So, the center of the universe came to the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills last Saturday night.
The annual PaleyFest, hosted by the Paley Center for Television Arts & Sciences, welcomed members of the cast and producers of "LOST" for a panel discussion about the show's final season.
The line-up was impressive: Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Eddy Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Elizabeth Sarnoff, and Jack Bender represented the production team. As for the cast, Nestor Carbonell, Zuleikha Robinson, Michael Emerson, and Terry O'Quinn were there. Apparently, Daniel Dae Kim was also scheduled to appear, but due to the tsunami warning, which gripped the population of Hawaii earlier in the day after the horrible 8.8 earthquake in Chile, he was not able to attend.
This night was one of those -- as the cliche goes -- I'll never forget. Seriously, so many amazing things happened that I am still reeling in the afterglow. So, here's the story:
Jason and I drove through the weirdest rain ever on our way to Beverly Hills. One moment, the downpour was so overwhelming I couldn't see out of the windshield. The next, the rain was gone and clouds were parted. It was truly bi-polar weather (and I know a thing or two about bi-polar). Yet, somehow, despite the weirdness of California rain, we managed to make it to Beverly Hills a little over an hour after we left my place in Grand Terrace.
So we get to Beverly Hills with an hour before showtime. We're both starving. We need food. So, where do we go?
That's right. Del Taco -- the fanciest fast food in all of Beverly Hills. Oh, yeah!
It was a unique experience driving into Beverly Hills. We're on La Cienega, driving through a run-down part of LA. Graffiti is all over the buildings. Storefronts are worn-down; many are vacant victims of the economy. There's trash in the gutters, homeless people hidden under piles of newspaper on the sidewalks, and the dim flashes of fast food signs on every street corner. Then, suddenly, with no warning, the setting changed. The street lights had banners for the Museum of Modern Art on them, advertising the Monet exhibit currently going on. The parking meters accepted Visa and MasterCard. There were no storefronts, just towering onyx buildings with lighted windows flickering like stars.
I've never really been to Beverly Hills before, and I've lived in Southern California all my life. I felt like a tourist as we passed Rodeo Drive and Ferrari/Maserati dealerships. Our destination was in the shadow of the Flynt Publications building. The experience was overwhelming. Despite having been to LA a million times, I'd never been on this side. It was like being a kid again.
Jason and I finally made it to the Saban Theatre about fifteen minutes before the panel was supposed to start. The line of people waiting to get in was already around the block. Being impatient, I started cursing. Our tickets were for the mezzanine level, but there were no seat numbers, so I just knew we were going to get the shittiest seats in the house. Shit. Fuck. Goddamn!
Nonetheless, we had an ace-in-the-hole. Jason, you see, has Cerebral Palsy. He's twisted like a pretzel and walks with a cane. When we walk in crowded places, he has to hold on to my arm like a little old woman being walked across the street. What's so funny about this is that whenever Jason holds onto me like this, we inevitably get those looks from the people around us that scream "hey, they're gay!"
I was in such a hurry to get to the theatre on time that after we parked in the parking garage, and took the elevator to the bottom floor of the Flynt building, I absentmindedly walked Jason into the revolving door that exited onto the street. We got stuck in there before he could point out the normal doors next to us. The night watchman saw us trapped in there and started laughing. That was when I really started cussing up a storm; in between laughs.
When we got to the theatre, we realized how we could get out of the mezzanine crowd problem. Jason's disability! The Americans with Disabilities Act! Accusations of discrimination for making a man with Cerebral Palsy walk up a long staircase because there were no elevators in the lobby! Hallelujah!
Fortunately, we didn't have to do anything so blatantly manipulative. The house manager saw us and told us he'd take care of everything. While he did this, we enjoyed looking around the gorgeous lobby of this breathtaking classic theatre. Everything was gilded and trimmed in burgandy. The staircases looked straight out of the classic Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney.
A few minutes passed and the house manager returned. He'd set up two folding chairs at the back of the orchestra section on the handicap ramp. So, not only did we get seats roughly 70 feet from the stage, we were elevated on a ramp so no one's big fat head could obscure our vision. This was fucking incredible! We were high-fiving for what seemed like all fifteen minutes of the opening presentations by the Paley Center people -- you know, all that self-congratulatory bullshit.
Then the main event started with Damon and Carlton introducing a special sneak peak of tomorrow night's episode. I will not spoiler it here, but it was fantastic! We were practically wetting ourselves in joy.
The panelists were then introduced and it all began. I'm not going to go into all of the reveals here, partially because some of what was said was spoilery, but mostly because other websites -- DocArzt, Watch with Kristin, Entertainment Weekly -- have already covered the most important points. If you want to know everything, check out those sites (they're all linked on the sidebar). Also, you can check out my Twitter archives -- I posted all the happenings there, too.
What I will do, though, is share some of my favorite moments of the night:
1) Terry O'Quinn coming on stage. The man is huge and muscular. He pretty much towered over all the other panelists.
2) Zuleikha Robinson is absolutely stunning in person. As Ilana, she's obviously attractive, but the small screen does not do her justice. She was radiant.
3) Opening question: "Why aren't there any monkeys on the Island?"
4) Second question: "Will there be a musical episode this season, and if so, will there be a rapping duet featuring Locke and Ben?"
5) When asked about loose plot threads, Damon compared it to one of his favorite television shows, Top Chef. He said writing LOST is like when the chefs go shopping and they just toss ingredients in their carts; it's not until they get to the kitchen that they realize what they're going to use or not.
6) They were asked about Disney potentially turning Tom Sawyer's Island into a LOST-themed attraction and what rides should be included. Damon stole the show by saying the best ride would involve the rider being trapped in a dark room, spun around, and then hit in the face -- that would give them the true LOST experience.
7) Terry O'Quinn shared a funny story about how in Hawaii people will just hop onto the back of a person's pick-up truck and go as far as they can. One day, he hopped in the back of a guy's truck and the driver recognized him. "Can I take you home to meet my wife?" The man asked. Terry reluctantly agreed, but when they got to the man's home, he walked up to his own door and knocked, spoke to a woman briefly, then returned to Terry and said, "Can I take you home?"
8) When discussing their personal favorite moments while working on the show, Terry O'Quinn shared that he loved hanging out with the cast between takes. Michael Emerson would be reading a book; Naveen Andrews would be playing his guitar and everyone else would be singing along. And, he shared that he absolutely loved watching Jorge Garcia do his impression of Elvis Presley singing "Are You Lonesome Tonight," complete with speaking parts.
9) Nestor Carbonell was asked about his favorite moment, and he said: "Finding out who the hell I am." Damon Lindelof added: "I'm 36 years old and would love to get a script telling me who the hell I am."
10) Darlton shared that the scene between Sun and Widmore in front of the Thames in London at the end of season 4 was often accused of being bad CGI work. Ironically, it wasn't. They had to film there because Alan Dale was performing in Spamalot at the time.
11) Shit fairies. Eddy Kitsis shared about the writing process and how after having a great idea he would return to work the next day and realize it was shit, which meant the "Shit fairies" had arrived.
12) Damon gave this spoiler: "There is no Santa Claus."
13) An audience member asked, "Will we find out why Ben Linus is included in the Sideways world?" To which Michael Emerson said, "Well, it's been answered satisfactorily for me."
14) Someone asked: "Since so many characters have daddy issues, is there something you all need to share with us?" Damon proceeded to tell us, on a personal note, that shortly before the first season started, his father passed away, so he found writing LOST helpful in dealing with his feelings about his relationship with his own dad.
But, my favorite moment of the panel was when I was passed the microphone and allowed to ask a question! Yes, me! When the usher pointed at me during the proceeding question, I was really calm and happy. But once it dawned on me that I was going to speak to my heroes, my gut started to tremble, and my limbs got tingly. Still, I took the mic and proceeded to say:
Me: "I'm an English teacher, and I'd just like to thank you guys for providing me with a bunch of great literary device examples with which to bore my students."
Me: "I do have a question, though. In the season 5 episode, 'Namaste,' Sun and Frank go to the barracks and it looks like the Dharma Initiative never left. Was this intentional, or was it a mistake?"
Then Jack Bender spoke and asked me what my house looked like.
Then Damon spoke and explained the history of the barracks to me before telling me I was wrong.
Michael Emerson looked ready to hang me.
Man, I thought about it and realized I sounded like a total dick!
I called out the LOST team on a "mistake?" What the fuck was I thinking?
Jason was laughing his ass off at me. I think that was his favorite moment of the night, too, watching me make a fool of myself. Why couldn't I have just asked a softball question, like "Are we going to see Vincent again?" Or "What's going on with Rose and Bernard?"
Oh well. At least I won't forget it.
The best moment of the night, though, came at the very end, after the panel was done. The actors and producers remained on stage to meet the fans and provide autographs. I went on up there, carrying this journal I've had since 1996, filled with notes and doodlings. During season 3, I started drawing portraits of LOST characters in there, though, and one of them was of Ben Linus. I made a bee-line to Michael Emerson, who was next to Damon Lindelof, and after a few moments of working my way through the crowd, I got Damon's attention and he signed the picture and showed it to Michael as well.
Emerson signed a picture I drew of him!
I'll be posting this image soon, once I can get a clear scan of it. I've already removed it from my journal and plan on getting it framed so I can put it up in my office. [Update: the picture is posted. Click on the link in the previous paragraph, or here.]
I got my autographs and ran back to Jason, only to find him missing. He was in the lobby, and I learned that while I had been up front meeting my heroes, he had tripped and fallen on the floor. He does this a lot, but I did feel a bit like a jerk. Just not for long.
I know this post has been a very long one, but there was just soooo much to write about. I wish I had more photos to show you, but unfortunately none of my pics inside the theatre came out. All in all, though, it was a fabulous evening! I feel honored to have gone and been there -- all the other great stuff was just icing.