Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Paula's Party

Warm-up guy: Former Ms. New Jersey! She's now a mom.
Main dish of the show: "beer-in-the-butt" chicken.
The beer they used: Natty Light.
Paula's husband: Is a tugboat captain. And, as it happens, Beard Papa:
(Many thanks to Danders for making that jpeg when I lacked the tools.)

Paula Deen is a restaurateur and cooking personality best known for being Southern. Apparently she has quite a following. When a woman I know in West Virginia ate at Paula's restaurant, that woman's daughter became so excited that she cried. I want to know that kind of passion. I have never cried over a restaurateur. To be honest, I haven't even really sniffled over a waitress.

Paula's Party is normally taped in Georgia, but my friend Sarah gave me the tip that they were doing a few spots at the Food Network's studio in Chelsea. This was the first time that while standing in line I had to sign a waiver that I wouldn't sue if I got food poisoning as a result of the taping.

The seating was fantastic. It's set up like a dinner theatre, meaning everyone in the audience sat at small tables, with snacks already provided. Though it was just Fritos and cornbread and lemonade, the fact that you could munch the whole show long instead of simply slobbering all over yourself while you watched Ms. Deen cook was a very appreciated gesture (Martha should take notes). The cornbread, I should note, was extremely sweet. It tasted of preservatives. I asked a food and drink-refilling employee (yes, they did that) what the deal was with the cornbread and he said they just baked it recently. I secretly doubted that. I think it was weird, store-bought cornbread.

Dena Blizzard, an honest-to-God former Miss New Jersey, warmed us up. She's a funny, funny woman, though as evidenced by this photo, quite small. Since the show hadn't been to New York before, they had a lot of scheduling kinks to work out, so Dena kept on coming up with stuff to keep us entertained. Stand-up. Dance parties. Trivia contests. Sample question: "What does Paula's husband do for a living? He's a tugboat captain!" Then Dena walked to Paula's husband, who was in the audience, so he could confirm that.

Then more stand-up. Then open mics for people who knew jokes. My girlfriend's contribution, "What was Beethoven's favorite fruit?" and singing "Ba-na-na-na," to the tune of the famous lick from his 9th symphony, went criminally unappreciated.

Anyway, once the show got rolling, it became apparent Paula had no idea what was going on. She did little to no cooking, and spent most of the time talking. That was probably mostly not her fault, but that of her guest host.

Rosie came out like a prom queen, all grins and waves, trying to hold her poise but then breaking stride when she rushed to girlfriend. Why did she do that? We don't know why. The two had never met and in all likelihood will never meet again. Girlfriend later declared the experience "squishy".

Paula seems to have little structure to how she runs her show; she mostly makes chit-chat with the audience or her guest, cooks, and that's that. But when she'd try a little friendly banter with O'Donnell--"So how have you been?", it was met with less-than-entertaining material. "I've been pretty depressed, to be honest. No one wants to hire me--I do NOT want to talk about the View, or the Little One..."

O'Donnell talked about herself so much, and talked so much shit, that it held up the show for probably over an hour. God knows how much they edited out to make the actual episode. She talked about her kids, how much she disliked Donald Trump, how good she was at TV, and how she didn't like Paula's producer, who kept prodding them to get back on track. (The producer, a hulk of an Australian, didn't seem too pleased by the dissent.) She brought about a good bit of Bush bashing with absolutely no prompt but her own meandering monologues. It was a mess.

I was getting restless. I'd been there almost five hours and had work to do. I looked up to where Beard Papa was, to see how he took dealt with all this time wasting. He had bailed. So, so did I.

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