Wednesday, January 4, 2012

We'll Be Right Back

By Deborah Sharp

I was professionally made-up, my hair blown out, lipstick applied, and powder brushed over my shiny face. I sat on a stool, microphone affixed to the collar of my new blue sweater, waiting and wondering if I was going to faint on national TV.

When I heard one of the anchors on the NBC Today show say We'll Be Right Back, it triggered a panic. I knew we were just a couple of commercials away from my scheduled interview. I suddenly fixated on the white socks I was wearing with my black ankle boots. If I crossed my legs, would my pant hem ride up to expose my fashion faux pas to millions of viewers? With no chair arms to hang onto, would I tumble from the high stool and become the star of an endless loop of embarrassment on YouTube? Would I just sit there, made paralyzed and speechless by fear?

Was it too late to run screaming from the set?

The next thing I knew, a guy in a headset behind a big camera was pointing to me. The Today Show's smart and beautiful anchor, Savannah Guthrie, asked me a question. I think I answered it. She asked me another. I answered that one, too, I'm pretty sure. This is saying a lot, because an hour or so before, I was so nervous that when the show's hair stylist asked me the name of my book . . .

''Uhmmm, it's my fourth book,'' I stalled.

Yes, but what's it called? she asked.

''It's a mystery novel,'' I stammered.

I saw pity in her eyes. She put down her hair spray and patted my shoulder. You might want to practice that title thing.

I hit the author's lottery on Dec. 28. I had the great good fortune to be invited onto the Today show to talk about my latest book, Mama Sees Stars. (Sure, NOW I remember the title!) I'm married to NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders. I'm not deluded enough to think the Today Show selected me randomly from a universe of authors. I know Kerry's connections to the show played a role in my invite, and in previous appearances I've made on Today.

I guess I've done okay, because this time they carved out four minutes for my segment. One of Kerry's friends posted on his Facebook page (a bit meanly, I thought) that I got about twice the time they usually give Kerry for his stories on Today.

Here's a link to click, if you want to see how I did.
This picture was snapped off the TV:

I can say without hesitation my husband did not break a single kneecap in pursuit of my appearance. At least I didn't see anyone on the Today set limping around. Except for me. When the interview was over, I had some kind of weird after-effect of all those nerves and pumping adrenaline. I started to climb down from that towering stool, and my knees began to buckle. My legs were wobbly, wet noodles. I grabbed behind me, and carefully slid my butt back onto the seat.

''I can't get down.''

What do you mean? a stagehand said.

''My legs won't work.''

He got the deer-in-the-headlight look. Another guest was standing by, waiting to move into my spot on the interview stool for the next segment. After a couple of moments, they managed to peel me off the seat. Leaning on some guy's shoulder, I limped off the set.

My friends all said I did great, and that I didn't look a bit nervous. (Of course, that's what friends are supposed to say). It got me thinking about how often all of us put on a public face that might be very different from how we feel privately, inside. In my case, I wanted to run away screaming, ''I can't do this! I'm scared.'' Instead, I talked and laughed with Savannah as if she were just a gal pal chatting ... and not a famous TV anchor I'd never met before, with millions of people watching at home.

I am having recurring nightmares, though, featuring the phrase We'll Be Right Back.

What scares you? Have you managed to fake your way through it?


Shannon Baker said...

You were spectacular on screen. Next time, I think they should make you eat something. I hear that is the real challenge.

Robin Allen said...

Sorry, Deb, but that interview and this blog post don't compute. You were a natural! I love that you were secretly wearing white socks to keep things real.

Deborah Sharp said...

Hey, Robin ... whatever it takes, right? White socks and all!
Shannon, I don't even like to eat anything BEFORE going on. Spilling, burping, upchucking ... imagine all the things that could go wrong!

Beth Groundwater said...

You did indeed speak well during the interview, Deb. It's okay to panic before & after--as long as it's all off camera! ;-)

Lois Winston said...

Deb, there was no way anyone could tell that you were panicked. You came across as poised and articulate, like you do these sorts of interviews all the time. Brava!

Darrell James said...

Fantastic job, Deb! I have done quite a bit of community theatre and just before my cue to go on I always had a moment of shear panic... I couldn't remember a single line! Then my cue would come and I would walk on stage and perform the roll completely. I still have terrible dreams about being on stage and not knowing my lines.

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, your blog post is just as good a work of fiction as your Mama books. Given the aplomb with which you carried off the interview, you didn't think we'd really buy that nervousness business? And the bit about not being able to get up from the chair just adds that last bit of verisimilitude which is so important in any work of fiction.

Linda Hull said...

You are the second person I know to appear on Today. My other friend has been on multiple times and has lots of media practice and did great but I can honestly say you seemed less nervous. Nice job.

Deborah Sharp said...

Linda: thanks for the kind words. Guess I've gotten good at ''acting.''
Speaking of that, Darrell ... Isn't that a scary dream? On stage, and you've forgotten all your lines? Seems that even professionals get those attacks of nerves (and, Beth, you're right: It's OK, as long as the anxiety doesn't take over DURING the ''performance.'')
Keith: Honest, every word I wrote is true; but thanks for praising my aplomb .. I've always wanted to have that!
Lois: Thanks so much for the sweet things you wrote ... but do you think I have APLOMB? ;-)