Magic Carpet Ride
As I stood watching the celebrities parade down the famous carpet, I thought it might be fun to pretend I was one of them, and after repeated rejections, I finally found a willing accomplice to escort through all the flashing bulbs and microphone pokes of the infamous Hollywood paparazzi.
“Do you want to walk the carpet?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m not a celebrity, I’m here because I have MS,” replied my brand new friend Caroline.
“Me too! And that’s why we deserve the walk of fame. Grab my arm, let’s do this.”
I will never be a Hollywood celebrity, but by being invited to attend the 24th Race to Erase MS Gala at the Beverly Hills Hilton, I sure felt like one. Making the decision to head out to the west coast for this event was not an easy one for me. Eight days away from home and 6500 miles on the road was going to be expensive, especially considering this was not an event I was being paid to speak at. After leaving the day job in October last year, requests for me to speak have unexpectedly slowed down and I have struggled with finding new opportunities to cover my expenses on the road. Chasing the Cure for Multiple Sclerosis without a fiscal sponsor has been pretty tough on the pocketbook.
I decided to take the chance however, draining my savings further with the hope of meeting people who could help propel my story and mission to cure MS with some additional national exposure. I also wanted to meet the founder and fellow MS advocate Nancy Davis to chat about the possibilities of working together on fundraising in the near future. Nancy Davis has raised over 36 million dollars for her Center Without Walls, a collaborative of top MS centers across the country. This year’s Gala brought out Hollywood’s A-list and raised 1.6 Million dollars which will go directly to these researchers who will discover a cure.
I finally made the decision to attend just two days before needing to leave New England for the long three day trip to California. The first crisis I never thought I would ever face was finding something to wear to this fancy celebrity party. One glance in my closet had me realizing I had no clue what all the cool kids were wearing. Thanks to my ability to FaceTime from the mall and my daughter Ayla paying attention to fashion and entertainment, I was able to find some digs that would be acceptable to wear to Beverly Hills.
I carefully rolled my formal wear and packed it gingerly into the Yamaha’s left saddlebag.
I then prayed it would unpack some 3000 miles and 45 road hours later with limited creases! National Powersports mounted a set of new tires on my rims and I changed my engine’s oil. I left two hours before the sun raised it’s eyebrows and I headed west for my very first star-oozing event.
I was pumped for this trip! I rode from New Hampshire to Joliet, Illinois where I purposefully booked a room at the Hollywood Casino Hotel so I could tease my FaceBook followers that I had arrived in California on the first day. No one fell for it! I wonder if anyone else attending the event drove through Canada to get to there.
Another early morning departure and a long day’s ride to reach Vail Colorado. As exhausted as I was, I should have planned to go further because when I woke up six hours later it was below freezing as I heading through the mountains.
From 20 degrees to 107 through the desert, day three was quite a roller coaster, but it eventually brought me to Los Angeles.
I spent a night visiting with my good friend Kevin Nixon, the motorcycle marketing genius who lives in Long Beach. We talked bikes and marketing strategies. It’s great having friends on both coasts who let me crash at their homes!
Having spoken to hundreds of groups of people living with Multiple Sclerosis, from bikers to corporate executives, it was odd that I was actually nervous about attending a party where my only job was to mingle and not get salad dressing on my new tie.
I arrived at the Beverly Hilton early, saw the crew setting up the red carpet, well actually orange for MS, registered and went directly to my room. I needed to check on the contents of my saddlebag, the fancy suit I had purchased on clearance at Macy’s. The jacket and pants survived. The shirt was ruffled more than I imagined possible, but I figured If I got the front to look decent and never took off my jacket, no one would ever know, well nobody until now.
I really had no clue how these fancy shindigs worked. I ventured out to the lobby about an hour before the first part of the evening, the silent auction began. I shot a couple of pictures with the big ticket item, a DB11 Coupe donated by Aston Martin of Beverly Hills. The car was later auctioned live during dinner and fetched $290,000!
The stars began to arrive as a 20 member Mariachi band played by the water fountain outside the foyer. The 50 or 60 reporters from the international media were already signed in and had staked claims along the front edge of the carpet, apparently lined up according to their Nielsen ratings.
I got my invisible wrist stamp and headed over to where everyone else was watching the carpet parade. A group of fans had been gathering and ropes were being tightened to keep the spectators away from the guests. I couldn’t help but notice all the big burley men with single-sided hearing aids standing around. I felt safe.
It was a special night at the Beverly Hilton, hundreds of celebrities were joining forces and emptying their wallets to fund research to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. They all waited patiently in line to get their pictures taken and be interviewed. They knew the routine. The pictures would be circulated with half truths and gossip for a week or so, bringing international attention to the celebrity but also the fundraiser. There seemed to be a lot of urgency to interview the cast from Dancing With The Stars, as most of them seemed to be in attendance. Some of them loved the media fuss, and some of them did not. I suppose that’s show business!
I felt pretty special, knowing these famous people cared about me and others, took time out of their busy lives to help find a way to stop our disease from progressing. I shared my story with David Osmond, who along with his father Alan Osmond, had been diagnosed with MS. David is an advocate with an amazing positive attitude as well as a gifted voice, carrying forward the great Osmond legacy. He seemed interested in my million mile journey and promised to check out my website.
Three glasses of priceless Cabernet Sauvignon later, in the ballroom where the Golden Globes are held each year, I found my table and sat down. We watched a moving tribute to this year’s honored guest, actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler who brought her fight with MS to the public eye last year. Grammy award winning Siedah Garett sang, Man in The Mirror, the song she wrote for Michael Jackson and a new single, Carry On, which she wrote for for this event. Siedah Garett also announced for the first time that she too had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis; a disease that strikes regardless of age, race or economic class.
The iconic band Chicago delivered an amazing set and in a Copperfield flash, my Cinderella night was over. The stars were whisked away in their Bentleys and Rolls, probably to some plush after-party way above the clearance access of my hand stamp.
It was amazing and exciting, and an honor to be invited. I hope next year I will be able to participate more as an advocate and join forces with the Race to Erase MS organization because we clearly are on the same road, racing and Chasing the Cure.
Although meeting Quincy Jones, David Osmond, Robert Herjavec, Randy Jackson, Paris Hilton, Cathy Griffin and Nancy Davis was pretty exciting, it was the Access Hollywood interview on that magic carpet ride that had me grinning every inch of the entire three thousand mile ride home.
“Forgive me, what is your name?”
“I am Paul Pelland.”
“And what was it that you were in again?……..”
“You may have seen me in that show, Before They Were Stars.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, and then you were in…”
“That’s it, nothing else.”
(Drops the mic, and the camera fades to black)
More published photos from the Race to Erase MS event are here.
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