Sunday, March 18, 2012
Howard Stern fans from Dallas get spotlight on America’s Got Talent in Austin
First-person behind-the-scenes account of the taping in Austin.
RICHARDSON Four Howard Stern fans from Dallas who trekked to Austin for the March 17 taping of America's Got Talent got singled out to be featured prominently on the red carpet.
Carissa Hughes, Debi Dowd, Claudette Bergeron, and Margo McIntosh, who count themselves as Howard Stern "super fans," showed up two hours early for the 12 p.m. taping of the show at Austin's Long Center for the Performing Arts, and were plucked by the show's producers from a crowd of more 300 people to greet Stern and the other judges and tape promotional segments.
The 12 noon event was the first of two America's Got Talent tapings, both of which drew standing-room-only crowds; the Long Center has a capacity of about 2,500.
"I've never seen the show, I just went for Howard, and it's the same for my friends," Hughes said. She said that Stern fans cheered, carried signs, and shouted catch phrases throughout the four-hour taping.
"The Howard fans were a blessing and a curse for the taping," she said. "The crowd had grandmas and moms who would come out for America's Got Talent but there were so many people carrying signs with Howard's catch phrases, like 'Ophelia' and 'Hey now.' When Howard came in, I can't even tell you how long the cheering and chanting went on. 'Howard! Howard!' They couldn't get crowd to stop."
Before the taping, the judges made a grand red carpet entrance. Producers scanned the line in search of photogenic fans.
"We had a little rivalry with another group of three girls who had brought Howard signs," Hughes said. "They were sizing us up and working it with the producers, but I said, 'I'm in a battle with those girls and we are going to win.' I told my friends, 'I don't usually slut it up, but I will wear a tight low-cut dress if it ensures us a good situation.' Claudette had gone to H&M on Friday and bought the Fashion Star dress from the show that debuted on TV on Thursday night. So she had a double tie-in, promoting another NBC show. About three different producers came over and talked with us, so I knew this was a good thing. We won the producers' eye -- we were the superfans of the day.
"When they started bringing people in, a guy came over and said, 'I want you ladies standing right here, in front of the red carpet.' We said we wanted to be as close as possible. He said, 'Trust me, this is where you want to be.' It turned out to be THE spot where the cars pulled up and let the judges out. It was amazing."
Howie Mandel was the first judge to walk the red carpet.
"They brought him riding a longhorn, the dumb cliché," Hughes said. "Howard Stern came up in an SUV. His car pulled up literally right to us. We could see him through the windows -- we went apeshit. When he got out of the car, he literally points dead at us and comes over. We're the first people he talked to, he gave us the fist bump. It was pandemonium, it was like the Beatles when he got out of the car."
The foursome were then pulled aside to record opening teasers.
"We said, 'We'll do that for Nick Cannon but you have to promise we'll get good seats and be near Howard'," Hughes said. "We had been watching this dad who brought his 13-year-old daughter, she was the biggest Nick Cannon fan, so we got them to include her, too. They made Claudette do the screaming into the camera about her love for Howard, and they made me say, 'Austin has the best talent!' I said, 'I’m not from Austin and I don't have any ownership of it and I feel awkward saying that, but I will oblige'."
After their red-carpet moment, the four friends were escorted to their seats which turned out to be three rows behind show producer Garry Dell'Abate, Stern limo driver Ronnie Mund, and Stern stylist Ralph Cirella.
"We sat in front of two guys who got a pair of reserved/VIP tickets so they were super fans, too," Hughes said. "The night before, they hung out with Ralph at the Four Seasons, which I guess is the hotel where the crew stayed. Yeah, we were a little envious of that."
Hughes dubbed most of the acts who paraded across the stage "boring," with only two to three keepers -- two contortionist sisters, a mind-reader/comic, and a mariachi band with a six-year-old singer. No cameras or cellphones were allowed, and attendees were frisked.
"I did sneak mine in my boot but they had staffers watching and there was no way to take it out," she said.