I have no real “ratchet” memory of Las Vegas.
With the exception of witnessing the three-second Tarver-Jones fight, I have no “Bachelorette” or What-Happens-In-Vegas-Stays-In-Vegas story.
See, I don’t gamble, drink or smoke – so all of the lures of Sin City weren’t at all appealing.
I suppose I was fascinated by the themed hotels modeled after New York City, Milan & Paris. I loved the lights and fountains. I couldn’t believe a place like this ever existed. It was mesmerizing…
But that was it.
But I’m curious to see if there’s more to Vegas than what met my eye years ago.
I have the chance because I was headed back to Las Vegas for the 2012 Soul Train Awards.
This is a very special trip for me because for the past four years – outside of V-103 – I have had the honor of being the voice of the Soul Train Awards.
Naturally when BET/ Centric asked for V-103 to send an On-Air Personality, they chose me! So you get a firsthand look into the Soul Train Awards experience from a DJ AND a crew member’s perspective!
Just hold on to your seats because the train is pulling out the gate!
8:45AM Plane Ride:
I am totally sleepy. Obama had just officially been re-elected hours before and I was up with the staff at V-103 all day and night covering all of the breaking news. I met this awesome woman named Sue from Grayson on the plane. I wanted to fall asleep badly but I couldn’t. She was just that cool. I dozed off for 30 minutes only to realize we were flying over the Grand Canyon and we were to land soon. There goes my sleep!
I check into my hotel at the MGM Grand, the Hotel BET Centric had selected for us radio DJs. I find my hotel room with the intention to sleep. I stumble into my room, open the blinds and BAM! I’ve got an unobstructed view of The Statue of Liberty (Hotel New York, New York) and now, a second wind. I get dressed and head out the door because, I’M IN VEGAS!
After eating in the food court next to MGM Casino on Las Vegas strip I decide to walk an additional block to the Soul Train host hotel, Planet Hollywood, to get my credentials.
There was an area roped off with production people running everywhere with walkie talkies.
At the office, I run into Kenard Gibbs, CEO of Soul Train Holdings. He’s The Big Boss and although I had been a voice heard on the Soul Train Awards for the past four years, I had never met him.
He has run every publication from Jet/ Ebony to Vibe. He was so awesome and so humble for all of his accomplishments. He thanked me for my work on the show over the years. He and his assistant escorted me to the stage area on the mezzanine level, where I saw the set for the first time.
So, I’m in the theatre with the boss and producer Bart Phillips. The stage was like nothing I had ever seen. The videos and graphics were phenomenal. Cedric The Entertainer was practicing his open then Elle Varner ran through her set flawlessly. Anthony Hamilton was close-by, observing. Raphael Saadiq was leading the house band with Joi Gilliam singing backgrounds.
It was clear that this show was going to be even bigger than years past.
I finally get my script and I’m ready to roll. At this point, I feel like if I don’t sneak back to the MGM Grand to get a nap in, I was gonna regret it. I was on east coast time IN SIN CITY!
There was bound to be a distraction. There was.
I left the rehearsal only to find a shopping mall right outside of the Planet Hollywood stage area.
I went shopping and decided to walk back to my hotel, making stops along the way. I met, Elvis, Elmo, Spongebob, and even Mr. T on my journey back. (Boy those Vegas streets are wide!)
Who knew walking .04 miles was so taxing. I got back to my room and finally fell asleep with my clothes on. I didn’t leave until Show Production called me back to Planet Hollywood to voice my announcer piece for the show at 8 p.m. . I had been up since Tuesday morning, 8 a.m., so three hours was torture but I had to get it done.
I’m back at PH but this time instead of heading to the stage, I head to the audio room the producers set up. It’s just a hotel room with all of the equipment and serious high speed internet service so they can edit together video and audio segments that will be seen live in the show tomorrow. They have to be done for the show to run on schedule.
Everyone is moving fast. One person was working on the Don Cornelius tribute. Another editor was working on the show intro where the animated train is jumping.
Oh yeah, like in show business, that script they gave me earlier was obsolete. A celebrity pulled out and was replaced. I had to wait for the engineer to radio the producer (in the stage area) to send changes. As with every show of this magnitude, there will be changes. You just have to roll with the punches.
After voicing Magic Johnson and Jamie Foxx’s name, it was 10 p.m. . I ate craft services (food for crew usually backstage) and took a cab back to my hotel. I stayed asleep until 11 a.m., Thursday morning.
If my alarm hadn’t have gone off, I probably would have slept four more hours. It was 2 p.m. in Atlanta. I was delirious! All I knew for sure was Obama had won a day and a half ago and I was in Vegas.
I forced myself up to get food. I headed on foot for a breakfast spot between MGM Grand and Planet Hollywood. That way, if Production called me for a script revision, I’d be close.
But remember, I had double duty. I had to also be ready to roll out with the DJs who flew in from all around the US to cover the red carpet. That limo was leaving the MGM Grand at 4 p.m. so I had to be dressed and ready by 3:00.
The time kept ticking and since I hadn’t heard from anyone, I decided to shop a little for souvenirs. I got back to MGM at 2 p.m., and guess what? Show Production called with an emergency script edit! Urgh!
I’m under pressure now. I had two places to be At The Same Dang Time – and didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I took the DJ limo over to Planet Hollywood & quickly left my DJ friends to run to the Production room. But they were still receiving adjustments too, so I was waiting.
The red carpet started at 5 and I wasn’t done. To make it worse, security closed the entrance to the red carpet for everyone and they were worried I wasn’t gonna make it!
I’m done with the script! I had to run in 5.5 inch heels and a peach sequin dress through the auditorium itself to get into the red carpet area. (Derek J saw me and helped me get to my spot!) I passed Eric Benet too and he yelled: “Ramona slow down girl!”
I couldn’t. I had two jobs that day and I couldn’t let V-103 fans down.
BET Centric seats the DJs front stage left. I was told I may have to announce live so I was on stand-by. The lights go down and the producers count down! The video intro I saw them create in the room prior plays, I hear my voice announce Cedric the Entertainer and the show begins with Charlie Wilson!
Everything was rolling as practiced and sounding amazing.
What a night – because not only did I interview celebs like Jimmy Jam and Eddie Levert on the red carpet for V-103, but I also got to announce them too.
You talk about excitement?! 2 Chainz, Doug E.Fresh, Keyshia Cole, Miguel, & my fave New Edition all performed in front of me. Fantasia tore down the house. Stevie Wonder’s performance electrified the building!
After the Soul Train pulled into Vegas it had all changed. This was not the Vegas I remembered from so long ago. Sure, they’ll still have David Copperfield and Blue Men but now, this Vegas had Soul.
This was a Vegas I appreciated as an interviewer but participated in as a talent. The Soul Train Awards had taken over The Entertainment Capital of the World and I had a window seat. I saw it from start to finish. From the life-size chalk board filled with stage performers in Sunseeker’s office in Atlanta to the camera operators – it all came together!
Like any proud witness, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone.
But you will see it for yourself, November 25th The 2012 Soul Train Awards air on BET Centric.
Consider THIS your exclusive, personal, preview – from me!
(With bonus photo galleries, below, courtesy of Paras Griffin. Just click the pictures!)