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My evening at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honoring “Hot in Cleveland”

by Julia Bendis

March 31, 2011 | 6:04 pm

Last night I was at the Academy of Television’s event honoring the TV sitcom ‘Hot in Cleveland’.  They often have these events for up and coming shows, mainly as a panel Q and A and a celebrity host/moderator.  This time it was the legendary Larry King moderating, asking questions and what he would call “making the crowd laugh”.  Since retiring from his long career at CNN, Mr. King decided to start doing stand-up, which doesn’t mean him actually getting out of his chair and trying to balance without the help of his 25-year-old wife, I mean actually performing comedy.  Yes, Larry King is going on tour to make people laugh…  As much as I admire his journalistic career and his longevity in entertainment industry, I will not be in attendance.

Back to the ‘Hot in Cleveland’ event.  It was to start at 7:30 p.m., therefore in my typical obsessive, compulsive fashion I left Orange County at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and arrived precisely at 5 o’clock at the doors of the Academy.  Again, the event started at 7:30…  There are no assigned seating, its on a first-come-first-serve basis, and having been late to a similar event for “Friends” many years ago, which led to having to sit in the green room because they ran out of seats, I was determined to never let that happen again!

I am not sure if any of you had noticed, but yesterday was one the hottest days in Southern California in months, I believe it reached the 80’s.  Where am I going with this?  I am going to the part of me sitting on a beach towel on the sidewalk, waiting for the Academy to open the doors, shwitsing under the sun, as the camera crews mistake me for the hired help, asking me to get my ass off the Red Carpet because I was blocking their way as they set up for cast arrivals.

Right about now, my husband will be getting very upset if I don’t mention that he was right there next to me, shwitsing his ass off too.  Here you go, honey:  My husband was right there next to me shwitsing his ass off too!

Not long after, we were joined by another compulsive soul who was utterly disappointed that we had gotten there first.  Relax buddy, the theater holds a thousand people, I am sure you will get your seat.  As I started chatting to this man holding an assortment of Betty white memorabilia, he divulged to me that he has been coming to these events for years.  Assuming that he is in the entertainment industry, and obviously a member of the Television Academy I asked him what show he works on.  “Oh, I am in financing.  Not in this business at all”, he replied.  A little confused about how one could get in to these events without being a member or knowing a member in the industry, I inquired.  Apparently, people that run these events are so used to seeing him there all the time that they just let him in.  Hmm, I started pondering about how many people I could have brought in with me…

Once we were inside, and the show started we quickly realized that this guy was not just a “fan”.  Something about Jane Leeves’ face told me that this guy was borderline stalk-ish.  I had never seen anyone take more pictures of a single person in my life.  He never put down his camera, and it became creepy when I could see how close he was zooming in to her face, legs and body!  But that was the security’s problem, not mine.  As hard as I tried to concentrate on people speaking, I just couldn’t take my eyes off this lunatic and his camera.

The Q and A part of the event lasted about an hour with clips of the sitcom shown before the cast arrived.  Mr. King had some good questions for the creators of the show, which most of them Valerie Bertinelli volunteered to answer.  I didn’t realize she was as much of a talker as I am!  She had something to say about everyone and everything, repeatedly interrupting King and the others.  It was cute to a point, after which it got a bit annoying since everyone’s microphones were already set really low, and made it hard to hear the responses with her butting in.  It was a disappointment when King announced that he had to leave halfway through the show, and the President of TV Land, Larry Jones took over.  Although Jones tried to ask questions, and be funny (and I use the word ‘funny’ in the loosest way possible), it was mostly the cast chiming in about how much they love, love, love this show and how lucky lucky lucky they are, blah blah blah.

Fast forward to the best part of the show when all were asked if they had actually ever been to Cleveland, which in my opinion was the most relevant question of the night.  Bertinelli blurted out something about her new husband being from Cuyahoga Falls, which automatically makes her an expert on anything and everything Cleveland.

Suzanne Martin, one of the creators of the show brought up the fact that in the beginning they kept getting hate mail from people in Cleveland, and even the Cleveland Plain Dealer called her to find out if the show will ONLY be focusing on the negatives of Cleveland.  Her response was that its the complete opposite, they are making Cleveland to look like Heaven!  I am paraphrasing of course.  As much as I love the people of Cleveland, I am not sure that there are any positives to living there.  Is it the constant below zero temperatures, the snow, the lack of any decent sports team, the utter disrespect to the city by certain athletes that shall remain nameless in order to refrain from starting a riot, again?  Of course the people are much nicer than anywhere else in the country, they truly want to know how you are doing when they ask: “How are you doing?”.  That’s pretty unheard of in California.  Sure people ask all the time how you are, but not one of them actually expects you to tell them how you really are, or bother to stop and hear the answer!  Its a form of saying “Hello” here in California; you say it and you move on.  I stopped answering that question many years ago, because as soon as they ask you, they have already checked out.  They are gone.  I’ll be standing there with my mouth open, ready to tell them how crappy my day has been, as they walk right past me.

back to the show.  In the past, once the Q and A portion of the show is over, typically the actors will stay and mingle with us regular folk, pose for pictures, sign autographs, etc.  Not in this case.  Security rushed all of them out of the theater faster than I could get out of my seat!  The only person we saw left on stage was Jon Lovitz, who by the way is a lot cuter in person and just as funny as he is on TV.  He was one of the only ones making people laugh all night, well him and Carl Reiner too.  But God knows who the hell Carl Reiner was talking to anyway, half the time he was answering other people’s questions, and telling stories that no one asked about.  Don’t get me wrong, he was absolutely hysterical and charming as ever, but at times I wondered if he and Betty White even knew where they were!  She took at least half a dozen naps during the event, only to be elbowed by Wendie Malick when the host asked her a question.

So, my point is I absolutely love the show “Hot in Cleveland”, it is much better this year than it was the first season, however I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the lack of meet and greet afterward.  Why was poor Lovitz the only putz out there taking pictures and signing autographs?  All of the actors should have to endure that pain!

All I know is that if any of the writers are reading this, you have to bring Lovitz back!  This is my petition to bring back Jon Lovitz to “Hot in Cleveland”, or any sitcom for that matter.  If you can’t think of anything, call me.  I’d be happy to write him into the script! Or myself…

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