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Old 02-04-2002, 05:31 PM   #1
The Fly
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Half-time Show Info

11 minutes ends a year's work
Dennis Despie of Anaheim is directing his eighth Super Bowl halftime show.

February 3, 2002

The Orange County Register

It's Super Bowl Sunday.

The fans are excited. The players are pumped. And Dennis M. Despie has his game hat on.

The Anaheim resident is responsible for producing the halftime show - 11 minutes of high profile, multimillion- dollar entertainment. Despie has been planning for nearly a year to make sure everything goes precisely as planned.

"It's a very high level of stress, because this is live," said Despie, founder of Tustin-based Select Productions International and organizer of this year's extravaganza, featuring rock band U2. "It's a live show for 80,000 in the building, but it's also live on television. There are a lot of things going on that you don't see."

But Despie can handle it. He's an All Pro at these events, having organized more Super Bowl halftime shows than anyone else. By today's second-half kickoff, he'll have eight under his belt. His first halftime gig was Super Bowl XI, 25 years ago.

Still, Despie, 56, has reason to be on his toes. The Super Bowl is regularly the most watched TV program of the year, with hundreds of millions of viewers expected worldwide. Advertisers have spent nearly $2 million per 30-second slot, and all 60 slots have been sold. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, security will be tighter than any other sports event in U.S. history.

Despie and his staff will have six minutes to set up, 11 minutes for the show, and six minutes to break everything down before the Rams and the Patriots hit the field again.

"Everything is all planned out," said the former vice president of entertainment for Walt Disney Co. "It's all choreographed and planned - every movement of every person. I'm anxious, but not nervous."


The halftime show was not always a big deal. Marching bands used to fill up the time between the first- and second-half whistles. Up With People, cartoon characters and the Rockettes used to sing and dance.

But in 1993, pop star Michael Jackson set a new standard with a pyrotechnic show that sent ratings through the roof.

Since then, the NFL has determined that it must have an attention-grabbing show that keeps viewers tuned in for the second half - and the revenue-rich commercials that follow halftime.

Plus, competition has been building. Before, other networks used to throw in the towel. Now, with so many eyes watching television at the same time, network and cable channels are developing their own halftime programs to lure viewers away.

This year, Despie's biggest counter programming threat may come from Playboy Playmates on NBC's "Fear Factor."

But Despie's not concerned. He's a veteran at throwing big shows and parties. His clients have included Presidents Reagan and (the first) Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, Michael Eisner and the Sultan of Oman.

He has organized events for New Year's Eve 2000, the U.S. bicentennial and the grand opening of Tokyo Disneyland.

"The type of talent we are now using, we've got the biggest names in the musical business," he said. "We've got bands and/or artists with worldwide appeal. They're very popular."

Last year, Despie got Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Aerosmith and Mary J. Blige on the same halftime stage. In 1997, he got "Godfather of Soul" James Brown to pop up in the air like a piece of toast.

Today, he's got U2 - which had the nation's most successful tour last year - rockin' the Superdome. The NFL and Fox network started the promotional campaign weeks ago, with U2's songs serving as a soundtrack to playoff commercials.

Among his colleagues, Des pie is known for his ability to keep cool in the eye of a storm.

"He brings a balance to everything and a calmness to everything," said Jim Steeg, senior vice president of special events for the NFL. "He's got a great ability for introspection. And he brings a lot of the same people back together, which makes for a great family."

Of course, Despie is not the only one who makes it happen.

He's got a paid staff of 50 people, plus 250 volunteers who will bring 22 sections of the stage through a tunnel and onto the field.


The red and black, heart- shaped stage - very similar to U2's setup during its tour - comprises 22 interlocking parts that can be quickly assembled and taken apart. The parts vary from 700 to 3,500 pounds.

Some 2,000 to 3,000 pre-picked U2 fans will be bused in from an undisclosed outside location. All fans are winners of a recent Clear Channel radio promotion - Clear Channel Entertainment is listed as a co-producer for the show.

The rock fans will occupy the space inside and outside the "heart." Each fan has undergone a security check and will pass through a magnetometer before walking onto the field.

U2 will perform three songs, including the Grammy- nominated "Walk On." According to the NFL's official Web site, other songs could include "Desire," "Beautiful Day," "Pride (In the Name of Love)" or "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

The performance will include a musical salute to victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy, Despie said.

U2 will deliver its songs live, but just in case, a rhythm track will be playing behind the band.

"It's a technical protection we use," said Despie, who will preside over the action from a "crow's nest" 200 feet above. "They are performing live. But we have to protect ourselves so that technically there is a backup that doesn't allow the show to go down. We can't go through the risk of a show going down."

This year's Super Bowl will encompass the highest level of security for a televised event in recent history. Aiming to prevent any possibility of terrorism, the Office of Homeland Security has classified the championship game a "National Security Special Event," a designation given to presidential inaugurations and State of the Union speeches.

"Anybody that comes into the building today has to have security clearance," Despie said. "I wouldn't want to try to get in here if I didn't belong."


For the Despies, the Super Bowl used to be a full family affair. Son Brian was the production manager, daughter Julie a production assistant and wife Shirley a "floater" - parking cars and filling in wherever needed.

But Julie now has her own family to take care of in Cleveland, and Shirley is taking care of grandchildren in Orange County.

Yet Brian, head of his own company, Shout Creative Inc., still works with his dad on the show.

"We have a great time - it's a great relationship," said Brian Despie, 32, who often calls his father by his first name. "We have mutual respect and admiration. He does his thing, I do mine, and it works out great."


Copyright 2002
The Orange County Register


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Old 02-04-2002, 05:38 PM   #2
The Fly
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: wrapped around Bono's little finger
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actually the article in the paper was much longer, this is off the website, and here is a part that wasn't on that: "Setting the Stage: the volunteer crew is divided into groups of 10. Groups will roll pieces of stage onto the field and arrange them into the heart shape. Once the task is done, they'll blend in with the crowd of music fans. The stage units have soft tires so they won't damage the field. All 250 volunteers will wear black sweatsuits donated by Reebox."

"Days before: Fans and volunteers rehearse setting up at secret locations in New Orleans. Four hours before game: Volunteers and fans check in at secret location, go through security and are bused to compound near Superdome. Volunteers move stage from compound to street outside stadium. One hour before half-time: Fans wait in tunnels of Superdome. Volunteers move stage pieces from street to tunnel. U2 moves from dressing room to "green room." Six minutes before showtime: Crew enters field from four entrances. Fans arrange themselves. Volunteers piece together stage. Lighting is set up. Six minutes after show: stage is dismantled. Crew leaves field."

"3,000 fans will act as canvas for heart-shaped stage. 400 will move inside the heart before the last piece of stage is attached. All dressed in their own clothes, they'll be divided into groups of 50 to 75. Chaperones will position each group around the stage. Fans are winners of national radio promotion."

this was cool to read this article because sure wondered how they got that on and off so fast. What a great job, they deserve our applause.

[This message has been edited by U2live (edited 02-04-2002).]

[This message has been edited by U2live (edited 02-04-2002).]
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