Posted by Melanie Curtsinger, Saturday, February 19, 2011, 9:45 AM

Behind the Scenes at All-Star – Part II

So as I am standing backstage today talking to the talent coordinator of the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” I asked him if he ever gets those moments where he’s like, “wow, this is my job.” He said that he doesn’t get star struck very often, but he still finds himself having moments like that from time to time, those times where you look around and just think “what in the heck am I doing here?” and “how cool is this?”

I tell that story now because I feel like my entire day today was one of those moments. It’s one of those for the record books, and I’m happy to be able to share it with you – and happy that I will be able to look back on this experience one day and remember what it was like to be sitting here right now thinking… did that just really happen?

Friday, February 18

9:00 a.m. – My day begins with the theme of my trip – sitting in a cab in traffic!

9:40 a.m. – I arrive at the players’ hotel in downtown LA just before Dwight arrives. The rookies and sophomores pile on two buses to head to their morning practice, while other All-Stars load up on two other motor coaches to go to two different NBA Cares Day of Services events. Joining myself and Dwight on the first bus is Tim Duncan, Al Horford, Chris Paul, Tyronn Lue, Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose and the Celtics’ coaching staff (along with a few other PR folks).

10:00 a.m. - We receive a police escort to our event, which is a KaBOOM! playground build about five miles away. I seriously feel like the President as at least six policemen on motorcycles surround our bus and stop traffic for us the entire way there.

10:15 a.m. – At the site, Dwight heads to a table where a few children are painting. One little boy asks Dwight if he is LeBron James and Dwight laughs and says “no, he’s over there” while pointing to LeBron, who is painting a mural on a wall. In addition to painting with Tim Duncan and Chris Paul, Dwight assists with assembling parts of the playground while Horford and Rose help move mulch to and from different piles on the work site.

11:00 a.m. – Back on the bus, Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers comments that their police escort after they won the NBA Championship wasn’t nearly this good and they actually stopped at each red light during that escort, leaving him wondering why in the world they even had a police escort in the first place.

11:05 a.m. – Rivers gets a picture text message from Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams. Apparently Williams is fishing somewhere and wanted to show off to Doc his catches. Rivers and his staff laugh and say that the big fish he caught must’ve been bought or fake, because there’s no way he could’ve done that on his own.

11:10 a.m. – The convo shifts gears and Doc and Tyronn Lue start talking about flying. Lue says that he’s more comfortable flying commercial than private, because he once flew private on a small plane with Kevin Garnett and was terrified the entire time.

11:30 a.m. – I have lunch at the ESPN Zone at LA Live. I’m flying solo for lunch, but I have over an hour to kill until the Eastern Conference All-Stars media availability begins at 1 p.m.

12:45 p.m. – While waiting for Dwight, I see a “first” – a woman holding a small dog who is decked out in an entire outfit… and sunglasses. Yes, sunglasses. Which begs the question – why on EARTH does one think it is necessary for their dog to have shades? This is one of those “only in Los Angeles” moments.

1:15 p.m. – Dwight enters the room and finds the table with his name on it, which is completely surrounded with media waiting on him. He is visibly shocked at the media contingency and says out loud, “I’ve never had more than three people waiting to talk to me before!” He then jokingly goes over and sits at the table Pau Gasol was sitting at, which is now empty.

1:45 p.m. – Media availability ends and Dwight heads upstairs to his room to change and get ready for his appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”!

2:30 p.m. – A car from the “Tonight Show” is waiting for us outside the hotel. My boss Joel Glass, myself, Dwight and his security guard pile into the car. The driver lets us know that we all have to be in this car because his vehicle is tracked at all times so the “Tonight Show” folks can see where their guests are at all times en route to the show.

3:10 p.m. – We arrive at the NBC lot, enter in through the guests/artists entrance and proceed down a couple hallways to find Dwight’s dressing room.

3:20 p.m. – We have just enough time to settle in before Jay Leno himself (in jeans) comes in to say hi. He shakes all of our hands and introduces himself before getting into a conversation with Dwight about his collection of cars (he says that next time Dwight is in town, he can come by his garage to see them). Dwight also tells him that last summer, he was at dinner in LA, saw Leno outside a restaurant and yelled out the window that he wanted to be on his show. Jay looks at Dwight, laughs and says, “you see, it worked. That’s why you’re on my show tonight!” Dwight then asks Leno if he will be at the All-Star game Sunday, but it turns out he has a gig in Las Vegas that very night, so he has to leave right after the taping to fly there to perform all weekend (and I thought Dwight’s schedule was packed!).

3:30 p.m. – One of the producers of the show walks in and goes over the script with Dwight with each question that Leno will ask. Dwight already had a prep call with the producers early in the week, so he knows what’s coming. The producers tell us Leno doesn’t use a teleprompter, rather everything is still written on cue cards if he needs them (another tip – Leno is the first person to get there every morning by 7:30 a.m. to start going through jokes for his monologue and prepping for the show’s guests that evening).

3:45 p.m. – We head out to take a tour of the backstage area. We even get to walk out onto the stage (through the same door the guests of the show walk out on) so he can see how things will work. There are already guests filing in to be members of the studio audience.

4:00 p.m. – Out in the hallway, members of the Marine Corps are walking around (turns out they are all there to be a part of the musical performance later). One of the guys walks up to Dwight and says, “Man, I’ve always been told I look like you!” Dwight responds with, “Man, you’ve been lied to.”

4:03 p.m. – The lead band member of the “Tonight Show” band, Ricky Minor, pops in to introduce himself to Howard. Turns out he and Dwight’s agent go way back to “kindergarten” he says.

4:05 p.m. – The other guest on the show, “NCIS’s” Mark Harmon arrives. His dressing room is directly next to Dwight’s.

4:10 p.m. – Leno, now in a suit, rushes into the Harmon’s dressing room. He only has time to briefly shake his hand and thank him for coming before rushing down the hall towards the stage. Just a couple minutes later, you can hear the music beginning and Leno beginning his monologue on stage.

4:17 p.m. – Producers come to the back to mic up Harmon. While Leno is doing a skit called “Copy Cats,” Harmon, Dwight, a bunch of soldiers and myself all mill around the hallway and watch what’s going on via the TV that’s mounted on the wall. Harmon introduces himself to Dwight before being ushered to the stage area.

4:40 p.m. – Producers come to mic up Dwight and immediately usher him to the stage. While he waits right outside the door he will walk through to the stage, they take us (some members of Dwight’s family have since showed up as well) to the side of the stage, where we stand behind the cameras and have a great view of the set to watch his segment.

4:55 p.m. – And just like that, he’s finished! We get ushered backstage while he stays out for the musical performance from “Thirty Seconds to Mars.”

5:08 p.m. – After the show wraps, they tape three promos for commercials. Dwight is then interviewed by the “Tonight Show” staff backstage on camera about his experience. In the middle of his interview, Leno walks by and randomly pops his head in the shot and says, “he’s coming to my garage to see my cars!” which alludes to the conversation they had in the dressing room earlier. They ask Leno is he has any cars that Dwight could even fit in because of his height and he responds with, “yeah, I have some convertibles!”

5:15 p.m. – Leno goes back out on stage to take some pictures with audience members. Dwight grabs a bag from his dressing room and goes back out to find him. When he does, he presents Leno with a pair of shoes in his size and a personalized “Leno” jersey.

5:21 p.m. – Back in the dressing room area, Harmon comes over to talk to Dwight again. The staff photographer asks the two of them to get together for a photo which prompts Harmon to jokingly say, “great, people are going to think I am 5’2”!”

5:30 p.m. – We wrap up and head out of the studio. The same car that picked us up earlier is there to take us back to the downtown area.

6:30 p.m. – Have I mentioned how much I hate LA traffic? We finally make it back to downtown, and as if we haven’t seen enough stars today, Shaquille O’Neal makes quite an entrance to the hotel just as we’re pulling up.

6:45 p.m. – I grab a cab to fight the traffic one more time to head to Beverly Hills. I end my extremely glamorous day with… wait for it…. dinner at Subway. Dwight has two parties to be at that night, so he doesn’t have long to rest before making his obligatory appearances.

So much has already happened, and we haven’t even started real All-Star activities yet! Be sure to tune in to TNT Saturday night to watch Dwight commentate the dunk contest and, as always, e-mail me your thoughts on NBA All-Star Weekend to thatswhatshesaid@orlandomagic.com!

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