In 1968 Andy Warhol stated: “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes”. I’d like to amend that statement, forty six years later, to: “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 seconds”.
That’s approximately how long I got to play my seashell flute on stage in Madison Square Garden for America’s Got Talent. Celebrity judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel unceremoniously dashed my hopes and dreams of fame and fortune with four, BIG, red-letter X’s accompanied by the roar of what sounded like revved up chainsaws.
America’s Got Talent paid for my entire weekend, which included my round trip airfare from Orlando to JFK, ground transportation, two nights accommodations at the Affinia Manhattan, which is a grand hotel across the street from Madison Square Garden, food, $50 spending money and an incredible experience. My sister, Betsy, came with me. She paid for her own airfare and ground transportation and shared the hotel room with me. All in all we had a great weekend.
We arrived at the Affinia on Friday, April 4. It was raining and cold that afternoon. Betsy wanted to go up to the top of the Empire State Building. It was windy, cold and raining up there also. Only ten times worse. I could barely see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and thought of my grandmother, Bridget, arriving by sea from Ireland in 1898 under similar circumstances. Betsy found the spot where the little boy sat waiting for his new mother, Meg Ryan, in the movie ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.
Early Saturday morning we took a taxi to Central Park. People were ice skating, flowers were blooming, bag pipers piping, runners running, dogs playing off-leash until nine, buskers busking, horses pulling decked out carriages and singers singing the most beautiful spirituals beneath the Bethesda Fountain stairway.
It was such a beautiful, clear, cool, spring day that we walked the thirty blocks back to the Affinia. We went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then watched ice skaters in Rockefeller Center. Betsy bought hot frozen pretzels and cashmere scarves from street vendors. We toured Penn Station under Madison Square Garden. Later that afternoon Betsy found the world’s largest pillow fight in Washington Square. She had a blast.
I, on the other hand, was told by AGT producer’s to be in Madison Square Garden, by one thirty Saturday afternoon, for a camera interview about my life and act. I watched people practice their acts. Some were good-great-magnificent. Others, not so. I waited…until 8:30 pm for my interview to begin.
I was supposed to perform at 5:45 pm but, due to delays, I didn’t get to go on stage until 9:15 pm or so. By that time everyone, including the judges, were tired and wanted to go home. I was second to last. I had been told by AGT producers to play ‘Summertime’. I stated my name, age and what I was going to do. Within fifteen seconds the judges ended my performance. I walked off the stage, out the door and met up with Betsy in the lobby. We split a pastrami sandwich at the Backstage Deli.
Betsy was really angry with the judges and AGT. She had sat in the audience since 4:45 pm with thousands of others. She yelled herself hoarse during the audience training sessions wherein the camera(s) capture the audience applauding, cheering, booing, etc. on cue, before any actual performances begin. Images of the audience reactions can be inserted into the actual show when and where needed. The whole show is highly scripted. Little is left to chance.
The following morning we checked out of the Affinia at 9 am. Ground transportation took us to JFK. The plane ride back to Orlando took a couple of hours. In general we both had a lot of fun. Thanks AGT and thank you Betsy for coming with me to share this wonderful and odd experience. Would I do it again? Yes. But next time I’d play along with music. It would sound much better.