I DIDN’T LOSE — IT JUST FEELS THAT WAY

LOS ANGELES — Sinbad, the comedian, took the envelope, broke the seal, and read aloud:

“And the winner, for best original song, is . . . “

My hands were sweating. My heart raced. How embarrassing! A few months back, when someone called to say a song I had written had been nominated for a Cable Ace Award, my reaction was more noble: I laughed. Cable? Awards? I kept thinking of this “Saturday Night Live” skit, in which a man bursts on stage to accept “Best Weather Map.”

“I want to thank my mother!” he gushes. “People said this couldn’t be done.
. . . “

Cable? They give awards for cable? But in the weeks that followed, people kept insisting what a big deal the Cable Ace was. After all, cable includes HBO, MTV, CNN and ESPN.

“Larry King!” someone said.

Well, now. He’s hard to top.

“LA!” someone said. “Spotlights! Limousines! Gorgeous models!”

Models?

Then a letter came from Dick Clark Productions, addressed to all nominees. It said, in bold: “If you win, please keep your acceptance speech to 30 seconds.”

Acceptance speech? Dick Clark? I was really wired

Now, I would like to say I tore up that letter and went back to my doctoral thesis, “Genetic Engineering: a Proposal to Save Mankind.”

Instead, I booked a flight.

And before I knew it, I was getting the ticket ($475) the hotel room ($129) the car ($40) the tuxedo ($70) and the haircut ($25.)

This was not the most embarrassing part.

The most embarrassing part was that my nomination got so much attention. It was written about. It was talked about on radio.

Then ABC News called, said they wanted to do a profile piece and send a camera to the ceremony to capture my winning moment.

“What if I lose?” I said.

“Don’t worry. Also, we’d like to wire you.”

“Wire me?”

“Yeah. Run a little microphone under your clothes. No one will notice.”

And there I was, Friday night, with an ABC cameraman sticking his hands up my shirt. I felt like “Serpico.” I kept waiting for some thug to rip open my tux and yell, “He’s wearing a wire! The rat! Get him, boys!” The tension mounts

I should mention here that the song I wrote was for a TV movie Arnold Schwarzenegger directed, called “Christmas in Connecticut” — it’s a long story — and that joining me at the ceremony, also paying way too much for their outfits, were the singer, Janine Sabino, the arranger, Johnny Sabino, the executive producer, Stan Brooks, and his wife, Tanya.

We found a row of seats. Larry King sat right behind us. And I’m thinking,
“Wow. Larry King.” Then someone came and escorted Larry away, saying, “We want the big stars up front.”

That should have tipped us off.

Instead, like good little nominees, we sat there, the five of us — six, if you count the wire up my shirt — and we waited through such presenters as Alex Trebek and Leeza Gibbons. We waited through videos. We waited through 46 awards, including “Best Make Up.” Finally, they came to our category. Sinbad took the envelope.

“And the winner is . . . “

I have always wondered what people are thinking during “And the winner is .
. . ” Now I know. You are hanging on the very next word, trying to mind-meld with the presenter and make him say the first letter of your name
— I’m thinking, “Mmmm . . . say Mmmm . . . ” — and when you hear something else come out of his mouth, your first thought is, “No, dummy, that’s not how you pronounce it.” Then you hear a cheer from another part of the room, and you realize he’s pronouncing it right, but it’s someone else’s name. You lost. And then you sit there, looking straight ahead. And then you wish a big rock would fall from the ceiling and bury you.

Which is pretty much what happened.

Except for the rock.

I lost. Or didn’t win. I would like to tell you who did, but with five seconds, the ABC producer was at my seat, saying, “Can I have the mike back?” And I had to pull this thing from under my shirt, in front of everyone, as if my car loan was up and she was the repo man.

I know all glory is fading. I didn’t know they ripped it off your chest.

And when I got back to the hotel, there was a message: “ABC piece is delayed a week.”

“Jeez,” Janine said, “next they come for the tuxedo.”

And that was that. My only consolation is that Larry King also lost, and he had better seats. Did I learn a lesson? You bet. Keep your head high. Be flattered by the nomination. And if you ever get asked to another awards show, take all the money you would have foolishly spent on airplanes, cars, hotels and tuxes, and put it to a much better use:

Buy a weather map.

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