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A Visit to The Ellen Show

Dying to Dance with Ellen

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Qiana and Sari with their Ellen Tix

Qiana and Sari with their Ellen Tix

© Sari Meline
I’m not easily star-struck. Having worked in hospitality for the last twelve years, and as a massage therapist prior to that, I’ve encountered (and touched the bare asses of) many a celebrity. Katherine Heigl? Check. Vera Wang? Check. I’ve even discussed presidential campaign strategy with Mitt Romney long before he was a candidate. So when my daughter, Qiana, called with the “GREAT NEWS!!” that she had just scored two seats to the Ellen DeGeneres Show, I was delighted, but not ecstatic. After all, it was just Ellen.

Qiana, however, was so beside herself that she was counting down days, worrying about what to wear, and praying to all things good and holy that she would get a seat on the aisle where Ellen dances during each show. To her, Ellen is my generation’s Oprah, my mother’s generation’s Phil Donahue. Frankly, her gayness has nothing to do with it (and I love that).

Getting Tickets to The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Getting tickets wasn’t hard – Qiana filled out a form on the website and waited a couple of days before getting a phone call from an excited staff member. She even gave Qiana a number that she could call if she had questions or problems come up, and when she did call to ask a question, they returned her call almost immediately.

Getting to the studio also wasn’t difficult. We chose to fly into LAX early on the morning of the taping, but we realized later that flying into Bob Hope Airport in Burbank would have been notably easier. After renting a car and getting the directions to the Warner Brother’s Studios in Burbank, we were on our way. We had to be there no later than 11:30am, even though the taping didn’t begin until 3:30pm, so we stopped for snacks and gossip magazines just in case there wasn’t anything to do but wait. We bought sandwiches at the studio, and of course, the famous Ellen Water (it tastes funny).

Despite being a native northern Californian, I have very little experience with southern California. I’d only been to one of those golf-cart tours of Universal Studios when I was fifteen, so the glitz and glamour of being on a television set suddenly - and surprisingly - started to sink in. We were in the same place as hundreds of celebrities! Great things were happening behind those doors! ELLEN WAS HERE SOMEWHERE! I was shocked at my sudden obsession with the surrounding stardom. What happened to me? I was so calm and cool, and suddenly, I was drooling and staring like a child meeting their first Disneyland character.

(Somehow I managed to pull myself together enough to keep from getting blacklisted, but I couldn’t help but get a little nerdy-nostalgic when I saw that Ellen’s studio was also once the studio for two of my other favorite “E” shows: ER and Eight is Enough.)

Hoping to Dance with Ellen

When it was time to be ushered into the studio, we crossed our fingers. The production assistants had told us over and over again that we were not guaranteed “good” seats based on our position in line at the beginning of the day, that seating was based on a complicated game of “Human Tetris.” Despite their insistence to the contrary, I also wondered if they hand-picked aisle seats and front row seats for people in nicer clothes, or with prettier faces. You know, with the cameras and millions of television viewers and all.

We were in the back of the line, and as soon as we rounded the corner, it was clear that the studio was already mostly full. I sighed and dropped my shoulders, knowing that Qiana wasn’t going to get an aisle seat to dance with Ellen. But when the usher directed us to our seats, we were both shocked to see that she had pointed to two seats towards the front, and on the aisle! I was immediately convinced that my earlier assumptions were true, and leaned over to Qiana and told her “they saved this seat for you because you’re so pretty.”

Starstruck by Ellen

I’ll say it again, I’m not easily star-struck, but nothing can compare to the moment when Ellen takes the stage. I was suddenly reminded of all the great things that she has done to forward the LGBT movement in our generation, from coming out before coming out was cool, to reminding all her viewers to “be kind to one another” at the end of every show. Ellen is the iconic American lesbian, and she holds that title with grace and kindness. Also, my heart went ‘pitter-patter’ (Sorry, Portia).

Her monologue was short and sweet, and then there was that pause; the one before she delivers the “I’m about to dance!” line. Both Qiana and I held our breath and waited…but it never came. Instead she revealed a giant game of Sorry that was played with two audience members. I looked over at Qiana and she looked at me, and we both knew the rest of the show wouldn’t be the same. By the time the show was over, and we were certain that Ellen wasn’t going to be headed up our aisle, Qiana began to fight back tears. We had come to dance with Ellen, and she didn’t dance with us.

As we drove away after the show, I did my best to justify the un-Ellen-like behavior. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she twisted her ankle before the show. Maybe the last audience had a crazy person who attacked her, and she was feeling a little shy. None of the excuses seemed good enough.

As it turns out, she had been feeling under the weather, and had taken her very first sick day just two days prior, so we gracefully forgave her.

However, getting tickets to the show is nearly impossible – after all, Ellen has over 2 million viewers each day, and there are only about 300 seats in the studio. But we’ll keep trying, even though it could be a long time before we get to see the show again, and even longer before we get seats in the ‘dancing’ section. Sadly, this may be the only time in our lives we get to see Ellen, and she let us down.

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