Monday afternoon we went to NBC Studios to watch a taping of the Tonight Show. About two weeks before leaving for LA, I called a friend who is "in the business" and asked her to get us on the VIP list for the Tonight Show. She asked "what day" and we picked Monday, June 15, because she said it is easier to get on the VIP list on Mondays.
It wasn't until about a week later that we found out Ringo was to be the guest on the show - a wonderful coincidence since June 15 is Harry Nilsson's birthday, we were in LA for the Harryfest, Ringo and Harry were best friends, and ... we had passes to the show!
So I called whoever I could think of to try to get a letter or package to Ringo before the show. The security at NBC is like the security at the White House. I spent a week trying to work it out, and I was finally able to get permission to give a package to a page to give to a producer who would give it to Ringo - I hoped.
We made up the package in our hotel room in Glendale just a couple of hours before the show was taped Monday. I wrote a letter telling about the Nilsson web pages, the Harryfest, and (of course) that we would be in the audience. (Bracha copied the letter so it would be legible!) With the help of Curtis, Elaine, Andrea, Rinus, and Neil, we added a "Harryfest '98" t-shirt, a Nilsson Web Pages t-shirt, some issues of the Nilsson fanzine, a review of the recent Nilsson tribute concert, a balloon and a name tag from the Harryfest.
Curtis was wearing a "Duit on Mon Dei" promotional button. (You can see where this is going, huh?) I asked him "Do you have more than one of those?"
Elaine wrote a note saying "Please wear this on tonight's show. If you don't wear it, we want it back!" We pinned the button to the note and put it on top in the package.
When we got to the Tonight Show we went to Guest Relations and called the producer to let her know we had the package. She sent a page to pick it up. When the page arrived, I was paged over the intercom and I went to the desk and gave the page the package. As I walked away from the desk, a gentleman stopped me and asked, "Are you the Roger Smith from the Nilsson web pages?" It was Matt Hurwitz of Good Day Sunshine!
Leno's monolog seemed to last forever as we waited for Ringo to appear. Finally he walks out on stage ... and ... he's wearing a button. Is it THE button? It was hard to tell from the upper balcony where we sat. My girlfriend said "it looks too big to be our button." I said, "Ringo's small."
Then we looked up at the monitor and saw that he was wearing our button! I'm sure those sitting around us (including family of the comedian who was later bumped from the show) thought we were crazy as we kept saying to each other "he's wearing our button!".
During one of the commercial breaks, my girlfriend got Ringo's attention by pointing to her lapel. Ringo pointed at the button and mimed "you gave me this?" and my girlfriend nodded and pointed to me (I was wearing a Harryfest shirt). Ringo smiled, pointed at us and gave us a thumbs up!
After the show we headed to Curtis's house.
After the show we went to Curtis's home. We had planned to not tell him about the button so that he'd be surprised to see it on the show that night, but I only lasted about 10 seconds before I spilled the beans. Later that evening we overheard a discussion between Curtis and Elaine in which Curtis said "it was MY button" and Elaine replied "but it was MY note" .....
Since Curtis had not been able to attend the "official" Harryfest functions, it was nice that many of us were able to spend some time with him on Monday night.
After saying our final goodbyes to Curtis and many others, we went to dinner with Rinus, Terry, and Randy Sappo. The most amazing thing happened ... my brother paid for dinner!