Day 2 began with our first New York City cab ride, taking us uptown to 67th and Columbus...the studios of Live! With Regis and Kelly. I watch the show all the time, and was thrilled to be able to get tickets. (You can see their website for ticket info, but there is also a standby line which forms early each morning. Friends of ours were in the city the week before us and had good luck with that.)
The first thing I noticed about the set is that it is much smaller than it appears on television. (So is Kelly Ripa...if that's even possible!) We both really enjoyed getting to see the ins and outs of how a live talk-show is produced, and since returning home I've been watching it with a different perspective.
Here I am with the set in the background. This shot reminds me of what my husband said when he saw my new driver's license photo. "When getting your picture taken, you should always squint. That way your eyes will look the same size as a normal person's!" Obviously I forgot that here.
We were fortunate enough to not only see the live show for the day, but the audience also got to stay as they faked the opening host-talk for the following Monday, when they wouldn't be taping. (You have to watch for the little "Previously Recorded" disclaimer that appears as they come walking in.) They also recorded some video and audio promos as well, and I found it quite fascinating to see the different tasks their jobs entail.
During commercial breaks, I expected the hosts to be flipping through notes and getting touch-ups, but they both came right out to the audience to chat and answer questions, which shows you how comfortable they are with the job. (And how many people are working hard behind-the-scenes so Regis and Kelly can appear relaxed!)
It was funny though, at one point Kelly joked to executive producer Michael Gelman that some talk shows take an extended summer break, to which he replied "and that's why they have a 2 share and we have a 15 share". It's good for business that they come to us "Live!" for most of the summer. They also have a great co-host system in place, where they bring in favourites like Anderson Cooper to fill in for Regis' absences, and promotions like the Women In Radio Cohost for a Day contest, where four winners replaced Kelly during her week of holidays.
Afterwards, we had the privilege of popping backstage to meet and get a photo with Regis and Kelly themselves. (Just for interest's sake, I am wearing flats, Kelly is in three - if not four - inch heels.) My claim to fame will now forever be that Kelly Ripa thinks my hair is the colour of lice. (If you were watching the show that day, then you'll know it wasn't just a random insult.)
The rest of the day was spent doing the cheesiest tourist activities we could possibly find, such as:
Top of the Rock: a neat experience, but next time I would definitely tour the NBC studios as well while I'm there.
New York City Public Library...for the architecture, sure, sure, but also because it was the scene of the ill-fated wedding of Carrie and Big in Sex and the City!
Empire State Building: it was pretty redundant to do this and Top of the Rock in the same day, so I'd recommend sticking with one or the other...and probably choose this one. We bought vouchers for both online through Circle Line Cruises, and saved some money that way. Plus, we were fast-tracked in the Top of the Rock ticket line since we already had our vouchers.
View from the Empire State Building
And of course we had to buy one cheesy photo (6 x 8 plus 2 wallets for $20)
You may be wondering where (and if) we were eating in between all of our adventures. Meals were actually not a big deal for us on this trip (we even went to Subway and TGI Fridays) because we didn't want to make reservations and have to be in any one place at a certain time. In this city, you can find good food for every budget and taste in every neighbourhood, so we played it by ear. (Seriously, something I didn't plan! Yay me!)
After our whirlwind afternoon we went back to hotel to freshen up and change in to the one fancy outfit we brought, and headed down 46th St to Sofia Indico, an amazing Italian restaurant. They had an incredible selection, reasonable prices, and a variety in clientele (some were in shorts and t-shirts, but most were a couple of notches above. We looked well-dressed in our shirt/tie and little black dress.)
Next on the agenda: would any trip to New York be complete without a Broadway show? (And is anyone else out there as naive as me, assuming that every Broadway show was actually found on that street? We were actually at the Gershwin on 51st.)
Our choice of show was the critically-acclaimed (and wildly popular) Wicked. I bought tickets online in advance, even though I had heard about New York TKTS booths where discount tickets can be purchased the day of a Broadway (of Off-Broadway) show. (Matinee tickets are sold the day before.) My problem is that I knew Wicked was the one I wanted to see, and also knew which night we had available, so I didn't want to take any chances. If you're willing to be flexible (more flexible than moi? Hard to imagine!) it's a great idea.
I was not disappointed: Wicked was an incredible show. It ranks right up there for me with Chicago for favourite musical (I've never been to NYC, of course, but I've seen several in Toronto, including Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, and Beauty and the Beast). Frannie would absolutely love this show, with the whole Wizard of Oz spin going on, but I'm certainly not springing for a $150 ticket for a four year old any time soon (or a trip back to NYC, but you know what I mean.)
So are you exhausted as we were? One more full day to go in the Big Apple - details coming soon!