(Unfortunately, Dick Clark Productions asked me to take down the full video of my surreal experience as the Stand In for Drake at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards due to ownership and licensing. The below 30 second video was sent to me by a fan.)
Dick Clark Productions (DCP) produces many Awards Shows for TV, including the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. I have worked as a Stand In on several other TV shows, but it has been very difficult breaking into the DCP family of shows. I finally got a call from Production after being recommended by my good friend Anna Wendt, who writes the Hollywood Underdog.
All I was told was that I was hired for 2 days and to show up at Bellagio Hotel and Casino at 5pm. That’s it. I walked in to the lobby and saw my friend Jordan Gibo who was working Production on it. He told me where to get credentials. A PA then took me deep within the bowels of Bellagio where I filled out my paperwork and then we waited for a small 10’ boat to come to the dock. While waiting, Production asked me and the other Stand In who wants to be the Star and who wants to be the Hype Man. Of course, I said I would be the Star. She said, “Great, you will be Standing In for Drake”. I laughed in her face. Look at him. Look at me. We look nothing alike. 😉
So we got in the boat and went out to the stage in the middle of the Bellagio fountains. The stage was about 20’ wide, covered in black marley (shiny black rubber stuff). Just behind us were water fountains, flame throwers and shooting fireworks/pyrotechnics.
I like Drake, but it is not like I know every song he sings. They gave me a microphone and said, “Ready … Go!”. I didn’t get to hear the song before performing in front of 300+ people on sidewalks and 5 cameras, but I remembered I did the musical GODSPELL when I first got out of college, when Rap was becoming mainstream and instead of singing, “All For The Best” we rapped it. So I did that – adding stock Rapper poses to my original dance choreography I did in a show from 20 years ago?!? I was proud (as a performer) that I could pull all that out of my butt – in the space of about 10 seconds!
I’ve never heard this particular Drake song before (“Gyalchester”) – all they played over the sound system was the accompaniment of mostly downbeats and not much melody, so I was not only making up the choreography, but I was also having to feel where the major accents were supposed to be. Very difficult to do. But I finished and the 300+ sidewalk crowd erupted in cheers!
I had just worked with one of the Production Guys on the DICE TV show the day before, Steve Stelle. He called over the headset to the Stage Mgr and told her to tell me good job. I looked over at the sidewalk and he gave me big thumbs up. Another friend was in the trailer Richard Hopper, jr on another property and posted on Facebook that everyone in the truck thought I was KILLING it!
I got to do it 3 more times. The last time I did it, I got to wondering if Drake was watching me. I was afraid he would be taken aback that some crazy white boy was trying to rap to one of his songs. Production said he has been watching and loved it and would be coming out in a few minutes.
So I did it one last time and then Drake came out in the boat. I was a little embarrassed to see him, but he caught my eye and started laughing and High Fived me and hugged me. I could not believe it. Was so surreal. Here I am this crazy white boy from a very small town in Kentucky and now on a stage in the middle of the Bellagio Fountains getting hugged by one of the top musical artists of 2017! Wow.
We got back in the boat and started back for the cove, but for some reason Production decided we needed to wait out of frame, by the sidewalk. For safety? As we were pulling off to the side, the crowd clapped one more time for me and took pix – of me.
Drake did his performance 2 times and then we went to go pick him and Baka (his Hype Man) up. When we got back to the cove, 20+ of his people were there and they all started cheering for him — and ME! 😉 No, seriously, as I was getting off the boat, many of them High Fived me and gave me a Bro Hug. As they filtered out, his Dad looked me up and down and said, “Good job. Thanks for making my Boy look good.”
As I was leaving, Production asked me if I could come back and work the next day on the show. I said, “Of course, I’d love to.” She told me to go the truck and I should be able to pick up some video of me. I rushed over, walked in and everyone in the truck stood up and started clapping. One guy jokingly said, “Hey, your Demo Reel is done.” They had quickly cut together all the different camera angles into a usable tape for me. I am so grateful. The main editor told me her favorite part was where I’m jumping and fist pumping in the air! This is incredible, because Production rarely gets excited about the Stand In’s work.
When I checked in Sunday morning, 3 different workers stood up and said, “OMG, you were Drake’s Stand In”. A friend was on the sidewalk in front of Bellagio and emailed me this snippet.
During the final rehearsal, Chrissy Tiegen sat a couple of chairs away from me when her supremely talented husband, John Legend, was rehearsing his song with Georgia Florida State Line, “H.O.L.Y.“. After they finished, I leaned over to her and said, “Great job, Honey” as if I was her. She started laughing and clapping with me.
DCP referred me to National Hockey League Awards and Draft Picks that I will be working on for the next couple of days. Should be exciting since Las Vegas is getting their own NHL Hockey team – the Golden Knights. I will write another blog post about that gig, but I doubt I will get so lucky again as being a Stand In for Drake on the 2017 Billboard Music Awards.
Below are some stills from fans on the sidewalk.
Be sure to go to YouTube and watch the final edit of Drake video for “Gyalchester” with Hype Man Baka (Not Nice).