Driving Miss Holly
I get a lot of interesting gigs…
…the latest one was an invitation to be a VIP Star parade car driver at the 84th Anniversary Hollywood Christmas Parade held November 29, 2015. Since I’m member No.711 of the Disneyland Secret Society (no further information ever provided), this invitation was a fabulous chance to learn about the logistics behind parade operations. Come along with me to see what it takes to be a parade driver.
Parade cars are picked up from a secret “vault” around 2:30 pm to be staged near the parade formation area about 3 miles distant. This takes an hour thru the jammed spectator traffic following a designated route published along with a printed map and written instructions. Our five-person team with two cars finally arrive at the Hubbard Theater Building two blocks west of show center, the famed Chinese Theater where we are directed to designated parking slots on the the roof parking lot.
Each car is given a predetermined parade unit sequence number card to be displayed on the dash. Parade pre-show team members then locate each each car in the numbered slots so the VIP Star name signs can be attached to the car sides so parade viewers will know what stars are riding in each car, all of which are colorful American convertibles of the 1940s thru the 1960s. Most cars are lightly decorated with Christmas trim at this time.
Meanwhile the VIP Stars arrive at the red carpet media walk, then pass thru a ground floor reception area, on view to all driver and associated parade dignitaries as we enjoy a light buffet early dinner while watching a large screen displaying the big stage show taking place outside down the street. VIP Stars are then whisked up to the fourth floor Author Services green room, which is arranged as a spectacular old woodsy mansion with living room, libraries, and private star suites. An open bar and buffet is provided. Luckily I arrived just before security, so I was able to see how all the star treatment is presented. Naturally I was offered a pleasant libation.
As the stage show began the intro to the actual parade start around 6 pm, we drivers were instructed…”start your engines”. One by one we made our way down from the roof to the fourth floor where the VIP Stars were loaded onto the top decks of each car, seated on the folded convertible tops. My guests were famed former long time Playboy Model Holly Madison along with hubby Pasquale Rotella, founder of Electronic Insomniac Events, and three year old daughter Rainbow. They’re a very sweet family, devoted Disneyland fans who were married at Disneyland in a lavish park after-hours wedding…transported about both by Cinderella coach and by my Main Street Fire Engine…small world indeed.
Exiting the Hubbard Theater, cars are directed two blocks east thru a narrow protected lane, inching along one car at a time ever few minutes awaiting their blending in with the large marching groups and giant Macy style helium balloon characters. This allows nearby viewers a chance for close photos and quick chats. Just before reaching the merge point, we drivers are issued headphones so as to receive precise pacing instruction from parade control central. A speaker system is also place in the back seat as a show aid monitor so the stars can clearly hear the announcer’s banter to each star as we very slowly pass the viewing show stand across the street from the Chinese Theater where the exclusive high buck grandstand is located.
I have to concentrate on both the earphone instructions, responding with raised hand signal confirmations, and to local stop-start guide personnel as I approach the red carpet ablaze with blinding lights and TV cameras. At my queue, I start the slow approach then drop speed in accordance with earphone calls, finally given a verbal go! along with a big go signboard, I catch up with the previous parade unit, an Asian marching drum band group. So now we’re at parade cruise speed for the next hour and forty five minutes, eventually returning to the Hubbard Theater where Holly and family bid farewell to await their transportation valet.
Our team re-enters the building to plan our route thru the jammed post-parade traffic to our 10:30 pm late night dinner location. We relax, libations in hand, and marvel at all the expert logistics required to put on the Hollywood Christmas Parade year after year.
Local TV station KTLA will air the parade December 19th and 21st just in time for Christmas.