Thankfully my sister Laurie was able to drive with me to LA for the 2nd round of callbacks with the DFTL producers; I desperately needed someone to distract me from my near-debilitating, nerve-wracking jitters.
Just before the audition, we stopped off at a Subway across the street from the studio to grab a bite to eat. Whenever I am traveling or in a new place, I always wonder if I am going to run into someone I know, and sure as shit, just as I was ordering my standard turkey on wheat, I spied the endearingly friendly face of Chuck, my hubby’s BFF from college, who is now an actor in LA. What an unexpected treat, though, just as Locke from Lost says, “there are no coincidences,” and this seemingly random occurence actually had a purpose. Running into him was just what I needed. He totally distracted me from my impending fate and imparted the wise advice to “just be myself.” I was totally fired up after our encounter over deli meats and Sun Chips–I was ready to kick some serious karaoke ass.
An hour later I strutted into the audition room, after being pumped up by the casting agents including my buddy CCGNick and Triscuit Muffin, and I immediately broke out into song, a la Moulin Rouge,
“Hey Sister Soul Sister Soul Sister Soul Sister…Hi, I’m Mary.”
I am not sure what came over me; breaking into song is not something I normally do. Oh wait, yes it is. I guess I was just being me. Right out of the gate, I wanted them to know I didn’t mind making a fool of myself, AND that I had more rhythm than the two brothahs that went before me put together.
As I stood on the white X, answering questions and hoping my sweat was not leaking through my blouse, I completely hammed it up for the panel of producers as well as the video camera. The two executive producers tossed questions at me left and right like “how many times have you sung karaoke?” (is gajillion a word?) and “what types of things do I do for fun?” (make rap videos with my hubby?). I busted out a little Shoop, shoop be doop and did a lot of rolling down the river. I even yodeled like the Lonely Goatherd in Sound of Music to show my wide breadth of musical knowledge.
Then, they asked me what I would do with the money if I were to win the million dollars. At first, I spewed out a few silly, superficial things like, “go on a MAJOR shopping spree at Nordstrom” and “buy a new car.”
And then, I had a moment. A Mama Mary moment, which is sort of like an A-Ha moment, but better.
An image of my little Lily, who was just a few weeks shy of 1 year old, came into my mind. I imagined her sweet little face and I thought of all the time that I had missed with her because I had gone back to work when she was 5 months old.
“I would…I would…”
And then it happened. In good ol’ fashioned Mama Mary style, I started to cry. Okay maybe not full cry, but lump in throat/heavy pools of tears in eyes cry. I turned around from embarrassment for becoming so emotional in the middle of a silly audition, in front of people I had never met. In seconds I pulled myself together, turned back around and said, simply and honestly,
“I would stay home with my daughter.”
It was then that I realized why I was there. Aside from wanting to showcase my mediocre-at-best karaoke skills on prime-time tv while doing a little innocent rubbin’ up on Wayne Brady, I was really there for an opportunity to change my life and become a stay at home mom. From the first day I had gone back to work after maternity leave just six months prior, I would spend a great majority of my time thinking that I needed to find a way to stay home with Lily. My new post-baby job duties were not fulfilling enough to make commuting and sitting at a desk all day worth it to be away from my daughter, especially when my take home after daycare was not a worthwhile sum of money.
And it occurred to me, in that moment, that winning money could possibly help me achieve my goal of staying home.
I caught eyes with the head producer and I swear to the gods of cheesy boy bands, he was choked up. He looked at CCGNick and said, “Anyone who can make me yodel and cry in one audition is in.”
He dubbed me Mary “Gottawin” (play on Godwin) and right then I knew I had landed my spot on the show.
The next day I was on an airplane headed back east for a family reunion with my hubby’s family, during which I spent THE ENTIRE WEEK on-line studying lyrics of Billboard songs from the past 50 years and making various family members crazy quizzing me. There was not one waking moment that I was not listening to music and trying to absorb every last la, la, la, la from Billy Joel to every honky tonk drawl of Billy Ray Cyrus; you name it, I was learnin’ it.
In the process of studying lyrics, I realized one important thing. I didn’t know SHIT for lyrics. I know A LOT of music, and a wide variety of music, but lyrics were really not my strong suit. I started to panic. What had I gotten myself into?” I tossed and turned at night, overcome with anxiety. But thankfully there was really not that much time to worry because time flew and two weeks later I was on the CBS lot, next to the legendary Price is Right sound stage, meeting my fellow contestants and wondering if the camera was going to pick up wrinkles laugh lines. Holy Crap!
I had selected my friend Lisa, who was at the original audition with me, and who knows lyrics WAAAAY better than I do, and my sister Laurie who is my backbone, as my two “back-ups” on the show. Back-ups are similar to “life-lines” on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and they were actually able to be on stage with me during the taping so I could call on one of them to help me answer one of the questions (which I will get to later).
Before any filming began, the producers gathered all the contestants and their back-ups together around a conference table and had the Fox lawyer talk us through a mammoth contract filled with dizzying legal mumbo jumbo. The three main take-aways from the contract:
- We must not tell ANYONE what happens on the show. Or else they will come after us for $1 million dollars.
- If we win, we do not get paid until after the show airs.
- If they do not air our episode for whatever reason, we do not get paid, even if we win.
I shrugged my shoulders, said, “alright, alright, alright,” signed on the dotted line not paying much attention and got ready to rock that mic, hard. “Let’s do this!”
After 2 days of waiting around, in a dark, dank window-less conference room, listening to everyone around me sing Celine Dion and Mariah Carey songs ad nauseum, my segment producer FINALLY came in and said, “Mary, you’re up next.”
HOLY SHART! “Do I have time to run to the bathroom?”
An intense rush of adrenaline accompanied by an explosion of sweat in places I never knew I could sweat hit me and off we squealed and sauntered down the hallway of my destiny.
We sat in a room just off from the sound stage and my segment producers got me fired up. We rehearsed my sounds bites and then they reviewed the three cardinal sins of what NOT TO DO (and I paraphrase):
1) DO NOT ask Wayne for help, he can’t help you and won’t help you.
2) DO NOT refer to your back-ups as “life-lines” this is not Millionaire.
3) Don’t be funnier than Wayne.
Next they escorted me backstage, to mic me and touch up my lip gloss. I could hear the crowd warm-up guy talking to the LIVE STUDIO AUDIENCE, getting them fired up and I began to lose all sense of feeling in my body.
And then, I saw Wayne Brady.
My producer said, “Mary meet Wayne. Wayne, Mary.”
“Good to how are funny you are love me you.”
I lost all control of my tongue too and thought I was going to collapse right there into his bright white sportscoat. But then I regained composure and said,
“I’m so excited to meet you. I’m gonna need your help out there.”
Shit! I just broke the first Cardinal Rule—Wayne can’t help you, don’t ask for his help. What I meant to say was that I would need his good, positive energy and pearly white smile to help me get through it emotionally, but it came out ALL WRONG.
“Uh, I can’t help you girl.” And off he went onto the stage. Things were not off to a good start.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Sorry, don’t kill me, but I just cannot make this post any longer. Tune in tomorrow for PART 4 to find out how many cardinal rules I broke and if I won the million dollars.