A magical Hollywood tale
*I have debated back and forth whether or not to share this story. It's not about me. It's really not. At the end of the day, it's a story of the kindness and generosity of multiple people (read: strangers). There's a quote that roughly says, "Do not hesitate to do for one what you cannot do for all." Because of these people's kind hearts and uncalled for effort, Ryan and I were able to experience a lifetime memory together. We are grateful. This is our story of what it felt like to be on the receiving end of outrageous generosity. Side note: Before telling a story, my brother used to say, "To make a short story long…" And that is exactly what has happened here. It's a long one. Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
I grew up watching "Full House" like it was my job. Every single Friday night, I'd lay blankets out on the living room floor, arrange popcorn in little bowls for my family and que up the TV for some TGIF. God help us all if they were airing reruns that night. What was anticipated to be a thrilling, nail biter episode of Uncle Jesse's hair antics or DJ's high school drama left me with the mundane reality my own entirely-less-fun little siblings, useless popcorn and broken dreams. Like, what a waste of a Friday. I was really into the show, OK?
Earlier this summer, I introduced Ryan to "FULLER House", the original show's spinoff which airs on Netflix. I have enjoyed it and I thought he'd be at the age where he'd like it too. He did. He SO did. At some point it was announced that Fuller House would begin filming their fifth and FINAL season. Somewhere around that time, I started casually researching what it would take to see a live taping. I found out that a ticketing company is contracted and distributes tickets on behalf of the production company.
It's sort of a good news/ bad news situation. Tickets are actually free via their website. However, they are first-come, first-served and even once obtained, they are not guaranteed. This means that the production company issues a number of VIP tickets for guests of the cast and crew and any remaining seats go to the general admission ticket holders (us) in order to fill seats — which is determined about an hour before each show. Tickets are available online 30 days (down to the minute) prior to a taping and just like waiting for the jump ropes of double-dutch to open up, I pounced. I was miraculously able to snag two general admission tickets in the 90 second window from when they went live to when they were sold out. Have Mercy!
Next step: Ask Ryan if he even wants to go and see a taping. He said absolutely, he would. Next, check for our flight options. We had airline miles to burn and found some great flights. Booked them. Next, ask my cousins if they wouldn't mind housing us for a couple nights while we lived out this wild hair of a trip. They said yes. Well then. Boom! It's happening! During the few weeks that followed, I tracked the other tapings, fan reports, just your standard Instagram (hashtag stalker) research type stuff. What I found wasn't great. People with general admission tickets were having a hard time getting into the live tapings. VIP lists were getting longer as the opportunities (only eight shows left to film) were getting shorter; coupled with summer being a big travel season. Makes sense. Also made me nervous.
Three days before our flight to LA, I got an email from the ticketing company saying they were sorry but there was only a slim chance any of us with general admission tickets would get in. The week prior to ours, only two out of 100 people got in, and they did so by showing up to the check in area (a glorified parking garage) at 3:45 a.m. The demand was simply too high.
Sigh. OK. Regroup. After talking it over with my husband, we decided it was still a worthwhile trip because Ryan would be starting Middle School in two weeks and that time spent together would be valuable. We could hit the beach, visit some cool restaurants and enjoy time with cousins. Super. We are going.
Morning of. We take off out of Bend on a puddle jumper and land in Portland. While in the air, I look at Ryan and I'm overcome with gratitude that I get to take this trip with him. I get a little teary and sentimental. He's growing up. Fast. And I get to share these memories just me and him. We had time to kill during our layover so we ate lunch and charged our devices. We were waiting at our gate for our flight to Burbank when it happened.
I see a man in a hat, regular plain glasses, an unbuttoned button up shirt, jeans and Vans. Very Portland. He's sort of hiding behind a pillar... but now he's walking to hide behind another pillar. On his walk between the two, he seems to peek at our terminal for a flight status update. I'm suspicious it's one of our most favorite comedians. A Saturday Night Live legend and brilliant impressionist, Fred Armisen. I quickly Google him to do a comparison and then text my husband to alert him of my suspicion. I know it's him. And now I'm (internally) freaking out. No one is approaching him. No one is bothering him. Is that because they just don't know or is it because they are all so cool with Fred Armisen being in Portland and it's just so regular that they don't make a big deal? Well, I can't take it a minute longer so here it comes. Ryan agreed to come with me and we approach him.
I reach out my arm and say, "Can I shake your hand? You are a legend. We love your work. You are hilarious and brilliant. Your contribution to comedy is the gift that keeps giving and we are so, so grateful for you. Thank you for doing what you do." He kindly looks up and shakes my hand, humbly denying the legend part. I say, "This is my son, Ryan." Fred Armisen shakes his hand, too. We went on to talk for a whole 15 minutes. He said they filmed Portlandia for eight years, hard to believe. I told him one of my favorite bits he did was "The Californians" on SNL. He laughed. Then he asked if we lived in LA. "No we live in Central Oregon. We flew over this morning and now we are heading to LA for a visit."
Fred: "What are you guys going to do while you're there? Anything fun?"
Me: Pause. I look at Ryan and smile. "Well, I'm sure we will have fun... we were originally going to see a live taping of Fuller House… it's this show on Netflix..."
*In my head, I'm thinking ... Fred Armisen was a mainstay on SNL for 11 years. He is a producer, writer and actually a musician too. There's a chance he's never even heard of Fuller House. Ooof.*
"... but anyways, we have tickets but it kind of doesn't matter because we got an email saying they're essentially worthless due to the high demand for tickets of cast and crew, friends and family so, oh well. We will hit the beach or something and what can you do?"
Fred: "So you're going all the way down there and you don't even get to see the show?"
Me: "Yeah, I guess? It's OK There's not a lot we can do about it at this point. It's OK. We eat gluten free and there's a lot of options in LA for that so we are looking forward to checking out some fun spots. Flying into Burbank is so great. LAX is the worst. I avoid it at all costs."
Fred: "Huh. Wow. I wish there was something I could do... oh LAX? Definitely. There goes your day!"
Me: "Oh. Please. No. We are good. It's all good."
Fred: "If it was the Seth Meyers show, that would be an email, ya know? Do you know if it's the final, FINAL taping?"
Me: "No, no it's not. They have like, I don't know, seven-eight episodes left. But seriously, like, don't worry about it."
*Did he just say the Seth Meyers show?! In New York?!
Me: "You must have so much fun with your friends. Laughing, like, all the time. Working with such brilliant people and enjoying one another's company. I can only imagine how much fun you guys have together!"
Fred: "Totally. I mean, I remember laughing really hard as a kid, like, gut-laughing, stomach hurting ... but as an adult, yeah, there's been so much laughing."
Me: "What are you doing in Portland?"
Fred: "I was visiting my girlfriend. She directing here right now. There's actually a lot of filming happening in Portland!"
Me: "Ya know, I actually only recently realized all the cities with major filming happening in them besides Hollywood. My cousin-in-law is a producer in Atlanta and I had no idea Atlanta was such a hub for that?!"
Fred: "Oh for sure! Atlanta, I would say, is probably a bigger filming location that Hollywood, even. And then of course there's New York, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver ..."
Me: "Vancouver! I knew that because that's where the Hallmark magic happens!"
Fred: Burst of laughter. "Yep."
Me: "Amazing. Well, thank you for allowing us to interrupt you. Again, thank you for your work. It's been so, truly appreciated."
Fred: "Oh of course. I mean, you're welcome. So the two of you enjoy being together? You want to travel and spend time together?"
Me: "Yeah! Well, so far so good! We do get along pretty well. Ryan's starting middle school soon so it seemed like a good chance to make a memory. Do you have kids?"
Fred: "No, I don't. I have two nephews though."
Me: "Being an Uncle is so special. Anyways, thanks again. Would you be willing to take a picture?"
Fred: "Oh of course! Yeah!"
We take the pic and off he went as they began to board 1st class.
I was grinning ear to ear, still in shock at the exchange Ryan and I had just had with Fred. He was so nice. What a pleasure to experience kindness and exchange niceties with someone you've only seen on TV and appreciated from afar. Such an unexpected treat. For me, this trip is MADE. I spent the next hour and a half on the plane watching a Romantic Comedy I'd seen a hundred times before.
The plane lands and we grab our things. A flight attendant loudly exclaims how much she loves my earrings as we are deplaning. I tell her that I actually make them myself and they're on Etsy. She asks for a card and I reach into my purse to give her one. Well, now, if this isn't just such a fun day already. I took my basic face (and full heart) and held it high as we walked out down the ramp, onto the tarmac and into the terminal.
As we come through the doors from the tarmac and into the airport, I'm not surprised to see we are in B5. If you've ever been to the Hollywood/Burbank airport and flown Alaska Airlines, you know about B5. It's roughly the size of a walk-in closet. All the people waiting to board our plane are sitting five deep on one another's laps (not really) (kind of). There's a narrow pathway where we are to exit out through the airport towards baggage claim. I make sure Ryan is next to me and I press on. But I only make it three steps before I'm face to face with my new friend, Fred. He is standing there, facing us, phone in hand and has a big smile on his face and he says, "Oh! Good! I was worried I'd missed you! WE DID IT!"
*Uh. I look over my shoulder, certainly he's speaking to someone else. I smile and keep walking. There's no way he wants to talk with us more. He motions us over. What is happening?
Fred: (again) "We did it!"
Me: Blinking. "We did what?"
Fred: "I have to tell you, the comedy community is tight. Really tight. I talked to Bob Saget and you're in! Two tickets, right?" (He holds up two fingers, as in a peace sign)
Me: Shaking. Numb. Disbelief. "Um. Oh my gosh. You didn't have to do that!"
Fred: "All I need is your email address. I will forward you these details and you need to email this guy who arranges the seating for the show and he will set you up. Bob loved your story and it's no problem at all and I think you two should go and have a great time!"
Me: "What?! Why would you do that for us? Are you for real? I don't even know what to say! How can I thank you? Does your girlfriend like earrings? I make them! I can send them to a PO Box ..."
Fred: Laughing. Laughing.
*In my defense, the earring thing was fresh in my mind from the flight attendant exchange. I know. I know.
Me: "OK, um. My email. OK I will say it then spell it..."
I look at Ryan and he doesn't really know what's going on. What has just transpired has not registered with him… to be fair, he knows Bob Saget as "Danny Tanner" and spoiler alert, Fred did not refer to him as Danny Tanner so Ryan has some catching up to do. He asks me if he can ask Fred a question.
Fred looks at him with the kindest, most patient and earnest face.
Ryan: "Were you the voice of Cole? In the Ninjago movie?"
Fred: Smiles warmly. Kind eyes, looks directly at Ryan. "Yes. I was."
Ryan: "Wow. That is SO cool."
It's at this moment we begin walking out of the terminal, together. I feel about a billion Hollywood/Burbank Airport eyes on the three of us. Fred faced us, continuing to engage in intentional conversation as we made our way to baggage claim. I think we were his way out of there without everyone bombarding him. But that's just my assumption. He waves goodbye and tells us to enjoy LA. Oh we will, Fred.
Ryan and I get our baggage from the carousel and I'm all sorts of shocked. Is this real life? Is this how things happen in LA? It felt straight out of a movie. I could almost hear the overture music playing, climbing to the triumphant crescendo.
I dig for my phone and call my husband. He's not going to believe this… as I'm relaying to him the absurdity of what just happened (and he's appropriately freaking out), a woman approaches me with wide eyes and a hushed tone … "Was that FRED ARMISEN you were just talking to?!"
Me: "Yes! I know right?!"
This short exchange with a stranger helped confirm the reality. It wasn't a dream. Someone else saw it. It happened.
We somehow get the rental car, drive to my cousin's house and I'm convinced there will be no sleeping for me tonight. I'm wired. We share our story again with them. It's so unbelievable.
We had a super fun day with my cousin-in-law, Liz, and their 2 kids, Ava & Rocco. A gluten free vegan bakery, Breakfast at The Gratitude CafÉ (where mindfulness matters), and then dinner at the Night Market overlooking the city. Yup. LA life. Magical. I received an email back from the audience manager and our tickets, directions and details were in my inbox. We would be attending the live taping as Bob Saget's VIP guests. What is life?
The morning came and we slowly drank coffee in anticipation of the day. I was real precious about it. I took forever to get ready and out the door. Ryan and I headed out and grabbed lunch at In-N-Out on our way to the Warner Brothers studio. We parked in the parking garage and waited our turn in the check in line. We made friends with other line-folks, including the parents of the guy who wrote this particular episode. It was all very Hollywood-esque. At one moment, several of the cast members came into the parking garage, cruising in on golf carts and wielding megaphones. Apparently each week they pop out to say hello to all the fans hoping to enter and see a live taping. Andrea Barber (who plays Kimmy Gibbler) has a Vlog where she posts behind the scenes stuff. We are in the upper right corner of this photo she put on her Instagram.
Shortly after the cast visit, we are ushered through the metal detector, onto the Warner Bros lot and toward Stage 24 (which by the way, is appropriately name "The Friends Stage" due to the show that filmed there and ran for 10 seasons, breaking all kinds of records). There are trailers (dressing rooms), golf carts (main form of transportation around "the lot"), and studio tours happening as we are making our way to the sound stage. While waiting to enter, John Brotherton (who plays Matt Harmon) comes out and is heading the other direction. He shouts at Ryan, "Is that an Oregon Ducks hat?!" Ryan pipes back, "Yeah!" John says playfully, "Oooooh I'm a Beaver! And I have a bunch of OSU friends here with me tonight!" Ryan loved that exchange.
We walk into Stage 24, through another metal detector and drop our phones into plastic bags along with our ID's. We head up some stairs and see rows of chairs as the attendant seats us in our assigned "guests of Bob Saget" seats. There it is. The entire set. The front door ("It's always open!"), the living room (iconic blue plaid couch), the kitchen and the backyard. It looks so much smaller than it seems on TV. There are lights, cameras, and hanging mics all over the place. The room is very chilly and we are glad we brought sweatshirts as suggested, despite the scorching heat outside. As more audience members trickle in, a hype-man fires up the mic and begins to inform us about how the evening will go. He instructs us to laugh if we think something is funny, and also to laugh even if we think something is supposed to be funny. Apparently, laugh tracks are a thing of the past and any episode taped before a live studio audience must have actual laughter based on a genuine reaction from the crowd.
At certain moments during the filming, they would actually reset the scene from the top and change up some of the punch-lines in hopes to get a better/stronger reaction out of us. Sometimes it worked! Each scene was taped about 3-4 times and each time, the hype-man would whip us into shape, trying to get us to laugh harder. There were little breaks in between takes when the hype-man would give out candy, cookies, random items signed by the cast. One of Candace Cameron's books, a prop from the set, stuff like that. It was supposed to be motivation for staying engaged and laughing at all the right moments.
At one moment, Dave Coulier (who plays Joey) grabbed the mic and thanked us all for coming. He talked about what it meant to him to be able to come back to this group of wonderful people who have become like family to him over the years since the OG Full House. Then during the next break, Scott Weinger (who plays Steve) came out and gave away a few signed headshots from his work on Aladdin in the 1992. Next to visit the audience was Bob Saget. He had a paper in hand and said, "Is there a group here from San Antonio? Hey! Thanks for coming! Next, are there two people here who were on a plane with Fred Armisen? Did they make it tonight?"
I jump out of my seat as fast so fast and raise my hand. "Yes! That's us! Thank you! Thank you!" Bob laughed and said, "I just love that you're here! Thank you for coming!!"
At that moment, the hype-man walked over to us and handed me a script cover from this very episode that the entire cast had signed. I mean, what is happening?! Ryan and I were once again thrown into the vast psychological expanse that is known as shock.
This particular episode was unique in that they had filmed a portion of it the day before. It included multiple outdoor scenes with lots of extras and choreographed dance numbers. They filmed the episode in the studio, take by take, in order and when it was time for the recorded scenes, they played them for us on the screens in order to get our genuine reaction to each moment. I can say with confidence that this particular episode was a tremendous culmination of so much of my childhood as I watched the original Full House. It was emotional. In fact, the entire cast joined along in watching the playback of those outdoor scenes and the majority of them cried right along with us. It was a lot to take in! If you happen to watch it on Netflix, we saw episode 509.
After 3 ½ hours, that was a wrap. I should have mentioned that when we first walked into the sound stage, a portion of the audience were given purple bracelets which gave them access down onto the set after the show. They could mingle with the cast and crew, take pictures of the set and even meet some of the cast members. Ryan and I were not given any bracelets. We shrugged it off, feeling grateful to just be there!
As we were escorted out of the building, Ryan said, "I really wanted to meet Danny Tanner." Me too, buddy. So I turned around, marched right back into the building and asked a security guard, "Hey, we were not given bracelets, but is there any way to find out if we were supposed to have been given bracelets?" She directed us to a man with a clipboard named Brian. He knew who we were from the Fred/Bob/email exchange.
Brian said apologetically, "Darn, I'm all out of bracelets … but just stand here for a moment and I will be right back and I will walk you out there." Wow. All I had to do was ask nicely? The doors seemed to just keep opening.
Ryan and I walked out onto the set and it was awesome. We waited for the chance to take a picture on the iconic living room couch. In the meantime, I was playing photographer for anyone else wanting a couch pic. John Brotherton came over to our area with his Beaver peeps and started talking college football with Ryan. "You guys are going to crush us this year," John's OSU buddy said. "Yeah, I know," Ryan laughed back (Go Ducks!)
Next, we walked up to Bob Saget and introduced ourselves. He immediately and excitedly pulled out his phone and asked for a selfie with us so he could send it to Fred. "Oh, you guys! You're here! I love it! I need to get a picture with you to send to Fred! He's going to get a kick out of this!" I laughed. Sure. OK.
And then we got a selfie with him on my phone.
Bob was kind and friendly and said, "I'm so glad you guys came!"
I replied, "It's such a crazy story, you'd hardly believe it. I grew up watching Full House every Friday night! We are big fans. It's such a treat to be here."
Apparently these sound stages rent for tens of thousands of dollars a minute so the production team was ready to get us out of there. We left and took a pic with the signed script, right outside the sound stage. As mysteriously as we arrived there, we left. The walk back to the rental car was a dream.
And that's the story of how Hollywood is. It's pure magic.
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