What an amazing weekend this was. As Dickens said in “A Tale of Two Cities”, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Actually, mostly for me anyway, this weekend was THE BEST OF TIMES.
Before I share my experience, I want to send out a big “Thank You” to @ToyotaRacing for the invitation and for being so wonderful to me. I especially want to thank the ladies in PR who were so helpful and kind to me and for finding Stephen on Saturday and alerting him to come over to the Billsbabes waiting to see him. I was treated with so much kindness and they were there whenever I needed anything. Thanks again to all of the publicity people and to @ToyotaRacing!
I received an invitation from @ToyotaRacing on Wednesday of last week offering me exclusive access to the Celebrity compound on Friday, April 15 at the site of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Grand Prix. The invitation said:
“Toyota has extended the invitation to have you come on Friday of race weekend and have access to our celebrity compound where interviews take place.”
This was truly an honor to be invited since we were the only fan site to be asked. The publicity department recognized the influence that fan sites have on the public and they wanted to try out letting a fan site have this access. I hope they weren’t disappointed, I sure wasn’t! It was an honor and privilege.
I had originally planned to drive to Long Beach early Saturday morning with two other Billsbabes, the day of the race, so when I got the invitation, I knew I had to go down Thursday, requiring that all my plans be changed, double quick. I got a hotel room and drove down late Thursday so I could arrive early on Friday to pick up my credentials.
FRIDAY – QUALIFICATION DAY
While the actual race was not until Saturday, Friday was the day when the celebrities who were participating in the race practiced and qualified for their starting positions, sort of like a dress rehearsal. I was really glad that they chose Friday instead of Saturday, Race Day, for me because I have since learned that it is the best day to be there. On Friday, the celebrities are more at ease, open and willing to sign autographs and chat with the likes of me and the press but on Saturday when they have the actual race; it’s more “down to business”.
The day’s event included the drivers running a practice race in the morning and in the afternoon they performed the actual qualifying run. Based on their fastest lap out of the ten laps that they drove, they would be lined up from fastest to slowest. The driver who had the fasted lap in the qualifying trial got the coveted “pole position” (first in line) and, as you now know, Stephen got it, but not after risking his life to do so.
Here’s the schedule I received from @toyotaracing. The actual times did change somewhat during the day and they added a couple of team meetings, but this schedule is pretty close to the events that took place:
Schedule for the day
- 9:15 a.m. Toyota Pro/Celebrities Arrive at Compound, get into uniforms, have breakfast and conduct media interviews
- 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. TOYOTA PRO/CELEBRITY RACE PRACTICE SESSION
- 12 – 2:00 p.m. Lunch available
- 2:15 p.m. Group Photo “Class of 2011”
- 3:40 – 4:10 p.m. TOYOTA PRO/CELEBRITY RACE QUALIFYING SESSION
- 4:15 p.m. “PEOPLE POLE AWARD” PRESENTATION (Immediately following the qualifying session) All participants on stage
The plan was for me to tweet and email as much information to my Co-Admin Shadaliza from the scene as possible because she was live blogging the event on the site. She was also posting everything that came out on the news and holding down the fort for The Vault and AllSteve. We spoke via Skype several times, so we were truly covering this event from as many angles as possible.
When I arrived at about 8:00 a.m., I went to the Celebrity Compound entrance and met with a PR person who was waiting for me there. She kindly gave me a tour of the area and showed me where breakfast was waiting. When we walked down the steps to where the cars were parked and the technicians were testing and making final preparations for the practice run, I immediately noticed Stephen’s blue car in front of me and I stopped to take a picture. Of the cars, his was the best looking and it had his name on it and number 14. I was then showed the celebrity tent where a big screen TV was projecting the racing of the Indy cars that were practicing at the moment. The noise of their engines was deafening and when I expressed how loud they were, she agreed, but said, “you’d better get used to it because that’s what you will hear all day.”
Across from the celebrity tent, and just past the lined up celebrities Toyota Scion cars, was a fence where, on the other side fans were lined up hoping to see their favorite stars. Early on, Jillian Barberie Reynolds did a LIVE taping at the fence and several of the celebrities who had arrived by that point and were in uniform, came over, signed autographs and joined in the fun.
I hadn’t seen Steve yet, but had heard that he had been on the True Blood set working all night filming, and might be late. I walked around and looked at the cars filming a video of the area and walked down the drive where the cars entered the course to watch the Indy cars roar past.
Shortly after that I went upstairs and had some coffee and a bit of fruit and I looked down on the compound wondering what the day would bring. There were essentially two types of groups permitted in the compound, official press and friends and families of celebrities. I was more in the second group because I wasn’t required to wear any press credentials, just a wristband.
Not being press was much better because I had complete access to everything and could move about as I pleased and could take as many photos and videos as I wanted. I was in heaven.
Then I saw Stephen Moyer. He wasn’t yet dressed in his Toyota racing uniform but was on his way to his car to inspect it and get the seat adjusted for his practice run.
On the way to the car he saw me and gave me a big hug and I asked him how he felt and he said “exhausted”. This was when I learned how exhausted he was. He said that he was on the set until 6:30 am and had driven down and arrived at 7:30 am, got an hour sleep and then came over. He looked tired.
After that he went about his business of getting dressed and conducting lots of interviews. He also went over to the fans at the fence and signed autographs:
I pretty much was wherever he was all day, as much as possible and essentially was his “shadow”.
Lynnpd shadowing Stephen Moyer
The first official event of the day was to run their practice laps. All the cars were lined up and while Steve was waiting to take off, I stood as close to his car as was possible and waived and said “Good Luck”. He gave a “thumbs up” sign. Then, they were off. The cars drove out of the compound and we had to watch it on the TV inside the celebrity tent. When done the ten laps, the cars came back to the compound. He was not happy with his practice. I asked him why and he said that he didn’t drive as fast a time as he had in the other trials. From this, and from what I know of Steve, I knew he was going to try to go faster during the actual qualification to be held later in the afternoon. Little did I know then how much faster and what would happen.
He then posed for lots of photos and did several interviews. There was a group photo taken, and it was shot at Steve’s car #14. Since I thought his car was the best looking of all of them I was glad they chose it for the photo.
After all of that, he sat in the celebrity tent and had lunch with some of the drivers. I ate too, but separately and with a very interesting person whose name is Kris Bunting. Kris is a former key assistant location manager for the Showtime series “Dexter. He told me that he was featured in a LATimes article this past week about trying to regenerate the studios to shoot their locations in LA. He was very interesting to talk to and I told him about me a bit, too.
Let me apologize for all the shaking and poorly composed frames. I couldn’t see what I was shooting and was being bumped around by all the cameramen behind me. Also, not being able to hear anything around you effects your equilibrium, LOL!
After eating I went back down where the cars were. As I talked to a PR person Steve came out with his phone asking her where he could get a charge. She took his phone to get it charged for him and he sat down next to me. He had been trying to catch a nap, but said he couldn’t sleep. I told him that it might be better not to sleep as after an hour or so, you get into a deep sleep and it might be harder to wake up.
Shortly after that, Steve talked with me for a short interview:
Awhile later, his family arrived including the two children, Anna, and his sister. I knew his sister but hadn’t physically met her, and it was nice to do so. We talked a bit and then, Steve had to get ready for the final qualifying race. His sister and I took lots of photos of him. The family all sat in the celebrity tent where the TV was, but Anna and the children came out to wish Steve luck and wave from the sidelines while he was in the driver’s seat waiting to go. Then, the driver’s were off.
I went into the celebrity tent too and stood with the publicity ladies. They were so nice to me and we were all talking True Blood. They all had earphones on and were getting info before we did and they filled me in on what was happening. Steve was in first place with the fastest lap. Then, at lap 7, his car flipped over and we saw it LIVE on the TV.
I felt so sad that Anna and the kids had to see it and didn’t know how at that point whether he was all right or not. The PR people immediately knew that he was OK and I saw someone go over to Anna to reassure her that all was well. I have to say that I was much shaken when I saw it, but somehow I just knew he would be OK and thank God, that he was.
The qualification was ended at the 7th lap because of his car flip, so each of the drivers ranked based on seven instead of ten laps. Since Steve’s lap was still the fastest among the celebrities, he won the coveted, “pole position.” This meant that he had won $15,000 from People Magazine for the charity of his choice, which of course, is Facing the Atlantic.
Once the drivers returned to the compound, very quickly had the ceremony to announce the pole position winner took place. Since Steve won, he was given a big check and a trophy. I was amazed at how cool and calm he seemed and how he joked about messing it up for the other drivers and that the kids had asked him if the flip was like a rollercoaster ride. I don’t think I could have been that cool after having experienced such a traumatic moment, he sure is a “trooper”.
Stephen Moyer winning the Pole Position – After flipping his car on the track, he still had the fastest lap and there won $15,000.00 for his charity, Facing The Atlantic:
The day was pretty much over at that point and I went up to him and said my goodbyes and told him that I was so glad that he was OK. He replied, “I am too.”
SATURDAY – RACE DAY
On Saturday, I didn’t have access to the compound and I have to say that after being on the inside Friday it was really hard to deal with having to look through a fence and be so far away to see what was going on. I and three other Billsbabes who had come for the event, were waiting at the fence for Steve to appear. I had told him on Friday that I would be on the other side of the fence on Saturday, sadly. I mentioned that I would be with other babes and that they would want autographs and asked him to come over when he saw me. He agreed. I told him I’d shout for him. We stood at the fence near his car which was in first position.
I figured that would be the first place he went as he did so on Friday, but he never went near the car. We ended up standing in the sun for about 2 hours which was really hot, and tiring. While we got glimpses of him, he never went near the car. He seemed to be darting back and forth from trailer to green room for some reason (which at the time we didn’t know why), but was in full uniform and looked physically OK and ready to race.
Then, the tweet came from Shadaliza from across the pond. One of the babes showed it to me and it said he had pulled out of the race. What? How could that be, I thought? Here we were at the event and Shadaliza, who lives in Italy found out before we did, but then we were just fans today, so I wasn’t too surprised.
His official statement was as follows:
After much thought and consideration, and at the request of his producers, Stephen Moyer has decided not to take part in the 35th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Moyer, the star of the HBO series “True Blood,” has pulled out of the race in consideration of the cast and crew of his show, which is currently in production.
“While I’m disappointed I won’t be racing today, I know it’s in the best interest of my ‘True Blood’ family,” said Moyer. “I look forward to cheering on my fellow racers and following all the race-day action.”
In Moyer’s absence, actor William Fichtner will take the pole position in today’s race. As a pole-position winner in Friday’s qualifying session, Moyer designated his $15,000 donation in conjunction with the 14th annual People Pole Award to the charity Facing the Atlantic. Facing the Atlantic is a project to raise funds for the humanitarian organization Facing the World, which is a U.K. charity that provides life-changing facial reconstructive surgery for children with severe facial disfigurements who are not able to access the surgery that they need in their own countries.
I didn’t even have time to think about what this would mean for Steve, but I now feel so sad for him because I know how much this meant to him. However winning the $15,000 for Facing the Atlantic and getting the Pole position was a feat in itself, and he can feel gratified that he did a good job!
However, while still standing at the fence, I started to get concerned that we might not see him at all. We had been waiting to see him and now it seemed that, although one of the babes had come all the way from Michigan, we might not get to see him at all. I wasn’t concerned for myself of course, but for the babes who hadn’t had the thrill, I had on Friday. So, I left them and walked to the other side of the compound to a door that I knew was the entrance to the celebrity compound area and managed to get a PR person to give Steve the message that we were at the fence. He immediately came over. I asked him how he was and he said he was fine. He explained that since all the stars were on hiatus right now and he is the only one filming, that HBO said insurance was an issue, so he was forced to pull out. He had been fully prepared to race and looked truly disappointed. However, as he said, he got what he wanted; the money for charity and that meant a lot.
After that, seeing the race seemed anti-climactic and I was ready to just leave, but then I thought I should go watch it to really understand the experience, and it was only ten laps after all, so I went. We all did, and when it was over, then came back to the compound hoping to see more. I left shortly after that as from the fence there was little to be seen.
So, I had the best of times on Friday and although Saturday wasn’t totally the worst of times, it sure wasn’t as good and the previous day. However, Friday was so terrific and having tasted the “good life” on the inside, it was hard to go back.
I’m content because Steve was unhurt, had won pole position and raised a lot of money for his charity, making it a successful event for him, too. Being with him all day Friday has no equal and was a great experience that I will cherish. I have gained even more respect for him and am proud to be his fan.
You too can give to Facing the Atlantic and support Stephen Moyer’s charity by making a direct donation to Facing The Atlantic here http://www.justgiving.com/Facingtheatlantic
Please note: add the code TB4FTA (True Blood for Facing The Atlantic) to the note of your donation so we can keep track of how much was donated by True Blood / Stephen Moyer fans.
Thanks to LifeIsNotEasy and Filmchick3 for contributing photos and videos to this article. Thanks also to Shadaliza for processing all my videos and for being my rock and helping me in all things; couldn’t have done all of this without her help. But most of all, thanks to Stephen Moyer for putting up with me all day following him around.