Ryan Dosier – My story of my time in the dream factory, the magic store, Hollywood, continues today after two previous parts highlighted events from the previous days. In Part 1, I went to the Cast and Crew Screening of The Muppets on the Walt Disney Studios lot. Two days later, in Part 2, I spent the first half of my day on Hollywood Boulevard for the green carpet at The Muppets World Premiere and actually got into the World Premiere Screening! We take you now to the continuation of that day already in progress…
I had just seen The Muppets for the second time in three days–two weeks before its actual release date. To say that I was on cloud nine would be a major understatement. As I made my way out of the theater and into the lobby of the El Capitan Theatre, I waited amongst the crowd to catch up with the Barrettas and find out what the Dancing With the Stars situation was. While I was waiting, a horde of celebrities walked out past me. It’s such a bizarre thing to be standing somewhere that Anthony Hopkins is… even when he’s just walking past you. Anyway, I finally found the Barrettas–who were surprisingly unsurprised that I managed to get in to the screening–and I think I basically asked when and where I should meet them to go to Dancing With the Stars. What happened next changed everything (it’s amazing how many times everything changed on this trip). Cristina Barretta pulled off her Guest badge for the premiere (see right) and handed it to me. “Here,” she said with her wonderful grin, “take this and meet us at the after party. We’ll leave from there. Go have fun!”
So, mouth agape, cloud flying even higher, I floated across the street to the Kodak Theatre (where, you know, they have the Academy Awards) and up a few escalators, past some security, and into a huge room decked out in Muppet Theater Curtain crimson and adorned with countless Muppet posters, movie props (including The Muppet Show sign and the portraits from “Pictures in My Head”), four bars, and two desert stations. It was completely overwhelming and I had never experienced anything like it… nor will I ever again. Oh, and celebrities were literally everywhere I turned.
I met so many incredible people while at the after party, including the winner of the Yamaha Entertainment Group contest, Jeremiah Lance, who was about as excited as I was (I had a slight advantage because I’m an obsessed Muppet fan). I didn’t have anything at all to eat or drink while at the after party, because I was too busy meeting icons and personal heroes and super talented people. I shook hands with Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) and Rashida Jones signed my poster, and I met and got pictures with Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), Darren Criss (Glee), Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords), Joel McHale (Community), Bret McKenzie, Amy Adams, and Jason Segel. I honestly don’t remember what I said to Amy… she is so stunning and sweet and charming in person that I lost all sense of anything. Thank goodness I have the picture below to jog my memory…
Jason Segel, however, was so monumentally wonderful to me that he gets an entire paragraph to himself. I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous about approaching a person than I was about approaching Jason–and not just because he’s a giant. This was the guy who had accomplished everything I ever want to by working with the Muppets. Luckily for me, I was watching young mister Jackson Barretta for Cristina at the time and he, being completely uninhibited and great, went right up to Jason and gave him a high five (quite a stretch for Jason). I followed suit (minus the high five), and introduced myself as “Ryan from The Muppet Mindset,” to which Jason responded, “Oh, hey! You guys had a great review of the movie!” Steadying myself from passing out right there, I handed Jason my business card, he read it, and lit up. He pointed at me and grinned and said, “You’re Ryan! You wrote the review!” I told him that I was indeed and he started going on about how much he enjoyed my review, how glad he was that I liked the movie (“We made this movie for the fans like you. It means so much that you liked it.”), and then… well, then he said, “Really, your review was one of the ones we were most looking forward to–it really means so much.” How I refrained from passing out and remaining coherent, I’ll never ever know. Jason was gracious enough to sign my poster and take a picture with me… which is right here:
My life had been made, my happiness level had never been higher, and somehow… it still wasn’t over. Cristina came to find Jackson and I, we grabbed gift bags (with OPI nail polish and pistachios, plus a free copy of Disney twenty-three magazine), and were escorted out onto Hollywood Boulevard where a private car was waiting to drive us to CBS studios for the filming of Dancing With the Stars. As we drove, I just sat and absorbed everything that had just happened. I still couldn’t believe any of it. I just kept looking through my pictures and smiling until we got to CBS. We went in the “VIP Entrance” and the Dancing people (they weren’t really dancing) took us to the main stage where the Muppeteers and Muppets were rehearsing. Kermit and Steve Whitmire, Miss Piggy and Fozzie and Eric Jacobson, Gonzo and Dave Goelz, Pepe and Bill Barretta, Walter and Peter Linz, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Rowlf, Sam Eagle, Dr. Honeydew, Beaker, Animal, and The Swedish Chef… everyone was there.
Also there were the Muppet Wives, as they so love to be called (and as they should totally pitch to Oxygen for a new reality show). The amazing and supportive and friendly wives of Peter Linz, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, and Eric Jacobson were all there, along with Dave Goelz’s lovely wife and two awesome kids. I was lucky enough to have conversations with all of them, and they were so intrigued by me and The Muppet Mindset and so supportive and genuine. It’s easy to see why the Muppet performers married these brilliant women. Even Dave’s kids were fantastic! We talked at length about the movie and they didn’t even mind when I said, “Okay, this is going to sound weird, but your dad is one of my favorite people. Gonzo is my all-time favorite and I just love his work.” Truly, truly amazing people who, again, had no requirement to be nice to me, but that’s just who they are.
The Muppet Wives weren’t the only ones I got to meet that night… I also met the Muppets!! The experience of meeting a Muppet will turn you into a seven year old immediately. You completely forget about Bill or Dave or Peter… and you just buy into it 100%. It started when Bill came over with Pepe on his arm. He started entertaining his son with Pepe. And then… Pepe looked at me. “Hola! You having a good time?” I responded with a laugh and an affirmative, then I asked Pepe–Pepe, not Bill… I was a mess–if I could take a picture with him. “Si, si, come on!” Pepe told me. then this happened…
Can you say, “Profile picture for life?” And then… Gonzo. Dave Goelz came over with Gonzo still on his arm. Now… background on me, Gonzo is my absolute favorite Muppet. Always has been, always will be. I was so elated to see Gonzo (again… I saw him in person in St. Louis last October), that I practically jumped when I asked if I could take a picture. Gonzo said sure, and unfortunately the lighting on the stage was terrible, but you can obviously tell that it’s me standing with Gonzo… which is more than enough for me.
Later, Dave told me that someday I’d get a better picture with Gonzo. I’ll probably hold him to that if I ever get the chance. Then my pal Peter Linz came over with Walter. My meeting with Walter was probably the greatest thing that happened on my trip. We took a picture together (because Peter was gracious and awesome) and then Walter held out his hand for me to shake. As I shook the little felt piece with an armrod attached, I said, “Walter, I loved you in the movie. I’m such a big fan.” Walter then gasped that glorious Walter gasp and said breathlessly, “You’re a big fan of me? But… I’m a big fan of you! How does that work?” For the millionth time that day, I nearly passed out. Walter and I laughed, and then told me he had to get back to work, “Since I’m a big star now.” Here’s the amazing picture…
But the most amazing thing about this night was being present, live, in-person to see the Muppeteers perform. Words cannot adequately describe the talent of these guys. Yes, we’ve all seen their work, sure, some of us have even seen them perform on camera… but absolutely nothing compares to watching them work live on a major musical number. Steve Whitmire and Bill Barretta were amazing… they took Kermit and Pepe over to the audience and started just goofing around with them. At one point, Katy Perry’s “Firework” played to keep the audience entertained, and Kermit did an entire, unscripted, unhinged, amazing lip-sync and dance to the song, with Bill doing hysterical stuff with Kermit’s right hand. It was pure magic and a moment that I will always treasure.
And then they performed and more magic happened everywhere you turned. Whether it was Kermit playing the piano, Eric Jacobson performing Miss Piggy, Matt Vogel dropping rose petals (“Sometimes… you just need a guy to drop a few rose petals.”), Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire cracking up Tom Bergeron as Statler and Waldorf, Peter Linz making Walter whistle, or David Rudman just being spectacular bringing Fozzie to life… magic was everywhere. Did I mention that they filmed the entire “Life’s a Happy Song” performance in one take? Because they did. Brilliance abounding.
Before I knew it, it was over, and the Muppets were whisked away, and the Muppeteers with them. I stayed with the Muppet Wives until someone from Dancing With the Stars came down to tell us that they were taking the family up to the green room. I hesitated and said I could just go, but Cristina grabbed me and pulled me along with them. Indirectly declaring me part of the family. I seriously could have cried. We went upstairs, and there we were… all of us just hanging around. Me, a 21 year old kid from Illinois, hanging around with the seven main Muppet performers and their families. Again… it just didn’t add up, but I didn’t bother rechecking the math.
I chatted with each and every performer and shared an amazing moment with all of them. Steve Whitmire was thrilled to see me, “Ryan!” he shouted. “So glad you finally caught up to us!” Eric Jacobson was so pleased that I liked the movie in his quiet, brilliant way. Dave Goelz was hilarious and kind and remembered that he met me in St. Louis. “Are you from there?” Dave asked. I told him I was about two hours from there. “So you drove two hours just to see me?!” and then, a beat later, “Wait… you came all that way just to see us here?!” Amazing. David Rudman told me some incredible stories about Richard Hunt, and when I told him how great Scooter was in the movie, all he did was talk about Richard. Matt Vogel was brilliant and so much fun as he talked about his rose-petal-dropping prowess, and again, when I talked about how great Floyd and Uncle Deadly were in the movie, he just talked about Jerry Nelson. And, finally, Peter Linz… who was possibly as excited to be there as I was, was elated to show me the pictures he had taken at the green carpet. And as they all left, every one of the Muppeteers said goodbye to me, told me we’d talk soon, and bid farewell. My night ended with me being driven home in a private car, taken back to my hotel. My night ended with me being happier and stunned and higher than I ever had been in my life.
I said this when I first started writing the series… but life will always surprise you in amazing, unbelievable ways. If you had asked me, two years ago, when I started The Muppet Mindset, if I thought that I would ever get to do any one of the things I did between November 10th and 12th, I would have laughed. I would have laughed and shook my head if you asked if I would ever see a Cast and Crew screening of a theatrical Muppet movie. I would have laughed if you asked if I would ever be a member of the crowd at the World Premiere of a theatrical Muppet movie, much less get into it. I would have laughed if you asked if I would ever meet Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Pepe, Gonzo, Walter, any Muppeteer, or any number of other people. If you had asked me if I thought I would ever, in my wildest dreams, get to hang out with seven of my heroes in a green room after their performance, I would have told you to stop getting my hopes up with such ridiculous questions.
But all of these things happened. All of these things changed my life. All of these things reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people. I can’t express enough just how wonderful and incredibly nice every single person was to me. I have way too many people to thank for all of this… here’s a list that probably doesn’t include someone… I can never, ever thank these people enough: Cristina Barretta, Bill Barretta, Mary Jacobson, Peter Linz, Rocco Fonzarelli, Jill Breitzman, Lylle Breier, Kevin Frawley, Jason Segel, James Bobin, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, and David Rudman. Each of them made my trip what it was… and it was unreal and indescribable (trust me… I’ve tried to describe it for a month and still come up short).
Oh, I just remembered someone I didn’t thank… YOU. You, and you, and you, and you, and you–well, all of you. If it weren’t for each and every one of you and your undying support and undying passion, none of this would be possible. Everything I do here at The Muppet Mindset, out in Hollywood, anywhere, is for you the fans. You’re the reason for The Muppet Mindset, and The Muppet Mindset is the reason for this trip, and so you’re the reason for my life changing. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To see each and every picture from my adventure in Hollywood, check out The Muppet Mindset on Photobucket. There are countless pictures that didn’t make it into the three posts, so if you wish to see them all, now’s your chance!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org