So said the volunteer coordinator's email request for additional event staff this past Saturday (emphasis on the following hers): "PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE AVAILABLE AND FLEXIBLE FOR NEXT WEEKEND. I will need volunteers for a VERY SPECIAL VIP visit - and you thought Britney was big ;)"
Why, yes, I DID think Britney was big. And not just back in the her "Hit Me Baby One More Time" days of glory, either. I thought she was big circa October 2011 when I was really, really pissed that she came to Children's National Medical Center on a day I wasn't volunteering. In sum, you should be understanding that I replied to that email request in a hot second. And spent much of the next few days wondering who, WHO could possibly be bigger than the Spears?? I had some thoughts - Ryan Seacrest recently did something with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, could it be him?
Incredibly scornful looks from the volunteer manager. Seacrest was out. My Google search "celebrities in DC 12/10/11" was also depressing unsuccessful. Admittedly, the search terms were uninspired at best, but, in my defense, I didn't have much to go on. If I had looked just a little harder, perhaps I would have stumbled upon Christmas in Washington...(for those of you following along at home, that's what we call a hint).
Fast forward to Saturday morning. There is insane chaos in the volunteer office. There are headsets. And walkie-talkies. And hugely high levels of secrecy. Fun fact: it is incredibly hard to a) recruit for an event and b) ask patients' parents to sign media releases when you have NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING. Or who is coming. Fast forward two more hours. The volunteers are exhausted, the kids are impatient, the parents are wondering what is going on, the door to the infusion room hastily converted to an event space swings open and in walks....
WITH Selena Gomez.
Justin Bieber. In person. For full transparency: I am over a decade older than he is and, frankly, if I'm going to cradle rob I much prefer werewolves (ewwwww Taylor Lautner is almost exactly the same age as my baby brother), but I have to confess that I was completely awestruck to be that close to someone THAT famous. He came thisclose to me. No word of a lie, I flushed. And then, on a side note, held the following conversation with my mother:
Me: "Mom, you will never guess who I met today."
Me: "I'll give you a hint. I'd say they're famous, but not important."
Mom: "The President of the United States???"
I look forward every day to becoming just like her when I'm older.
I promised details. First off, the Beebs is tiny in person. Tiny. I am a towering 5'2" and not exactly hefty, but I'm pretty sure I could destroy him in one-on-one combat. Also, it must be in his contract that he only displays his luscious locks for a premium, cause that slouchy hat stayed on the whole time (how, HOW am I supposed to replicate his secrets if I can't get a close up look at the goods??). And I kind of wanted to lend him my belt. It looked like he needed it more than I did. He wasn't the most natural with the kiddos, but frankly, he didn't need to be. Patients were so excited to see him that there were literally tears, which was kind of an incredibly heart warming thing.
Selena, on the other hand, was adorable. I'm not even sure that she was separately "billed" to attend the event at CNMC - she and Justin traveled together, and she hung back a little bit when he entered the room, but when patients started calling out to her she started making the rounds. Very natural, very geniune, and totally into making these kids' day.
And then there was more. Victoria Justice!
What's that? You don't know how Victoria Justice is? That's okay, I didn't either. But apparently she is wicked famous on Nickelodeon. We are not exactly her target age range, but the little girls in the room were PUMPED.
Last but probably best - at least for me and probably anyone who's old enough/interested to read this blog - was CONAN O'BRIEN. He is the exact opposite of Justin in many ways, most importantly in that he is ginormous and in that I do not think I could destroy him in one-on-one combat, but also in terms of his ease with children. He was, in person, a perfectly toned down version of his on-air persona. This played surprisingly well with children, as did his hair, and the in-depth conversation he had with at least one child as to whether or not cornrows would "suit" him. (The patient was extremely skeptical on that point).
My favorite tidbit about Conan, though, tells me that he would probably be amazingly sweet times to have a beer with. After the big group photo with the patients, Santa (he was pretty excited to meet the Beebs too) and Dr. Ted E. Bear (the Children's mascot), Conan headed over to the neonatal intensive care unit to cuddle some babies and provide much needed comic relief for tired parents. His reaction: "These photos will make for some really fabulous gossip tomorrow. [Drops into radio announcer voice]. 'An unexpected stop on the itinerary - is Conan hiding a love child in our nation's capital??'"
Conan, your beer's on me, anytime.