Last week, I was invited to assist with the pledge drive for the statewide Louisiana Public Broadcasting telethon. I have volunteered for LPB for years, so this was not totally foreign territory to me. I have worked the phone lines and even stood off to the side and mugged for the camera as I described all the benefits of membership to LPB. It is a cause that I feel strongly about so I was happy to, once again, help with the phones or hock the “5 DVD set of” whatever program was to be featured that night. LPB does good work and I am always happy to be associated with them. Not to mention, the producer and director are just the sweetest people in the world. No matter how nervous I was about the bonus coffee mugs or the tote bags with the photo of the program star on them, the production staff always made me feel more competent than I really am. Ahhhhhh.
So I accepted, picked out an outfit that wouldn’t make the camera vibrate, played in my makeup and practiced in the mirror.
“Back to YOU Beth!”
“Thanks, Beth! Now back to YOU!”
“Over to YOU Beth!”
I even tried out a few new approaches just to shake things up.
“Ha ha ha. Yes indeed, Beth. Now take it away!”
Beth is a legend. She is the President and CEO of LPB who has been steering this organization in a progressive and admirable direction for years and years. She is as polished, bubbly and composed off the air as she is on the air. This woman can spit out facts and statistics about education, television, production costs and classroom benefits as though she was reciting her ABCs. She has guided the board to raise millions of dollars over the years and when times got tough, she never waned. She got tougher. This is a woman who needs no cue cards, notes, fact sheets or make-up staff to fluff her up before the shows go on air. She just sails on auto like a clipper under a velvet wind. Ah yes. Beth. What a role model for those of us who feel strongly about education, integrity and good taste to boot. I knew I would be a touch nervous playing off of her, but she would help me through it. Fun, fun, fun! I couldn’t wait. “Back to you BETH! BETH, take it away!”
The big night arrived and I drove to the station in Baton Rouge with an overnight bag filled with lipstick, mascara, eyeliner, lip liner, powder, curling/flat irons, hair spray, breath spray and several pair of glasses. I careened into the parking lot at 6:30 on the dot. Plenty of time, for I didn’t go “on” until 7:00. So excited!
I was greeted by the producer, Allegra, who was as genuine and kind as she always is. I pointed to the usual spot next to the phone bank and tried to confirm my responsibilities. “I will be here, right? Like last time?”
Allegra gently responded. “Oh no. You’ll be in Beth’s chair. She had to go out of town so you will be in her chair. Bettsie will be seated next to you.”
Whaaaa???? “Where is Beth? Why, why isn’t she here?” I stammered.
“Oh, she had a thing she had to attend tonight so you will be in her chair. It seems like everyone is out of town. You’ll be fine.”
Whaaaa? But, but, but what about my rehearsals? What about back to you Beth? What about take it away? How would I know what to say?
Allegra spied my consternation. “Don’t worry, you will be fine. You are very good, you will be fine. It is all on the prompter. And Bettsie has done this stuff plenty. You will like her. You’ll be fine. She will feed you if we need to stretch”
What? Stretch what? Who is Bettsie? “Do I toss it back to her?” I felt like a child without a binky for the first time ever.
“No, you won’t toss. Bettsie will be sitting right next to you so you don’t have to toss.”
Great. Still, I wondered….. Is she nice? Is she here? And would she have a binky with her?
As I quietly panicked, the second most polished woman in the world breezed past me with a dazzling smile. “Oh hi! I am Bettsie! We are on together tonight, I hear. So nice to meet you. Love your hair cut.”
We both laughed because my haircut looked exactly like hers. We were like bookends. She was like me, only better.
The two hour program, which featured a wonderful whodunit called Midsomer Murders, containing breaks featuring me and Bets (my new best friend) went just fine. I could read the teleprompter without glasses and just when I started to ramble on about a recent bout of the flu, Bets scooped me up and pulled me back into the purpose of raising dollars. In between our fundraising moments I would breathe deeply and meditate to myself in my head, “Back to you Beth. Take it away Beth. Beth, now back to you.” My blood pressure began to take deep breaths too and I felt…well….calm.
Bets and I raised a respectable amount of money for LPB that night and I hurdled an unexpected obstacle. I learned to fly when I found myself being tossed over a cliff. A lovely cliff manned by gentle smiling guides, but still a cliff to me. All was well and I knew that, tomorrow, Beth would be back.