As I might have mentioned, I got nominated for a Grammy Award (along with Danny Elfman) in the Best Song TV/Movie/Visual Media category for “Wonka’s Welcome Song” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The nomination came as a surprise, in that (a) I didn’t realize the Grammys were coming up, (b) I didn’t know the song was eligible, and (c) it’s an absurd choice for Best Song. It’s a fun ditty, sure, kind of a riff on “It’s a Small World” from the eponymous Disney theme park ride. But there it was, on the list.

I promptly called Danny Elfman. After making plans for a play-date for our respective offspring, I asked if he planned on attending the awards. He was horrified at the prospect, which I guess makes sense for a professional musician with a shelf full of awards.

But me, hell. When am I going to get nominated for a Grammy again?

So I went.

Here’s my first-hand account.

To begin with, “Music’s Biggest Night” is actually “music’s longest afternoon.” They give out awards in 108 categories. Of those, only 11 are televised. The other 97 are passed out during the pre-telecast ceremony, which begins at 1:30 p.m. We left the house at noon to get there in time.

The pre-telecast was held in the West Hall of the convention center, next door to Staples Center, where the main awards would be held. It was friendly and low-key. Anoushka Shankar and Michael Bublé performed (separately), and most award-recipients were quick to get on and off stage.

My category was #31 on the list. The whole time, I was thinking about what I would say in the (admittedly unlikely) event that my name was in the envelope. I settled on:

Hi, wow. [Stare at trophy in disbelief] I’d like to thank the Grammy academy. Of course, Danny Elfman, for writing really catchy music. And especially Tim Burton for saying, “Sure, yeah, melting puppets. Singing. Great!” Anyway, this means a lot. Thanks. [Hold up trophy]

And then I’d start to go off stage in the wrong direction, only to be corrected by a pretty young woman who would take my elbow and lead me the right way.

As it turned out, it ended up being a lot simpler. I clapped politely while Glen Ballard accepted the award for the song he wrote for The Polar Express. He was gracious, so I certainly can’t begrudge him. And I’m happy I lost to someone who at least showed up.

We ducked out of the pre-telecast awards during the gospel section (sorry, Jesus), in the hopes of getting properly liquored before the grown-up Grammys, which started at 5 p.m. The instructions on the so-you’ve-been-nominated-for-a-Grammy sheet noted that alcohol would be not be served after 4:30 p.m. While this was technically true, the more accurate description of the situation could be found on signs at all of the food stations:

SORRY, NO ALCOHOL AT THIS EVENT.

No, really. There was a kind of sad, strange comedy in eavesdropping:

  • GUY IN SUIT
  • Could I get a vodka tonic?
  • SERVER
  • Sorry, there’s no alcohol.
  • GUY IN SUIT
  • How about wine?
  • SERVER
  • No, there’s no alcohol.
  • GUY IN SUIT
  • Just beer, then.
  • SERVER
  • There’s no alcohol at all.
  • GUY IN SUIT
  • Anywhere?
  • SERVER
  • No, sir.

Now, in reality, if Kanye West had wanted a mojito, someone, somewhere would have found some mint leaves to muddle. But for the hoi polloi, the event was drier than a Kansas wedding. I was left with Diet Pepsi and rage to wash down my nachos.

Fortunately, the Grammys themselves were fun.

Having been to quite a few premieres and fancy shindigs, I can say that the Grammys were the most consistently entertaining. The musical performances were good, the groan factor was low, and every celebrity had to walk by my seat at least once.

Our seats were on the floor, next to the aisle. Whenever a performer and/or presenter needed to go from their seat to backstage, they were walked by us. Even better, running across the aisle next to our seats were thick cables covered with a floor mat. Although marked with white tape, this hazzard was very easy to trip over. Many celebrities did.

Celebrities who tripped and/or wobbled included:

  • Sting
  • Sir Paul McCartney
  • Teri Hatcher (meta-alert!)
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt
  • The woman in Destiny’s Child who is not Beyonce or Kelly

In general, I’m not star-struck. But the combination of mild danger and celebrity almost made up for the lack of alcohol. The guy sitting next to me won a Grammy for mixing the Green Day album. So that’s cool.

The official after party was back at the West Hall. Everyone knows that the official party sucks and that all the cool people go to their own secret after parties. However, we were not invited to any of the secret after parties. So we went to the normal one.

It took forever to get in, but the food was fairly tasty. And the drinks? Free-flowing. On the whole, it felt like a big Hollywood premiere party, with good production design and some questionable entertainment choices. (Interpretative dancers, for a start.)

We were home by midnight. There’s no Grammy to set on the mantelpiece, but on the whole, it was a fun 12 hours. I haven’t watched the show on the TiVo yet, but I doubt I’ll see myself. The closest call probably came when Chris Martin of Coldplay galloped down the aisle.

God, I wish he’d tripped.