Star-struck mom says Hollywood hasn’t changed her

One day I’m an ordinary stay-at-home mom trying to plan an extraordinary bar mitzvah and the next week I’m a star-struck writer mingling with celebs and watching one of my stories come to life as part of a hilarious Webisode series filmed in Hollywood. Hey, that’s showbiz.

As the grand prize winner of the In The Motherhood writing contest, I can’t wait for my action-packed adventure in California. After all, the last vacation that my husband and I took together without the children was our honeymoon almost 14 years ago.

Before Scott and I leave for the airport, I check my purse one last time: airline tickets, camera, extra batteries, lemon drops, business cards, lip gloss, hand sanitizer, cell phone, and a blank notebook for autographs. I’m good to go. The only items missing are baby wipes and juice boxes.

The older I get, the less I like to fly. So when we board the 747 and walk to our seats in the very last row of the economy section next to the lavatory, I start to feel a little uneasy. Sure I have a window seat, but a gigantic wing completely obstructs my view. For the next several hours, I cover my head with a winter coat because the vibrating high-pitch roar of the airplane engine causes me to almost hyperventilate. Not even ginger ale calms my nerves.

When we finally arrive in Los Angeles, a chauffeur named Reynaldo waits for us at the baggage claim and escorts us to a luxury BMW right outside the door. After I settle into the plush leather seats, I roll down the window and take in the warm breeze and tropical palm trees.

Like every tourist, I search for the famous Hollywood sign in the foggy distance. We weave through traffic and eventually arrive at our hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, where someone rushes to open the car door for me.

I can get used to this.

Before I have a chance to unpack my toiletries, I’m sipping a tangy mojito from a straw and tipping a guitarist who serenades Scott and I with a soulful rendition of Stevie Nick’s Landslide. Like Dorothy, I whisper to Scott, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

The next morning, a talkative driver named Steve, who claims that his regular clients include Mel Gibson, Drew Barrymore, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s agent (and I believe him), delivers us to our next destination. We are on our way to meet the cast and crew of “In The Motherhood” on location, which is at a fitness center in Burbank, California. When we pull into the parking lot, Steve opens the door for me, and we exchange business cards. I ask Scott to take a quick picture of the chauffeur and I together standing next to the black Lincoln Town Car.

On the set, I notice all the trucks, trailers, cameras, equipment, tangled electrical cords, and lots of busy people scurrying around with jobs to do. We meet our contact person, Marisa, from MindShare Entertainment in New York, which produces the show. She greets us enthusiastically and introduces us to her colleagues, including Greg, the executive producer, and David, the president of the worldwide media company and creator of the successful “In The Motherhood” campaign.

We take our seats in director’s chairs, plug in our headphones, and listen and watch the famous actresses on the other side of the window say their lines and crack jokes in between takes. I’m in awe of how Hollywood filmmaking works, especially when I’m so lucky to be a part of it on this day. We are told to whisper while the cameras are rolling, so I try not to laugh out loud.

Marisa asks if we’re thirsty or hungry and offers us cake. People eat cake in Hollywood? I thought everyone’s dieting all the time. Before we break for lunch, we actually get to meet the three stars of the show: Leah Remini, Chelsea Handler, and Jenny McCarthy, who are gorgeous, down-to-earth, and hysterically funny. I tell the talented trio that I’m a huge fan, and they probably think to themselves, “Stop kissing up to us, you already won the contest,” but it’s the honest truth.

We put our arms around each other and take a couple of pictures together. Someone pinch me now because I’m dreaming. If a say it once I say it a million times. While the actresses retreat to their fancy RVs, Scott and I hang out with the fun gang from MindShare Entertainment and other friendly folks who work for Sprint and Suave, which sponsor “In The Motherhood.” By coincidence, I meet a dark-haired, blue-eyed girl named Jeanne, who is from St. Louis and went to my high school. After we exchange, “no ways!”, Jeanne gives us the scoop on lunch, which in the biz is called “craft services.” We enjoy a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet of grilled fish, barbecue chicken, corn on the cob, salads, and cheesecakes. By the way, snacks also are provided all day long and include everything from fruit and candy to sodas and aspirin. We all sit together and eat at picnic tables under tents.

Everyone is casual and friendly, and I don’t even bother reapplying my lipstick when a cameraman from the television show Access Hollywood and a reporter from In Touch Weekly magazine stop me in the parking lot and ask me for an interview about winning the contest.

“Me? Are you kidding? You want to talk to me?”, I nervously ask them as I turn around and look for another person who I assume they are after. “What am I supposed to say? Do I have time to put on lip-gloss?”

“Just be yourself,” advises the guy with the microphone. Sure, like that’s going to put me at ease.

After a few more hours of taping the first mom-focused film, the crew packs up all the equipment, cameras, and supplies, and we share rides to another location miles away to shoot my camping webisode. This time we set up shop at the scenic Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The production company continues to ask me questions on camera and documents my step-by-step experience as the first grand prizewinning mom invited to the set. (Watch the live interview on and click on my picture).

As evening approaches, the air turns chilly. I notice that the wooded acres are so fragrant with pine needles that I swear someone is spraying scented air freshener to get the actors in the mood. For most of the time, we sit in a comfortably heated tent and sip espresso while we watch on monitors how the adorable lead actress Remini delivers one sarcastic line after another, right on cue. To get closer to the action, I sneak up a hill with my digital camera and observe how the director patiently sets up each scene. The sleeping bags, flattened tent, lantern, and the sound of crunchy leaves bring back memories of when my family barely survived our first overnight camping trip several years ago. In the familiar sketches when Remini and her daughter go wee wee in the woods, I feel honored to play a role in this comedy.

As if a full day of Hollywood filmmaking isn’t enough excitement, the next morning Scott and I are treated to a makeover at the exclusive Lukaro Salon in Beverly Hills. A Suave representative named Sara, who is a darling girl with long brown hair pulled to the side, escorts us to the Mediterranean style building with the famous 90210 Zip Code.

Lukaro is the same salon that Brooke Shields, Lucy Liu, and other movie stars trust for their new looks, so we’re in good hands. First, the manicurist paints my nails with the most fashionable Hollywood color, black-brown. Then, the makeup artist shapes my eyebrows perfectly and brushes pink on my cheeks.

Luke, the owner of the salon, trims my hair and blows it dry for a straight and slightly feathery style. My hair will never look this good again. Luke is magical with a scissors and comb, and his outgoing personality and charisma is as unique as his white splotch of hair that reminds me of a tamed Sweeney Todd wig. Luke works wonders on Scott, too, and gives my husband a handsome new cut and touch of color. Scott and I are all smiles as we pose for the zoom lens all over again.

We end up staying an extra day in California because our flight is cancelled due to an ice storm in St. Louis. We pack in another day of sightseeing, including a visit to the Kodak Theatre, where the red carpet is rolled out for the upcoming Academy Awards show.

Eventually, we say goodbye to Hollywood, at least for now, and are anxious to return home and see Jack and Sari again. It doesn’t take long for me to get back into my daily routine of washing jeans with pens in the pockets, making creamed cheese and jelly sandwiches for school lunches, and opening my own car door. Even though my life is changed in some ways, it’s still the same. One thing is different — the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue replaces Martha Stewart’s Real Simple Magazine on my coffee table.

Ellie is currently obsessing about her sudden stardom and son’s upcoming bar mitzvah party. To watch her camping webisode and her live interview on “In The Motherhood,” go to, or visit her website at