Chaos is sure to ensue at this Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards (remember when Will Ferrell made out with Sacha Baron Cohen?), but the real chaos began long ago for Shelley Lazar, who organized all of the seating arrangements for this year’s show at L.A.’s Gibson Amphitheatre. Even though she’s a veteran in the field of seating charts (her company, the Executive Ticket Club, has coordinated many events, including the papal mass at Yankee Stadium, Live Aid, and concert tours for the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel), it was still a grueling feat for Lazar. But thanks to a little thing she calls "Shelley’s follies," the game of musical chairs became much more enjoyable. Here, she explains the science of celebrity seating arrangement.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the biggest challenge you face when you first begin to coordinate a seating chart?
Shelley Lazar: The first challenge is having enough tickets for everyone. The second is making sure the right people are sitting next to the right people, and keeping things in mind like marriages, divorces, and whatever might be going on in their personal lives. We also have to keep in mind if one of the performers stands on stage left, then we want to have his or her guest sitting near stage left. However, some of the performers that I work with don’t want to have their friends or family up close, some of them do.
With so many details to consider, how far ahead did you start working on the MTV Movie Awards?
We had our first meeting about seven weeks ago. When the RSVPs start to come in, we can start to really play the game of moving everything around. It’s like a chess game.
When does your work for the MTV movie awards end?
We’re going to be working up to the very last minute — up till the red carpet is done. And, if necessary at the event if something isn’t working out, you know if the camera view isn’t working, or if a certain celeb needs to be on camera and isn’t, we’ll have to move people around. It’s just, you know, Excuse me, can you please come with me, I just need to move your seats over here. I usually use the fire marshal as my excuse for moving people around!
Is there a certain rule on how far nominees should be kept apart?
It depends on who they are. My initial way of planning is what I call "Shelley’s follies": whom I would put with whom. One of the things is: should we have Tom Cruise in a seat or should we try to get a couch for him? Then I thought, maybe we’ll have Steve Carell sitting next to Lindsay Lohan and he’ll just keep repeating the name of his movie, you know Get Smart, Get Smart because we couldn’t find a 40-year-old Virgin to sit next to Steve. Maybe I’ll have Rumer Willis, Ben Stiller, and Liv Tyler sit in a row and maybe at the commercial breaks they can talk about what it’s like being a child of celebrity. These are the things that go on in my head, and I do my funny list. Then I’ll say, okay, for Verne Troyer, we can’t have anyone like Liv Tyler or Dwayne Johnson sitting in front of him because he won’t be able to see over their head, so we have to have somebody short, so Sarah Jessica Parker, I thought. Well, what if she wears one of those silly, little hats that she wore recently? Or if her hair is too high? Then how is he going to see? You can’t have all blonde people sitting in one row because it doesn’t look good for a camera shot. Do you want all the comics together? You know, are they going to sit and make jokes and disturb other people? Justin Timberlake, I said, well maybe I’ll have him sit with the Pussycat Dolls, but that’s only if he’s not bringing Jessica Biel because we don’t want any problems there.
addCredit(“Lindsay Lohan: John Shearer/WireImage; Mark Wahlberg: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage”)
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