“I want to see celebrities.”
As one of the adults planning her birthday trip, I kept asking Janna what she wanted to do in New York. That was her only answer.
The easiest way to make it happen was to bring her to a taping of Letterman but we couldn’t – she needs to be 21 to join the studio audience and she’s barely 18.
One morning, I thought of taking her to see Emma Stone at another show’s taping but she woke up late.
She wasn’t too excited about Emma anyway. There was one person she really wanted to see: Beyonce.
Janna has a big Beyonce obsession. She wouldn’t stop singing Drunk In Love. She sang and played it so many times during this trip that the tune was stuck in my head for days – and I hadn’t even heard it before she forced me to listen to it.
“Tita Pam, Beyonce is in New York!” Janna said a few days ago.
“Maybe she’s attending the Time 100 gala,” I said. Beyonce is on Time’s list of 100 Most Influential People this year and she’s on the cover of the magazine.
“Can we go?” she asked.
I know fans sometimes crash red carpet events to watch the arrival of the stars. But I wasn’t sure if people did that at the Time 100 gala.
I knew just the right person to ask: Gidget, who used to work for Inquirer and who has been with Time for years.
I sent her a quick Facebook message: Do fans ever wait outside the gala to see the red carpet arrivals?
Yes, she said, giving us a valuable tip: fans usually wait after the event, when the lobby isn’t packed with members of the press. But Gidget wasn’t sure if Beyonce was coming.
“That’s okay,” Janna said, “Let’s go anyway!”
On the day of the gala, we monitored Twitter while eating our way through Chelsea Market.
“Oh my god, John Green is coming.”
“Amy Adams is there!”
“Pharrell is performing!”
“Ooh, Christy Turlington is there.”
“But where’s Beyonce?”
According to one tweet, Beyonce was a no-show. But Janna didn’t care. She still wanted to go.
So before 10 p.m., we left the apartment and braved the downpour.
“What are we dooo-ing?” we mimicked Tracy Jordan mimicking Oprah and we laughed, our faces wet with rain.
We continued to check the #time100 hashtag on Twitter, even while we were on the subway.
By the time we got to Columbus Circle, we were soaked and freezing, my umbrella was broken and my eyeglasses were so foggy that I couldn’t see a thing.
I took them off and looked up. We could see the party lights from where we were standing. I snapped a picture of Janna.
We entered Time Warner Center and spotted the red carpet. Apart from a few guards, we we were the only ones there. “I can’t believe no one else was crazy enough to go out tonight,” I told Janna.
A few guests were leaving but none of them looked familiar.
“Let’s walk over there,” I said.
“No, the NYPD scares me,” Janna said, looking at the four policemen who were standing by the red carpet.
“It’s okay,” I said.
We followed the red carpet, took a right and realized that we weren’t the only ones there. We had just been standing at the wrong place.
We secured a spot on one side of the carpet, one with a clear view of the elevators. We were surrounded by a few fans and tourists, a couple of photographers and a number of autograph scalpers – creepy men who walk around with big backpacks full of celebrity photographs. I’m pretty sure these men try to get photos signed so they can resell them on Ebay. Some of them were carrying clipboards.
People in tuxedos and evening gowns walked past as they left the party but the crowd just looked bored. “Nope, no one famous. Next!” their blank faces seemed to say. It must be so weird to get off an elevator and have an entire group of people snub you.
Suddenly, there was a commotion.
The crowed rushed to our side of the red carpet, shouting, “Ed, Ed, can you sign this please?”
It was Christy Turlington and her husband Ed Burns. Christy is on the Time 100 list for her fight against maternal mortality.
Christy actually looked like she was willing to stop for pictures and autographs but Ed kept walking, saying, “Sorry, guys, not tonight.”
I took a few quick photos of Christy for Jason who has adored her since high school.
Some people chased after the couple while the others dispersed, returning to their original spots. Minutes later, they crowded around us again. “Alfonso! Alfonso!”
“Who’s that?” I heard one tourist ask.
“Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Gravity,” someone answered.
Alfonso was leaving the party but stopped when he saw the waiting crowd. People had photos taken with him and he signed a lot of autographs. He kept saying, “I have to go, I have to go,” but he kept signing and posing, trying to accommodate everyone.
Janna took a selfie with him and then told him, “I love your glasses, man.”
It soon became clear that we had chosen a good spot. “Stay put, don’t give up your spot,” I kept telling Janna while the crowd jostled us to get closer to whoever was on the red carpet.
There were lulls too. And during the lulls, people walking by talked to us, trying to find out what we were doing there and who we were waiting for.
A cool-looking girl with dreads and piercings snuck up on us. “What’s going on here?”
“It’s the Time 100 gala, we’re just waiting for people who are leaving.”
“Pharrell, Seth Myers…”
Spotting the blow-up of the Time magazine cover, she asked, “Beyonce? Jay-Z?”
“Nah. They’re not here.”
“Who else is here?”
“Uh, Carrie Underwood?”
She rolled her eyes and walked on.
The elevator opened and I spotted a familiar face.
Katie Couric walked towards us, stopping when a French mom excitedly waved her over.
“Who are you guys waiting for?” she asked, smiling.
“You,” the French tourist said.
“Not me,” Katie said, laughing as she posed for photographs.
A sharply dressed guy with facial hair walked by and people chased after him.
“Who’s that guy?” a photographer asked us.
“We have no idea.”
“Probably someone in fashion,” somebody else said.
He signed autographs and posed for pictures while we wondered who he was.
The photographer, who reminded me of a younger Mr. Heckles from Friends, tried to made small talk.
“Are you from California?” he asked Janna.
“You sound like you’re from California.”
Then he started telling us about his Filipina best friend who used to live in New York but now lives in California and how he’s not good enough for her so they’re just like brother and sister.
He kept talking. He talked about his plans to sell the pictures he was taking that night and how he can only sell them “if it’s the whole body.”
He asked if we really didn’t live in the United States. He asked if we were teenagers. He asked too many questions.
Janna and I amused ourselves by naming celebrities who looked like the people who were exiting the elevators.
“Mariah!” (She really did look like Mariah.)
“That guy from Entourage.”
“Megan! Megan!” the photographers called out to a pretty tall blonde.
I did a quick Google search and found out that it was Megyn Kelly, Fox news anchor and also a Time 100 honoree.
More curious people walked by, wondering why we were standing around and staring at the elevators.
“Who’s here? Brad Pitt?” another lady with a French accent asked.
“We wish,” we said. “Amy Adams, Pharrell, Carrie Underwood…”
She grabbed her husband. “We’re staying.”
A French girl approached Janna, asking if it’s true that Miley Cyrus was at the event. She said one of the guards told her that Miley was there.
“No, we don’t think so,” we said.
The elevator doors opened and Miley’s French fan gasped. “Beyonce?!”
Janna and I laughed. It wasn’t Beyonce, it was Laverne Cox, one of the people I had been wanting to see.
Laverne plays Sophia Burset in Orange Is The New Black, a show that we love.
“Laverne!” Janna and I called out.
“I love your show! Can I have a selfie with you?” Janna asked.
“Okay,” Laverne said. “I’m doing, like, three.”
There were so many things I wanted to say to Laverne – how her character is one of my favorites on the show, how much I admire her for her advocacy and how glad I am that she is so outspoken about transgender rights – but there was no chance. Instead, I settled for a very inarticulate and awkward “I love you.”
“Who is that?” the French girl’s mom asked me, watching the people clamoring for Laverne’s attention.
“Laverne Cox, she’s on Orange Is The New Black.”
“She must be… man,” she said in her thick French accent.
“She’s transgender,” I said, adding that Laverne’s OITNB character is transgender too.
The elevator doors opened and it was my turn to gasp. I grabbed Janna and said, “It’s Robert!”
Leaving the party were Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson Lopez, the husband-and-wife composers of Frozen’s insanely popular songs. Robert also co-created The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q and, after Let It Go’s Academy Award win, is the youngest person to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.
“Tita Pam, you shouldn’t have gasped. No one else realized who they were until you reacted,” Janna chastised me. She was right.
The guy beside me heard me say Robert’s name and he pushed his way ahead of me. “Robert,” he called out. “Can I have a photo with you?”
Soon, a crowd had gathered around the couple but Kristen was obviously in a hurry. “I’m sorry, guys, we have to go. Sorry. Our car is waiting.”
But Robert was still signing. “Come on, sweetie, let’s go,” Kristen called out to him.
Robert stopped for a few more photos. If I didn’t speak up, I knew I’d lose my chance. It was time to pull the Pinoy card. “Hi Robert, we’re from the Philippines,” I said. He stopped, smiled and got Kristen to join us for a photo.
Photographers and fans chased after them until Kristen eventually said, “I’m sorry, guys, we really have to go. We’re trying to get home to our kids.”
Once again, tourists and photographers walked up to us to ask who Robert and Kristen were.
The elevator doors opened again and a bunch of people stepped out.
“Crazy Eyes!” I grabbed Janna.
It was Uzo Aduba who plays Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on Orange Is The New Black.
“Uzo! Can we have a photo with you?” Janna and I chorused. She looked surprised, like she didn’t think she would have fans waiting outside. Janna, the selfie master, took photos with her and kept talking to Uzo while she signed autographs. “I can’t wait for the second season. I watched the trailer.”
Uzo posed with me too but here’s a confession: I don’t know how to take selfies with my phone. The same thing happened with Aziz Ansari last year. He ended up having to take the phone from me and doing it. Janna has been trying to teach me but I clearly need more lessons. When Uzo walked away, I realized that all I managed to do was take a very blurry picture of the floor. It’s a good thing I had photobombed Uzo and Janna.
I had no time to moan about my lack of selfie skills because John Green was on the red carpet and I love him. He wrote The Fault In Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Looking For Alaska, Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances and co-wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson with David Levithan, another YA favorite.
“John!” I called him while trying to get Janna’s attention so she could take our photo.
He was so nice. He took my phone from me and said, “I’ll take the selfie. I’m really good at this.”
He took a few photos and Janna took a few photos with him too before telling him, “I love your book, man.”
“Who’s that?” people asked us for the nth time.
“John Green. The movie based on his book The Fault In Our Stars is coming out soon,” we said.
More fans gathered around John. One mother wanted John to hug her daughter so he did. Then she wanted him to do it again because she wanted to take a photo of John hugging her daughter. People are weird.
There was a woman standing beside John and a photographer asked, “Is she your wife?”
“No,” John replied. “She’s my publisher.”
Janna and I were giddy, so giddy.
She was hoping to see Pharrell too but the guards soon left, telling everyone, “That’s it.”
And we realized it was true because workers started removing the velvet ropes and the red carpet.
It was midnight by the time we left Time Warner Center. The cold night embraced us again.
“I love you, New York,” Janna kept saying as we talked about how crazy the night had been.
“Let’s celebrate with halal,” Janna said so we made a quick Halal Guys stop.
We were on our way to catch the train home when Janna gasped, staring into the distance, transfixed by the twinkling lights. “Is that Times Square?! Can we go?”
And I said the only thing you should say to a person who is falling in love with New York for the first time even if it’s almost 1 a.m.: “Of course. Of course we can.”