I awoke before my 4:45 a.m. alarm. This is at least how early I'd be up if I worked in morning TV, I thought to myself. The Good Morning America folks already were at the office. The Live With Kelly and Michael staff were on their way in. But those of us heading to The View were just rising to make the 6:30 train out of Hamilton, N.J.
Yes, I am leaving The Inquirer and this is my last "Here and There" column. It's been my pleasure to be the Travel editor for such a wonderful newspaper. But, no, I'm not going to be working in morning TV.
Some friends had suggested that we try to get free tickets for one of the morning shows broadcast from New York, so we went online and registered. Five of us went on Dec. 4. We needed to be at The View studio on West 66th Street an hour before our ticketed time of 9 a.m. The 6:30 NJTransit train ($30 round trip from Hamilton) would pull into Penn Station about 7:30, and we'd grab a cab.
I had read the FAQ from The View, and knew what to wear: "Dress your best in solid bright colors. Our dress code is UPSCALE CASUAL (VIBRANT BRIGHT COLORS) as if you are going to a nice dinner. A chic dress, dressy pants, or trendy and fashionable outfits are suggested. As a member of the audience, you must be prepared to be on camera! We reserve the right to deny entry to anyone dressed inappropriately.
"DONT's: NO solid white or black clothing. NO shorts, NO t-shirts, NO sleeveless tops, hats or attire with large logos."
The clothing was easy. But I'm a daily newspaper person used to working at night. That morning, I was propelled by adrenaline and caffeine. I was excited to see Whoopi and the Rosies, Perez and O'Donnell, but was not familiar with the fourth host, Nicolle Wallace.
We waited in line outside for about 20 minutes before being let in and seated in the cafeteria. No food service had begun, so they gave us snacks and juice. We then lined up for the bathroom ("Go before the Show!"). The cafeteria had large posters of some ABC shows on the wall, providing good background for cellphone selfies.
Before long, it was time to head to the studio. It was much smaller than I expected, and we were packed in. The stage, and the stars, are a few feet from the front row. Quite cozy.
Of course, warm-up comedian Tom Kelly got the audience pumped. He's funny, and let us know he'd be on stage at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut that weekend.
Then the music started, cueing the audience to go wild. We clapped and hooted and hollered and smiled and bounced up and down. It was showtime! Out came the hosts - much smaller than they appear on TV. I knew Rosie O'Donnell had lost weight, and she looked great. I hadn't seen Rosie Perez before, and she is tiny but has a big stage presence. Whoopi clearly was in pain. She walked as though her back was hurting, and she sat with a special pillow.
The guest host was Cyndi Lauper. She looked amazing - better now, I think, than she did in the 1980s (although it's still a little tough to follow what she says). Nancy Grace (she really has a big mouth) and Hugh Jackman (much more handsome in person) also were on the show.
During commercial breaks, the stars took questions from the audience. I asked O'Donnell about what she'd be doing apart from The View in the near future, which gave her the opportunity to talk about a forthcoming HBO special and her 2012 heart attack. She talked about how heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, and that she was very lucky to be alive. She said the heart attack would be part of her HBO special.
Whoopi took further questions about the Eric Garner case, that day's main Hot Topic.
I was surprised that both she and O'Donnell used profanity in their off-camera remarks to the audience. Not that I haven't heard the language before, but it seemed disrespectful with that crowd. Perez was quite funny and personable.
The show was over just as I was getting used to the riotous clapping. We were given a copy of Perez's new animated film The Hero of Color City and sent on our way. It was a great way to spend a weekday morning.
On our way back to the train, we stopped for lunch at Carmine's, a family-style Italian spot on West 44th in the theater district, then strolled through Macy's at Herald Square.
We were back on the train home by 4:45, all with that good tired feeling you get when you've worn yourself out doing something wonderful.
Now that I'm retired, I've already put in for tickets to see The Wendy Williams Show. I think I'll try for The Chew and Rachael Ray, too. I hear they feed the audience.