In 1994, I co-hosted Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and we filmed that shit nowhere near New Years. It was like in July or something really early like that. The show was shot in different locations and put together in post like a quilt, but I remember my patch was done at a big megastudio in Orlando, florida, probably MGM or Disneyworld. I am not sure which theme park it was, but I remember at the airport I had to take a tram so it must have been Orlando.
They paid a lot for me at the time, and since I was technically an employee of Disney, whenever I was at Disneyland or Disneyworld, I never had to wait in line for rides or pay one thin dime for food or souvenirs, which basically ruined the theme park game for me. Now when I go to any kind of amusement park, I expect that kind of treatment. I get in through the gates and I feel like a deposed king, no longer in power yet unable to blend back into ordinary life, the memory of riches and entitlements now just a bitter taste in my mouth.
But in the early 90s, I could ride the Matterhorn as many times in a row as I pleased. If I wanted to I could just stay on the ride and go again and again and again and again and I did it so much I didn’t enjoy it at all anymore. It just rattled my brain and racked my nerves. I preferred the weirdly retro science rides at Disneyworld, the ones hardly ridden by anyone and set to close down forever, which now would be categorized as ‘steampunk’ and be kept running by hipsters high on mushrooms.
Whenever you went to Disneyworld you would get a young person who would be your fixer, and they would usually be a good looking, somewhat androgynous and extremely ambitious type. Their jobs had a specific name but I can’t remember what it is, or what their individual names were. They would do anything for you, and I even think once I asked them for drugs and they just laughed. They wore plaid vests and were uniformly beautiful and resourceful and trained to please you in all ways that were legal and possible. I guess it is like hiring a geisha, as these vested and happy helpers made a point to flatter you and make good conversation, so they were geisha without kimono. Like Doctors Without Borders. Nice kids.
They drove me to the set in golf carts and complimented my fancy gown, a Gregory Parkinson original, fitted to my body in the workroom of his old store on Beverly Blvd. Gregory slit the back open and pinned the silver sequin masterpiece so it hung perfectly, and after the special was filmed he hand dyed it so I could wear it again without anyone suspecting it wasn’t new. It was my first real designer dress and I wish I still had the thing. I can’t remember where it is at all anymore.
Dick Clark was there and he looked supernaturally young, which has been the joke with him forever, and he has always been fond of me and relied on me and gave me jobs way before other people did. Once he brought me in specially to shoot an episode of the Donny and Marie talk show. The famous siblings fought throughout my segment, and Dick apologized for their constant conflict. I was merely honored to be there, and probably as starstruck as I have ever been. I remember the Barbie style dolls of Donny and Marie I had as a child, in their purple ice skating outfits, the shredded amethyst and lavender chiffon cut into tiny triangles to give the illusion of movement. I don’t know why they don’t have tv shows filmed on ice anymore. This was a smashingly good idea.
Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve wasn’t filmed on ice, and I shared co-hosting duties with Steve Harvey, who I saw often in those days, as we both had big deals with Disney. He was always hilarious and made fun of the executives and whenever he was there it was a relief because I didn’t have to do all the joking. Salt-n-Pepa performed and they wore knee pads and danced impressively and sang their hit ‘What a Man’ and it was thrilling even though they had to repeat the song a number of times so that the cameras could move and shoot them from different angles. Every time they did the song I still got just as excited as the first time. I love Salt-n-Pepa. Spinderella was there too.
We all stood together at the end and cheered in the new year – I think Hootie and the Blowfish were in attendance as well but my memory doesn’t include them and I am not sure why. I saw Darius Rucker multiple times during that period. For some reason we were always in the same hotels. I was always coming when he was going. Different cities, different days, but we always passed each other in the same direction. He’s nice too. He’ll hold an elevator for you even when its awkward and inconvenient.
When the old year was counted out and the new year was ushered in I got scared because it wasn’t New Years. It wasn’t even close to New Years. I had been watching this show since I was a child and I had always assumed it was live and now to be a part of it, a big part of it and know what a lie it was felt strangely shattering and sickening. I think it was the very beginning of my nervous breakdown of the mid-90s and one of the reasons I never celebrate New Year’s Eve.