Me & Grammys Pt III

“DEAN, wouldn’t be nice if we could attend the 50th Annual Grammy Awards next year?” this writer joked with Utusan Malaysia entertainment editor, Saharudin Musthafa, sometime last year.
Having attended the 47th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony with him in 2005, we felt it would be nice if we could go again, especially with all the celebrations lined up to mark the award’s 50th anniversary this year.
And who would have thought that, thanks to Star TV Pte Ltd, Star World (Astro Channel 711) and Channel [V] (Astro Channel 714), that wish would come true on Feb 10 this year.
The trip was even sweeter for me. Having experienced what it was like to be at the media centre backstage (the 47th Grammy), seated inside the Staples Center to watch the show (48th Grammy), this time around, I was invited to not just attend the awards show but also its official post-event party, the 2008 Grammy Celebration, and to go behind the scenes at the red carpet a day before The Grammys.
In short, my Grammy experiences will soon be complete, and if you’ll excuse my bragging, I would be one of the very few Malaysians, if not the only one, to have achieved such a feat (ahem).
Unlike my last two Grammy experiences, I was much calmer and composed this time around. Looking at how excited the rest of the entourage were brought back memories of my first trip to attend Music’s Biggest Night back in 2005.
My last two trips were with very small groups, but this time around there were 12 of us, including Channel [V] star presenter and Indonesian actor Nicholas Saputra and members of the Press from Indonesia, Rolling Stone and Kompas. And like they say, the more, the merrier and merrier it was indeed.

Day one and two
I didn’t do much on my first day in Los Angeles, Friday, Feb 8, apart from catching up on some sleep, channel-surfing, wandering aimlessly around Macy’s Plaza where our hotel was located, and err, eating.
Nicholas, meanwhile, had a busy day as he had to attend the MusiCares Person Of The Year event at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC).
It was the second day that officially kicked off my third Grammy experience: the trip to LACC to pick up my media credentials.
I don’t know about the rest, but to me, for a entertainment journalist to receive such credentials is possibly tantamount to a singer winning an Grammy after years of hard work.
Obviously, not every hack is invited to cover the Grammys. There’s a very strict vetting process starting from as early as December. Only the most credible and respected writers working for the papers and magazines with the widest reach are allowed in.
Like my previous years, the next stop after that hallowed room was the merchandise booth. And as usual, there was a long queue of people awaiting their turn to splurge some cash on exclusive Grammy memorabilia, especially the T-shirts and baseball caps.
After the little shopping spree, we all headed down to Staples Centre for our media walkthrough where a representative from The Recording Academy took us for a brief tour inside the media centre where we were to be stationed on the day of the awards show.
It was a relatively short but nonetheless exciting tour. It definitely brought back memories of the last time I was was there three years ago for the 47th Annual Grammy Awards.
From the media centre, we headed down to the Grammy’s red carpet just outside the Staples Center.
As we were walking there, the Grammy’s production people were swarming like ants all over the place, converging mainly at

Outside Staples Centre, nearby the stage the outdoor stage where Foo Fighters collaborated with an orchestra led by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones

the outdoor stage where Foo Fighters would do their outstanding collaboration with an orchestra led by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and My Grammy Moment 2008 winner, violinist Ann Marie Calhoun.
Next stop, The Grammy’s red carpet. What a truly an eye-opening experience it was. Everything – from the lighting, carpeting and deco – was luxuriously decorated to ensure that it was going to be a grand event. Obviously, it had to be as this year’s show would mark the 50th year of the Grammy Awards.
Not wanting to waste this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, everyone had their two minutes of superstardom by snapping pictures of themselves posing on the still-being-set-up red carpet area.
Now that all work for the day was completed, for us at least, as Nicholas still had a few episodes of Channel [V] Screentime and Remote Control to shoot, it was time for us to play tourists.
Our first destination was The Grove, a 575,000 sq-ft retail and entertainment complex in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District.
To the shopaholics, The Grove was heaven on earth as there are easily around 50 designer brand boutiques. For this writer, however, it was really nice place to wind down, eat and sightsee.
Later that evening, we headed down to Universal City Walk, Hollywood for dinner and a shoot with winners from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
To call it a happening place would be a severe understatement as with its funky architecture, interesting shops and lively atmosphere, Universal City Walk is simply banging.
We didn’t have much hope of catching a glimpse of the Oscar stars – they were probably busy with fittings and preparations for their Big Day Out – but we did bump into two Indonesian actresses, Titi Kamal and Adinia Wirasti.
The latter is currently doing a one-year screenwriting programme at The New York Film and Titi was in Los Angeles to visit her.
If Dian Sastrowardoyo were there, too, it would have been a reunion of the lead casts from Indonesian hit teen flick Ada Apa Dengan Cinta.

Day three
It’s the day of the Grammy but I’m not going to go into details as it was already highlighted in an earlier recollection published last week.
Instead, I will talk about what you will probably never get to see on TV: the official, exclusive by invitation-only, star-studded post-event party, The 2008 Grammy Celebration.
Right after the awards ceremony ended, we made our way to LACC where the party was held. Along the way, we were accosted by groups of fans asking whether we we willing to sell our post-party tickets. Some were on the verge of tears!
Like the awards show, getting into the party was like going into Fort Knox. Everyone had to go through three levels of security checks. Once all that was done, I was given a special tag that granted me carte blanche in wandering around inside LACC.
The party had two rooms – The Grammy Celebration Jazz Lounge, which hosted special performances by Fourplay and the Gibson/ Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensembles; and its main room, hosted by renowned chef, Wolfgang Puck, with special performances by Natasha Bedingfield, Cyndi Lauper and DJ Chris Cox.

Inside Staples Centre Before The Show Started

As we stepped into the main room, greeting us was – believe it or not – Yoko Ono! Not literally, of course, as she was at the entrance with an associate.
The best way to describe the atmosphere inside the main room would be a combination of all the coolest parties you’ve ever seen on TV, on a far, far grander scale.
Really. It’s just so out there.
The vast convention space were designed with Victorian and old European theatrical elegance. Beautiful crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, lush red fabrics accented with gold draped the place from floor to ceiling and neo-classical statues and living-statues were strategically placed all over the room.
While enjoying Puck’s special custom menu of food made using locally grown produce, dairy and meat, winners and nominees, music industry executives, celebrities, and of course, lucky supplicants like us were mingling around, sharing jokes, stories and giving their two-sen’s take on the ceremony that was just concluded.
After stuffing ourselves and working some muscles on the dancefloor to live performances by Natasha Beddingfield and Cindy Lauper, it was time to call it a day.

Day four
Naturally, the topic of the day was the experiences of previous day.
The agenda of the day, however, was a Hollywood tour.
The first stop was Hollywood Boulevard, you know, the place where the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Kodak Theatre, Hollywood Highland Center and The Roosevelt Hotel are all located.
While Nicholas was prepping up for his Channel [V] shoot and Rolling Stone Indonesia photo shoot, we decided to have a quick bite at Hooters, both for the food and a closer view of its everfriendly Hooter Girls.
As we stepped out of the restaurant sated in many ways, to everyone surprise, waiting for us was a black Hummer limousine that was to take us sightseeing.
“A lot of people come to Hollywood hoping to become stars, but only 10 percent would actually made it. The rest, they’ll become a limo driver like me,” quipped our driver.
During our tour, the driver bombarded us with trivial information on places that we passed through: the El Pollo Loco fast food restaurant (this is where Brad Pitt used to work, in a chicken suit, before he became famous); The Viper Room in Sunset Strip (where actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose); Whisky A Go Go (where psychedelic legends The Doors first started); LA’s premier comedy club, The Laugh Factory; Chateau Marmont, the castle-like hotel (where John Belushi died of a
heroin overdose in 1982); House of Blues, a restaurant/bar/concerthouse whose owners include actor Dan Aykroyd and the rock group Aerosmith; The Sky Bar, currently one of the hottest nightspots in LA; The Roxy, perhaps Hollywood’s best rock club; and Guitar Center and its “Rock Walk” where the handprints of world-famous guitarists, such as Chuck Berry and Van
Halen, are immortalised in cement.
We then stopped at Rodeo Drive where Nicholas did more shoots before we moved on to Mulholland Scenic Corridor.
By the time our two-hour tour ended, everyone was feeling like a little bit of shopping and we all agreed to head to Camarillo Premium Outlets just 45 minutes north of LA.
For those who enjoy shopping, and even for those who insist they do not, this place is a MUST visit. There easily around 120 outlets proffering brands like Sony, Timberland, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Coach, Kenneth Cole, Polo Ralph Lauren at ridiculous discounts ranging from 35 to 70 percent! It was pure insanity.

Day five
While Nicholas had more shoots and sightseeing activities at Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, it was sadly, time for us to pack up for our return trip to reality, time to say goodbye to the glam and glitz of Tinseltown.
It was undoubtedly the most fulfilling experience, from the point of both a working journalist and a tourist.
As a journalist, the completion of my Grammy experiences definitely ranks as one of my career highs. Having learned and observed how things are organised, how the international members of the media prepared and conducted their interviews, dealing with A-list artistes and industry figures, and a whole lot more was eyeopening and inspiring. The fact that
it was the 50th Annual Grammy Awards – the grandest ever – and that I was a part of it made it hard for me not to be proud of what I have achieved.
Can anyone blame me?

* Originally published in The Weekend Mail ob Feb 23, 2008