LOST Live at UCLA–the stars, the music, and “What They Died For” (6.16)

14 May

Last night, LOST producers, writers, and of course the stars themselves came to UCLA for “Lost Live: The Final Celebration.”  The event, which packed Royce Hall’s balconies with hyperventilating fans, was the last live event of the entire series—and I was lucky (and absolutely ecstatic) to be there.  But for LOST fans who didn’t get the chance, here’s a walk-through of the evening, in as much detail as I can recall in this hazy euphoric state.

Summary: the writers and producers, twenty actors, and Michael Giacchino make hundreds of enraptured fans chafe their hands applauding before premiering episode 6.16, “What They Died For,” five days before it airs on tv.  Don’t fear–no spoilers here.

The whole event was very hush-hush.  Even some of the most dedicated Losties at UCLA had no idea anything was being planned.  Publicity was nil, and word of mouth limited.  Probably because LOST fans who did manage to find out somehow (like my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, looks a lot like Evangeline Lilly, and so will get the codename Kate) kept their lips sealed.  Kate has a lot of friends who watch and theorize about LOST as obsessively as she does, but she decided not to tell any of them about the secret event planned for May 13.  She only let two people know, neither of them on campus—one Lostie from (who also wishes to remain anonymous, but apparently has a goal of featuring on a third-tier science fiction blog, and so will get the codename Census Man), and me.

I was in Tuscaloosa until about a week ago, and so couldn’t really do much harm.  Nor would I want to, considering the fact that the more people who knew about Lost Live, the harder it would be for us to get tickets.  Cruel and disloyal to the fandom?  Yes.  Do I care?  No.

I was walking across the UA campus in the dark, thinking of how I almost missed the entrance for the altos in Regina Coeli during the just-finished University Chorus concert, when I turned on my phone and found I had seven missed calls.  Seven.  I had a handful of messages too, each one more frantic, from Kate—who said in an almost incomprehensibly fast and high-pitched voice that she had something very exciting to tell me.  Knowing Kate and myself, I figured it had to be something to do with Lost.  Maybe she saw someone from the show?

Obviously, that was a tragic underestimation.  What we knew about the show was this—the penultimate episode of the series would be aired five days before showing on tv, Michael Giacchino would be there conducing his beautiful LOST music with a live orchestra, and Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and Michael Emerson (!) would be there.  It’s quite understandable that, after arriving hours early to get tickets (and finding herself only the fifth person in line), Kate told the man at the ticket book that she loved him.

The tickets, Kate texted me, looked like Oceanic boarding passes.  Very cool.  Our seats, however, were in the very back left corner of the balcony, which was less cool.  Kate considered bringing binoculars, but unfortunately, I had left my opera glasses back in a Tuscaloosa storage unit.

May 13 arrived, with Kate texting me even more incessantly—a picture of a “Lost University” sign being hoisted up on the façade of Royce Hall (mis-sized, it didn’t fit but hung there in a lopsided sort of way, as though the University had just been shaken by strong electromagnetism); a middle-aged lady professing her love for Jack; and my favorite, “omg there are some weird people here.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that included us as well.

When I met up with Kate, she had on a Dharma shirt, and Census Man had pasted a Dharma Initiative logo onto a white labcoat.  We found ourselves peering over the heads of a crowd of fans standing on one of the uppermost levels of a nearby parking structure—which gave them a view of the back of Royce Hall, where all the official press were photographing and interviewing each new star who pulled up.  I spotted Michael Emerson’s bespectacled head above the cameras, and Census Man and I saw Jacob at the same time.  His profile and face at three-quarters was unmistakable.*  Kate thought she saw Shannon, but it turned out to be Charlotte—with long blonde hair.  Little Ben Linus, looking considerably taller but still with his round glasses, broke away from the pack and faced us directly on the balcony, waving.  Jorge Garcia did the same shortly after, proving once and for all that he’s possibly the nicest LOST actor ever.  Remember your fans, folks!

We had left our phones and wallets in the car, since no recording devices were allowed and metal detectors were set up at every entrance.  We knew it was about 7:11 pm when we entered the building, but as we waited with the rest of the restless fans inside, Kate and I realized that we had absolutely no way to gauge the time (who wears watches anymore, anyway?).  Supposedly, we had nineteen minutes to wait, but it felt like forever.

Finally, the house lights dimmed, and an ABC bigwig with a prepared speech came out to introduce the event.  He looked slightly flustered, considering he couldn’t get through a sentence (literally) without all the audience breaking out into applause.  Finally, he brought out Cuse and Lindelof, who received a standing ovation and all sorts of cheering.  After making a joke about killing Jin and Sun (which didn’t get very many laughs), they introduced twenty of our favorite Lost characters in the flesh, starting with:

Little Ben Linus

“Sawyer’s baby mama” Cassidy

Dr. Leslie Arzt

Matthew Abaddon

Richard Alpert

Rose Nadler

Penny and Desmond

Dr. Pierre Chang (among his many other names)

Charlotte and Daniel Faraday

Michael and Walt

Boone Carlyle (Lindelof insisted—“he’s not at all attractive, not attractive” as girls screamed)

Daniel Dae Kim’s poor deceased Jin

Ethan Rom, the original Other

Titus Welliver, the nameless Man in Black himself

Benjamin Linus (Lindelof: “the evilest bastard” on the show)

Hugo “Hurley” Reyes

James “Sawyer” Ford

Twenty actors total, some of them completely unexpected (Dr. Arzt?) and some of them completely unexpected (Daniel Dae Kim, Henry Ian Cusick, and Josh Holloway).  By the far the loudest applause went to Boone, Desmond, Jin, the Man in Black, Hurley, Sawyer, and grown-up Ben Linus.  Although really, we were thrilled to see everyone.

The actors filed offstage, but Kate and I noticed that Michael Emerson was holding a rolled-up piece of paper in his hands, so we knew there’d be more to come.  Cuse and Lindelof introduced Michael Giacchino by explaining how, by the end of the first season, they’d begun to write him into the script.  A notable example: “They [the actors] don’t talk.  Just Michael’s brilliant score.”  Lindelof revealed that he’d coined a word for the composer’s music, which really is so brilliant that any Lostie could recognize the show blindfolded just by the score—“Giacchinius.”  Let’s see if that catches on; I’m all for it.

Cuse and Lindelof explained that Giacchino had only conducted the LOST orchestra for a live audience one other time, and that was in Honolulu.  But we got to hear—musicians who have played on the show and also some very talented students from the Colburn Conservatory (our tickets went toward scholarships for Colburn).

Giacchino conducted as a slideshow of memorable images from the series ran.  The arrangement included: LOST’s main theme, “Hollywood and Vines” (or as I like to call it, that music that plays whenever someone decided to march their people across the Island like Moses), “Oceanic 6” (the sad one that played to pictures of Sun holding her daughter crying, and made me want to cry too), “The Temple of Boom,” “Life and Death” (also a tear-jerker, since no one likes to see Charlie drown), “The Tangled Web” (otherwise known as the Jacob theme), and “Parting Words,” which ran with the clip of the raft launching.  Giacchino darted offstage as we gave him a very long, very enthusiastic standing ovation, and then came back on in a Dharma jumpsuit with the embroidered label: CONDUCTOR.  They played one last song, the theme from Up, which won the composer an Academy Award in 2009.

Between each number, one of the actors would come out and read a “message in a bottle,” letters written by the extra crash survivors we don’t know anything about—or as Lindelof called them, the “socks” (short for sockpuppets).

First was Daniel Dae Kim, reading Patrick’s letter to his wife Joanna, who had always said she’d bring her Gabriel García Márquez books to a desert island.  Patrick had wanted Steven King, but of course what he really misses now that he’s there and apart from her is the sound of her laugh, or how she hummed when she walked the dog.

Hurley read a letter from Robin to her father, who’d left her when she was two.  She makes an interesting comment—that sometimes she feels like she’ll suddenly meet him as she’s walking through the jungle (we in the audience murmured knowingly).  But if she doesn’t, she says, she wants him to know that she’s a “good kid,” with a shelter that holds out the rain better than anybody else’s.

Michael Emerson came out to read third.  We applauded him before he began, as we had everyone else, but some people on the far right side of the balcony were cheering even as the rest of the clapping died down.  His face was projected on a large screen for us proles in the back, and his expression was priceless—for the first minute of it, he was completely still and serious, staying in character.  But as the applause continued (the right-corner people weren’t alone for long), and a blonde violinist behind him started laughing, Emerson cracked and smiled.  We all love him.  And he proved us right, reading a somewhat angry letter to his mother—“You should have hugged me more!  And I hated that cat!”  When we learned it was from Neil (aka, Frogurt), we laughed even harder.

Penny read a letter to Jason from Meredith.  Meredith spends her time wondering if she’d have been a good mother—like Jason had told her.  She says everyone spends all day long watching Claire’s baby sleep, and that his breathing sounds like a cat purring.

Richard Alpert read a letter from Nick, an ex-atheist, to his grandfather.  The city lights of LA had kept him from seeing the stars, but now that he can, he realizes that both they and God are up there watching him.  Nestor Carbonell read a second letter, from a father to his daughter Isabelle.  He said that he’d always pestered his own grandfather about not giving many details about a trip to Antarctica, but that now he realizes how hard it is to explain that sort of terrifying beauty.  But if he ever gets off the Island, he’ll find a way to find the words.

(The readings, Cuse and Lindelof told us, had only been given once before.)

Next, some of the writers and producers came out, along with Bryan Burk—the sound guy, and we finally learned that he was inspired to make the tik-a-tik-a noise of the Smoke Monster after hearing the click of a receipt machine in a New York taxi.  Three of the writers were asked to introduce the episode we were about to see, “What they died for.”  One said that it would be funnier than some of the more recent ones—“We kill Sun and Jin again!”  And again, no one really laughed.  Too soon.

But the episode was absolutely fantastic, and at parts absolutely hilarious.  I don’t want to give any spoilers away (how can I, when I’m still digesting myself?), but I’ll say a few things:

There’s nothing in the world like watching a new episode premiere in a theater packed with obsessive fans like yourself (this was infinitely better than even a Harry Potter movie premiere).  Every time Desmond or Ben came on screen, we cheered, and each time the screen blacked where commercials would normally be, we cheered.  We cheered when people died, too—and be warned: the deaths are totally random and unexpected.  By far, the best episode of the season… of the series?  Maybe it was the atmosphere, but I can’t wait to watch it again Tuesday night.

To end the evening, we exited Royce Hall to be greeted by some Dharma Initiative folks namaste-ing us and handing out Dharma Water–Vitamin Water with a special label I shall treasure always.

And finally, I figure I can include a list of some of the questions answered in this episode (I won’t include the answers)—

Why were the Candidates brought to the Island?

Why was Kate’s name crossed off the wall?

Who is going to succeed Jacob?

What was Widmore doing on the Island? (accordingly, why did he bring Desmond?)

Is Ben Linus good or bad?  (well, we still don’t really know that—but we do know he’s a bamf.  Ben had more amazing one-liners than anyone else in the episode)

So long live Lost Live!

*As it turned out, Jacob didn’t come on stage with the other actors.  I was terribly confused, because it was totally him on the balcony.  Kate doesn’t believe me, and Census Man coined a new term for this mystery man—Facob, like Flocke, but better.  I still don’t buy it; driving through In-and-Out after the show, I saw Facob walk into the fast food joint with two black-suited guys who looked like security.  I’m convinced it was Jacob.  We made eye contact.  That makes me a Candidate, right?  Right?

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7 Responses to “LOST Live at UCLA–the stars, the music, and “What They Died For” (6.16)”

  1. Cheryl May 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    Hey, I must have been standing right next to you on that balcony watching the cast walk the read carpet! I’m the one that first yelled out, hey, it’s young Ben. So I must be one of those ‘crazy people’ too.

    • thescattering May 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

      So cool! I remember hearing that!
      Crazy Lost fans are awesome. 🙂

  2. thescattering May 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Ben Linus is one BAMF. Comments From a Fan Who Attended Lost Live:

    http://whataboutmichaelemerson.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/ben-linus-is-one-bamf-comments-from-a-fan-who-attended-lost-live-lost-michael-emerson/

    Michael Emerson other LOST Cast Members’ Appearance at LOST Live Concert

    http://www.michaelemerson.net/?p=905

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