Personal Highlights from these past 2 weeks
Well, like I’ve mentioned before, tonight’s the Grand Final of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. For the past two weeks or so, I’ve had the honor and the pleasure of writing not only for ESCInsider, but also for ESCKaz.com, the official website of the OGAE Rest of the World fan club. My work with ESCKaz (and the press accreditation that comes with it) has afforded me the incredible opportunity to meet equally incredible people, from the fraternity of journalists here to the hardworking volunteers to the EBU staffers to the delegations and artists themselves. I cannot express my gratitude deeply enough to the ESCKaz team for not only giving me the chance to work with them, but also taking me under their wing and helping me learn on the fly as I was tossed into the Deep End of the Eurovision world.
I had the chance to interview 20 of this year’s artists, and I got to meet nearly all of the performers either at the Euroclub or one of the myriad other events here over the past few weeks. I got particularly close to the Icelandic delegation, the Greeks, Raphael Gualazzi from Italy, Finland’s Paradise Oskar, and the Sanmarinese staff. Even the biggest divas here were sweet and welcoming; Albania’s Aurela Gaçe always greeted me as we passed each other in the hall (especially after I told her that I was from New Jersey).
As I’ve previously said, this entire experience has made me reevaluate the entire notion of “fame” and “celebrity”. I’ve witnessed quiet moments of coffee-sipping, flirtation, personal breakdowns, musical jam sessions, and the panic of realizing that one is about to perform in front of 150 million people, not to mention YouTube clips ad infinitum. Celebrities are people, too, my friends. Treat them with respect (especially the newcomers on the scene).
I’m also still amused by the obsession with collecting the delegations’ promotional CDs. I will happily accept the swag and goodies from countries that I either have a relationship with or enjoy the song of, but I’m not going to step over my own mother in order to get the promo material from Kreplachistan if I think the song is abysmal. (That being said, the prize for the BEST promotional swag has to go, hands down, to the Georgian delegation, who provided selected members of the press corps with magnets, notebooks, pens, locally-produced teas, silk scarves, and even bottles of Georgian wine!)
Other things I have learned:
1) You catch more flies (and interviews) with honey than with vinegar. By going out and simply being polite to the volunteers, heads of press, and other staffers here, one can make significantly more headway towards where you want to go than by going in charging like a bull in a china shop and making demands from the higher-ups. The delegations don’t owe you anything.
2) Be more in charge of your own accommodation arrangements. I left my housing to my colleagues in the OGAE Rest of the World. While the housing was inexpensive and in a very safe location, I didn’t know until I arrived how distant my apartment would be from where the rest of the action was. It took me nearly an hour every day to get to the Arena via public transportation, and the buses stopped running too early, meaning that I had to pay for a taxi home nearly every night, upping my daily incidentals by about 25 Euros per night. Also, while my housemates were lovely people, I was the youngest of the four of us, and the only one who wanted to go out often and enjoy what the city had to offer. Because of that dynamic, I feel like I’ve missed out a bit.
3) Never say “No”, and break down your own barriers. I’ve been overwhelmed, stressed, and crazed at times, but I’ve never turned down an opportunity to shake a hand, do an interview, or smile for a random camera. I’m also pretty shy by my nature, but I’ve overcome my own fears and put myself out there. I don’t really like the way I look on camera or in audio recordings, but I recorded a handful of podcasts for ESC Insight and have been interviewed for Belarussian television. I’ve felt my knees shaking as I got up to ask questions to Jedward, but I ended up creating a great moment (but, then again, with Jedward, aren’t they all?). I often hate sitting alone, but I went on my own to Raphael Gualazzi’s showcase and it might have been the highlight of my time here. I’ve made some great friends by keeping myself open-minded, and who knows where those connections will lead?
4) Enjoy every second. There are about 2,500 accredited journalists here at the Press Center, and the vast majority of them are screaming Eurovision fanboys and fangirls. We stress out, we freak out, we explode, but we love every moment. The arguments, the punditry, the debates…we live for this. We’re all hopelessly addicted, and we do this out of love. Eurovision is our Summer Camp, our Prom, and our Bar Mitzvahs all rolled into one yearly event. Veterans see old friends and make new ones year after year…often times, the question asked isn’t “who do you want to win?”, but rather “where would you like to meet up next year?”. (That’s one of many reasons I’m hoping Iceland takes it…direct flights from Minneapolis to Keflavik!)
What else can I say? I’m sure I’ll have quite a bit more to discuss in a few hours, once we figure out the results…but until then, you’ve got a bit more time to mull over the possibilities.
Catch you on the other side of Eurovision History, people!