The ELLEN Experience – Part 2

So this is what it feels like to be positively, completely, ridiculously overwhelmed.  I’ve been overwhelmed by stressful circumstances many times, but I can’t remember the last time, if ever, I was overtaken by so much support, encouragement, and love, coming from so many people ranging from my family and oldest friends to absolute strangers who I’ll probably never ever meet.   It’s simply batshit crazy.  The number of messages that are coming my way, through Facebook, email, phone, text, blog comments, smoke signals, and carrier pigeon is astronomical, and it’s not stopping.  Add in the comments on the posts about me on Ellen’s website and Facebook page, and it might be officially too much for one guy to handle.

What I want to most say about all this is Thank You.  While they may only be two little words, know that there’s a big, full heart behind them.

Moving on.

I promised in my last post a behind-the-scenes look at my afternoon at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and I don’t like to disappoint.  If you want to catch up on Part I of The ELLEN Experience before diving into this post, then, please, click here.  And if you want to watch me on the show, then click on the Watch Me On Ellen button at the top of this blog.

All caught up?  Ready to go?  Sweet!

I arrived at Warner Bros. Studios a little before 3pm, about an hour before the show started taping.  The show had offered to send a car to pick me up, but I turned them down and drove myself, for two reasons: 1) I knew exactly where I was going (I had worked at the show for seven years) and 2) I knew I’d be getting a better parking spot today than I ever had when I was worked there!  And I did.

Guests of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” enter through their own special door.  It’s called the Artist Entry.  Guess that means I’m an artist now!

I forgot to take this pic on my way in, so I took it on my way out, when it was dark.

It was fun to see my name outside the dressing room:

I’ve been in that dressing room many many times before, but it’s never been my dressing room.  Last year when I was producing segments for the show, it was the same room where I met and prepared guests like Channing Tatum, Zachary Levi, and Judy Shepard for their interviews.  It’s actually the same room that is sometimes rigged with hidden cameras, so Ellen can scare her guests, like she did to Richard Simmons a year ago this month, on the very day I met him for the first time (watch that moment here – very funny!)

I hadn’t been there long before lots of friends who still work at the show started stopping by.  There were lots of hugs and kisses, and I got tons of compliments – I haven’t seen a lot of them since last May.  I was asked about 14 times (at least) to stay in my dressing room – they wanted Ellen to see me for the first time onstage (since she hadn’t seen me since last May), and if I was roaming the halls backstage, I could have potentially run into her.

I did step down the hall to go to the hair and make-up room.  Elizabeth and Jeannette made me look super-sharp, and Jeannette even helped cover up a new mystery bruise on my arm.  She did a great job – take a look at the ‘Before’ and ‘After':

In addition to hair and make-up, there was also the issue of wardrobe.  You may remember that I invited blog readers to vote for which outfit I should wear, and, collectively, you said I should wear the brown shirt with dark jeans.  Observant viewers probably noticed that I did indeed wear the brown shirt, but on the day of the taping, the decision making process became much harder.  That’s because that morning, I got a text from Kara (the segment producer and my friend) saying that the Ellen wardrobe department was so excited that I was coming back and asking if  it would be cool if they pulled some clothes for me to wear?  Hell yeah, that’d be cool!  I sent along my sizes, and sure enough, 10 minutes after I arrived, my friends from the wardrobe department, Kellen and Jen, rolled in a rack full of options:

The four shirts on the left are mine, but the rest came from rental houses and the mall.  There was some fancy stuff in there, too (Armani and Prada, for example), but after trying some of the pieces on, I showed Kellen and Jen my brown shirt, and between the four of us (Kara was in there too), we decided that the brown shirt was the way to go.  Thank you, voters, for steering me down the right path!

The jeans I wore on the show, however, were not any of the options from the poll.  Kellen and Jen picked them up earlier in the day at the mall, and they’re fantastic.  I love them.  They’re Buffalo David Bitton (a label I had never heard of before), and the cut is Super Slim.  I’ll say that again: Super Slim.  Super Slim! It’s the sort of pants that I never, ever used to ever think I could ever fit into.  But I do, and they’re awesome.

The shoes I wore (brown boots) were also picked up by Kellen and Jen.  I was planning on wearing a new pair of Converse Chuck Taylor Lo-Top Navy sneakers, but those boots really looked great!

The whole time I was sequestered in my dressing room, I was pretty nervous.  I was really nervous I might trip and fall coming down the three steps when I made my entrance.  I am not a graceful faller – I lack the instinct to brace myself for impact by turning or putting an arm out, and instead tend to land flat on my face (I did this about a year and a half ago, after tripping on a crack in a sidewalk, and nearly bit clear through my lip with my own tooth).  My fear was not helped when Ed, one of the Executive Producers, told me that in the past month, about 4 guests had stumbled on those steps, and one of them was Phil Donahue.  Great.

My nerves went away about 5 minutes before my segment.  Richard had just made his entrance (he was interviewed, by himself, in the segment before mine), and I gave myself a little internal pep talk:  “There’s nothing else that can be done.  You’re prepared.  You already know both Richard and Ellen.  And this is your story.  Nobody can tell it better than you.”  The pep talk worked – no more nerves!  I popped an Altoid in my mouth (Tracy, my friend from the prop department, was thoughtful and brought me a Sugar-Free one) and moved into place for my entrance.

I’ve familiar with every nook and cranny of the Ellen stage, but it was still odd, during the commercial break before my segment, to be standing in a corner just out of sight of the audience, knowing that in just a few minutes, 5 cameras and the attention of more than 300 people would be pointed at me.  DJ Tony plays the music loud, but it felt like my heart was beating louder.  Wanna know the last thing that was said to me before my segment began?  Andy, another Executive Producer, stopped by and told me, “I’ll give you five bucks if you trip.  Ten bucks if you land in one of the potted plants.”  That made me laugh.

There’s a tiny monitor back where I was waiting, so I could see Ellen and Richard as Ellen introduced me.  When it was time, I took two steps, turned the corner so I was onstage, and immediately focused on those three steps.  Two seconds later I was at the bottom of them, and still on my feet – success!  It was then that I looked up, and saw 300 people cheering wildly, giving me a standing ovation.  The applause was deafening, but for a split second, I swear it all went silent.  I could see people in the crowd pumping their fists, my show friends on the floor cheering me on, Ellen standing by her chair, mouth agape.  It was a lot to process, but after I did, the silence in my head cleared away, and was replaced by the joyful noise of the moment.  Did you hear the very first I said, before I even sat down?  It was “Sorry!”  That’s right, I stepped on Ellen’s foot.

Here we are during my segment:

The interview itself was mostly a blur.  By the time I got home last night, I couldn’t remember what we talked about and what we didn’t, or who said what and when.  It seemed like only seconds had passed until Ellen was saying good-bye and ending the show.  That was that – it was all over.  I walked backstage and was soon surrounded by friends congratulating and hugging me.  Ellen’s mom, Betty, had some really sweet things to say to me.  All in all, it was an amazing day.

I thought I’d try to answer a few more questions that have been sent to me today through one form of communication or another:

1) Nope, I didn’t meet Paula Abdul.  I actually didn’t even see her.

2) Yep, I did get a pair of Ellen underwear, like all guests of the show get.  The gift bag also included a mug and a t-shirt:

3) Yep, those are the real gift cards.  I’ve lost gift cards before, so when I got home I put them in places where I was sure to remember them:

I’m kidding.  They aren’t the real gift cards, and I actually haven’t gotten the real ones yet.  I’ll get them soon – within the next week or so.  Don’t you worry, I’ll keep you all up-to-date on how I spend them!

The gift cards weren’t the only gift I got.  There wasn’t enough time for Ellen to give them to us on the air, but the show made matching Ellen tanks and shorts for Richard and I to wear to a class at Slimmons together!  We took a picture with the outfits in the hall backstage – that’s Kara, our segment producer, in the middle:

And that’s about it!  I want to end this post by thanking everyone at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for welcoming me back for the afternoon with open, loving arms, and for giving me an opportunity to share my story with the country!  This is truly a day I’ll never forget.

Keep it up, David!

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6 Responses to The ELLEN Experience – Part 2

  1. Pat says:

    You worked on the Ellen Show? What was that like?

  2. JM says:

    I am currently in the shoes you once filled in. I am starting a project so I can lose weight. If you have any insight and tips on how to do it, best appreciated.

    Keep it up, indeed. Because you are an inspiration.

  3. JM says:

    By the way, David, I started a blog to document my progress too.

    http://projectsize4.blogspot.com/

  4. Ang says:

    David,
    I believe I’ve seen you at Slimmons when I’ve flown in to town. (I hovered over by the big fan or freight doors when I was there.)

    I watched your segment on Ellen and you are an inspiration. Keep up your great spirit, drive, determination, motivation and love for yourself. You’re a shining light and example to so many.

    Hugs and best wishes to your continued success

  5. Randy says:

    David-

    I was catching up on the DVR today and saw your segment on Ellen. I was so touched by your story and though I’m not at the weight you obtained, I still need to lose weight and was inspired so much by your story, I had to grab the tissues like Richard. With a lot of changes in my life the last few years, losing weight has been a challenge and always hard to accomplish. Your smile and ambition showed that you are much happier now and that’s where I want to be in my life. Thank you so much for sharing your story and I look forward to following your progress and it will push me to lose the pounds. BTW..ironically, I shop at the same Casual Male in Glendale when working in L.A. I saw your post and I look so much to that day I can trash my card too and I can wear fashion clothes like everyone else, as we know they hardly make anything over a large. Hugs and keep up the good work!

  6. eof737 says:

    Kudos! It’s a great motivational story. I love Ellen’s sow too. :-)

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