Thursday, February 19, 2009

Print Room at the 51st Annual GRAMMY® Awards - by Sarah Tither Kaplan

Nine hours in a small room at the Staples Center with 30 other people may not sound like the most exciting way to spend GRAMMY® Day, but when people like Robert Plant and Paul McCartney happen to show up, the Print Room is one of the best seats in the house.

Journalists from the print media gathered around 12:30 p.m. to set up their laptops, wireless internet connections, tape recorders, and to get ready for the long day ahead.

With 110 categories this year, only a fraction of GRAMMY wins were televised. The pre-telecast honored such artists as Tia Carrere, "Wayne's World Girl," for Best Hawaiian Music Album, The Blind Boys of Alabama for Best Traditional Gospel Album, The Mars Volta's "Wax Simulacra" for Best Hard Rock Performance, the late George Carlin's "It's Bad for Ya" for Best Comedy Album.

Once the pre-telecast was under way, nominees and winners alike graciously gave interviews to the journalists who were less than enthusiastic about having to clock in early for such a long day.

Luckily, a wake up call came in the form of Sir Paul McCartney sauntering in and then out and then back in to the print room. He certainly wasn't unaware of the lack of enthusiasm coming from the print press. "Oh, there are people in here," he said coyly as he walked back in. Many hands raised eager to get a quote from the former Beatle, though some were still typing away at their laptops. "What are you doing? This is the GRAMMYs, stop typing, you can use your laptops any time." McCartney pleaded to one of the reporters. Sir Paul's sense of humor served to remind the journalists to stop taking themselves so seriously, and enjoy the moment. When asked how he felt about losing the GRAMMY for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance to John Mayer's "Gravity," Paul replied "you come in it to be in it, not to win it." Even though the day kept feeling longer and longer, I couldn't complain. Getting life lessons from the legendary Paul McCartney is definitely not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

When the telecast began and it was officially announced that Chris Brown and Rihanna wouldn't be performing, the print room erupted in a frenzy of fact finding missions and rumor fabrication. Phones began ringing, and the typing became even more furious, as journalists checked sources in a race to break the story first. The show had to go on; however, and eventually everyone remembered to keep their heads in the game, or at least facing the interview platform and the telecast monitor.

Throughout the day, some of the world's greatest musicians appeared in that room Natalie Cole fostering a sobering discussion about her recent health problems, and her fight to continue making music despite her illness, producer/ recording artist Will. I. Am discussing the humbling and inspirational experience of performing at Obama's inauguration, the effervescent British import, Estelle explaining her surprise to have won a GRAMMY for her song "American Boy" that was originally written in the studio as "a joke", and finally, Robert Plant after winning his first five Grammys for his work with Allison Krauss- who won her 21st through 26th GRAMMYs- including Album of the Year for "Please Read the Letter".

Finally, I was able to get a question in with Katy Perry after her performance of "I Kissed a Girl." She talked about the transition from being "one of the boys," on Warped Tour this summer to performing amongst giant inflatable fruit on the GRAMMY stage.

Despite the long hours, many laughs were had in the little print press room. The most amusing experience occurred while watching mom-to-be M.I.A. perform "Swagga like Us" with T.I., Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lil'Wayne, on the night of her due date. Every time she moved gasps could be heard coming from the usually quiet journalists, we were all holding our breath as if we somehow had the power to prevent the baby from coming.

When the telecast was over, and the stars and performers headed off to the after parties, all I could think about was getting home and going to sleep. The whole experience only hit me about an hour after leaving the GRAMMYs. I had been among legends, I had witnessed history being made, and I had gotten my first question answered in a print room. Journalism certainly isn't glamorous, but the behind the scenes adventures of my time as a GRAMMY reporter, aren't something I'll ever forget.

-by Sarah Tither Kaplan - GRAMMY Camp 2008 Music Journalism Track

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