My Behind the Scenes Experiences of the ACM Awards 50th Anniversary Show

I got to the airport Wednesday morning and was surprised to be going through airport security without any familiar faces. I knew of at least four other women who would be traveling on the same flight as I to Dallas, Texas for the 50th anniversay award show for the ACMAs (Academy of Country Music Awards).

I cleared security (phew! ha), put my shoes back on and and gathered everything I absolutely couldn’t live without while on a plane for 3 hours.  I walked through the airport, found my gate, and more importantly, I found a placeto eat. Being the sleep lover I am, I didn’t leave any time to eat anything before arriving to the airport. Being the food lover I am, I had to find something to eat sooner than later.

Stomach and brain growling, I got some eggs and breakfast potatoes, jalepenos and salsa. I only became excited about eating once I also had the hot and spicy stuff. Salsa and hot peppers would save for me the bland food that looked like it had been prepared days earlier. Whatevz. I was hungry and feeling adventurous.

Upon walking up to the cash register to pay outrageous airport prices for very un-outrageous airport food, at eye level in the refrigerated drink cooler, I noticed a familiar sight, glimmering; Angry Orchard, gluten free, yeast free, slightly alcoholic apple cider available for sale. It is so rare for me to have an opportunity to enjoy alcohol. Even though I still quite enjoy it, my ever aging self just can’t tolerate alcohol like I could in my younger years.  I had a half day of travel ahead of me.  “Nothing” to do on an airplane for a few hours. This was the opportune time to have at least one drink.

I got my million dollar tray o’ food, my glorious drink, and my $37 bottle of water, found a table, but before setting everything down, I looked up and saw three of my four work colleagues sitting at a table at the end of the restaurant, also drinking and eating. This day was proving to really be off to a nice start.  I made my rounds of hugs and sat with my back to a wall of TVs talking about the guilty verdict of former NFL guy something Hernandez.  I joined my pals and tore into my foods and drinks alongside them.

MySurreaLife breakfast at Bob Hope

We were excited to see each other. Working on award shows together for the past few years, a good number of us have really solified a nice extended family for each other. Through illnesses, relationships and their problems, children and everything that comes with having children, this group of us women have been there for each other, on the phone, in prayer and in person when we have needed each other. These award shows have proven to be a fun way to work, meet and make friends.

In addition to being together, we were also excited that we were headed to Dallas to work this show. We had been working on the show for years and it had most always been held in Las Vegas. We knew the layouts of the Vegas hotels where the two simultaneous shows ran. We knew how to get from point A to B easily enough. We knew the time it would take to expect talent to arrive to the destinations we needed them. We knew from working with country musicians  and their crews in years past that they were easy to work with and polite to us, unlike many mainstream artists and their entourages. We also knew the AT&T Stadium we were about to be working in for the next week was massive.

MySurreaLife free night in Dallas

A lovely sight as a friend and I drove to dinner

Once we landed in Dallas, I was fortunate enough to have a friend from college, who now lives in Dallas, come to pick me up.  She took me to say hello to her children, my three goddaughters, and then we ate a lovely meal together and caught up on our lives, face toface for the first time in over a year. that it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. that we we able to squeeze in time together before I had to report for work.

MySurreaLife in Dallas the night before my work on the ACMAs 2015

A friend from college and my view while we ate dinner together in Dallas at LTO.

My friend dropped me to the hotel where the production had us staying.  The next morning the ordeal that was the ACMAs 50th anniversary award show began for me.

MySurreaLife ATT Stadium

As we were driven on the shuttles to the venue, the enormity of AT&T Stadium was apparent from miles away. Instant anxiety brewed in my gut and intensified as we walkedinto the loading dock, down into the belly of the beast.  We met our team leaders and were taken on a tour of the space where we would be spending the next long, stressful four days.

MySurreaLife ACMAs rehearsals

I am a part of what’s referred to as the the “talent flow” team. We are the go-between of our team of talent escorts and the team of stage managers who essentially run the entire on-stage part of the show.  If talent isnt where they need to be, myself or a collegaue get ahold of the escorts to find out where the talent they are assigned to are in the venue or elsewhere.

Literally every show there is an issue with our walkie talkies. The issue is either that the walkies dont reach everyone who needs to talk to each other or they are static-y or there are just too many people trying to reach each other. In recent years I have learned to instead rely on my cell phone to communicate more effectively with those I need to be intouch with. Having a cell phone service that is not AT&T, I was not surprised when my cell service didn’t work as well as it did elsewhere. It worked enough for me to call and text escorts; that was all I cared about.

MySurreaLife Texting Escorts at ACMA 50th

What my screen o’text messages typically looks like after an award show. This is exactly what it looked like after the ACMAs 50th.

All three days of rehearsals, and even the dress rehearsal the day of the live show (day 4) were all stressful. We asked escorts specifically where to go with their assigned talent but a couple of the talent who were needed with me in the “holding room” immediately when they arrived, instead wanted to go elsewhere, such as, to stage, or to their dressing room. The problem with those requests was that the stage was being used for someone else’s rehearsals, there were no dressing rooms being used on rehearsal days and when people decided to go elsewhere in the massive stadium, it really set the time back getting them where they needed to be.

Many of the escorts at this show were new to the job. Escorts are typically sourced from the area where the show is held.  Since we rarely, if ever, do shows in Dallas, new people had to be recruited for this event. It is rare that new escorts have the confidence to tell someone they’ve only ever seen on TV that they’re needed somewhere other than the place they requested to go. This was the case for this event. The two times that really set us back were two times an escort didn’t firmly, but kindly let the talent know where they were needed and why. I put the walkies and my cell phone to good use this show! I used both so much, the battery on both my cell and my walkie died. Fortunately, we had extra batteries charged and ready for this situation and a colleague let me use her portable charger, saving the *my* day.

MySurreaLife inside ATT Stadium for ACMA rehearsals

Being gluten and dairy intolerant leaves me few choices for quick go-to foods on show days. I pretty much subside on these during the days of rehearsals leading up to an award show.

I was fortunate enough to have a family member of mine who works close to the stadium come pick me up (and even treat me!) to lunch at Chipotle on of those first days of rehearsals.  Not that Chipotle is not delicious, but it was literally the most filling and wonderful meal of my entire time in Dallas. I digress.

The rehearsal day before the show was horribly stressful. After a long ten (twelve?) hours, my colleagues and I got back to our hotel and went downstairs to eat in the hotel restaurant. To my extreme delight and surprise, the restaurant bar had Angry Orchard on tap, and they also had Fireball. Not even a month before this jaunt to Dallas, my aunt taught me about the delicious pleasure of mixing Angry Orchard cider with a shot of Fireball. Although I do not condone drinking to fix problems, on this night, this drink was how my day ended on a good note.

Show day came early that next morning. Not feeling super rested from the previous long days, the alcohol in my system certainly did not help with getting a restful night’s sleep.  Oh well. Win some you lose some.

After a small snafu about what time to bring in a big name talent and where to take the rest of talent upon their arrivals, dress rehearsal actually started on time. As i mentioned earlier, there was only one elevator coming down to the stage / field area from the bus area where most all talent would be waiting. It was a terrible oversight on the part of the production planning people. There also didn’t seem to be a way around it, so there was that to be dealing with, and did we ever have to deal with it.

For the actual live show, I was again assigned to be stationed at the holding room, making sure on-stage talent was where they needed to be at certain times. On more than one occasion, more than one stage manager would ask me for updates of where our escorts were with their talent and on more than one occasion, for five to ten minute stretches I would report back to the stage managers that the escorts were with their talent, either waiting for the elevator or on it.

Besides the elevator debacle, and a missing escort or two for some key on-stage performers, after all of the ridiculously long, stressful rehearsals, the show went smoother than I had expected, thank goodness.

I took an hour or so to watch parts of the show on TV the other day. After all the headaches and stomach burning I caused myself from stress during those days working that show, as I watched it on screen from the comfort of my own home, I was filled with such pride and even a smile or two, thinking how insane it was behind the scenes getting people where they needed to be to pull it all off.

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