24 Hours With American Music Awards Producer Larry Klein
As the clock winds down to Sunday's all-star show, THR gets an inside view of the final preparations, including last-minute presenter shuffles, artist-insistent creative tweaks, an emotional tribute to Dick Clark and a celebration of 40 years on the air.
In many ways, putting on the 2012 American Music Awards, with its 17 live performances and couple dozen celebrity presenters, is a Herculean task. Good thing show producer Larry Klein seems to possess superhuman powers. How else does one work at a furious pace for three days straight on two hours of sleep, with little more than fast food for sustenance and the demands of the world’s biggest pop stars coming down like an avalanche?
Klein shrugs off any sign of stress or fatigue, telling The Hollywood Reporter at 11 p.m on Saturday night, some 18 hours before the show goes live on ABC: “I think I’m tired, but I'm so wired, I’m not sure. My feet hurt -- that I know.”
Unfortunately, he won’t be able to kick them up for at least a few more days, as Klein, a 40-year veteran of Dick Clark Productions who got his start as a runner on the AMAs, jumps into production on Dick Clark’s New Year's Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest with a Monday morning taping.
In a way, this year’s show may be Klein’s most difficult yet, despite the fact that rehearsals have been smooth sailing. Not only is it the 40th anniversary of the American Music Awards, it’s the first since Dick Clark’s death in April and a planned tribute (with Clark’s widow, Kari, present) is foremost on Klein’s mind. “In all honesty, I'm going to rebuild that tribute tonight,” he says solemnly. “Because I want it to be perfect -- that's all. I've known the man for 40 years. I know his face and his emotions and I want that on the screens.”
Klein’s all-nighter of re-editing is just one of many 11th hour tweaks the TV veteran will make before the show is beamed to some 12 million homes. How does it all come together? In the timeline below, THR details 24 hours in the life of the man who makes the AMAs run.
11 p.m. Taylor Swift rehearsal
Following a run-through of her single “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Klein plays catch-up with Swift’s mom, Andrea, congratulating her on the platinum-plus sales of new album Red, and hinting that “Taylor could beat Katy Perry’s record” for scoring the most hits from one album. Adds Klein, recalling the conversation: “I watched Taylor on the VMAs, the CMAs and the EMAs, and she was doing something completely different for all these awards shows. With Taylor, her fans will follow her no matter where she goes -- she’s pop, she's rock, she covers the gamut. It's just amazing to watch.”
11:30 p.m. Production meeting to reshuffle the board
Klein calls a meeting with executive producers, ABC network execs and the show’s director to go over the ever-shifting run-of-show. “Even once we’re on air, things can change,” he explains. “Seeing rehearsals makes you change the board. You might rethink the order when you see a performance that’s so outrageous, it shouldn't have an award follow it. So you start redoing things. It's dominoes.”
1:30 a.m. Late-night recap at the Marriott
Following the two-hour-long meeting, Klein heads next door to the J.W. Marriott to “get away” and lounge with a few of his AMAs associates. Says Klein, “We still talked business, of course -- we went over all the things that we had to do for the morning.”
3 a.m. Check e-mail
Staying at the nearby Luxe, Klein uses his few hours in the hotel room to check his e-mail. “You can't wait until the next day to respond to artist managers and creative directors because everybody’s working around the clock,” he says. “You’ve got to make decisions quickly, and it's funny because, even at 4 a.m., you get responses."
4:30 a.m. Shower
5:30 a.m. Sleep
“I fell asleep, and I can't believe I did,” Klein scoffs. “I never sleep. Next thing I knew, it was 8 in the morning and I wanted to be at the Nokia by then.”
8:30 a.m. Arrive at Nokia Theatre
Klein’s breakfast: pepperoni pizza.
9:05 a.m. Meeting with Carly Rae Jepsen
The "Call Me Maybe" singer is the first to rehearse and sound-check on Saturday morning. She and her team also discuss creative changes including screen content and timing of set pieces. Klein, who will also produce Jepsen’s performance on New Year's Rockin' Eve, is meeting Jepsen for the first time. “I had to her tell that I loved what she did on Jimmy Fallon with The Roots,” he says. "And we talked about New Year’s with Seacrest in Times Square. I told her, 'You have no idea what you’re in for -- there will be a million people there!' "
10:45 a.m. No Doubt rehearsal
The band's performance of "Looking Hot" is appropriately heavy on fire and theatrics.
11:40 a.m. Impromptu pyro meeting
Klein calls an onstage huddle to go over the pyrotechnics in No Doubt’s performance. Safety first, but Klein wants the stage aflame along with all the screen imagery. “I was saying to Tony [Kanal] and Gwen [Stefani]: It's a rock band! And the song is ‘Looking Hot,’ so naturally the performance should be.”
12:30 p.m. Lunch
In an annual tradition Klein used to share with Dick Clark and his wife, the AMAs crew feasts on Popeye’s chicken. Klein continues to a script meeting.
1 p.m. Phone call with Ryan Seacrest
"We talked about the Dick Clark tribute,” says Klein, noting, “I don't know what Ryan is going to say, but I know it will be heartfelt and real. Dick Clark was Ryan’s idol, and he’s the right guy to do this.”
2:15 p.m. Nicki Minaj rehearsal
The Trinidadian bombshell will perform her new single "Freedom" on the broadcast, and as her three-part E! special has shown, Minaj is heavily involved in every artistic decision. Says Klein: "I love and respect Nicki so much. She’s really hands-on. After a few rehearsals, we sat at my little producer's table and played back the last run-through so she could look at it. She had some more notes and we made the changes. It's such a cool collaboration to work with these artists to collectively create a performance, polish it and hone it."
3 p.m. Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun arrive
"I heard, ‘Yo, my dog!’ I looked up and it was Justin," Klein recalls. "We hugged, we laughed, we joked. Then we talked about the set and he asked to make a couple of changes, which we're doing." As it turns out, the overlapping rehearsal slot with Nicki Minaj wasn’t a coincidence. The queen of the Barbz will make an appearance during Bieber’s performance (presumably of the song "Beauty and a Beat"). As for Bieber manager Braun, who also has clients Jepsen, Psy and The Wanted on the bill (practically his entire roster)? "Scooter should be happy," says Klein with a laugh.
4 p.m. Presenter drops out
With 13 awards being handed out during the broadcast, pairing and positioning presenters is not unlike dancing a waltz with 12 other couples vying for floor space. As such, the loss of one presenter presents a slight panic as Klein looks to reshuffle the deck once more. On the plus side: It gives him a chance to check the hundreds of e-mails that have come in along with the messages on his two phones.
5 p.m. Kelly Clarkson rehearsal
The original American Idol will be performing a medley of her chart-topping songs, Klein reveals, to celebrate the Nov. 19 release of her greatest hits album.
6:45 p.m. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve meeting
"It’s so bizarre that the night before the AMAs, I'm having meetings about New Year's Eve," says Klein, already bracing himself for a Monday morning taping. “That’s when we do the L.A. party that Fergie hosts, so we get right into it.”
7:30 p.m. Carrie Underwood rehearsal
Underwood’s song, "Two Black Cadillacs," has special significance for Klein, who considers it the ultimate convertible anthem. "It’s like this pumping beat for when you’ve got the top down and drive real fast. It's so cool."
9:15 p.m. Stevie Wonder rehearsal
It’s the last rehearsal of the night but a big one, as the legendary Stevie Wonder, an AMA regular, will also play a key role in the Dick Clark tribute.
10:45 p.m. Hollywood Reporter interview
Klein scarfs down a hamburger as he speaks to THR about his day and Sunday’s show.
11:05 p.m. All-nighter of re-edits
Klein heads to meet AMA writer Barry Adelman and re-edit the Clark tribute. Also on tap: more timing and screen content tweaks to ready before Sunday’s dress rehearsal. No sleep for Klein -- he’ll go straight through to the red carpet, which starts at 3 p.m., and then the show.
Additional performers on Sunday's show include Ke$ha, Linkin Park, Pitbull, Psy, Usher and Pink, among others. Watch the American Music Awards live on ABC at 8 p.m. EST and look for more THR coverage here.