Second Grade

Today, Garrett is six! He hopped out of bed this morning, ran into the kitchen where I was making breakfast, and excitedly proclaimed that not only was he now six…but he was also taller as well. He added that since he was six, he was ready to do chores around the house and, “what would you like me to do first, daddy?” I smiled and told him that today his only chore was to eat breakfast and go to school. What he doesn’t know is that I’ll be making a surprise visit to his classroom today to read books to him and his friends in honor of his birthday.

Years ago, I started this blog on a whim. I wanted to see how blogging was done. Slowly, it evolved into telling funny stories about me (and GWE) with the boys. Lately, I’ve been thinking of it more as a time-capsule. At some point in the future, Justin and Garrett will be reading these notes and stories from me. So, here is a note to Future-Garrett:

Dear Garrett –

Happy Birthday!! Today, you are 6! You have grown up so much. In many ways, you are very similar to your brother. You’re both funny, smart, and very caring towards your friends and family. You both love listening to music for hours and hours. And, in some ways you are different. You love to play so hard that sweat drips out of every pore! You run towards danger! (“Show me the house the blew up again, daddy!!”) And, you also love to ask 1000’s of questions about everything. I’ve never seen someone so fascinated about the world around them. Your laughter is contagious, your farts are ungodly, and you know more about cars (especially Teslas) than most experts.

You have an amazing ability to ingratiate yourself into any situation. No matter where you are or who you’re speaking with, it only seems natural that it wouldn’t be happening without your presence. At five, you “work” at a Tesla store…and the other employees treat you as such!

Just the other night, we went out to dinner. Not only did you want to pay the bill, but you demanded that the waiter take you back to the register behind the counter, show you how it worked, allowed you to input the information (and slide my credit card,) and then bring it back to me as if you worked there. Your warm, inquisitive personality has led you on many adventures this year!

Mommy and I love you very much. We are very excited for you to experience the year ahead. You’re going to make great friends at school, have amazing experiences, and even find time to play a little golf with me.

Happy Birthday, Garrett!

I love you  

Daddy

wmnThe first year we attended Justin’s school fundraiser, GWE noticed that one of the items up for bid was the opportunity for Justin to host the school’s morning news broadcast. Typically, this was a honor reserved for the 4th and 5th graders. However, thanks to GWE’s ability to outbid and (quite frankly) intimidate anyone who came within 5 feet of the bid sheet, Justin got an early start in the morning news business – Kindergarten! Each and every year since he began attending this school, Justin has appeared on the Woodcrest Morning News.

You may also notice that Garrett makes an appearance as well. He started out as a background prop and worked his way up to co-host of the show with his big brother. And now, thanks to the editing skills of GWE, you can fully enjoy “The Justin-Reads-The-News Montage Show!”

Ever since Justin began watching television, one of his favorite shows has been “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on ABC. Justin laughs hysterically at each show and likes to narrate each episode for us at home (like Tom Bergeron.) He even talks about trying to create a video that he can send into the show. All of this is great, but to Justin – it is still just “TV” and not real life. He knows the difference.

Several months ago, GWE took Justin to a Television Academy event for “AFV” and Tom Bergeron was one of the panelists talking about the show. Bravely, Justin approached the microphone when it was time to ask questions and he actually began a dialog with Tom. He not only spoke with Tom (and his wife) at the event, but they spoke again in the lobby, then they took a picture together, and then talked again all the way to the parking garage. Meeting Tom made Justin a “Super-Fan.”

Tom

For Justin’s eighth birthday, we were stumped as to what to get him. What do you get the kid who has everything? I thought about it a lot and finally came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to get him just another toy, but rather – an experience. While driving into work one morning and speaking with a friend who was an attorney for Vin Di Bona Productions, it dawned on me what that experience should be. I wanted Justin to attend a taping of his favorite show – “AFV!”

Up to this point, I have been reluctant to take Justin with me to a television taping. Working in Hollywood has given me a tremendous amount of access to great television and film sets. There have been plenty of opportunities to take him to tapings of shows that I know he watches. But, I’ve chosen not to because I don’t want to “pull back the curtain” yet. (It’s one thing to enjoy a steak; it’s another to see how it’s made!) However, in this case, I didn’t think this set visit would be too revealing. After a few quick calls and emails (and the excited approval of GWE,) I had our VIP confirmation.

We chose to tell Justin about the taping on his birthday because it was weeks before he would be there and it would give him enough time to digest the information, tell his friends, and it wouldn’t be such a shock when we got there. When we told him, he looked at us very quizzically. We told him again. And again, it looked like his brain got the information, but didn’t know what to do with it. Finally, it hit him and he was beyond excited! The countdown to tape night had begun!!

On the day of the taping, Justin was prepared. We picked him up from school, changed him into appropriate “on air” clothing, and drove down to the set in Manhattan Beach. We arrived a few hours early and had a nice dinner. When the time came, we jumped back into the car and drove over to the studio. Justin had never been on a studio lot before, so we took our time getting to the stage. We pointed out everything that we thought would be of interest to him, but he was very focused on getting to the show.

Door

Finally, we approached the stage door. GWE took one final picture of him (a picture I like to call, “The End of The Innocence”) and then together we walked through the door. Justin was amazed. There, he saw the stage, the audience, video village, the cameras, the lights, and people running around getting ready for the show. He could tell that there was an excitement in the air. We stood still for a moment just to let Justin soak it all in. However, Justin kept moving forward towards the stage whether he realized it or not. It was like a tractor beam had him!

We were quickly escorted to our seats. As we got situated, we asked where the voting machines were. To our surprise, we were informed that there would be no voting in this episode….because it was the $100,000 finale! GWE and I were in a little bit of shock!

As the warm-up guy began entertaining the crowd, music started playing on the overhead speakers. Once “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars began, GWE yelled, “Yeah!!” The warm-up guy heard her, dragged her down to the stage, and together they began dancing. (Another item checked off “The Bucket List.”) In exchange for her dancing skills, GWE earned Justin an official “AFV” shirt.

And then Tom Bergeron appeared…

As real as this was to Justin up to this point, it didn’t become REAL until he saw Tom.

Once a few technical details were worked out quickly, the show began….and it really was a fantastic show! What you see on TV is pretty much what you see at the taping. It wasn’t until the show began that GWE and I quickly realized that there were some “TV Rules” we hadn’t explained to Justin. The fast rules I whispered into Justin’s ear were:

  1. Don’t laugh louder or longer than anyone else in the room.
  2. Don’t try to get Tom’s attention.
  3. Don’t fidget.
  4. And finally, (the hardest rule) don’t look directly into the camera.

#4 was the hardest rule for Justin to follow, but for good reason! It’s not that Justin wanted to look into the camera, but the teleprompter was in front of the lens! Justin wanted to see what Tom was going to say…and Justin kept mouthing the words that he was reading at the same time Tom was saying them. If you look at it on camera, I’m sure it looks like a very strange ventriloquist act! Justin’s lips are moving, but the words are coming out of Tom Bergeron’s mouth!

When the winners were announced, glitter was shot out of cannons all around the stage. We grabbed some and jammed it on our pockets as a reminder of the evening. And with that…the show was over. On the way back to the car, Justin was almost giddy from the experience. We climbed back into the car to head home and I asked Justin what his favorite part of the show was. I was met with silence. I thought he was thinking about it. Turned out, he had passed out from all of the excitement.

From beginning to end, the experience was amazing. It was something that Justin will never forget. The excitement of the evening lasted until one small thought crossed my mind: “How the hell are we going to beat this on his 9th birthday!?!?!?!”

afv 2

 

AssignmentAbout a week ago, Justin brought home an assignment from school. He was given a piece of construction paper that was 18×12 and told to create a collage of his “hero” and then add three reasons as to why that person is a hero. In an attempt to get this assignment over with as quickly as possible, Justin simply drew a picture of someone playing basketball. Justin is good at drawing. But, when I saw his stick figure holding a weird looking ball, I knew he had only given this task minimal effort. (Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what he had drawn. It looked more like a hairy spoon with a tumor.)

Frustrated, GWE told him that this was unacceptable and that “we” would need to start over. “We” had a week to complete the assignment. I knew that if “we” weren’t proactive about this, “we” wouldn’t get to it until the Sunday night before it was due.

Once again, the assignment was to identify a hero and three reason why that person is your hero. Justin could choose anyone he wanted, as long it wasn’t a fictional character like “Superman” or “Batman.” Justin gave it a great deal of thought (about 15 seconds, while trying not to be eaten by Minecraft zombies) and then decided that he wanted to do a collage about firemen. A light went off in my head! I knew how to get really great pictures for his assignment, but it meant doing something I normally wouldn’t have done.

I’ve tried to keep my business and my family separate. There will come a time when the curtain is pulled back for Justin and Garrett and they will understand how daddy represents “that person on TV or in that movie.” For now, I’d like to keep the illusion of TV as entertainment for them. One of my clients happens to be one of Justin’s favorite characters on a kid’s show. If Justin knew how often I spoke with this person, his head would explode!

There have been a few times when the two paths have crossed. I represent two young actors names Edwin and Aldis Hodge. You’ve seen them – a lot! (Aldis was on “Leverage” at TNT and “Turn” at AMC. Edwin has had lead roles in features like “Red Dawn” and “The Purge.”) My son has gotten to know Edwin and Aldis fairly well over the years. He has no idea who they are or what they do.

Edwin is currently in Chicago shooting “Chicago Fire.” He is playing a fireman!! On the Friday before the assignment was due, I asked Edwin to send me a few pictures from set. I didn’t tell him what it was for. He sent me about 10 pictures and I had GWE print them out. When it was time to put together the assignment, we handed Justin the photos. He immediately recognized “his friend” Edwin and also noticed that he was wearing fireman’s gear. Happily, he and I used the pictures to put together the project.

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The following morning, Justin delivered his assignment to his teacher. As he proudly handed her the project, he told her all about how he had done it. And then, he said, “That fireman’s name is Edwin.” The teacher looked at him and responded,” Oh, is that what you’ve named him?” Perplexed, Justin looked at her and answers, “No. That’s really his name. Edwin Hodge.” And with that, he turned and walked away. The teacher had no idea that she was looking at pictures of an actor on set (and not a real fireman) and Justin didn’t really understand that either.

After the project was turned in, I sent Edwin a picture of the final project with this note: “You know you’ve made it when you’ve become someone else’s homework!”

He thought it was hilarious.