When it comes to live TV and the filming of something very important like the 2007 Screen Actors Guild Awards, things are rehearsed, duplicated and intensely monitored so that nothing goes wrong. The problem was that nobody ever bothered to check the red carpet for small bumps.
It was Oscar season in Hollywood and the Shrine auditorium was a twitter with activity. Television crews and Union stagehands were scrambling about like ants under a magnifying glass. I was hired to sculpt a very large champagne flute to serve as back round décor for the "Taittinger Moment".
We did, of course, have a second sculpture as a backup, but the corporate entities didn't want to see any mishaps whatsoever, lest it be a slight to their image of perfection. Needless to say, I did warn them.
The plan was to run one rehearsal two hours prior to the show. This was a process of slowly wheeling the delicate 400 lbs. ice sculpture all the way down the red carpet from the freezer truck to the small stage erected specifically for the "Taittinger Moment," setting it up for the toast, and then returning it all the way back to the truck. It was a distance of about 100 yards each way. On top of the hazards of moving a delicate sculpture that far, it was required to stand on the stage in bright sunlight for 10 or 15 minutes while the actors rehearsed.
For those of us who know a thing or two about the science of ice, this was very bad. Sunlight not only melts ice, but it weakens it by creating small fissures inside it as the dangling hydrogen molecules actually move toward the light. But that's another lecture.
For the actual live event, which had to take place in the exact minute before the actors set foot on the red carpet, there was an additional dilemma. We were to roll out the same, already weakened ice sculpture, and place it just behind the stage to serve as a backup and then bring the hero sculpture to the stage for the televised shot.
By this time, the bleachers, which ran the entire length of the red carpet, were filled with excited onlookers. They just couldn't wait to see their favorite actors appear, and now they had only a few minutes to go.
Under that excitement and pressure, there I was, wheeling my giant ice sculpture down the red carpet, the fate of Taittinger in my hands. And then, after making it halfway, and in front of thousands of cheering spectators I might add, I hit a small bump under the red carpet. The stem of the champagne glass snapped instantly, and the sculpture collapsed into hundreds of pieces.
The crowd went crazy. They were screaming and taunting so loud that I couldn't hear anything. It was one of those moments where you leave your body and see yourself from 20 feet away, standing there in a helpless cataclysm of confusion and hysteria.
Stagehands dressed in black came running from all directions as we raced to clear the debris. I knew then I had but one mission: to bring the second sculpture to the stage in one piece, but this time, there would be no backup.
In my line of work there are many "high-pressure" memories, but I can't think of one that rivalled that 100 yard march I had to make in front of all those people, screaming and jeering, to deliver that next sculpture to its rightful place on that stage for the "Taittinger Moment 2007". Long story short, I did it. And the rest, as they say, is history.
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