My four fearless friends and I decided to make the pilgrimage from Boston to New York City for the last Harry Potter premiere ever. Rather than stay over night in NYC and camp out, we decided to take a bus from Boston to NYC at 1am on Monday. And that is where our story begins:
Monday 12:10am: My friends and I arrive at South Station to pick up our 1am bus to New York City. As we arrive at our terminal we are greeted by a fellow Potter nerd looking to make the pilgrimage to New York City. She was easy to spot in her makeshift Hogwarts ensemble complete with a tie boasting the Gryffindor house colors and a time turner to boot. While we waited for our bus we chatted about all things Harry Potter from our mutual excitement and anxiety about what we were getting ourselves into, to Daniel Radcliffe’s current stint on broadway. At 12:45am we boarded our bus brimming with excitement but ready to sleep.
5:30am: We arrived and headed to the subway to pick up the 1-2-3 to get to Lincoln Center (Avery Fisher Hall) where the premiere was going to be held.
When we found the island where we would be stationed for the next 12+ hours it was already crawling with Harry Potter fans young and old, many still sprawled out on their air mattresses, tucked into their sleeping bags and just slowly waking up to greet the long day ahead.
What we met when we got into the thick of it was a disorganized mess.
Wanting to respect the people that had camped out, the five of us looked for the end of the line but never found it. We asked multiple people where the end of the “line” was and they all just directed us in a never ending circle around the small perimeter of the concrete island. In the end we just sat in the general area where majority of people looked like they just got there.
Some of the people we interacted with right off the bat where very pleasant, others, not so much. One woman kept telling us that if we did not move from where we were sitting the cops were going to kick us out.
After finally finding a spot, we sat and relaxed for a bit and watched a camera crew from PIX 11 do a few features on selected crowd members as well as some b-roll of fans holding signs.
The woman doing the story looked overwhelmed and annoyed by what she found on our little island. I mean it was a lot to take in at six-n-the-morning. Once she and her camera man finished their segments they retreated to their truck to escape the swam of fans.
Two of the fans the woman interviewed came all the way from LA. Now that is dedication.
6:15am: The workers putting together the premiere rolled out the red carpet.
As insignificant as this moment may sound, it was pretty awesome because right there it hit me: I was at a movie premiere. I mean, the red carpet is such an iconic movie novelty. I never in a million years would have thought I would actually get to see it one day.
Even though I was a good 100 feet away from it, it was still surreal.
6:45am: The mob mentality officially started. One person started to pack up their makeshift campsite and then others started packing up and then it just snowballed.
and then others started moving towards the barricades.
and then others started getting to close for comfort.
360 degrees view of our surroundings in the mob. (L to R)
The atmosphere quickly turned from “Yay Harry Potter!” to an all out every-man-or-group-for-themselves battle. The “seniority system” that was originally implemented (by no one of actual power) was none existent. Apparently the night before, security workers from the premiere went over to the concrete island to give out numbers to the first 200 people that had arrived for the premiere giving them a spot on the barricades up where the actual premiere was going to take place. As soon as they started doling out handwritten numbers on the arms of the dedicated fans, the deviant fans that were not lucky enough to receive numbers started giving themselves numbers which would inevitably cause confusion and discredit the numbering system. Why they didn’t just pass out bracelets at the time is BEYOND me. but alas I digress…
7am: The waiting begins. As we all stood around realizing that nothing of substance was going to take place for a long while, fans slowly started putting down their bags and belongings and started getting comfortable. It was easier for some than for others. I was one of those others. The already close quarters proved sitting down in the limited space very challenging.
There was one point when two people infront of me, one person to my left, a person behind me and my friend to my right were all sitting down leaving me cornered and left to stand until someone moved or stood up. Standing in place and prove to be very boring and tiring. Add to that the heat and humidity we faced and you got your self a very uncomfortable day.
I will say though, we were very fortunate that the area we were barricaded into was covered by shade thanks to the tree towering over us. Even some cool breezes passed through every so often.
With lunch on everyone’s minds, a few people began to scuttle out of the crowd to get food and such. Thinking this was a safe time we took turns doing so but sadly, that is what hurt us in the end. This group of “girls from Ireland” had been behind us all day and once 3 of our 5 went, they took advantage of it and snuck their way in front of us.
4pm: And the madness begins.
Almost all day we were waiting for the 200 chosen people to be moved from our area to the closer one, hoping to pounce on the extra space it would give us. We heard they were going to be moved, we heard they were not, we heard the numbers still mattered, we heard they didn’t, we were NEVER given a straight answer. After being left to guess all day, we finally got our answer at 4pm (an hour before the stars were to arrive) in the form of two huge security guards carrying fist-fulls of blue bracelets. As soon as crowd members spotted them, mayhem broke out. The once civil crowd turned unruly and the once comfortable space bubble that had formed between strangers popped.
I sincerely know how a sardine feels (especially if it was left in the oven).
The barricades had been moved a few feet away from the curb causing us to retreat from our shady hideout and into the blistering sun we were lucky enough to avoid all day.
Between the heat and humidity, the body heat and pushing and shoving, I’m pretty sure that was the most uncomfortable I have ever been. It’s right up there with carrying and playing a trumpet for 6 miles in the California heat.
The fibbers, families with young children, young tweens with their mother’s on patrol for them and the few lucky ones all beat us out for bracelets. The amount of mothers I saw going up to security guards and pleading their case for litte Tommy and Samantha to get bracelets and then getting them was amazing. I’m bringing MY mother next time.
Between the people at the front of the mob having panic attacks from there being too many people around them and people having a war of words about being pushed and shoved, all I can say to them is, “I’m sorry but did any of you expect anything less?”
The Cops were there to keep people “in line” and help people climb over the barricades when they got their bracelet but really all they did was tell us to stop pushing and move back. Sadly that didn’t do much of anything.
5pm: Alas, none of us got bracelets so we had to stay across the street and wait for the arrivals of our favorite stars.
Being short was probably my main disadvantage. Though I could still crane my camera over people’s heads, my accuracy was not the best, plus it’s harder with a zoom lens because one sudden movement and you go from on target to looking at irrelevant buildings. Also, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by pleasant people during this final leg of the day. The last thing I could have dealt with at that point were annoying pushy people and thank God that was not the case!
As the stars began to arrive, we all went wild.
Being stationed across the street had some major disadvantages though, predominantly the fact that cars, buses and trucks continued to drive by blocking some arrivals and our overall view of the cast (as you can see from above). Another disadvantage was that many of the stars were not allowed to cross the street to sign autographs. The only stars that were able to make their way over were Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Matthew Lewis (Nevile Longbottom).
Sadly Lewis was ushered away fairly quickly. Felton, bless his heart, came back twice and tried to work his way to the middle both time before being ushered away by his team and the cops enforcing the area.
More stars continued to arrive:
7pm: After Dan arrived, My team and I decided to throw in the towel because our stomachs had started calling the shots. After freshening up, we made our way to Times Square to grab some food and take in some sights before heading off to the Port Authority to catch our bus.
As we walked through Times Square, we were lucky enough to catch the beautiful sunset washing over the skyline. The fact that we had seen the sunrise over the NYC skyline at 5:30 that morning and the sunset at 7:30 that night, kinda put in perspective the magnitude of our madness and willingness to do what we did that day.
9pm: We were dead. All we wanted was for our bus to arrive (which it did 15 minutes after it was scheduled to) and get us home (which it did, 10 minutes earlier than our original arrival time and 40 minutes earlier than our LATE estimated arrival time. He drove terrifyingly fast).
What was only a day long trip had seemed like a weekend. But as we browsed through our pictures, we realized the fatigue was worth it. We got to see the stars we had grown up with. It was a crazy capper to a crazy 10 years.