I know that everything I am about to say will definitely sound fake, but by some miracle it is all entirely true, swear down.
I attended the live taping of Saturday Night Live with Jimmy Fallon as host and Harry Styles as musical guest.
Yes, that is right. I saw Harry Styles’ debut solo performance with my own eyes. I witnessed what was, if you think about it, his debut as an actor, as well (no disrespect to Marcel, of course), ahead of his actual film debut in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk which is out later this year.
It is my understanding that I was one of just twenty people who were let into the live show off the standby line. How did I manage this? I’m still asking myself the same thing. I think that part of it probably had to do with the fact that I slept outdoors on the cold hard floor of New York City for two nights. I lived in front of a parking meter on 48th st for 38.5 hours.
When the NBC page placed my ticket in my hand on Saturday morning at 7:15am and I saw that I was number fifteen for live it felt like a small miracle. Of course everything i’d heard about the experience of doing standby for SNL emphasized how much nothing at all was certain until your butt was in a chair. But let me tell you, “fifteen” felt like “guaranteed.” “Fifteen” felt like I had earned it.
I can say with absolute certainly that I was the least okay that I have been ever in my life when I arrived to Thirty Rock approximately two hours early to sit in a bar with my friends. I could not speak and I think for a long while I even refused to sit down. I was in a daze.
This daze only got worse as we were placed in line in the NBC gift shop, went through security, stood in a barren hallway for half an hour while a security guard told us that they had only let five people into dress (AND THEN TOLD US HE WAS JOKING WHICH I DID NOT APPRECIATE), walked upstairs into the historic lounge, were lined up in number order, and were taken up in the elevators. I truly floated to my seat. I remember being led through the doors into 8H, hearing the band, and breathlessly and inaudibly asking my friend, “where are we?” It was the closest thing to an out of body experience that I have ever had. I wish I could say I am being dramatic about that, but I’m simply not.
And then. My butt. Was in a chair.
I was in.
I’d also just like to say that there were four of us in my camp, and my fourth friend was the last to be seated at the end of the row we were in, and quite possibly the last to be seated off the standby line. Unreal.
I loved seeing how Saturday Night Live worked. There was a real energy in the room, and though I have no frame of reference, I am willing to bet that the energy was a bit more charged given the fact that this was the first episode ever to air live coast to coast. I was in awe of how small the studio was. I’d expected it to be double the size. I was most charmed by the old metal chairs the moving cameramen sat in – they were adorned with “Saturday Night Live” in vintage font.
When the lights dropped, my friends and I all grabbed hands and looked up to the monitors for the dance portion of Fallon’s opening monologue. I do not think I will ever forget what it was like to see Harry on the screen for the first time. He was in the same building as us! I’m not sure it had even hit me at that point, but I couldn’t help but shriek like a little girl.
When they set up for the “Celebrity Family Feud: Time Travel Edition” sketch, one of the pages stood beside us said “are you guys Harry fans?” we said yes, and she said “he’s down there.” We were on a slightly elevated platform, so we all ducked our heads beneath the lighting rigs and there he was, dressed like Jagger. The conclusion of that sketch was actually the first time I cried. I looked right at my friend and broke down, saying only “I can’t believe we got to see Harry play Jagger.” In hindsight it’s hilarious that that is the moment that brought me to tears, but I don’t think I’m really going to sit here and talk about sanity when it comes to this occasion.
The second time I cried was when he opened his mouth to sing the first line of “Sign of the Times” which, ironically, is “Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times.” My friend tells this story better than I, so I’ll leave a space in case she ever decides to submit her hot take on the affair:
Because this is my platform, I’ll give you my take, and it is that I have never in my entire life cried the way I cried that night at a concert. I had a tissue permanently placed to my nose. My gasps inward for breath were threatening to elicit squeaks and I had to subdue them because I was incredibly aware that there were microphones designed to pick up noise from the crowd just above my head. I know that I was shaking. I was, in a word, inconsolable.
Harry was incredible. His performance of “Sign of the Times” was not perfect, and I think he was visibly upset about that. But it made me fully soften to him, and I was so incredibly aware of the fact that he is just a boy who is a year younger than I am. I wished that I could tell him that he was amazing, his performance was passionate – which I’d take over polished any day – and that we were all proud of him.
Hearing “Ever Since New York” for the first time ever was amazing, as well. Admittedly, I don’t remember too much about that since I hadn’t already known the words and it was a little hard to hear them in the studio. I do remember hearing the line “I’ve been prayin’ ever since New York,” very clearly and getting that little pang in your chest that you get when you realize how lucky you are to live in a city that so many people write songs about. He’d written a song about my city, and he’d used the word “prayin’,” and my mind was blown.
My favorite thing about the whole affair is that when I watch the episode or the performances back now, I see them, but in my head I see them from the angle at which I saw them live. I’ve never experienced anything like that, and it is something I will never lose.
If part of the reason I got into SNL was my elective stint as someone devoid of a home, the other – much more potent – part of the reason I got in was definitely divine intervention. There really is no other logical explanation in my mind.