We leave our seats in the Honda Center before the next quartet is announced – there’s no moving or noise permitted while the competitors are performing – and slip out to the hallway and out to the entrance. There’s a short line for the return bus, since at this hour most people are still arriving for the contest instead of leaving it.
There’s an odd but funny statute of a hockey-playing duck outside the entrance. The Anaheim Ducks have an odd history as a hockey franchise anyway, having been once owned by Disney and named for their string of “Mighty Ducks” hockey movies. I respect them as a team, but it would take a lot for me to get used to the name and mascot. I’m glad to be a Stars fan.
We load onto the bus and set out for the Hilton. I manage to snap a picture of the Honda Center electronic sign as it announces the presence of the Barbershop Harmony Society. It looks really professional. So far, the convention seems to be running really well, and the City of Anaheim is doing a great job hosting us.
The bus arrives at the Hilton without delay, and the six of us head inside and up to the Harmony Marketplace to do more shopping at a slightly relaxed pace.
When we reach the doorway to the ballroom, one of my VM brothers is headed out. He looks at me and says, without any lead-in, “Conan’s the one in the middle.”
What? That was random. And kind of cryptic. Conan? Oh, wait, does he mean Conan O’Brien, until recently star of NBC’s Late Show and now moved to LA to be the new Tonight Show host? He’s here?
I may finally have my celebrity sighting.
Sure enough, on the far side of the Marketplace is a cluster of people, with two cameras and a sound guy holding a boom mike. Even from this distance I can spot Conan in the middle of them. He’s pretty tall.
I forget my family for the moment (sorry guys!) and make a beeline to the far side of the room, with my camera ready. Conan’s talking to some white-haired man. I snap pictures as best as I can without being disruptive, and then enter the Marketplace to get closer, and from a different angle. After I have a handful of pictures, I get on my cell phone and update my Facebook status. Being ten feet away from Conan O’Brien is a pretty cool report.
I don’t give much thought to whoever Conan’s talking to, except to wonder briefly if maybe the Barbershop Harmony Society couldn’t have found someone a bit younger to represent us on camera. Sure, there are a lot of fun and talented older men in this hobby, but we are also experiencing a surge of younger men and even kids who are discovering the joys of close-harmony singing.
While I’ve never been a regular Late Night or Tonight Show fan of Conan’s, I do like some of his quirky humor, and part of me is a bit nervous of how he’ll report on the convention. He can gently (and not-so-gently) make a mockery of sincere people with odd interests, and you have to admit that a gathering of thousands of barbershoppers is a target-rich environment for mockery.
Surprisingly, Conan seems to be conducting the interview fairly calmly, showing a lot of respect to his subject. Hmm.
Right when the interview is wrapping up and Conan is sincerely telling the interviewee what an honor it’s been to talk to him, a nice man standing next to me spots my VM nametag and introduces himself as a former longtime member of the chorus. I believe he says his name is Tom Halverson, but I can’t be sure I got that correctly, because the next thing he says floors me:
“I thought that Dick Van Dyke would be taller.”
Wha...? Dick Van Dyke? The Dick Van Dyke?
I look again at the pair of men the cameras are pointing at. The white-hair gentleman Conan’s been talking to is indeed the one and only Dick Van Dyke.
Sorry, but that’s way cooler than Conan.