So tonight is the big night! The premiere of Dorian’s first national television appearance on “Best Thing Ever” on TruTV. As excited as I am for 11:30 pm to roll around, I wanted to share the second half of the story of our trip to New York with you.
Dorian sure liked the hotel on Park Ave. Comfy bed, cozy blankets, warm bath tub, man, he was in heaven. He slept pretty well all things considered. New noises and new arrangements are not always welcome for the creatures of habit that iguanas so often are. Generally, iguanas love routines, no, I mean they really love routines. So much so that any small hiccup in their schedule may set them off on a surly path of plant destruction, order disruption, or weaponized defecation. Yeah, that last one really stinks. (ba-DOOM-cha!)
Point is, spontaneity and iguanas don’t mix. But Dorian was super copacetic on this trip. As I wrote last time, he just assumed these arrangements were fit for a king, namely him. Why wouldn’t his dad give him the very best? Dad spoils him rotten at home.
Dorian got to sleep in. He got breakfast in bed. He got to take a nice bath and cuddle time afterwards. Little dude was living high on the hog. He could get used to this celebrity life!
The call sheet noted our call time was noon, so about 11:30, I packed Dorian in his black canvas duffel bag and carried him downstairs. A car service came and picked us up from the hotel and we were driven to a studio somewhere in Manhattan. Supposedly, the driver knew I had an iggy in the bag, but I thought I shouldn’t press my luck. When we got to the studio building, we entered a rather narrow lobby with a little female security guard that wasn’t about to stop anybody. She gave no direction and with no signage to clue us in, we stood there like the Midwestern hicks we were. It was rather cold with the door to the building wide open and fresh Big Apple air blowing in so I really wanted to figure out where to go. I managed to find an elevator as I saw two gentleman stumble in with loads of A/V equipment. I asked one of them if they were with TruTV and what floor we should go to. After holding the elevator door for them, the one fellow says, “Is there an iguana in that bag?” Here they were with the show’s production company and they were excited about the rumor of a large green iguana stopping by the studio.
That said, the rest of the crew was not so excited about Dorian. The makeup lady would barely even look at Dorian once we got him out of the bag in the green room. She finally came to see him, but was so scared she mostly hid behind the door frame. Most of them had never been around reptiles and just didn’t know what to do. I asked a number of them to touch him, “No, seriously, you can pet him.” But I only had two takers amongst the half-dozen crew members on the shoot. Dorian, of course, marched around like he owned the place, checking out every corner of this new environment looking for frightened subjects to rule over. A few of the braver souls (including a production assistant who almost turned pale at one point) just watched him walk around the room amazed that such dinosaurs still exist. It was as if they’d all taken trips to Jurassic Park asking Sam Neal in full paleontologist regalia, “Is this real life?” Having been around reptiles for most of life, I found this trepidation and awe quite humorous.
Dorian walked up and down the hall until I picked him and took him into the studio space, which you can see to the left. It was a much smaller space than one might expect trip. It was mostly dominated by the large green screen that they use predominantly on their shows. But because of Dorian’s natural emerald hue, a special blue screen was brought exclusively for his scene. They actually discussed it in an email with me before the shoot, just to make sure it would work. Acting like I knew the answer, I agreed with their assertion that they needed it. Heck, I can’t even get a green screen at work for my video production class. These guys have a whole room layered in green hues! We did let Dorian run about the studio space for a while until he was attracted to the large cable coils and equipment. Maybe it was the electrical impulses or the warmth, but he kept trying to climb up on them.
For the shoot, I just sat in a chair and answered questions all while holding Dorian. It was really a fascinating process. The director would ask me questions, which I would answer and then he would ask me to rephrase what I said, or just “say it in a different way.” I half expected to be handed a script when we started, but the director was able to draw out answers he liked with his suggestions and requests. Sometimes he would have a quick whisper with a script advisor, but it was really interesting how everything worked. Dorian for his part was rather taken aback by the whole experience. Instead of causing a kerfuffle, he closely hugged my chest, seeking the protection of his papa. He was not about to crawl down with all the strange people about and weird equipment humming along, no sir. This is where people who don’t understand iguanas wouldn’t understand how I can say it was very endearing.
Eventually, the crew from Meetinghouse Productions got around to asking me if Dorian would eat bread out of my mouth, which I think was the whole point of bringing us to New York. So we obliged (like Bon Jovi singing “Like a Prayer” at a wedding), and Dorian of course was very happy he got a slice of wheat bread. To tell the truth, I sort of dreaded the whole “feed him out of your mouth” thing. Contrary to how it may appear, this is not something we do on regular occasions. We seriously only did it to get on David Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment before he left the air a number of years ago. Granted, I did bring a slice of wheat bread from home despite my trepidation at their fascination with it. You know what they say, “you dance with the one that brung ya.”
Interestingly, I did meet one of the comedians, Pete Lee, who worked that particular episode. I had seen his name on the call sheet, and a quick search of YouTube revealed an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, ironically the very show we attempted to be on. As we chatted about Dorian, life in show business and various things, I mentioned that I had seen his appearance on Letterman. He said thank you and then mentioned that he had seen Dorian’s video, and before MeetingHouse decided to bring me in, he had “written a few jokes about you.” What followed was a hilariously awkward moment of silence. I also met several Ball State graduates, which was great to see my alma mater producing broadcast industry professionals. Overall, the people I met were nothing but accommodating with warmth and hospitality.
Finally, I wanted to mention what it meant to be back in the city. As a former resident of the Garden State just across the Hudson, it was so fantastic to be back in the hubbub and chaos of the Big Apple. The sights, the sounds… even the smells of the city were a welcome relief to the small town placidity of Canton, Ohio. I did think it was auspicious that the studio we filmed at was just across from a rather serendipitously named bar. For those that don’t know, Dorian is named after the central character in a favorite book of mine, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The name of the bar across the street? Oh, that just happened to be the author of that book, Oscar Wilde.