Yep, it’s just another day in the world of Seacrest.
Seth Kingsley, an E! News producer, is going over the show’s scripts. Today the story about Miss USA Tara Conner’s underage drinking and drug use just broke and it is unknown whether or not she will lose the crown.
“Miss USA … we have a history,” Seacrest says cautiously. “I think we need to be soft on the tease.”
“I had no part in that,” Kingsley says, pleading no contest to the script.
“She called me today,” Seacrest adds. “She’s 20?”
It is nothing new for Seacrest to be friends with one of the celebrity subjects of a story. When Paris Hilton was arrested for a DUI, Seacrest called up the infamous heiress and said to her, “Look, why don’t you call in to my radio show in the morning and clear all this up?” His close friend, Eva Longoria, called into his morning radio show with San Antonio Spurs boyfriend Tony Parker to announce their engagement and countless other celebs have come to Seacrest to break stories, clear up rumors and come clean.
The recognition certainly has helped in the rise to fame of the 32 year-old, who was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005. In addition to his duties as an anchor on E! News, his 102.7 KIIS-FM show, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, is the #1 Los Angeles morning show, he doubled the viewers for the #1 radio countdown show, American Top-40 and most recognizably, he is currently taping his sixth season as host of FOX’s #1 show American Idol.
Today Seacrest’s hair is being slightly trimmed as he sits in the director-style chair in his dressing room. Seacrest has had the same make up artist and hair stylist, Dean Banowetz, for seven years since he met the loud and flamboyant, self-proclaimed “Hollywood Hair Guy” while he was a guest host on Extra. “His hair was jacked and he needed help so I fixed it and I’ve done his hair ever since,” says Banowetz who follows Seacrest everywhere from his trips around the nation for American Idol to New York for New Years Eve. “The color sucked. The cut was horrible and so I just fixed it.” Seacrest’s hair, famous for its golden frosted tips, is now back in its natural dark brown state to lessen the upkeep. “I want him to grow it longer but he won’t, because it’s too much maintenance and he can’t do it by himself.”
The dressing room door opens and in walks Jeff Shore, the Senior Vice President of Production at E!, with another executive, to give Ryan a bottle of red wine as a Christmas present. “This is one of the best bottles in Napa. This is great!” says Seacrest admiring the gift. He makes room on the counter next to countless hair and make-up products, two blow-dryers, a flat iron, Listerine, scripts and a box of cheesecakes he brought for the crew.
“Yeah, why don’t we just pop it open before the show starts,” he jokes. Seacrest is an avid wine collector and even built a cellar in his new house, which is one of his favorite new additions. Even at college frat parties he was never a big beer drinker, choosing wine coolers over kegs. Although he never joined a frat, he says he was “by association” in SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) while at the University of Georgia. “I kind of lucked out because my roommate was pledging and would come home with meat sauce stains all over his shirt from stuff being thrown against the wall,” Seacrest says. “I didn’t pledge but I got to go to some of those parties and every once in awhile I’d get to go to a football game but most of the weekends I was on air in Atlanta.”
Seacrest started at STAR 94, an Atlanta radio station when he was 16 years-old. He continued to intern while he attended Georgia, starting the way many college students do at most jobs – getting coffee, lunch and running errands. His big break came on a late Sunday night when the disc jockey was running late to the studio and told Seacrest to take over the mic. “I went on the air and the next thing you know the boss, who was supposed to be out of town, happened to land early,” Seacrest remembers. “He is driving back from the airport and asked if I would come see him Monday morning first thing to talk.” Thinking he would be fired, Seacrest was surprised when his boss told him, “It wasn’t so bad. You broke the rules but if you promise to get better, I’ll work with you.”
He was given a night spot at the radio station and before graduating college he moved out to LA to pursue his radio dreams. The rest is history. “I don’t really know how to do anything else,” says Seacrest, who has never had a job working outside of radio. Unless, of course you count the $60 a day he made mowing his neighbor’s yards when he was 14 years-old.
That was 17 years ago and he hasn’t let many opportunities pass him by since. “He was all business then and he’s all business now,” says Tom McNamara, the E! News Stage Manager, who met Ryan more than 12 years ago. “He’s a professional. He’s all about doing the job and doing it right and moving on to the next job.”
But with Seacrest, it is normally his next jobs. Frequently called “the busiest man in Hollywood,” Seacrest is always balancing more than one job at a time. In addition to his hosting gigs, he has a clothing line, the R Line, a production company and is an investor in many restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, such as popular Hollywood hotspots Sushi Roku, Katana and Boa.
It is no wonder that Seacrest has little time to spare in the day – a day that begins as early as 4am when he gets to work at the E! headquarters on Wilshire Blvd where he broadcasts his morning show at 5am. The radio studio was built for Seacrest when he joined E! last year in a three-year $21 million deal, so he could conveniently finish his KIIS morning show and work on E! News.
“If anything goes wrong or late in the morning, it affects the evening,” Seacrest explains. “I mean it literally. It’s that much of a domino affect. One set back affects another show or another meeting or someone else’s time and you know trying to be all things to all people in all places at all times is tough.”
This is why time is so important to Seacrest. So important, that the people around him won’t dare make him wait. “He is a time maintenance and time management freak,” Banowetz says. “If he wants you somewhere at ten minutes after five, you need to be there at nine minutes after five and be standing by. It’s all about anticipation.”
Everyone is waiting inside Studio A. His assistant, Belinda Gemelli, makes sure co-anchor Giuliani DePandi is ready. There are about 15 people in the studio today, including five cameramen, McNamara, Banowetz, his stylist, Suzie Hardy, DePandi, her stylist, Jose Camilo, her hair and make-up artist, her assistant, Matthew Allard and Kingsley. It is widely known that only the people that have to be on set are on set, at the request of Seacrest. He likes things routine and he always wants to know who is around him. And new people means introducing himself, which means small talk, which means things run late.
Camilo runs to get the 5-foot-8 DePandi some flat shoes, so she won’t tower over Seacrest in heels. “Sucks doesn’t it?” he mumbles. Although her shoes rarely show, DePandi has never liked wearing flats and will often switch to heels in single shots even if her shoes aren’t showing. “She’s more comfortable in high heels,” Camilo explains. He once said wearing heels made an entire outfit look better simply from the way the shoes made her stand. But for now, she slips on a pair of black flats.
Despite reports that the two dislike each other, because of the constant jabs they make at each other on air, whether it is about Seacrest’s height or DePandi dating “The Apprentice,” (referring to Season 1 winner Bill Rancic, whom she is now engaged to), off-set they are like siblings.
“We’re very self-deprecating,” DePandi explains. “We can roll our eyes at each other, we can make fun of each other and we know the other one won’t get offended. At the beginning we would do that and he’d be like, ‘Is that okay that I said that? You’re not offended, right?’ and I’m like, ‘Ryan, nothing offends me. Don’t worry; you can say whatever you want.’”
DePandi met Seacrest at a Super Bowl party before he came to E! a year ago. “He rolled in with like two hot chicks who were probably like 21 and his agent. He likes to roll around a lot with his agent,” DePandi jokes. Seacrest, who was named one of People Magazine's 2005 and 2006 “Most Eligible Bachelors,” and was twice voted in the magazine’s “Most Beautiful,” maintains that he is very single.
But finding a girl in Hollywood isn’t exactly the easiest if you’re as busy as Seacrest. While he will occasionally be seen at Hollywood clubs like Hyde, Area or hitting up the Playboy mansion on special occasions, for the most part he isn’t a big partier. When Seacrest does go out he prefers grabbing dinner and a cocktail with friends and relaxing.
“A table of six, no more – eight people you can’t have a conversation – its too many people,” he explains. “My perfect night is dinner, drink after, bed by midnight. On a Saturday that’s late for me.”
Back on set it is time for the Miss USA story. Without hesitation he nails the opening read, his hands together mid-chest but used to accentuate a point, and looking intently at the teleprompter as if he’s having a three-way conversation between himself, DePandi and the camera.
Ryan: “Now, from one young beauty to a beauty queen in hot water with the Donald!”
Giuliani: “That’s right, the reigning Miss USA, 20 year-old Tara Conner is under fire for alleged un-lady-like behavior.”
Ryan: “Yep, and pageant operator Donald Trump is reportedly threatening to say ‘You’re Fired!’”
The package begins with bikini-clad photos of the beauty queen on the screen. “Where did we get those?” asks Seacrest walking off camera. “Zuma,” Executive Producer Peggy Jo Abraham says, referring to a popular photo website before realizing the perfect opportunity for a clever comment. “I mean your computer.”
Seacrest grabs his Blackberry to check his messages as Hardy runs up to fix his collar making sure it is perfectly straight. Hardy has been Seacrest’s stylist for about a year, since working with him on a Vanity Fair Shoot. She makes sure he always has a classic look and is decked out in the top designer brands including Yves St. Laurent, Costume National, Bottega Veneta, Christian Dior and Gucci, all of which he gets to keep, as specified in his contract. Today he is wearing a navy blue two-piece Alexander McQueen suit, single breast and only two buttons. “Because three buttons is for tall guys,” Hardy explains, which begins an argument between her and Banowetz over Seacrest’s real height, which is 5-foot-9 according to his biography. “He’s 5’8,” Banowetz says as he rolls his eyes. “No, cause I’m 5’8,” Hardy argues. “He’s at least 5’9.” “Yeah maybe when he wears lifts,” Banowetz says.
Being in the spotlight, Seacrest is used to being teased – mainly for his height and sexuality. With his chiseled bone structure, clean-cut look and perfectly groomed hair, he is an ideal example used by any girl hoping to turn their man into a “metro-sexual.”
He isn’t oblivious to it. In fact, he reads almost every thing written about him. Every week, a pile of stories he was mentioned in is left on his desk – magazine, newspaper, internet stories and even blogs. He likes to read what people think about his shows so he can constantly perfect them, but every now and then he can’t escape the jarring headlines or gossip about his personal life. “I’ve always wanted to see what people are saying – the good and the bad. I don’t really take it personally,” Seacrest says. “You do certain things well and certain things not so well and at some point you just have to realize that everybody isn’t perfect and you’re certainly not. And so when people make fun of the things that are your imperfections, that’s just life.”
He isn’t always the well-groomed, suit-wearing poster boy that is documented daily on television. At home when he’s by himself and away from the cameras, red carpets, microphones and paparazzi, it’s a different story. “I wear the same pair of black sweats,” he says. “Like a typical guy.”
Hanging on a chair is a pair of True Religion jeans, dark-denim and factory-worn, similar to a pair he sent a few months ago to Larry King for his birthday. “He got a pair of True Religion ones that had a hole in them and he was concerned that there had been a mistake,” Seacrest says laughing. “He had to call Barney’s to make sure there was supposed to be holes in them!”
King, who regularly wears jeans, suspenders and ties, has become a close friend to Seacrest, who fills in for King on the Larry King Live Show when King is away and often when the guest is from the younger generation, such as Nicole Richie, Ashton Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan and Ashlee Simpson. He met King in the Paris airport, and was so nervous about meeting one of his idols, he could only make eye contact with King’s wife who introduced them. “He said, ‘You going to LA?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘Why don’t you help me carry my bags?’ jokingly but then I said, ‘Alright, why not?’ so I grabbed his bags and I sat with him in the lounge.” The two, who both got their start in radio, quickly hit it off and later on the plane King asked Seacrest to be a guest on his show. When he was a guest he asked him to host the show while he was on vacation and then after the show King asked him to come over to his house for dinner. “He told me stories about Sinatra and all the good old days of broadcasting,” Seacrest says. “So we’ve become actually really good friends.”
The Friday show has finished taping and Ryan runs up to his office to eat lunch before changing outfits for the weekend show. He has a corner-window office on the second floor, which looks out over the courtyard outside. It is sleek, stylish and classy. His desk, made of dark brown wood, is well-kept, with a few papers, a Dell Laptop, green Tabasco sauce, a phone earpiece, thesaurus, dictionary, vocabulary builder, some CD’s and a folder filled with headshots that need to be signed so they can be sent out to the many charities and fans who have written him letters. On a desk shelf against the right wall are various awards he has received and three framed pictures – one of him and Dick Clark, one with his family and one with the radio crew. Hanging on the left wall are three framed articles – one from the New York Times with a large picture of Ryan and the headline “The Empire Built by Idol,” a Los Angeles Times article and a page from Daily Variety that KISS sponsored congratulating him on being “#1 in the books.” It’s all a reminder of his many accomplishments. “I work hard and hopefully the longer you work hard the more it pays off.”
Clark was another one of Seacrest’s idols growing up and in a week he will be hosting New Year’s for the second year before Clark permanently passes the torch on to Seacrest. “I would be happy if I didn’t get a New Years to myself because that means I am still doing the show,” he says. The joke is that Seacrest never says no to a job, but he also knows a good opportunity when he sees one.
“There’s no sort of formula to say, okay if you do this it will work out,” Seacrest says. “I think because it’s so unconventional and there’s so much turnover and there’s so much – one day you have something, one day you don’t – it’s sort of –.” He pauses. “That fear drives me a little bit.”
In a couple hours Seacrest will be on a plane to New York. Gemelli and his other assistant, Andrea Hadel, have the driver waiting, his belongings packed and are ready when the show ends to rush him out the door – constantly keeping the Seacrest train in motion. As the New Year rings in and American Idol kicks off, so does another year for the ever-growing Seacrest Empire. Fans will scream, contestants will cry and callers will make requests.
“It’s a great, great life,” Seacrest says. “I love it. I do pretty easy work. It’s not the most difficult thing in the world. It certainly doesn’t change the world.”
It may not change the world but it is Seacrest’s world and we are all just living in it.