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Putting the muck boots away when Howard Stern calls

By PAM STONE

The whole adventure began with a last minute call from my agent.

“You’re needed in New York,” he began.

“Am I being considered for Attorney General?!” I squeaked.

“No,” he replied patiently, “It’s the North Shore Animal League America’s 2016 Gala and they need you to emcee this Friday night but you’ll need to come in the evening before. Are you available?”

“I’ve got to go to the feed store, but that’s it."

“Fine, I’ll book you. And don’t wear your muck boots,” he added, “this is a big deal with a lot of paparazzi. Howard Stern and his wife are the co-chairs.”

“I don’t like him,” I whispered, “he scares me.”

“He and his wife fostered over 300 kittens last year.”

“I love him!” I squealed, “What a kind and loving man.”

My ‘go to’ fashion house in our little town generously dressed me for the event as I don’t even have any idea what’s stylish at the moment. I loved the asymmetrical, longish black skirt with a fringe, but it begged to be worn with tall boots, and I didn’t have any. So I spent Wednesday driving from Spartanburg to Greenville to Hendersonville looking for a pair of tall, dressy black boots with a medium heel.

“That’s not what’s in fashion this year,” I was told by a sales clerk in Spartanburg, “It’s either a flat heel or a stiletto heel. Nothing in-between.”

“A flat heel isn’t dressy enough for this outfit,” I explained, "and if I wear a stiletto heel, planes will be hitting me in the head.”

“Sorry.”

I was told the same thing in each store and so, dismayed, I purchased a pair of tall, black, flat heeled boots in suede, and the moment I stepped out of my hotel on 5th Avenue on Friday morning, to look at all the Christmas displays in the store windows, I was surrounded by tall black boots with medium heels both in the shops and on every woman who strode past me on the bustling sidewalk.

“I’m going to choke that clerk in Dillard’s,” I muttered, under my breath, and entered a shoe shop that was announcing a huge, “BLACK FRIDAY SALE!!” which, on 5th Avenue, means you’ll only open one vein, instead of two, in order to purchase. A few stores later and I came out with exactly I had been wanting and carrying the box, decided to walk another 10 blocks to go stare at Trump Tower (like you wouldn’t have). I was curious to see who might still be up for AG as it certainly wasn’t going to be me. All I saw were throngs of press and cameras and security and people yelling, so I hoofed it back, completely unaware that my feet were beginning to expand after the flight, this lengthy hike, and the fact that my horse stomped on one of them, until I got back to the hotel and slipped off my shoes. Big mistake. They began to swell like blowfish and despite keeping them elevated and chilled with a cold compress, it was torture stuffing them into the new boots, which, with the heel, sadistically shoved them downhill with all the pressure resting on my toes.

No big deal, I thought, surely I wouldn’t be on the stage that much, right?

“You’ll start with a few minutes of stand up and then read off the teleprompter and introduce the recipients of the night’s awards,” I was told by the woman who hired me, when I arrived for the sound check, “But first, there’ll be a red carpet opportunity for the press and we’ll need you on that for about an hour- are you all right?”

“Yes,” I said, between gritted teeth, “I don’t suppose there would be a recliner on the carpet?”

She looked at me and walked away.

I did my job admirably. Beginning at 7 p.m., I stood for an hour obediently posing with each celebrity and towering over Matt Lauer (I'm sorry about that, Matt, but a flat heeled boot would have just looked too clunky). I also posed with a lot of puppies and smelt very doggy, afterwards, but I liked that. Then we swept into the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental and, to my horror, learned that I wasn’t to leave the stage for a chance to sit after the introductions and long winded speeches, but simply step back so that I would be ready to pop back up to the podium when guests were finished. This went on for two hours. By the time Belinda Carlisle (I towered over her, too) came up to perform for a half hour, I nearly wept with relief to be able to leave the stage and sit on the side, then nearly wept again when everyone leapt to their feet as she began to sing all the great pop hits by her former band, ‘The Go-Gos.’ How could I sit stage-right when everyone else was up and dancing?

Women tell me I’ve never suffered real pain because I’ve never given birth. Oh, really? Listen, I’d swap that experience any day over hopping around to “We’ve Got the Beat” on swollen, bound feet that would appall anyone from 19th century China.

Despite it all, the night was a triumph and the most important part was with the silent auction and my heavy handed appeal for more funds for this no-kill shelter, around $100k was raised. I’ve been home for three days now, and my feet still hurt.

But Howard was really sweet.

And he was the only one there who made me feel petite.

Reach PAM STONE at pammstone@gmail.com.

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