All the rumors about being invited to be in the audience at Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen are true. The exclusive invitation, the intimate setting … the close proximity to Cohen and guests. All true.
Being invited is harder to pull off than figuring out New Math. You can’t buy tickets, nor can you “enter to win” tickets. Of course, you can score seats through various charities, typically Charity Buzz. Or I’ve read that you can just “befriend Andy or members of his staff.” Sure, no problem. Otherwise, the best way to enjoy the show is on your couch.
Or you can get invited because you write about Bravo. Which I was extremely fortunate to be able to pull off. I can thank my press credentials for the exclusive invitation, but regardless of how I got there, I was able to experience something that will stay with me forever.
This is why my cousins would make terrible Real Housewives
Access to WWHL is more exclusive than gaining entrance into Studio 54 in the 1970s. I learned only 29 people make up the audience each night, and my contact could graciously grant me two invites.
Since I was visiting New York City for my daughter’s 18th birthday I wanted to bring her. But you have to be at least 21 years old to attend the show. That brought me down to my two adult cousins who met us in the city from St. Louis. And of course, it was a totally impossible moment because I had to choose between two family members.
My cousin Debbie was busy with her son’s wedding, so I talked to my other cousin Rachel about the show. We decided to just put her name on the list and see. But when each wanted to go, both women felt horrible about taking the ticket from the other. So for about two hours neither would go. Now I know why there are no Real Housewives franchises rooted in the Midwest.
Instead of weave-pulling and backstabbing, they both were trying to spare each other’s feelings and neither would take the ticket. Finally, I had to force Debbie to take it. Her mother is one of the biggest Bravo superfans, plus she was the only one on the girls’ trip to New York whose daughter couldn’t make it that week.
Tears of anticipation
When our fateful day arrived, Debbie and I were filled with unbridled excitement. In the car ride over to the studio, Debbie squeezed my hand, her big brown eyes welling up with tears. She told me how she was still in shock she was actually going to something like this. Grateful. That was how we both felt.
Of course, we were painfully early. As we checked in, a woman in a sleek black dress waited behind us. She told the guard she was Teddi Mellencamp’s jeweler. Debbie shot me a look with that “Oh my God” expression.
As we waited outside the building, the crowd began to swell. One after the other, well-dressed women checked in. The group was Bravo’s demographic too. Young, chic, and female. I estimated the female to male ratio was about 10 to 1.
Behind the velvet rope
Once we were granted entrance into the Clubhouse lobby, it already felt like a magical experience. We took the elevator up with two women who were taking full advantage of their phone’s camera. And as the doors parted, we walked into a party scene that looked like something inspired by the B-52’s “Love Shack” video.
The music was booming as the attractive crowd was buzzing. Two bartenders manned the open bar and greeted guests with a smile. I was asked for my name before the bartender leaned into her generously heavy pour. I tried to see if I could catch a glimpse of the evening’s guests — Mellencamp from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or (my personal favorite) Bravo superfan, Michael Rapaport. But the glittery celebrities were kept under wraps.
As we waited, we made conversation with some of the other guests. We talked to two extremely charismatic people who were invited by Cohen himself. They met him in an airport lounge. We then chatted with three women (who had to be sisters) all wearing cute Jovani t-shirts. We also observed that we were, indeed, the oldest birds in the group. In fact, we were probably the same age as most of the audience members’ mothers.
The Clubhouse is the size of the typical living room
As the time drew near, the music pumped louder. Immediately before being welcomed into the Clubhouse, the energetic bartenders reviewed a few ground rules for the audience. Phone away during the show and don’t shout out anything nuts. Plus we had to practice yelling, “Do You Stand By It?”
As I digested what was happening and tried to remember “my line,” one of the bartenders started calling out our names. They had us line up to walk into the Clubhouse, likely because they had specific places for each of us to sit. As we marched into what I can only describe as Bravo Candyland, a WWHL staffer told Debbie and me to sit on some silver stools in the second row. Us? Really? I had to wonder how the osteoporosis twins were asked to sit in special seats but I was all about it.
The room is small. Seating is tighter than what you’d find in the economy class on a Delta flight. Our special stools were situated practically in the cameraman’s lap. He smiled and took his place behind his camera after telling us he has fun filming WWHL at night, but his main gig is filming The View in the morning. The cameraman added he had to be on set at 6 a.m. the next morning. He looked pained at the thought. Ouch.
Connecting with Andy Cohen
My heart started pounding as I could see Cohen making his way to the set. As he burst into the room, a feeling of shock and awe washed over me. Seeing Cohen in person is a little like spotting Jesus mashed up with reconnecting with an old friend who you used to skip class with in high school.
His presence sent the audience into hysterics as everyone cheered and applauded. Then he scanned the audience, locked eyes with mine, and walked over and grasped my hand. For a moment we connected. He also shook Debbie’s hand as he waved and said hello to the audience. I was rocked.
Next, he glided over to quickly chat with three attractive young men sitting in the three seats in front. Then Mellencamp and Rapaport were introduced. As Cohen sat in his chair and launched into a scene I watch just about every night during the week, I realized if I cartwheeled from my silver stool I could literally land in Cohen’s lap. I was that close to him.
Now I know how my kids felt at Disney World
The show runs like a finely tuned machine. Cohen is surrounded by large televisions just off set. Plus, he is supported by a teleprompter and those infamous cards he holds during the show.
During commercial breaks, he chatted a bit with the audience as some members sought to get his attention. One woman shouted that she wanted to be son Benjamin’s nanny. The man who met Cohen in the airport seemed to have a connection with him as they exchanged snappy banter. Mellencamp was relaxed and charismatic, while Rapaport delivered hard with comedic Real Housewives insights.
The show seemed to move faster than what you see on television. Cohen also launched immediately into the After Show taping, barely taking a breath after he wrapped the 10 p.m. show. Once the After Show finished, he and the guests quickly said goodbye to the audience and vanished.
Debbie and I needed some time to process what had happened. We both felt like we had a natural and supernatural experience. As the crowd disbanded we floated back to our hotel to pack for an early flight. Falling asleep that night was impossible.
While normally I’d say our experience ended then, there was a small spark the next day. While waiting in the airport for our flight back to Martha’s Vineyard, I spotted Rapaport and his wife lumbering through LaGuardia. Turns out, he too was traveling to the same destination. In fact, he sat two rows in front of me on the flight.
I know better than to bother a celebrity when they aren’t at work. But seeing him on the show was such a wonderful experience I wanted to tell him I appreciated his appearance. But as the flight landed I was already getting rapid-fire texts from my son who was picking us up. And yes, he was supremely annoyed the flight was late.
During WWHL, I was seated directly in Rapaport’s line of sight, but of course, there was no way he could have known I was the one in the audience doubled over from laughing so hard. So I ran to the curb to extinguish my son’s irritation. As I dashed with carryon in hand, in walks Amy Schumer to pick up Rapaport and his wife. And as my cousins jumped in the waiting car, Rachel leaned over and said laughing, “Michael Rapaport kept looking at you with this puzzled look.” And that was the surreal cherry on top of the most delicious sundae ever.
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