I’ve been keeping diaries since I was seven years old. I even have a blog where I transcribe my old diaries and poke fun at them.
Since it doesn’t get a ton of traffic and I change all the names in the entries, I post some pretty personal stuff, especially about boys. I mean, it’s not like the blog would ever catch the eye of a television producer and lead to one of the most embarrassing and outlandish moments of my life, right?
You might be able to guess where this is headed.
A couple of months ago, a friend invited me to a taping of Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris, a live variety show that involves all kinds of crazy stunts as well as pranks on celebrities and civilians. I’ve been a fan of NPH since I was a little kid, and even nicknamed the journal I kept on a computer in 1990 my “Doogie Howser Diary.” So I was thrilled to be in the audience of the show, which is broadcast live.
One Tuesday in October, my husband Terry and I drove up to New York City, met for an early dinner with a couple of friends, (all of whom were in on what was about to happen) and headed to the studio.
The live broadcast began at 8pm. Neil bantered a bit with Jack Black, the guest announcer, before going into the audience to ask random people questions. He went into our row and I had an internal “I can’t believe he’s standing so close to me!” fangirl moment. Little did I know…
Seconds later, Neil turned the mic on me, said, “I think you should come with me.” Before I knew it, he had my hand in a death grip and was running to the stage, pulling me along.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
On stage, a curtain dropped to reveal a set made up to look like a teenage girl’s bedroom. As Neil and I sat on a bed with a giant stuffed dinosaur, I was in an utter daze. I didn’t know what was going on or why I was all of a sudden part of the show, and dearly hoped I wouldn’t drop any f-bombs or say anything else inappropriate.
To explain, Neil reached beneath the stuffed dinosaur and brought out one of my teenage diaries. What the what? Was I robbed by Neil Patrick Harris? How did he get that thing? He thumbed through it, teasing me about how boy-crazy I was, and threatened to read some of it. I shook my head in a panic and he reassured me he wouldn’t do that.
My relief only lasted a split second before he pointed to a TV a few feet away and said he’d have Susan Lucci do it instead.
What followed were three clips of Lucci reading some particularly embarrassing diary entries from my early teen years, each detailing a different one of my crushes. There was a camp counselor, a guy I shared a high school music class with, and a musician on a cruise ship.
As she read, Neil and his show sidekick, Nicole Scherzinger, hilariously reenacted the entries. I laughed along the entire time, but I won’t lie, a big part of me wanted to hide under the bed Neil and I were sitting on, especially when Lucci read lines from some particularly cringe-worthy poetry I had written about one of the crushes.
As Neil asked me about the three guys, he used their full names, and I died inside thinking that one of them might see the show and hear what I wrote about them. It was over twenty years ago, but still.
My worry about that didn’t last long either, because a few minutes later he brought out all three crushes. Gah! I couldn’t believe the show tracked these guys down! It might’ve been decades since I last saw them, but that didn’t go a long way in easing my discomfort.
As the five of us awkwardly sat around (who are we kidding, NPH was clearly loving every second), Neil said he had one more crush he was going to bring out. Oh god, now who? At that point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they tracked down a fan letter I wrote to Corey Haim when I was eleven and found a way to bring him back from the dead.
Thankfully, it was my husband, Terry, who came out. He teased me about having a crush on every guy in the world prior to settling down with him (not far from the truth) and gave me a humongous bouquet of roses.
Turns out, he helped orchestrate the segment and worked for months with producers, FedExing them my diaries while I remained clueless about the whole thing.
But hey, we ended up getting a free Caribbean vacation for participating, so it was worth the embarrassment.
When the show cut to commercial, we were all whisked backstage, where I gave a brief video interview to a staff member and had some photos taken with my husband and crushes. Truth be told, hanging out with them without Neil Patrick Harris there to crack jokes was a little weird. I mean, in the diary I described music class guy as having “medium ears” and being “plain” yet having a “classical beauty” and had never even spoken to the musician, admiring him from afar during that cruise I took with my mom (he actually turned out to be a really nice guy, and he and Terry are now Facebook friends).
But having never been part of a TV show before, it was cool to see the mild chaos of the backstage area, where various performers and staffers were milling about, including the B-52’s (I spared them my story about the time I sang “Love Shack” at a karaoke Halloween party dressed as Cruella de Vil).
After the show, Terry, my friends, and I were invited to the VIP room for an after party. I was still shell-shocked, but all of a sudden it was like I had become an instant mini-celebrity. Strangers kept coming up to me to say how funny they found the segment. I was even recognized in the ladies room, with women in neighboring stalls cheering me for being such a good sport. I also chatted with some of the show writers, who said they felt like they knew me so well because they had spent months reading my diaries. It was all so surreal.
Later on, Neil showed up. I was a little nervous to go over and chat with him, but when I finally did, he was charming and personable and smelled amazing, like handsome lumberjacks and unicorns (this won’t be a great shock, but I had a crush on Neil when I was in elementary school, during the Doogie Howser, M.D. days). He told me that I was actually seated in the wrong spot in the audience, and he almost pulled up my friend who was in my assigned seat, until he realized she wasn’t me.
It was mind-boggling that NPH knew all this stuff about me—including what I look like—before I had even met him. I told him he probably knew about my Doogie Howser diary and he said, “oh, yeah” like it was no big deal. He mentioned the challenge of creating the segment was to make sure I would be surprised enough, since I already had the blog chronicling my diaries. Um, don’t worry, Neil Patrick Harris; I was plenty surprised.
The following couple of days were pretty crazy with emails, texts and social media posts from people I knew who had seen the show. My husband had given some of my friends a heads up ahead of time and others just happened to have tuned in. One of my friends even watched from her hospital bed while she was in labor with her first child!
I thought that would be the end of it, but a couple of weeks later, I was invited back to be on the Best Time Ever series finale. The show produced a big song and dance number to close out the episode featuring some past guests, and I had a cameo appearance. Not long after that, I got this in the mail from one of the producers:
It was a perfect souvenir of the entire experience.
I’ve had people say they would’ve been furious and/or humiliated to be the target of such a prank. While it was happening, sure, I was pretty horrified to have my angsty diary entries read to a home audience of millions (and let’s not forget that little reunion with those three crushes). But there was nothing mean-spirited about it and the whole thing was so damn funny, I still crack up when I see those reenactments.
So really, being on the show was a blast. It was a once (okay, twice) in a lifetime experience. And I’m certainly not going to be upset with Terry for doing this. If my husband has taught me anything, it’s how much fun life is when you can laugh at yourself. And if you can’t do that, feel free to laugh at me instead.