I joined the AP in 2000 when I split from my wife. I had to move to New York City for the job. My recruiter found me an apartment in Queens, a 25 minute subway ride from the AP’s headquarters at 50 Rockefeller – yup, right beside 30 Rock, for those familiar with the Tina Fey’s NBC ‘30 Rock’ TV series starring her and Alec Baldwin.
There was a small pub on 53rd Street, Fiddlers Green, where lots of AP and NBC folks hung out. (If you lived in North Bay in the 70’s, you’ll know this name, but no, this is not the same owner). I was lucky to meet Joe T., and senior video producer for the Dateline show. After a couple of drinks, we usually ended up hanging out together for an hour or two. One evening in early December, he invited me on one of his annual pilgrimages.
Each year there’s a big to-do in Rockefeller Plaza when they light the Christmas tree. They go on and on about where they sourced the tree, how tall it is, and how many hours it took to string 50 billion little lights all over it. Joe’s tradition was to rent a stretch limo for a few hours, load it with friends, models and alcohol, and drive around mid-town Manhattan and gawk at all the gawkers. That was followed by the annual NBC Christmas party on the 28th floor of 30 rock, which is made even more exciting because the performing artist for the tree lighting ceremony usually comes up and joins in. This particular year it was Sheryl Crow, and I’m a big fan.
But this particular year was also 2002, a little after the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center. The word was that Sheryl wouldn’t be coming up due to security concerns. So after a long day of limo’ing, drinking, and partying with NBC, I headed home around 11:30pm. And of course, Sheryl changed her mind and joined the party at midnight. Crap.
If you spend enough time in New York City (I was there for seven years), you’ll inevitably bump into some big stars. But New Yorkers have a code that us newcomers are taught in fairly short order: When you see a star, you can nod, wink, smile, or otherwise acknowledge them, but running up and breathlessly nagging for an autograph is frowned upon. Not cool.
In upcoming posts: How I almost (and in some cases, actually did) meet Elton John, Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Al Gore, and Robert DeNiro.