After a bit, I wandered back inside, where there was quite a crowd waiting to get in. Occasionally cast members would exit the elevators and squeeze through the crowd into the function space. I wasn't really sure what to expect, would they be hiding behind desks, protected by handlers, or what?
Finally they let us in, to a generously sized area with several activities scattered around, big screens running clips of the shows, a big food table, and the things to be auctioned. I looked around to see if I recognized anybody. Sure enough, just a few feet away, Jerry Trainor was chatting with a couple of people. I hung around until they wandered off and went to say hi. I blurted out that I was glad to meet him, as my sweetie had told me I really should. I phrased this in a really clever way, and he said "She really said that? Wow!" I wish I could remember how I put it! I saw someone else standing nearby with a fancy camera, and asked him if he could take a picture of me with Jerry. He was happy to, if I'd return the favour. As it happened, he and I became photo buddies, taking each others' pictures with various celebrities through the night.
I peered around, seeing who else I could go say hi to, and happened across Avan Jogia, who is absolutely gorgeous in person. He was really sweet and friendly to everybody, even though he was really popular.
I saw Miranda Cosgrove, but she was mobbed, so I decided not to try to get through that crowd.
Jennette McCurdy was out on the dance floor, dancing with a bunch of little kids, obviously having a grand time. She was wearing some impressive heels, but they didn't slow her down a bit.
Most of the people there were kids and their parents, the kids were having a blast, the adults generally looked bored and/or harried. I'm so glad I'm not an adult.
I decided to orbit the perimeter of the room and see what activities were on offer. At one corner, various cast members were posing for pictures in front of a big banner with the St. Jude's and TV show logos, like on awards shows. I got a nice pic with Matthew Bennett and Noah Munck. There was another setup where you could dance with cast members in front of a green screen and they'd strip in various goofy backgrounds, and make a DVD of it.
The line for that was quite long, as making even a short video takes a lot longer than a simple photograph. I opted not to wait in that line. They had a little arrangement like a TV set with a couch and some light trees, people would randomly sit down and chat there. Around from there was iChat, where you could make a $25 donation and have a 5-minute chat with a couple of cast members.
Then there was another photo booth, where instead of a 5×7, you'd get your picture on a cell phone wrapper. Beyond that was the food table. One popular dish on iCarly is "Spaghetti Tacos" and sure enough, they had someone in a chef's outfit making up spaghetti tacos.
I wish I hadn't eaten before! After that were a bunch of tables displaying things that would be auctioned. There were some really nice things, not only props from the shows, but memorabilia from other of Dan's shows, an opportunity to have some cast members make a video for you, and some things donated by other Memphis philanthropists, like a signed fiddle from the Charlie Daniels Band, used in recording "The Devil Went Down to Georgia".
I bid on several things and resumed looking around for celebrities. I ran into Dan himself near the auction tables, and thanked him for creating shows that are enjoyable by not only the young target audience but all kinds of people. He seemed geniunely pleased. I noticed security people around, but they weren't being obvious, just keeping an eye on things and making sure people got where they needed to go. Watching them, I could figure out where people were going next and be waiting for them before the crowds arrived. This way, I was able to meet many more cast members in a short time. Liz Gillies showed up dressed to kill, in a stunning dress. I admired Ari Grande's shoes, and she complimented me on my outlandish shirt. I called Victoria Justice "Crystal Waters", after an incident in one episode where her character was using a false name. That made her laugh. Every so often, the PA system would announce "RANDOM DANCING!", accompanied by frenetic music and disco lights. And everyone would get down with their bad selves.
I went over to one of the photo booth areas, as it seemed the only likely way to grab a picture with Miranda, who was still utterly mobbed whenever she was out on the floor. I tried taking pictures with my camera, but the booth was set up with powerful remote strobes, so my camera's flash would trigger the big strobes, which would wash out the picture. So I ended up just getting in line and getting my picture with her on a phone case sticker. While I was there, I put my name on the list for an iChat, figuring I'd really enjoy getting some time to actually talk with folks. As they traded off people periodically, it would be a tossup as to who I'd end up chatting with, but any of them would be fine with me.
I noticed some hotel personnel bringing out an enormous cake, so I edged over near it, figuring something good was up. Sure enough, it was Miranda's 18th birthday and they were celebrating it right there. I had chosen my position well, and ended up right by her as she blushed, thanked everybody, and cut a few pieces of cake for people.
Periodically, I'd loop by the iChat area and check on the progress of the list, so I'd be nearby when my turn came. Eventually I was third in line, so I got into the physical line. I ended up chatting with Liz Gillies and Daniella Monet, and we discussed hobbies and what it's like to portray characters so unlike themselves. I also mentioned that I was having a great time, and then I was going to see the space shuttle launch. They agreed that I was having a truly great weekend.
Then it was time for the big auction. The stuff on the tables was a silent auction, people would leave bids, and at the end of the night, the highest bids won. But there were a few special things that would be sold off via a traditional voice auction. The first was dinner with a bunch of cast members, to take place in Memphis the next evening. I really wanted to bid on that, but I'd be in Florida at that point for the shuttle launch. It went for just over a thousand dollars. I could have afforded to do that, if my schedule had allowed. Next, they auctioned off the chance to spend a day on the Victorious set, which also included a walk-on rôle. I bid a fair amount of money on that, but was eventually outbid by someone bidding for a red-headed little girl. I felt a little bad for her, as the walk-on was only available to people 13 years old or older, and she clearly wasn't. Then they auctioned off a day on the iCarly set, also with a walk-on. The bids got bigger and bigger. I saw Leon Thomas realize that I was tempted to make a really big bid, and he locked eyes with me and started waving his arms and getting people to encourage me. So I made my big bid, to raucous applause. Only to get outbid. Sadly, I was done - as much as I wanted to, I couldn't justify to myself to drop more money than that, even for charity. It eventually went for double my big bid.
As things started to wind down, I finally got hungry, and snagged a cupcake from the remains of Miranda's birthday spread, then I went to see if I'd won anything from the silent auction. I'd been outbid on everything except a Nickelodeon memorabilia package, with jackets, mugs, and assorted goodies from The Amanda Show and All That. I went back out front and settled up on the auction payment, and went back inside to collect my booty. I managed to find Dan again, and he sweetly autographed my Amanda Show jacket.
It had been a wonderful evening, I had met the entire casts of both TV shows and the producer, scored some nice swag, celebrated Miranda's birthday with her, gotten loads of pictures, contributed more money to an excellent charity, and generally had a blast.