That Time I Almost Got Ryan Seacrest Fired

New Year’s Eve would be a different experience without him. Kelly would not have a Ryan to chat with every day for the foreseeable future. And that famous pregnant pause between “this” and “is American Idol” would probably not exist.

Year’s back, in Atlanta, a friend was producing a game show with this likable young local kid, Ryan, with a freakishly grown-up voice, as the host. We ended up taking him out to some Buckhead bars. We were of age, he was not. I can’t remember if we knew the doormen or if we just had Ryan speak in his deep radio voice, but we had no trouble getting him in.

A few years later, I had moved to LA and my producer friend invited me to lunch with a small group of starving-artist types, one of them being Ryan. It was appropriately Mongolian BBQ: The type of place where you take a bowl for one price and smash as many ingredients into it as you can. You then hand your stuffed bowl to a guy standing over what’s basically a big flat wok. The guy dumps out all your ingredients and grills up a giant heaping of hot food for you.

Ryan had moved out to LA about the same time as me, not long after that Atlanta game show. Judging from our overfilled bowls, I’d say we were both at the starving point. He did, however, have a gig at the local radio station. Not the best time-slot, but a start. He was talking about attending community college as some kind of backup, I guess.

When my girlfriend at the time heard that Ryan worked at the radio station, she had me call him up to see about recording a voice-over reel. You know, the kind of thing that gets you jobs reading copy for commercials and such? Well, Ryan, being the nice guy that he was, said “sure thing, come on over to the studio while I’m working and I’ll set you up.”

When we get to the radio station he has on his headphones, on-air. He’s going a mile-a-minute, talking, pushing buttons, flipping switches, multi-tasking. This guy is in his element. He sees us and smiles and waves us in. He holds up his finger like “just a sec,” pushes another button or two, puts down his headphones and greets us both warmly.

He has us follow him into an empty studio next to his and shows me how to run the recorder in there to do the demo reel. It’s actually easier than I thought. Ryan then bolts to get back to his next radio segment and leaves us in there all alone with the door closed.

About 15 minutes later we’re almost done with the demo-reel, and I see a face in the little window in the door to our room. The face has a scowl. I hear a knock and I open the door. “Who gave you permission to be in here?” the face asks angrily. “Uh, Ryan” I answer. “Ryan!” the guy turns and goes to confront Ryan. I rush to the board and push record. “Hurry up,” I say to my girlfriend, “let’s finish this last take before we’re kicked out of here.”

I think Ryan got scolded, but not fired, and we kind of lost touch. I hoped it wasn’t for the recording incident.

A few years later, I was in an LA restaurant bar with another friend who was not in the business of show whatsoever. Up comes this well-dressed kid with the brightest smile, and frosty tipped hair. It was Ryan. He asked how things were and I did the same, though I knew he’d been bumped up to the best time-slot in radio: the afternoon drive. I introduced my friend to Ryan who regaled us with some Hollywood chatter. Later, my friend said presciently, “that kid’s either going to make it big, or crash big.”

I haven’t seen Ryan since…. Well, except everywhere.

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A Golden’s Last Bash

In LA we threw all the big event parties: New Year’s, Super Bowl, Oscars, Golden Globes…I think we even did a SAG Awards party—this was LA after all, where entertainment news often superseded the news of the world. One Super Bowl we decided to skip our hosting duties but we got so many calls from people wondering why they weren’t invited (to a non-existent party mind you) that we ended throwing an impromptu party anyway.

We haven’t continued that tradition in Atlanta, though we have had a few good bashes. This New Year’s was definitely a bash—good or bad? I’ll let you be the judge.

Alex prepped for days, cooking and cleaning and planning. A friend in PR from LA was coming by way of Alabama where he was spending the holidays hanging out with his family and friends. One such friend we had met before, so we invited her as well. About two days before the party, we got a call asking if she could bring her dog. It was an old golden retriever—usually a well-trained breed—so we said why not. Now just to preface, our house is not designed for dogs or kids: sharp corners, fragile items, lots of creams and whites, cats…. But so far, it had weathered visits from numerous kids and dogs.

I have a good number of Alabama friends, but that doesn’t keep me from freely admitting that most Alabamans I’ve met are crazy (the movie Crazy in Alabama was no mere coincidence). Laura turned out to fit the mold.

She showed up with her dog in the passenger seat after a 3-4 hour ride from Birmingham. She came right into the house, letting the dog lead the way without a leash (not a thought that the dog may need to go to the bathroom after such a long ride). The first thing the dog did was devour every last bite of our cat’s food and sloppily lap up every ounce of water from our cat’s bowl. By that time Laura had already disappeared to her guest room to take a shower, leaving the dog to his own devices.

Glasses full of red wine perched precariously on coffee tables were at just the right height for the golden’s tail to thump into. Plates of hors d’oeuvres full of meticulously laid out meats and cheeses and puffed pastries at just the right height for a golden’s mouth to devour.

About an hour later, Laura emerged (a little tipsy it seemed—or maybe this was just her nature) from her guestroom dressed in a bright red sequin-beaded gown. Her perfume entered the room before she did, and lingered well after she left. She grabbed a champagne glass and continued to ignore her dog who, by that time, we had kind of taken charge of and had sitting on the floor in our living room.

Plenty of interesting people had shown up in the meantime like our friends from India; a middle-age guy who works in digital media, and name-drops, with his young girlfriend in tow; a mother-daughter duo of which the mother gets more dates than the daughter, and who’s date this New Year’s was a stuffy guy in an ascot with a handkerchief sticking out of his blazer pocket (the middle-age name-dropper said he’d give anyone $100 to take the handkerchief out of “Stuffys” pocket, blow their nose in it, and put it back).

Alex had prepared a beautiful turkey and a ham with her usual fancy side dishes. She made gravy out of the pan drippings and had that set out next to the turkey in a gravy boat. On the other side of the turkey, next to the salad, there was another bowl filled with homemade balsamic dressing. “Stuffy” ended up pouring the salad dressing on his turkey, thinking it was gravy. The only reason we knew this was that he mentioned how unique the gravy was and Alex looked at his plate and recognized her balsamic dressing, not gravy. She thanked him for the compliment.

After dinner, the party worked its way into the family room. Guitars broke out and songs were sung. Then about mid-way through the song Yellow, by Coldplay, the golden decided to use the bathroom on our white rug—and yes it was yellow—very yellow.

Alex and I sprang to action and tried to towel up the mess. Laura was just standing there saying “oh my gosh”. By that point, I had about had it, and asked Laura if she’d ever trained her dog. This just brought out the “crazy” in Alabama as she burst out crying and went up to her room for the night—without her dog.

We went back to our regularly scheduled party and sang some more songs to ring in the New Year. Little did we know that the dog had snuck into the other room and helped himself to the remainder of our dinner. The ham carcass in the foyer was our first clue.

To top things off, we all went to bed around 2am, but were woken by a loud scratching and thumping sound a short 4 hours later. This was Laura’s dog making its way down our wood stairs so the two could try to sneak out before anyone was up. The dog was old, so had a hard time with stairs to begin with, and his nails had probably never been clipped. We woke up to see our stairs looking like the aftermath of an Edward Scissorhands and Freddy Kruger fight.

Laura at least had the decency to text that her dog had scratched our stairs and that she would pay for any repairs. Well, about a week later, and the day I was getting a quote on the stairs, we heard that the dog had died. I just didn’t have the heart to send her a bill after that.

So for our New Year’s efforts, we now have scratched up stairs and a white rug that had to be thrown out. And we’re still finding red sequins everywhere. Hey, at least the dog went out with a bash.

Maybe next year we’ll just sit on the couch and watch Ryan Seacrest’s shiny ball drop…. while digging out red sequins from the seat cushions.

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