 8 (Edit: I've been told it was probably closer to double that. Maybe Ed had me more distracted than I thought). It was fun to see the process. Howard was very funny. Howie was great too. Sharon was okay but not like Howie and Howard.

During the taping Ass Napkin Ed was sitting in front of us. He was out of it. I'm assuming he had something to drink. He was all over his seat and almost passing out behind his female friend who drove him to the event. Ed came close to falling over the rail of the balcony at one point. He was hanging on the rail above his head in his seat and leaned up against a stranger in the seat next to him. On more than one occasion he went off to the bathroom, I think, and when he came back he had no idea where his seat was. His friend would wave her arms and yell out his name and Ed still had no idea where his seat was. He was only 10 feet away from the waving friend. Then he'd yell out his signature ''8-19'' to Howard whenever he got a chance. This was going on for the whole taping. He came close to getting thrown out. I think if he wasn't a Wack Packer he would have been tossed out.

I still haven't met Howard Stern. I've gotten to say hi to just about everyone else on the show. There was no chance of getting close to Howard this time. I came close to saying hi to Fred after the show. We were walking to the parking garage when I saw a fan taking a photo with him. If I had run up I probably could have bugged the guy but he was with his family and they were walking home so I left him alone.

In the 6 or so years America's Got Talent has been on the air I don't think I've watched more than 3 minutes. I didn't have a lot of interest in the show before now. Even before this taping I wasn't sure I'd be watching the full season. After seeing the way Howard, Sharon and Howie interact with each other and with the ''talent'' I think I will be watching every episode. I may just try to get into the live shows this summer too.

One last thing before I end this rambling nonsense. Mariann from Brooklyn is not a Superfan. I'm going to call her an Ultrafan. No one does what she does. She's one of a kind. Just like Howard.

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