Last Friday, Gwen and I snuck into the Oprah taping live in Central Park. As we settled into our seats inside the lighting booth, I mapped out the best route through the crowd for when I pulled my Kanye. I rehearsed my lines for Gwen, “Congrats and Imma let you finish, but Phil Donohue had the best talk show of all time. ALL TIME!”
Some tech dude walked by distributing the schedule for the program and instantly, we both clammed up trying to look slightly less fraudulent. I peeked at the sheet on the console.
“Mariah Carey is the guest?” I practically screamed.
“Um. I guess so. Are you going to be ok?” Gwen looked a little nervous.
I practiced my relaxation breathing and looked at Matt.
“Regis and Kelly will be here, too. Does that help?”
Oy Vey. (Oh and Happy New Year to those celebrating, BTW!)
The Sony flashbacks rolled over me – the ponchos, the Paul Newman’s salsa, the white carpet, the livestock – the HORROR. The guy next to me in the headset clenched his teeth muttering the words I’ve spoken far too many times, “The PROBLEM is MARIAH.” Say it again, my brother.
Once upon a time, there lived a nice Carolina girl who moved to the big bad city to revolutionize the music industry. After downloading far too much porn for her boss at the booking agency, she somehow weaseled her way into a job at Columbia Records…where Mariah quickly assumed the role of Wicked Witch of the East.
Oh I know, that’s completely unfair. It’s not like she ever said a mean word to me. In fact, she never said a single word to me. She just managed to concoct the weirdest requests that seemed to get funneled further and further down the management chain until they landed in my lap.
For example, I walked in to the office extra early one Tuesday, because Mariah had an in-store at Rockefeller Plaza later that evening. The weather was horrible and I was soaked through and through since I was new to the whole walking everywhere angle and lacked the proper rain gear. I threw my bag in a corner, powered up the computer, slipped off my shoes and put them on the register to dry.
Before my butt even hit the chair, my boss was leaning on my desk with wild eyes.
“Mariah doesn’t want her fans to get wet.”
“Aw, that’s sweet of her.”
“She wants to get ponchos for the people waiting in line for tonight.”
“All seven hundred and thirteen of them?”
“Yup. Can you get them there by 10am?”
Oh yeah, there’s a whole mess of a story there involving me, a System of a Down HUMMER, and a trip to Brooklyn. Maybe I’ll type that one up later this week if nothing else exciting happens. But that’s not my favorite Mariah story. All you really need to know is I DID pull it off, but not by 10am. Now as for my favorite Mariah story…
I was new to my position as Executive Assistant to the VP of Sales. Executive Assistant wasn’t exactly an aspiration of mine, but I’m a huge fan of eating and sleeping indoors…and health insurance. So I took the gig and tried to not suck at it.
My three minute orientation was primarily a diatribe on how important it was to not piss off the label chiefs or their assistants. The words “They will end you,” still rang in my ears as I plugged away on my computer. I was knee deep in assistant-ness, and making the most of my boss being trapped upstairs in a meeting. But despite my best efforts, I kept getting distracted by the sound of kids down the hall.
“That’s odd,” I thought to myself. “It’s not even Dog and Baby Day.” (Fridays were unofficially bring-in-your-small-dependent-mammal-to-work days.) I fielded a few phone calls and tried to ignore the noise. It kept getting louder.
I heard someone ask the receptionist for directions to my boss’s office, so I tipped my chair back and craned my neck to see what was headed down the hall. In shock, I promptly toppled over backwards knocking the Destiny’s Child Platinum Record plaque noisily to the floor.
There, walking down the long gray hall towards my desk was a motley crew. There were approximately four guys from building security, two women in snazzy suits (one of whom was carrying a giant basket of orchids, Sambuca, and strawberries), a ridiculously skinny intern looking guy carrying a huge crystal vase filled with at least four dozen roses, a woman clad in a Lambchop costume and red stiletto heals, and four live lambs wearing diapers.
I crawled under my desk and hid. I could hear the lambs bleating as well as my phone ringing. Before I could even close my gaping maw, one of the lambs had joined me under the desk while another gnawed on my chair. Were they wearing diapers? My horror was interrupted by a knock above my head.
“Is Tom in?” one of the suit clad ladies chirped.
“Um. No. He’s in a meeting.” I tried to gracefully rise to my feet but a third lamb rounded the corner crashing into my desk chair and resulting in a three-lamb-one-Elly pile up.
I held up one finger and smiled awkwardly as I answered the three lines blinking madly on the phone. The intern guy set the vase down on my desk, sloshing water onto a pile of urgent paperwork. Unable to resist wet paper, lamb #2 was back on the desk chair and making quite a meal of the sales orders, just out of the reach of the phone cord. Meanwhile half of the 24th floor had congregated around my desk to see what all the bleating was about.
“Tom’s in a very important meeting. Do you have an appointment?”
“Mariah just wanted to say thanks for yet another number one record.”
“That’s lovely. I’ll be sure to pass on that message. Congrats to her!”
She shot her eyes to the side and subtlety jerked her head towards Lambchop. “We’d really like to thank him in person.”
Lamb #1 had set to chewing on the electrical cords under my desk. Lamb #3 had joined #2 in dining on my paperwork, and #4 was pushing the fruit basket dangerously close to the flower vase. I took a deep breath and called the label chief’s assistant.
Turning my back on the rapidly growing crowd, I covered my mouth as I whispered into the mouthpiece, “I really need Tom.”
“Um, right. You know who he’s meeting with right? You know there’s no way I’m interrupting that for anything short of death.”
“I might die. There’s a bunch of sheep and Lambchop is here and they need to see Tom and they’re eating the papers and crushing the strawberries and I don’t know what to DOOOOOOO.” Smooth, El. Way to sound professional. I suddenly realized my hands were shaking.
“You know, this isn’t funny. I’m very busy up here.”
“Look, I’m new at this. I’ve never dealt with livestock before and they won’t leave until they see Tom. Please. Help me.” I turned to watch as all the interns on the floor posed for photos with Lambchop.
“Just come up here.”
“Who’s going to watch the sheep?!”
She hung up on me.
“Um…I’m going to see if I can pull him out of the meeting. Do you mind waiting a moment?”
“Can you also try and keep the sheep away from my paperwork?”
“They’re lambs honey. Lambchop. She calls everyone Lamby, remember?”
“Um. Right. Be right back.”
I flew up the stairs and flung myself on the couch in near hysterics.
“Please, Cathy. I’m begging you. Is there any way to slip a note to Tom and he can just duck out for two minutes? They won’t go away and I think Mariah may be in the suit and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to the sheep.” I was panting trying to get all the information out.
She picked up the phone and dialed the inter-office line. “I think you and Tom need to step out here a moment.”
Two of the most intimidating men I’ve ever known stomped out of the office, slammed the door behind them, and towered over me with furrowed brows. I tried to bring them up to speed.
“Mariah wants to thank you but she’s wearing a Lambchop outfit and her manager won’t go away and the sheep are spilling water and eating your messages and the entire label staff except we four is crowding around my desk eating strawberries and taking photos with Lambchop and I really just have no idea what to do. Please. Please please please. Please make them go away.”
“There’s sheep in the building?” Tom’s boss calmly asked.
“I guess technically they’re lambs. They’re wearing diapers.”
“How did they get through security?”
“Well, Sir, security is with them. They aren’t on leashes. It’s a frickin’ mess.”
The two men exchanged glances while I looked apologetic and tried not to hyperventilate. Yup, I was going to be one calm, cool, collected execu-assistant. This was my calling.
I suspect I began audibly whimpering because when I looked up, he nodded at Cathy and started walking towards the door with Tom. “I have to see this for myself.”
Oh yay! Now I’d have an even bigger audience. I scrambled after them.
Back on our floor, we had to elbow through the crowd that had amassed during my brief absence. A quick survey of my desk showed massive damage. My keyboard was under the back half of one of the lambs, while the majority of my mouse was in his mouth. The vase now only had about three inches of water and one dozen roses left. The remainder of the water and flower carnage was strewn amongst my paperwork and personal belongings. That same damn lamb was still comfortable in my chair as he gnawed on blood red petals. My coat was three feet from where I’d left it and the right sleeve was covered in animal drool. This was NOT in the job description.
Tom graciously sauntered through the crowd, shaking hands and smiling. He embraced Lambchop and posed good naturedly for photos. He and the manager chatted for a full thirty seconds before shaking hands heartily. Tom voiced his thanks once again for the crowd to hear, and promptly disappeared into his office. The whole thing took two minutes at most.
…and the sheep and the crowd and Lambchop were still there. “Don’t leave me!!” I screamed mentally, just in case I’d suddenly developed psychic skills. No go.
Once the strawberries were gone, the crowd slowly dissipated. Eventually, someone decided the lambs needed to return to their homes. Lambchop and crew finally left me in peace to try and reconstruct my desk.
I haven’t listened to a Mariah record since…at least until the Oprah recording. Fortunately we were several blocks away from the Central Park Zoo. Had I heard the bleating along with the trilling, I might have imploded.