Although my television series Meteorite Men continues in steady repeats on Science Channel, the Season One premieres are over. I did some math recently, and since early August of 2009 when we began pre-production for the six-episode series, I believe I have taken two days off. I don’t mean two days off in addition to weekends, I mean two days total.
I also recently completed a 16-day run at the 2010 Tucson gem and mineral shows (my company, Aerolite Meteorites, is an exhibitor). I am quite sure I have never been so tired in my entire life, and I really am looking forward to an upcoming vacation. “Yes, that would be a good idea, and make it soon,” cautioned Meteorite Men Executive Producer Kathy Williamson by phone last Wednesday night. She is hoping, I suppose, as we all are, that there will soon be good news about a second season. The odd part was, while receiving this suggestion from Kathy I was sitting in a black town car rocketing from New York’s La Guardia airport to the very stylish Essex House hotel on Central Park South.
I had been planning on taking some time off—at least a day or two—this past week, but on that Monday morning my co-host Steve Arnold and myself both received a rather exciting invitation: Would we please be guests of Discovery Channel at the Lincoln Center premiere of their new series Life, narrated by Oprah Winfrey? Our network, Science Channel, is part of Discovery Communications, and we are kindly thought of as extended family. What a treat! I lived in New York City from many years and, in fact, my college graduation ceremony had taken place in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, the same room in which we’d be viewing the premiere. It was nice to be back, though the snow covering Central Park was a bit of a shock after six years in sunny Tucson.
A black SUV picked Steve and me up, in front of the Essex House, and whisked us the few chilly blocks to Lincoln Center. After registering, we were prepped for the red carpet. And what a surprising experience it was. Forget that mental image of a long red carpet stretching from a sidewalk up to the front of the venue. It’s winter in New York! The red carpet was indoors, hard up against a colorful backdrop of Discovery family logos. We were ushered through a small “gate” and then sandwiched—on the carpet—between the backdrop and an enthusiastic and animated group of photographers who seemed almost piled on top of each other. “Over here please.” “Look this way PLEASE gentlemen!” “Up here please, one more time this way,” and so on. Steve and I were carrying meteorites with us. Several of the photographers (and you have to imagine that these seasoned pros have pretty much seen everything) were so fascinated by our space rocks that they asked to touch or hold them, somewhat slowing down the proceedings, as the next guest star waited hard on our heels. We were gently ordered to “Move along please!” and had to shuffle, sideways and almost crab-like along the carpet, because of course you want to keep your face to the photographers and your back to the backdrop. Josh, one of our executives was there to greet us at the other end of the photographic gauntlet (our first red carpet by the way), and when he asked me how it was, I replied: “Very . . . bright.” Camera flashes a-plenty. We were even snapped by the official LIFE magazine photographer.
After a little wine, followed by a bizarre incident in which an incredibly rude bartender refused to serve me a glass of water, telling me: “There’s water in the fountain by the toilets,” we filed into Alice Tully for the screening. Discovery Networks founder and chairman John S. Hendricks delivered a greeting from the stage and—at one point—asked if all the Discovery family talent then present (“talent” is TV-speak for stars, hosts, co-hosts, etc.) would please stand. Steve and I did, there in Lincoln Center, along with about ten of our colleagues, turned around to face the audience seated mostly behind us, to be greeted by a stirring round of applause. What a happy moment it was! I really felt as if I was part of something special, and I am. Discovery Communications is the single largest provider of non-fiction programming in the world, reaching approximately one and a half billion people. That’s a lot of TV sets.
We then proceeded to the actual screening of Life, Episode One, complete with a score performed live on stage by the entire assembled New York Pops. Discovery really knows how to throw a party. Life premieres for the rest of the world on Sunday March 21 and I suggest that you watch this extraordinary piece of documentary art for yourself. I’m not even going to try and describe it. But I will tell you that my favorite part is with the tiny red tree frog.
After the screening, excellent food and fine wine flowed at a packed reception. The lovely Glenn Close was there, and Bill Klein and Jen Arnold stars of TLC’s hit series The Little Couple. It was a special pleasure to meet them as their series was also created by our production company, LMNO, and I enjoyed teasing Jen and Bill about “stealing” our esteemed original executive producer Ruth Rivin. It was Ruth who developed the original idea for Meteorite Men, but after the phenomenal success of The Little Couple (also one of her shows) we were no longer able to enjoy her undivided attention.
Also in attendance was the charming Dr. Michio Kaku of Sci-Fi Science—a fellow Science Channel host, and his elegant wife. I enjoyed reconnecting with fellow Brit Jeremy Wade the dashing star of River Monsters, and later enjoyed cocktails with Lorens de Groot of Animal Planet’s Whale Wars, which must surely be the most exciting show on television.
My long-time friend and former band mate Anne Husick, now of the Ronnie Spector Band, joined me as my guest, and she was beside herself with joy after meeting Captain Sig of Deadliest Catch (she’s not only met a million celebrities, but played in rock bands with most of them, and I’d never seen her so excited about anything). But chatting with Lorens was one of the high points of an evening full of high points. Here is a man who gave up a promising career with the Dutch police in order to take to the high seas and daringly interfere with illegal Japanese whale hunts. I liked him immediately. I traded one of my Meteorite Men t-shirts for one of his ultra-cool skull-and-crossbones-with-trident Sea Shepherd t-shirts and it was one of those unusual and happy exchanges where both parties feel as if they got the better end of the deal.
More on Lorens later. At the moment I’m focused on catching the next repeat of Whale Wars. Since I now really feel like part of the Discovery family, I want to be there to support my siblings’ shows.