By: John Hood Photo Credit: Jason Koerner
The only thing planned about the gambits was that there’d be gambits. Beyond that, even I wouldn’t have gambited to guess. And of course it was I who’d be taking the gambits. But you see enough shows, and you hang around enough backstages, and you interview enough bold-face names, and, well, you develop a sorta second sense about celebrity. It’s a key ingredient when you’re angling to interview, whether you’ve been given a certain Yes, a definite Maybe or an unequivocal No.
For Seth Meyers’ Citi Presents appearance at the Fillmore Gleason, I’d been given the unequivocal No. The denial had nothing to do with the outlets I’d proposed (in this case BlackBook and Tropicult), nor was it personal (so I was told anyway). Meyers simply wasn’t talking.
I didn’t blame the man; not in the least. Despite my desire. I mean, not only would Meyers be cracking wise non-stop for a good 90 minutes that night, but he spends five outta five Late Nights cracking answers outta others.
But I actually thought that last fact might help me to find favor with the talk show host. In my bright-sided mind, it was precisely because Meyers devoted so much time interviewing others that he’d be amenable to having others interview him. Oh, not just for the obverse perspective (though there was that), but because he’d be empathetic to the interviewer.
No matter. You don’t wind-up getting to go face-to-face with everyone from Tori Amos to Gore Vidal by taking No for a final answer. And I wasn’t about to start now. Still, even someone about to ignore the negative has to show some kinda decorum, be it on account of the venue, the celebrity, or oneself and the represented outlet(s). So after Meyers bid everyone a “Good Night” I didn’t immediately rush backstage and knock on the door of his dressing room. Instead, I lurked. And I listened. Then, when I discovered Meyers would be hosting a Citi Private Pass Meet & Greet, I acted as if I belonged to the chosen few all along.
The Austin Burke-bought suit helped, of course. As did my unshakable inner confidence. Both results of decades in the field. See I’d long ago learned that a suit can open doors everywhere from Park Avenue to Cabrini Green. I’ve also discovered that without confidence to spare, you’re going nowhere. Together the two will put enough skip in your step to take you anywhere.
That said, there’s always a chance you’ll be found out, especially backstage, where staff is ever on a heightened sense of security for the talent. Oh, it’s not so much for any inherent danger, mind you. But because there’s always some superfan seeking to get a little too close for comfort. So as the small crowd of Citi people made their way to the VVIP, I broke off and instead barged into the office of my pal Sigi.
As always, the Fillmore’s most rock ‘n’ roll operative seemed glad to see me. Whether or not he always is glad to see me I’d rather not know. He acts as if he is, and that’s good enough for me. Then again, Sigi’s old school cool, old world mannered, and old-fashioned nice. Combine that with my knack of knowing when NOT to stick around, and, well, everyone’s glad.
Half a beer worth of chat and I’m off; just in time to catch Meyers making a b-line back down the hall to his dressing room. As far as collidings go, this came off like clockwork.
“Dynamite show, Seth Meyers. Positively dynamite.”
When a cat in a suit and a hat bearing compliments blocks your path, there’s pretty much no choice but to stop in your tracks. Meyers did just that.
“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
In addition to being a gentleman though, Meyers is also a pro, in every sense of the word, and he can candidly look you in the eye while scoping out an escape with the best of ‘em. I could sense a peripheral escape plan in the making, so I came forth with the next guarantee track stopper: the extended hand.
“I’m John Hood.”
It’s amazing how instinctive it is to say your own name to someone when meeting for the first time, even for a celebrity.
“Yeah, I know.”
Half laughs all around.
“It was really cool of you to come to Miami.”
“Thanks. It was really cool of Miami to have me.”
And by the time Meyers had mirrored my third gambit (the parlay), he’d ended the shake, turned me 180 degrees, and was back on his b-line, begging pardon all the while.
“I’ve got a ton of family upstairs I better get back to.”
Twenty feet later, I Hail Mary gambit number 4: the fan shot.
“Excuse me, Mr. Meyers.” (Always show extra respect, especially when you’re about to make a fool of yourself.) “Would you mind please doing a quick fan boy shot?”
Meyers probably rather would have not, but by this time a gaggle of Citi folk were coming our way and No was not an option. Not a clean one anyway.
In three strides, Meyers was again by my side, and it was the Citi folk who were now blocked from progressing. Thank Zeus these Citi folk were cool; hell, they probably dug the diversion too. One cat did anyway.
“I’ll take the shot for you.”
“Excellent! You rock, my friend.”
I slipped him my Galaxy without providing any helpful hints other than “swipe and go” and I ignored his muttering about not knowing how to operate Android, hoping the stuck would work as a sorta stall and give me time enough to risk yet another gambit.
Of course, if any kid can grab any phone, sight unseen, and start snapping right away, some Citi swell isn’t gonna have any problem whatsoever. And frankly by the time the guy completed the sentence “I don’t use Android” he had the phone pointed in photo-taking direction. Lucky for me The Fillmore’s official lensman, Jason Koerner, happened along just then.
“Let me get in on this too.”
“Yes, please do.”
Under usual circumstances, I’d make a bit of a to-do and introduce the photog, but I could tell I had no time for good manners. Koerner’s rapid-fire shuttering though did give me a couple extra precious seconds. Time enough for that last gambit.
“Thanks so much, Seth. That was way cool.”
“You know I normally do these fanboy shots after I’ve done the interview; this time I guess it’s in lieu of an interview.”
My attempt to half-laugh it off got another half-laugh from Meyers too. More importantly, the line was enough to half-interrupt his escape plan and get him to thinking. In fact, I could see the spark in his eyes — ‘who’s this guy in the suit and the hat and the tie and why’s he talking interview?’ It was merely a pregnant second or three, but it was there. And for that pregnant second or three, so was the interview.
Then, just as quick as it came, the maybe evaporated in a cloud of ‘get with’ or ‘get back to it’ or ‘gotta get outta here’ or whatever other kinda ‘there goes the get’ you can imagine. And Meyers was back on his b-line, for the third and final time.
“Thanks again!” said I to the retreating Seth Meyers.
“Thank YOU!” said the retreating Seth Meyers to me.
The gambits also got me this sorta story. Is it something I’ll dine out on for awhile? Unlikely. But it is a story I’ll use the next time I cross paths with Seth Meyers.
Oh, there will be a next time alright. Bet on it. So while I may not have gained all the advantage I sought; I did seek advantage. And that’s the only way to ever get gambits to pay off.