While Grammy night may seem full to the brim with stars and industry figures, not everyone in the crowd is famous.
There are also more than a few seat-fillers.
The way awards shows are presented on television and how they operate live are night and day, according to attendees.
While viewers at home see a polished presentation peppered with artist performances, the live experience is much more chaotic, with attendees scrambling to use the restroom, get a drink or prepare to take the stage roughly every three minutes when the show cuts to commercial.
It is during these moments of chaos when seat-fillers come into play, flooding in from the sidelines to fill the vacant spots of celebrities until they return or until the next commercial break so as to leave no empty spots when the cameras roll.
At the Grammys
Britney Pollock was a seat-filler for this year’s Grammys after she applied through a website and selected through a lottery system.
Seat-fillers are required to arrive at the venue by 1 p.m., given a pin to distinguish them from industry figures and guests and then wait for three hours before they ushered into the venue, according to Pollock. Seat-fillers are directed not to take photographs during the event or speak to celebrities unless they initiate the conversation and fill whatever empty seat they see as quickly and quietly as possible.
Pollock sat in the 12th row from the stage, and luckily for her, the intended guest never arrived, so she never had to change seats. She was able to chat with Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Diplo, Lana Del Rey and Tove Lo.
“Everyone was chit-chatting the entire time, and didn’t really pay attention to the presentation on stage unless they were nominated for a category,” Pollock said. “The highlights were the performances, which was like getting a free concert, and the fact that I didn’t have to move and not have to play the game of musical chairs.”
Pegah Hunt was one of the seat-fillers who had to play that game, though she eventually ended up in the fourth row, where she was able to keep her seat.
“You don’t really have time to think because it all happens so fast and you have to keep following where they tell you to sit,” she said. “And while sitting in the back is still cool, the main floor is a whole different experience.
“I really appreciated seeing the chaos that goes on behind the scenes, especially the guys working the sound and social media on their computers. On one hand, it was humbling to be there, but it also seeing the (humanization of) all the celebrities because it helped me realize they’re just people like me.”
Ravit Darougar, owner of 4Ever Magic Cosmetics, wasn’t a seat-filler or a nominee but rather an industry guest. She walked the red carpet, having supplied makeup for last year’s ceremony. For Darougar, the Grammys were as much about business as they were about enjoyment, and the ceremony was an important networking opportunity.
“I knew more people there this year so it was more enjoyable for me, and I also had the opportunity to speak to other brand owners and celebrities,” Darougar said. “I’m originally from Israel, and the Grammys, along with all Hollywood (stars), are huge there. I always dreamed about being on the red carpet. Walking the red carpet is always exciting because you get the perfect dress and perfect hair and everyone is looking at you.”
Darougar has also been a guest at the Emmys, and said that while the events are similar in celebrating entertainment, the energies of both the ceremonies and after-parties are like night and day. The Emmys are much more formal events, according to Darougar, while the Grammys are much more energetic and youthful affairs.
This year’s Grammys coincided with the death of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and was held at the Staples Center, where Bryant played. Tributes to the sports star occurred throughout the night, which according to Pollock, Hunt and Darougar, colored the evening with a somber tone.
Pollock has also filled in as an audience member for game shows like “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader,” and for the sitcom “Will and Grace.” She said that she prefers being in a sitcom audience more because the audiences are smaller and there’s more interaction with the stars.
“When I was at ‘Fifth Grader’ with my daughter, there was very little audience interaction and they did fifty takes of John Cena breaking through a wall so it can get boring and he was really annoyed by the end,” she said. “At ‘Will and Grace,’ the cast members will come talk to you, give you their scripts and have contests. It’s a very different experience.”
As college students, Joshua Honikel and Evaristo Capalla used to attend audience tapings of shows like “Beat Shazam” and “Little BIg Shots” to raise funds for an organization they were part of, earning $50 per person that attended.
Honikel said it takes some of the magic out of television, but he enjoyed his experience and learned a lot.
“It was an easy way to earn funds for our organization, so we’d make a day of it and hang out together,” Honikel said. “Everyone watches TV, so it’s really cool to see what goes into it.”