I changed my focus away from the first camera and gazed over the hundred or so men and women packed in around me as Camera Two’s red light switched on, panning across their smiling faces.
“I want to thank our studio audience for showing up and all our viewers out there in my home town, the greatest city in the USA, the wonderful windy city of Chicago.”
The hometown audience before me set up a spontaneous cheer.
“We have a good show for you today. Today’s guest is Harold Saponi, author of the recent best seller, Bottoms Up. Stay tuned. We’ll be right back after this commercial.”
As we cut to the break, I finally allowed myself to exhale.
I looked up and saw my assistant director, Gail, giving me a heads up sign. Darren, the director and my partner for fifteen years, ran up to me, gave me a big hug and said, “You’re doing great. Take your seat and relax. They love you.”
I could have had a booger hanging from my left nostril and Darren would have said the same thing. He had been in my corner since the first day I met him when he was hosting a police benefit for underprivileged children. Although he looked like a defensive back for the Chicago Bears, he had the grace of a prima ballerina.
I hustled over to the two funky armchairs Gail had dug up for the show and sat down on the right, as the commercial
ended, the red light went back on, and I launched into my spiel.
“Let’s hear a great big welcome for Harold Saponi.” As I
watched him make his entrance, absorb the applause, and shake my hand, I wondered what Harold was carrying under his arm as he sat down.
“I brought you a gift,” Harold said, as he handed over a small well-wrapped box with a bright green bow. His high-pitched soprano voice reminded me of a squished baby’s toy that squawked repeatedly as you tried to stop it. When a few audience members giggled, he stared right in their direction and they stopped immediately.
“Harold, how nice of you.”
I turned the box upside down and shook it but its only clue was silence.
“I’d guess jewelry but I barely know you.”
Harold put his right hand up to his lips to prevent a titter from escaping and looked playfully at the camera as if to include everyone in the game. I opened the box and saw a Scotch plaid pouch, which I opened quickly. I wanted to see my gift. If getting presents from stars was part of this gig, I was enjoying every minute of it.
The thingie was silver, weighed about a pound and looked like an Android phone. I was about to ask him what it