Snoqualmie Goes Behind the Scenes of Last Week’s American Idol Live Show – Part I

This story is courtesy of Stephanie Hager, who is proof that sometimes the wait is worth it.  In her case, the ticket wait was two years worth of waiting followed by a mad dash to make it all happen…

I almost didn’t click on it. There in my inbox was an email with the curious subject line “Your On-Camera — Audiences Voucher for American Idol.”  It was mixed in with other junk mail that I was deleting in bulk. Then I clicked it open, vaguely remembering putting myself on an American Idol Show waitlist a couple of years ago after realizing tickets aren’t for sale.  The email arrived two Fridays ago, April 20th, and the tickets were for the April 25th “Wednesday” show –5 days away! Let’s see, so we can either watch Wednesday’s show in the comfort our family room like usual OR we can go see it live. Hmmmm.

The “Show Tickets”

Hotel reservations made, plane tickets purchased, and helpful Grandparents on their way to babysit for a few days. The only caveat was this: they weren’t exactly show tickets. They were line vouchers.

From our swanky, hip hotel a couple of miles from Rodeo Drive, our star treatment ended when we were dropped off on Beverly Boulevard at the gate of CBS Studios where the show is taped and aired. My husband, Todd, and our 14-year-old son, Jared, and I were stunned to see the line as long as it was, and that no one had followed the very particular dress code specified IN ALL CAPS on our voucher. In fact, they looked kind of sloppy.  As we approached the group it then became clear we weren’t yet at the right gate – that was the audience for the Price Is Right – ours was around the corner and the line leaders there were dressed in the appropriate attire. We had four hours to wait. That is, four hours to see if we would get in.

The Line

Beverly Boulevard is in Beverly Hills, yes, but it’s the Highway 99 of Beverly Hills: sirens, heavy traffic and heat. We quickly made friends in line with other parents and their (mostly) daughters. Todd and Jared went on a scavenger hunt for food, water and reading materials, but came back with the best present a girl could hope for – 3 fold out chairs from the Goodwill! With the L.A. Times, our deli sandwiches and seats we were ready for the wait.

The line itself was a test of patience, and those of us there joked how it felt like Survivor and could be a reality show on its own.  It wasn’t long when a friendly, smiley man walked by in flip-flops and an orange t-shirt that read Phillip Phillips. Phillip Phillips Senior stopped and chatted with us for quite a while. He said the studio was hot inside and he needed some air. He shared with us how often he travels to L.A. for the show (every other week he said) and that Phillip (his son) had been in Los Angeles since January. I might be the last person to know that Phillip was named after his dad, but I asked about the catchy, easy-to-remember name and he said his son Phillip likes it, although he himself did not growing up. I told him that Seattle was rooting for his son and that we resonate with his casual style — one he indicated that Phillip was trying to hold onto amongst the Hollywood stylists surrounding him. We said our goodbyes and good lucks. What fun. So sweet and happy.

By mid-afternoon employees from the show came out with headsets and clipboards to greet us. Our line vouchers were marked with numbers, and they reiterated to audience hopefuls that if you had open-toed shoes you better have close-toed shoes within the hour or you weren’t getting in. A few in line ran to The Grove (an upscale outdoor mall nearby) and purchased flats at Nordstrom to maintain their eligibility for entrance.

Proud dad, Phil Phillips Sr.

Me Doing Jumping Jacks

It wasn’t long and the first 40 of us in line were escorted through the CBS security-blocked gates. I was boiling with excitement to such a degree that I felt like skipping or doing cartwheels or hopping my way through the labyrinth of “Star Trailers” just outside the studio. My new mom-friend, Tammy, was so giddy that she indicated she felt faint.

We were handed our official tickets and Jared was asked by a producer if he wanted to be in “the pit” — which means standing full-time at the stage with the other tweens and teens. Without hesitating he said yes and at that point we were separated from him until the end of the show. We were in a staging area for audience members and this included the contestants’ parents and any VIPs -of which there were many.

Section C, that’s us, were the first to enter the studio and I just could not believe what I saw after watching it on TV for so many years. It was beautiful, but smallish. Incredible, but not what I expected. We were seated in row 4 behind where the contestant’s parents sit and behind Randy. The lights were hot and the stage was busy with rehearsals still going on.

An hour passed, and then Jared and the rest of the kids were brought in to outline the stage. He and a couple other guys were pulled to the front spots by a producer. Imagine a slice of pizza where the point jets into the stage. Well, Jared was placed at that triangle point — the best view available.

Jay Flats, the audience cheerleader, came out and excited the crowd by saying that the show was minutes away from airing live to over 100 countries worldwide, and reminding us how many of the viewers would rather be in our seats. We had rules like if one person stands and claps, everyone should follow and stand for the ovation. If you brought signs you were to lift them before and after each commercial break. And then there was the clapping. The clapping! Since the audience IS part of the show, unlike a concert, there is more clapping than normal because it comes before and after each commercial. The after part seemed normal because a contestant had just sung, but the before part was strange since we were clapping for no reason. But watching it back on TV,  it makes total sense.

 Tomorrow, tune if for the second half of Stephanie’s story, “Live on American Idol.”

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  • Great info! We’re going on May 16. Few questions, can we have chairs in line? Can 1 person wait in line while the rest of our group leaves (take turns)? What time did you arrive? Voucher says 3:30, so I’m thinking 10am. Thanks!!!

  • Yes you can take chairs, and about an half hour before they brought us in they came and told me I could return them to our car and to go do that. We had to just leave them since we didn’t drive … We bought them for a couple bucks @ the nearby Goodwill store.

    We didn’t know timing either. The people at the start of the line arrived at 10am. We went at noon and were 25th in line. They admit a different number of people for each show, and for ours it was about 40 (the first 40). There were a lot more people in line than that.

    We took turns leaving, yes. But they started marking line vouchers around 2 or 2:30 … They didn’t seem to care if everyone was there at that point. I think we went in around 4:00. Also, they do require the closed toed shoe thing. A lot of people showed up in sandals and they weren’t allowed in. Many women brought phones and purses. The purses they let in, the phones they checked at the door.

    The line people were given much better seats than the VIP’s (who didn’t need to stand in line), so its all worth it. We were right up front.

    Have fun :-).

  • Living Snoqualmie