Sunday May 21st through, May23rd was a monumental adventure for me. On Monday the 22nd I was booked for the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” national TV show on ABC. First time on national TV since 1997, but that was cable, not network. It was also my first plane trip in almost nine years.
Boris (the director of the film about me) was going with me. Richard Brown, my friend of 20 years and connection with Jimmy Kimmel, had asked me to be on it in order to plug the documentary.
It was a good thing that the show was paying for my transportation and lodging, or I could not have afforded to go. I was being treated like royalty.
Since I hadn’t flown since before 9/11, there was much more heightened security at Philadelphia airport. But I got through baggage checking and security inspection much faster than I thought I would. Philadelphia airport had enlarged itself tremendously since I was last through it. For years it was shaped like a giant hand; now it had more fingers with extra forked fingerlets! I was going out on US Airways. When I first new it, it was called Allegheny Airlines, since it was headquartered in Pittsburgh.
I asked for forward window seats aboard both my flights. All my life I’ve always liked to observe the passing scenery when traveling. I asked for the right side of the plane for heading out, and the left side for returning.
It is always thrilling for me when it’s time to take off, with the plane zooming down the runway and then taking to the air. I imagined I was Underdog taking off, since I was asked to be in Underdog costume for the TV show. I thought of all the times I ran and then made several leaps to “take off” as Underdog in parades.
I had seven drinks on board: four cocoas and three orange juices. Outside the plane, and heading for the baggage claim area, I wanted to yell “There is no need to fear: Underdog is here!” but I was not in costume. Unlike many other performance trips by bus or train, I was in civilian dress.
The pickup driver met us as we collected our bags and we headed to the Hotel. We used La Brea Avenue and crossed Wilshire and Hollywood Boulevards in doing so. The hotel was rather old-fashioned with a pool and courtyard outside my room. The room was actually a whole suite about the same size as my apartment. Boris and Leon, the producer of Boris’s documentary, accompanied me to the room and helped me unpack.
There were no printed lists of TV channels. Searching around with the remote, I found the TV Guide Channel with its lineup grid (so vital!) and wrote a list. I noticed that some of the extra nut packs I was given by the flight attendant were actually mini-pretzels so I ate those and saved nut packs to bring to my home apartment staff as souvenirs. It was past midnight, and raining, by the time I was ready for bed.
The next morning it was still raining. In getting out my costume, I met with panic. I searched thoroughly in my suitcase and the closet, and found that I had forgotten my trunks! What if my tights sagged as a result, in the middle of my performance? When I told Boris about it, he said he and Leon would take me out to eat and to a store where I could get another pair of trunks. What relief!
They arrived just before noon-and the sun was out.
We went to the “101 Café” where I breakfasted on something I had anticipated: scrambled eggs and bacon. Then we went to a Target store where I got a pair of red shorts with white stripes down the sides. Maybe they would also serve as Supergirl trunks, if I revived her for July.
Back in my room, there was a message that the show’s escort would come between 3:30and 4:00. Since the escort and I were to walk, not drive to the studio, I decided to stay in my costume going to and from the studio. But when I was on my way, not one tourist apparently recognized my costume or me; no tourists accosted me or asked to be photographed with me.
We had to use building’s back entrance to get inside; Richard met us there. He took me to a large room which was to be my dressing room, with my name on a side panel by the door. Richard said thus was the largest dressing room and that at one time it had been Jimmy Kimmel’s office!
Boris and Leon joined me in the room a little later and talked while I had to go onstage and rehearse my number. A live band was to play the music I had asked for, “Funkytown” but there were no vocalists. I had to practice my number twice so that I knew hoe much of the song the band would do; I was limited to 90 seconds maximum to perform. Then after catching my breath, I would be interviewed by Jimmy.
I was growing increasingly nervous as time went by. I wanted to do a good performance, naturally; but I was afraid that Jimmy would poke fun of me and embarrass me in front of the whole country, the way Howard Stern had! But Richard said since he had known me for 20 years, and worked closely with Jimmy-who asked for me instead of my having contacted the show first-that Jimmy would not be snide or crude.
After rehearsal, we had some free time so Boris and Leon took me to see Chinese and Kodak Theaters. Now I saw that the stars on the sidewalk were only 15 inches across, not three feet, as they had appeared to be when photographed on TV programs. When I saw the Walk of Fame outside the Chinese Theater, I saw it was an open courtyard before the entrance; TV footage had led me to believe that it was a long stretch of sidewalk. I recognized many names there, but was not eager to find any particular one. Neither did I put my hands or feet into any of the prints to see if the sizes were the same. I saw maybe four costumed characters, but I did not speak to any of them. Boris took pictures of me in front of both theaters. But I felt so dwarfed and insignificant among all this grandiosity. No tourists recognized me or accosted me.
Back at the studio, there was a Green Room which was being catered. But the foods were all combinations, spices and mixtures I didn’t care for. The caterer asked if he could help; I asked didn’t he have something simple since my tastes were very basic; he offered to get me chopped roast chicken breast and a plain roll. His efforts proved successfully satisfactory. I was also drinking a lot of orange juice, since I had a lingering cold. When I stopped rehearsing to catch my breath, a stage minion named Josh promptly fetched orange juice and promised he would bring more after I had done my actual performance.
Richard met me back in the dressing room to rehearse the questions that would be likely asked. I knew I had to be concise, but I had to make my points clear also.
When it was time for me to go on stage I had to pray on Our Father!
I could not see the other segments that preceded me. I went onto the “Future Talent Showcase” stage in front of a giant prop star and behind a gauze curtain. I could see a live audience of maybe several hundred. Then I feared again. Once the curtain was opened and I was exposed, would some attendees, recognizing either my costume or me, hurl Stern-oriented jibes at me, and spoil everything? Their cries would certainly be picked up by the mikes.
Jimmy introduced me and the curtain opened. Afterwards, onlookers remarked that I looked nervous, but that was because I was afraid I would be heckled or mocked. The music started and the audience clapped their hands in time to it.
I did my figure-jogging well, and thankfully enjoyed myself because the audience behaved themselves. But
Since the band had no vocalist, I felt it odd that if the audience recognized the music, why didn’t they try to sing it?
When I finished, the audience screamed their heads off with delight. I had done figure-jogging successfully on national television! Jimmy came over so that now I saw him close up for the first time. He acknowledged me again and shook my hand, then said there would be a commercial break.
Josh promptly came over with the promised orange juice and I concentrated on catching my breath and preparing to be questioned. The performance had gone well, but would Jimmy be snide?
When we came back on the air, jimmy questioned me about the origins of figure-jogging, and why it should be an established sport, even an Olympic sport. Then he asked me about my involvement with Underdog, since I had been asked to be in costume. He didn’t mention the subject of Boris’s documentary until almost the last minute, and stated that it would be shown at the Atlanta Film Festival next month. He asked fewer questions than I had been prepared to answer, but thank God he didn’t make any snide or comic remarks.
He remarked that that was the end of the show and bade goodbye. The audience howled again, and I waved to them and the cameras.
Back in the dressing room, Boris, Leon and Richard congratulated me. It had gone excellently; I said they should thank God for it! It remained to be seen if I would be asked for additional appearances if this one were received well.
On the way back LAX airport had very long check-in lines. Underdog is leaving! Goodbye, LA! Will I be asked back?
When we were landing the plane was coming down very fast. Again I thought of the movements I made for parades, this time those ones for when Underdog was making his landing at the end of a parade. WE were on the ground and Underdog was home. During the trip I had not seen any cats, although I had seen a few dogs, once home I was happy to be reunited with my cat Ebony. I spent Wednesday and Tuesday getting back to my regular routines and compiling the blog. Now the story is complete for the public to enjoy.