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“Flash Mob”

Here is the clip I was “in” on last night’s America’s Got Talent, “my scene” is from the 1:00-1:15 mark. I’m waving one of those little flags next to a really BIG flag on the right in the back. You can’t see me, but I am TOTALLY rocking that flag and the dance.

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While I am writing this on April 23rd, I’m not allowed to post it until June 5th… so I just want to get as much down now while it is still fresh!

Last week (mid April when you are reading this) a friend, Debbie, asked if anyone would be interested in doing a flash mob with her.  (Side note, I met Debbie last year and she is so much fun. She is my friend Cathy’s T.’s sister and they were the reason I did my first mud run. So I don’t know how she learns of all these random fun things, but she does and she is truly a hilarious and beautiful person that I’m so glad that I met!)  I answered her with a resounding….Maybe…. I have tried to do the flash mob thing once before and backed out. I have always been a behind the scenes person. Oddly enough, I have often been praised for my public speaking skills both at work and in school, even once being asked to represent in a speech tournament. My response, “I have to work.” “I didn’t tell you when it was.” “Oh,…I still have to work.” While I can apparently function, rather well supposedly, with only my blushing to the color of a tomato to betray my terror internally, I just mentally haven’t been able to handle the anxiety, losing sleep for days before.

While I waited for Debbie to forward on the information, I was thinking about the flash mob, about my backing out of one previously, about that struggle about how who we want to be differs from who we are. I want to be the type of person that does things like that, that doesn’t freeze up wondering what people are thinking, I always have. So why do I let me stop myself? In the middle of my self-psychoanalysis, a quote came to mind: “Do one thing that scares you each day” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt (While this quote is widely attributed to her, and she did have much to say on the topic of fear, there is no actual proof of her ever saying this. But it’s on the internet so it must be true.) And that was the point I decided that I would do it, what was the worst that could happen?

Debbie wasn’t sure she could find a sitter, so we ordered 4 tickets in my name, just in case. Sadly, the sitter did end up being a issue and she wasn’t able to join us. And this meant I had 3 tickets to find homes for. So I drafted my friends Laura, Caitlyn, and Gidget for the task.

Oddly enough, I have not seen Laura in several years. We went to high school together and I probably spent more nights at her house than any other than my own in those 4 years. She always gave the BEST parties and many of my happiest memories involve her. Her and her husband moved back to Cali a few years ago, but outside of a couple of dinners, we just haven’t made the time to see each other, but we were staying in touch on facebook. I don’t know why she popped into my head first as someone that would do this with me, but she did and I’m so happy she did. I also loved that she excitedly said “Sure!” before she even knew what she was signing up for. So our little reunion was certainly a random one.

Caitlyn is my “honorary brother” Ryan’s little sister, which in some weird way make her my little sister. At least that is how I feel about her. We have also become friends in our own right over the past several years, even if she does love to make me feel old. 😉 Caitlyn is a talented singer and does choreography for her church, so I knew she was in if she was free. My only worry was that she would make the rest of us look bad since she actually knew what she was doing!

Finally, I recruited Gidget, she teaches at CSUN and she has the honor of being the only person for whom I break my “No work friends as facebook friends” rule. She is honestly one of the most fun and creative people I have ever met. She truly loves life and that beauty comes through in everything she does, whether it is her teaching (at which she is truly gifted) or her little handmade cards and gifts that give Martha Stewart a run for her money.

All three of these women had one trait in common that I knew I needed. All three of them would pull the outgoing part of me, wherever it was, out into view. More importantly, none of them would let me back out, hide, or get lost in my own head. (It’s dangerous in there) So that was our little posse.

Laura, Caitlyn, and I met earlier in the morning for breakfast, knowing that with these things calories would be important and scarce at the filming. Gidget was meeting us down there as she had to book it to an evening class and we wanted to make sure she would be able to make it. We were supposed to all meet at the Universal Lot, after a little confusion on how to find the correct gate, we were finally in a growing line of cars to pull in to the lot.

I gave the security guard our tickets and ID, being somewhat familiar with lot security protocols after countless visits to my dad, but the guard seemed confused. Finally saying, “You’re part of this “flash mob thing?!”  No one left anything for any of you, go park over there somewhere” and pointed to 5 minute parking. We parked illegally, because they ran out of actual 5 minute parking since they were just filtering everyone over to the same holding pattern, and I jumped out to go wait at the guard booth. We had a call time of 11am, but it was only 10:40 so I wasn’t worried yet. We also received an email that morning saying that we had until 11:30 to get to the location. Somehow, Gidget managed to get her pass quickly and was already parked.

It was becoming readily apparent that no one had made security aware of this event and they were not happy about it, trying to run the massive influx of visitors on top of normal studio traffic and executives needing to get to meetings. Finally, about 40 minutes later, we had passes in hand and drove off to find real parking. At this point, we were nervous that we might be cut but I was banking on the fact that everyone was held up, not just us. After going up 7 floors of a parking structure, we finally found a spot and it just happened to be right next to Gidget! So all 4 of us dashed off to the elevator and then our awaiting shuttle.

After some standard paperwork, we were given sun block and bottled water and told “It will be just a few minutes.” Again, being familiar with studio life, and theater, I knew this meant, get comfortable. Sure enough, around 1pm we finally started to move into position to be taught our dance routine. It was at this point I started to realize something…

There are two definitions of “flash mob”. 1) the videos you see on YouTube, where a group shows up in a public place, does a performance out of no where and then disappears again. Definition #2 is what it was originally used for, not necessarily a “performance” but just a way to call a large group of people to one spot at a certain time. We weren’t going to be in the park or even in the audience surprising people, we were a giant casting call of background actors. So, while I cannot now cross “Be part of a flash mob” off my bucket list, I can still cross off “Be on TV” and “Be part of a large choreographed routine”.

As an interesting side note, while we are speaking of lists and goals, going in I was trying to keep my head in check and have fun. That meant not taking myself too seriously. I told Matt, “My only goal for today is ‘Don’t end up on YouTube!’ ” As in, don’t go viral, don’t be on Good Morning America on June 6th as “Worse Flash Mob Dancer EVER”. That was my only goal. Amusingly enough, after we all met up and started talking, we found out that Gidget had said something nearly identical that morning as well!! It became our motto of the day, any time we messed up or something we’d yell, “Don’t end up on YouTube!” Later on, they gave some of us small US flags to wave while dancing, and the goal list was becoming “Don’t end up on YouTube” “Don’t stab anyone with a flag”. Then, later when we were asking to run as part of the dance, we were told by “our choreographer”, “When you run, go *around* the tumblers. Do not run into a tumbler, this is potentially deadly. Got it?!” Okay, list was then amended to “Don’t end up on YouTube”, “Don’t stab anyone with a flag”, “Don’t kill the tumblers”…at which point Caitlyn yelled to me, “Okay now this list is getting hard!!!”

The array of people there was astonishing. There were young college students, church groups, grandmas and grandpas, hipsters, etc. They wanted a diverse group and they certainly got it! We all loved talking to different people, listening to conversations, and just in general getting to know people you never otherwise would have.

For the next three hours, we danced, reset, danced again. Rehearsed it a little differently. Changed locations, did 4 more takes. We had technical difficulties and glitches, and lot of laughs. Sure, there were people getting cranky, it was a hot day, but PAs were handing out cases of water. The whole crew was awesome and took amazing care of everyone. I think as long as you understood that was what filming entails, countless takes and resets, then you had the right attitude to participate. That 15 second piece you “saw me” in took over 4 hours of filming.

Physically, though, it was EXHAUSTING. The routine we learned was maybe 30 seconds, we just did it over and over again. When you weren’t dancing, you were standing, which was worse. Not unexpected, but tiring and hard on the back. I have a new appreciation for people that do things like that daily. Oddly, the most exhausting aspect was the enthusiasm, we needed to be UP and smiling and cheering each time, despite the repetition. Even if you are having fun, making sure you really, really, really look like you are having fun every take isn’t easy. My cheeks hurt from smiling so long.

We finally “wrapped” at about 4:20 and Gidget dashed off to her class. Laura, Caitlyn, and I were starving so we hit the nearest In n Out. Can I tell you that a Cheeseburger Animal Style and a chocolate shake NEVER tasted so good?! I had to stop myself from eating every last bite, even if it was well earned. By the time I got home, I think I talked to Matt for about 20 minutes and then fell asleep. I was apparently out so cold that he decided to let me be and didn’t wake me for our Bible study that evening.

All in all, it was a great experience. I got to share it with 3 awesome ladies that all bring out something in me I wish I had more of. We got to be part of something completely random and unique. And hey, we were “On TV!” (for the right reasons). It wasn’t an easy day, and as I write this paragraph on April 23rd, every muscle in my lower body is cramping up, but it was worth it. And hey, I did something that scared me.

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This part I’m writing on June 5th… and is my “reaction” to seeing it.

I got a little worried last night when I was telling a friend where to look for me in clip and I said “Nick is dressed like James Brown and we are dancing in a street” “I think I saw that last week.” “What? No, they said season premier?” “No, I saw that last week on the Voice.” So, even though I had been following the AGT website to see if they used it as a commercial, I hadn’t checked recently. Some quick Googling told me she was correct, it did air last week as a promo during the Voice. Watching it on ET’s website, I got a little deflated. They used a different camera angle so you couldn’t see anyone, not entirely surprising, but sad combined with the fact that it aired last week and I missed it. There was no promise it would air again last night. That was the most disappointing.

Originally, we’d planned to record it at Bible Study and watch it there after we ended, but now I wasn’t sure what would be there to watch. Even though Brian sweetly did record it, I didn’t mention it and left without reminding anyone to watch it. We got home and fired up the DVR, I was thrilled to find that it DID air before. I DID get to see myself on TV…sorta. I know I was there!

And while they didn’t use any of the aerial shots that would have totally included Caitlyn, Gidget, Laura, and myself, instead focusing only on the host (what? he doesn’t get enough air time as is!?), that wasn’t what this was about. It wasn’t about being seen on TV. It was about stepping outside of my comfort zone. It was about doing something I was scared to do and shutting down all those voices in my head that said “this is what other people will say about you.” It was trying to close the gap between the personality I sometimes wish I had and thinking I can’t have. And all of that was done that day before the promo even aired.

One final thought on being lost in the crowd: Talking to Belen, I told her, “There is an upside. They didn’t use that one take where I totally forgot to smile!”

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