A couple of weeks ago a friend invited me to go to a taping of the Rachael Ray TV show. At first I said no, the thought of standing in line, being herded into a television studio, told when to applaud and watching Ms. Ray make a thirty minute meal didn't really appeal to me but my friend convinced me that it would be fun so I said yes. I had forgotten all about it until he called yesterday and said, "Don't forget tomorrow is Rachael Ray. I'll meet you at nine o'clock".
Ugh, I thought, what have I agreed to? But I said "OK" and got a good night's sleep knowing I'd have to set out earlier than I'm used to.
I got to the block the studio is on, 44th street between Second and Third Avenues, it was snowing and from the corner I could already see the line in front of the building. I got closer and started looking for my friend in a sea of excited women. Eventually we found each other, got in line in the cold and the snow and all the while I was smiling while inside thinking, 'this is a mistake'.
From the line outside we got moved to a line inside where we were given tickets and told to wait. After we'd been led through a metal detector and bags had been inspected, we were taken upstairs in an elevator, six at a time, and led into another room where we were told to wait yet again.
There were about sixty or seventy audience members, perhaps ten or twelve of them male. The majority of the audience members were from New Jersey, Long Island or other nearby suburban areas of the tri-state region. There was some big hair and a few spangled sweaters and inside the waiting area there was lots of perfume. I am, generally, not one for perfume. All the while I'm thinking, 'there must be someway I can make a break for it'.
After being told the rules - no cell phones, no pictures, no gum, no bathroom breaks, etc, about two hours after our initial arrival, we were finally led into the studio. The studio is climate controlled and kept somewhere around 50 degrees. It was cold. The rows of seats that the audience sits in are on a revolving lazy-susan type of a set up that turns mechanically to face different parts of the studio depending on what kind of segment is being taped, rather ingenious really.
We were "warmed up" by R.C., the studio mascot, the warm up guy, a kind of loud comic guy with funny hair and tattoos. He was saying things like "When I go like this," (and he'd raise his arms and flail his hands wildly) "I want you to make lots of noise". Then he did it repeatedly, testing the audience's comprehension of his instructions. We were also told to cheer whenever Rachael mentions that one of the ingredients in a recipe is cheese. Cheer for cheese? Really?
He began singling out people in the audience and asking them where they were from, picking on them. Lots of New Jersey jokes. Surprise.
I was hoping, praying, he wasn't going to ask me anything or even notice me. "You sir, in the sweater. What's your name? Where are you from?" Thank God, he passed over me.
Despite myself, I found that I was actually loosening up. The cold studio air was somehow dissipating the various perfume smells and I began giving into the whole experience.
Rachael Ray appeared and the ladies went coo-coo: shouting, whooping and bouncing in their seats. They weren't taping at this point and Rachael just kind of nicely acknowledged their appreciation and went on talking to the stage managers and crew, briskly walking the perimeter of the audience looking as if she'd just finished her morning coffee and walked out of the make up room. Someone ran up behind her and fingered product through her already glistening, bouncy hair as she made a few racy asides to the audience. Joking over her shoulder she made her way up a staircase to read from a teleprompter into a camera.
Ms. Ray has a definite munchkin quality. She is very pretty, in a dwarfish sort of way, and although she is tiny she has a big ass and a HUGE head. Like a little bobble head doll bouncing on the dashboard of an old station wagon.
They started taping and as Rachael introduced a segment she turned on her magic TV smile. The ladies in the audience went nuts and Rachael beamed back at them in return. Perky and bouncy, that familiar raspy voice was accompanied by her Emmy winning smile, the audience spun on it's axis and the show was off. It was like an amusement park ride, a cooking show funhouse and I was strapped in and completely sold.
The snack of the day was chocolate covered pretzels, I didn't eat mine. Rachael made Welsh Rarebit, actually everything was prepared and presented for her to introduce on camera, melted cheese accompanied by bacon stuffed cherry tomatoes on a stick that are to be dredged through the cheese sludge. Did someone say Homer Simpson? I don't think I'll be making that.
Surprisingly, this was not followed by a segment on how to find a good cardiologist.
Aside from the fact that it was a sort of cholesterol festival I really enjoyed myself. There was a performance by Grammy nominated Duffy, from Wales, which I believe was the tie in to the Welsh Rarebit thing. She too was cute and tiny and perky. Her band was good and everyone in the audience was given a CD. Pretty cool.
All in all I had a good time and was glad I went. How often does one have a chance to watch such a well oiled TV machine.
As we were leaving the studio, four hours after we had arrived, the next audience was waiting to be escorted upstairs for the taping of the second show of the day.
The second show of the day?! The next audience?!