Okay Readers, as it is Valentine’s day, I thought it might be appropriate for me to share a little love story…
This isn’t the love story you might be expecting… yes, I am happily married to a man I’m obsessed with… but before Thomas, there was someone else. Someone many of you have likely fallen in love with, and someone who still holds a piece of my heart, even today…
I’m talking about Justin Randell Timberlake.
Yes, I know his middle name. I also know his shoe size is 13. He likes cereal, Apple Jacks are his favorite. Like me, his favorite color is baby blue. He loves Basketball and considered chasing his dream of playing in the pros. He was born in Memphis, Tenn in January, and he now lives within an hour of my current address (that may or may not have had something to do with our cross country move). His mom, Lynn Harless and he are very close. He started his career on the Mickey Mouse Club and he came into my heart when I was only 14 and he was 16.
I remember popping N’Sync’s self titled debut cd in the cd rom (yes, I said cd rom) and discovering that he was only 16 (only two years older than me) and being convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that he and I would be married. Well, at that time I was absolutely destined to become a movie star (I had done theatre for most of my life and only when I graduated college did I really think that maybe I wouldn’t pursue this dream), and so it was only fitting that Justin and I would fall in love and have many curly blonde, blue eyed kids (God kind of met me half way there, wouldn’t you say?)
Some of you, depending on age, will remember the show FANatic on MTV. Basically, it was a show where people sent in videos of themselves pleading their case as to why they were the biggest fan of whoever they were the biggest fan of. Well, I sent one of those tapes (yes, I said tapes). I spent a weekend with the only other high school girl who shared my obsession with N’Sync (ironically also named Wendy) and we made a FANatic tape. It was extreme, I promise you. We interviewed friends and family. I had every single magazine that N’Sync had ever been on (as did Wendy), and we re-carpeted her entire house with them to make a point. Wall to wall magazines, throughout the house. Not to mention the wall paper of posters in both of our rooms (we are talking ceilings too!) I had taped every single time N’Sync had ever made a tv appearance. And I mean every single time. I mean even the commercial that advertised the tv appearance. I had probably 30 VHS tapes full (I wish I were kidding).
I had been to 5 N’Sync concerts, which is a feat considering I had to get in line at 3am or earlier every time tickets went on sale… only to have about 3 minutes in which to actually purchase whatever seat was left in the entire place. I once went down to Sac (well, I had to get a ride at the time… I was 14) and I rewrote ‘I want you back’ (N’Sync’s first single) to perform in front of hundreds of people in a competition to win N’Sync tickets. I didn’t win, but at the last minute a few limited view tickets went on sale and I ran out into the traffic of downtown Sac to get a head start on my competition to the ticket booth. Yes, Readers, I got the tickets. Mind you, this was before N’Sync had become what they became (Britney Spears opened for them, that’s how long ago this was) and during the show Justin winked at me. But this is not exactly where the love story began for us, believe it or not. Although who is to say that he doesn’t remember me from that night?
Anyway, I didn’t win FANatic, obviously, but that’s all for the better I think. I don’t know if Justin and my story would have turned out quite the same had we met on such biased terms. I mean, I would have really just given away my entire edge had we met that way, ya know? Who wants to come off as a stalker? Not me! So after a month of crying, I realized that it was all for the best that our tape wasn’t chosen for FANatic.
Fast forward a few years… I am in college. I’m on again/off again with a guy who is in film school in San Diego. Being in film school had it’s perks, one of which was free seat filler tickets for my boyfriend and 10 of his friends to the American Music Awards!
Now, if you don’t know what a seat filler is, let me tell you… Ever watch an award show, or a live tv event with an audience? Ever notice how it looks like the place is packed all the time? Well, it is. And that is the job of a seat filler. Seat fillers fill the seats at the beginning of the show (you wouldn’t believe how unpunctual stars are) while the audience filters in. Seat fillers make sure the seat next to Sisqo is full when the camera pans to him, even if LL Cool J is in the restroom. Seat fillers make the at home audience feel like they are just missing out because everyone who is anyone is there. Well, I assure you, if the only people there were the stars, they could do the show at the high school gymnasium. Seat fillers stay til the bitter end, even after Kanye leaves because he is too drunk, didn’t win, or got kicked out.
The job of a seat filler is very important.
And it is also one of the cooler jobs, as you can imagine. But don’t be fooled. It is also the strangest thing you will ever do in your entire life. Let me explain:
The group of us got a hotel room the night before the America Music Awards, because we had to be dressed, ready, and at the theatre early the next day. So after a long, awkward night of sharing a room with 7 other people, we all got up, got smokin hot (see photo) and headed over to the theatre. If my memory serves me right, we had to be there at like 11am or something randomly early like that.
We had to park our cars at a place that wasn’t even near the actual theatre and take a trolley (keep in mind we are dressed to the nines, it’s the middle of LA and it’s 11am). We had to wear black so as not to stand out too much. Heaven forbid I steal the attention from Britney. Me, the huge star: seat filler number 3048. So we followed the rules, we got there a little early, and we met up in the parking garage.
There, we waited.
Don’t forget that we were dressed in evening gowns and heels. It’s not like we could just plop down on the ground of the parking garage. But it’s not very realistic that we would stand in heels for hours either. I may have sat down for a bit, I’m not going to lie. So finally, around 1pm, the stage hands in charge start to move around as if something big is about to happen. By this time, the parking garage was nearly full with seat fillers. We were probably among the first 20 to show up and but by this point, there were at least a hundred.
So just when we thought they were going to tell us something or give us some instruction, they started to hand out these doggie bags. Well, that’s what they were… those little styrofoam containers that you take your left overs home in. They passed these out to each of us and inside was an assortment of things: our lunch. A milk, a water, an apple, a HAMbuger- like ham on a burger bun, an Oreo, etc. Very odd. But we ate it because by that point we weren’t sure if maybe we were a part of a group kidnapping or something.
Now, the show started that night at 8pm or something like that, so by 3pm, the gang and I were looking/feeling a bit wilted. If I wasn’t so sure that I was going to fall in love with Justin that night, I’m pretty sure I would have thrown in the towel and headed back for the hotel. It was the longest day of my life.
So around 3ish, if my memory serves me right, the people in charge started to rustle around again. So we, in turn, started to wonder if this was it! We were ready to go- should it be time to go inside, or time to line up for the firing line- at that point it didn’t matter. We were ready.
They filed us in, in a single file line and once we got into the lobby, the people in charge literally start yelling “RUN” as if a bomb has been found and was ticking down the last few seconds of the world. So we ran! What else were we supposed to do? I ran in my heels and evening gown, just like I ran into traffic so many years before. It was all for him. For my prince.
So we ran through the lobby at top speed- no joke- and we ran through the backstage area where they were setting up the after party; all the while someone was continuing to yell at us to run like the wind. It was all so very strange, but we didn’t ask questions. We were in seat filler boot camp and we knew it. It was a test to see who would sit and who would go back to the garage. Back to their lives of ‘almost was’. But not me… I was going to get through to the final round.
So after all the running all over the place at full speed, my friends and I (and thank god I had friends there… I don’t know what I would have done without them to laugh with), we were led into this very long, very narrow room with hauntingly low ceilings. This room had no windows and only the one door we came in through. At the far end of the room, there were chairs lined up in rows, about four on each side with a narrow aisle down the middle, all of which were facing the far wall which had what looked like a projector screen on it. The screen, however, was blank for the time being.
There were only enough chairs for maybe the first 50 people, but luckily we were among those first 50. To this day, I don’t know what happened to the other half of us.
Alas, we finally got to sit. Yes, we were in a strange room with still no indication of what the heck was going on, but at least we could sit and contemplate it. So we did just that. We sat and contemplated it, trying to figure out what they had in store for us, and yet still never getting any instructions or information.
About an hour or so before show time, finally, someone came in to address the group. He explained that they always had way more seat fillers than they would ever need so most of us would be watching the show from this scary room. He said that when the time came, he would lead us out into the theatre and we would find seats to fill. If he told us to go back to the room… there were no exceptions… we had to return to the room. I looked at my friend Tara, who was one of my group, and a silent pact went between us. We would not be returning to the room. We were going to find seats… and we were going to fill them, no matter the cost. We had made it this far. But we nodded politely at the man giving us the info. He also gave us ‘the talk’ about asking for autographs or even talking to the stars. He did not smile. He was not going to bend on this rule. But I couldn’t help but notice he said nothing about falling in love or seducing the stars, so I still felt like my plan was right on track.
5 minutes before show time, our group and the first 50 or so seat fillers were escorted into the huge theatre that was already nearly full with people. I was so nervous and so overwhelmed, I can’t even describe it. But I wasn’t sure if Justin had already spotted me so I appeared as cool and confident as I could muster. As it turned out, because of our place towards the front of the group of seat fillers, Tara and I ended up FRONT ROW in the CENTER OF THE THEATER. Again, we exchanged a silent look speaking volumes to each other without words, and kept our cool.
So after I took my seat among my future peers, I took a moment to casually glance around to see who I recognized and to see if I could send a smile to my betrothed. Well, there was just a sea of faces. I couldn’t really zero in on anyone I really recognized. It was all just so overwhelming. Of course the video cameras were onstage and people were running all over trying to get things places in the last few minutes leading up to the big event. There was just so much going on.
But then… suddenly… everything stopped.
My shoe fell off.
My legs were crossed in front of me, I was looking over my shoulder at the crowd and someone brushed by me and knocked off my shoe….
I turned. I looked up. I saw a HUGE diamond earring. I knew.
‘Sorry,’ he said as he continued on. Sorry. It was the most dreamy voice. He looked right at me- or almost right at me anyway- and I’m pretty sure he knew exactly who I was from that concert so long before when he winked at me.
It was him. Justin Timberlake knocked off my shoe.
It was Cinderella for real ladies… more or less.
I watched him walk about 4 seats down and take his seat with the rest of the N’Sync crew. Only a few seats away. I watched him greet his friends and smile and although I couldn’t hear him, I’m sure he told them about the beautiful girl whose shoe he had just knocked off and how he was going to talk to me on the next commercial break.
Now if this story had a sound track, right now there would be a record scratching to a halt. Can you hear it? Okay, good. Because right then, that dreaded seat filler man came up to Tara and I and told us to return to THE ROOM!! Yes, the room. The room where we would have to remain for the rest of the show. Of course I couldn’t explain to him that I was in the middle of falling in love. I couldn’t ask him why he was doing this to me. I couldn’t even try to understand why one earth he would make us move from these amazing seats. All we could do was follow him. So we stood up, only to see the reason why we were being forced to move coming right towards us.
Britney Spears had arrived. And we were sitting in her seats. I’m not kidding you.
Now, this was pre-head-shave, but post-Justin, so she still looked like a knock out. So I hung back just a tad until she came around the aisle to take her seat. I touched her shoulder and told her that she looked beautiful. She did. I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk to the stars, but she was striking. She deserved a rule break.
And what did she do to repay me for breaking the one real rule of a seat filler?
She rolled her eyes and hiked up her dress, which was way too revealing now that I think about it.
But I don’t blame her. With the break up between her and Justin so fresh… she must have seen our interaction on her way in and simply was jealous. Hey, had the tables been reversed, I can’t say I wouldn’t act the same way…
So Tara and I turned to follow the horrid man who was leading us away from our dreams and towards the scary room. I could hear the show starting behind me as I walked. I could hear the count down and the music and the crowd start to applaud and roar and just at the very last minute… just as we were reaching the point of no return, Tara grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the last two open seats in the place. Sure they were in like the 40th row and did not really require seat fillers, but we had our butts planted and the lights were fading. We were in.
Don’t think for one second that that sad little man didn’t come right over and say to us, “Next time I tell you to come, you come.” Or something equally as annoying. We nodded politely as we squeezed each others hands.
The show went on and we did not have to move for at least a few commercial breaks. We watched Christina Aguilara, Mariah Carey, Elton John and Tim McGraw. We even got to see Willie Nelson forget the words live onstage. It was magical.
But then, it was a commercial break about 30 mins into the show. I saw Justin pop up at the front of the house and turn up the aisle towards Tara and I. He was heading our way. Surely it was to come find me. Tara all but pushed me out onto the floor of the aisle in front of him, so I had no choice but to face my destiny.
So I stood there, very calmly and confidently (or so I thought), brushing off my dress, trying to look natural but standing dead center of the aisle. It’s impossible to look natural standing in an aisle, talking to no one, looking at the wall, doing nothing. Just so you know. Just in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation. But I gave it a go anyway.
He was almost to me when I looked up at him…
He was gorgeous. Much more unrealistically gorgeous than he even looks on tv. And this was right after he shaved his hair real close so he looked really grown up, and he had a little stubble going which was working for him. And when he was about 10 yards away from me, he smiled. There was no one walking with him. There was no one else in the aisle. Just me, standing completely awkwardly, frozen, staring. I hate to paint that picture for you, but that is the picture. And he saw me, and he smiled at me.
All I could think was ‘Don’t blow it. Just say, ‘love your new album.’ Just say that. Say that and smile and shut up.’
He had just released Justified (his first solo album) and so I figured that would be a great opener to our life of conversations together…
Well, he got all the way up to me, and because I was so awkward and frozen, I was blocking the aisle pretty successfully. So he smiled again, and he just kind of turned sideways and squeezed past me.
He brushed me. I could smell him.
I watched him pass.
I didn’t say a word.
When he was out of sight, I sat back down next to Tara, who was pretty beside herself with excitement. But I knew better. I knew I had blown it. I might as well have won the damn FANatic contest because I had just played all my cards.
I vowed to make the rest of the night more successful. Now that that star stuck-ness was out of my system, I knew that the next opportunity I had to speak with Justin, I was going to knock it out of the park.
But that opportunity never came, folks.
He presented his award, and he was never seen again. He must have gone to that awesome after party we ran through.
Of course the night wasn’t a complete waste. I did end up sharing another moment with Britney when I was mistaken for her by Martina McBride’s husband- bless his little heart- and I also found my way onto the screen twice when award winners passed by me in the row of seats to accept their awards. We also saw many more big names perform, we shook the artist formally known as Prince’s hand (or a damn good look alike), and of course stuck up quite a little friendship with Sisqo. He told me and I quote “Don’t forget to fix your boobs” during a comercial break. Little did he know I was wearing a bra made out of duct tape on account of my backless dress.
But as far as Justin goes, that moment in the aisle was the end of our star-crossed romance… well, the end for now. I haven’t entirely counted him out. Yes, I am married… like I said, pretty obsessed with the guy… but it must be said: Although Thomas swept me off my feet, he never knocked my shoes off (literally).
So the moral of the story is this:
If you ever find yourself living a fairy tale… no matter how off the mark it may seem… go for it. Say SOMETHING! Or you will turn into a pumpkin so damn fast it will make your head spin…