Backstage At The TRL Finale (Or, At Home At The End Of The World)

timhillary.jpgWhen I walked into Times Square this afternoon, the sidewalks were overflowing with wide-eyed, stargazing teenagers hoping to steal a glimpse of a celebrity — any celebrity — pouring out of a limo and into MTV Studios.

Tonight was the end of an era: the finale of MTV’s flagship, Total Request Live.

Two hours after navigating the crowds, gaining my credential, and prowling around backstage, I walked towards Downtown Studio’s great mezzanine windows and looked out on the masses. Kids screamed, waved signs and pointed at every silhouette. Cops fought to keep crowds from spilling into traffic. It was like 1998 all over again.

Backstage became a zoo, quickly, though. Nelly blew by me, laughing. Snoop strode past, smiling, tailed by four 6’8″, 400 pounders. Carson Daly poked his head out of his dressing room. Damien Fahey prepped his cue cards. Suchin Pak and La La giggled in makeup. And all around, publicists blew air kisses and exchanged brief greetings.

I wandered the crowded halls, then took my station at MTV News’ Stage Door Interviews location between the studio and the building’s private entrance where one of our two crews was gathering news.

For an hour and a half, I snapped photos (like this one of reporter Tim Kash and Hillary Duff, who Abbi and I watched just last night in “War, Inc.”), and tapped notes into my Blackberry. In that time, I came within reach of Justin Timberlake, Good Charlotte, Kid Rock, Miley Cyrus, Ludacris, Diddy and Beyonce (who I saw exchange air kisses before being wanded by security).

I felt largely invisible and irrelevant, and marveled aloud at how much infrastructure was born of these stars: make-up, security, publicity, press, lighting, production, and yes, journalists.

Later, I repaired to my office where I transcribed interviews, green-lit articles, obsessed over headlines, captions and photos, and generally managed our online coverage. When my colleague, Jonathan, noticed that Jesse Camp was blowing up on Google Trends, for example, we dove on the story (which, oddly enough, has only logged 100 page views in its first two hours).

And when I finally stumbled out through the revolving doors just after three o’clock this morning, Times Square was empty. Doors were shuttered. Lights were dimmed. Sewer grates billowed steam. And a rogue newspaper blew across 44th Street.

It was like 2008 again.

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