Finally it was time to enter the studio. My father and I started from the mezzanine level where we were told that we had to show our paper tickets and our wristbands. I figured I'd see if I could get through the show without putting my wristband on, and so I draped it over my left wrist on the assumption the pages didn't really care all that strongly as long as things looked about right. As we started walking forward the pages stopped my father and told him he had to put the wristband on; he didn't know how. If you can find the invisible seam it exposes a sticky patch to use to complete the loop. I just held mine in place with the right hand and was allowed through without comment. But the time spent on this meant that we lost the line ahead of us: we were to go downstairs, across some corridors back to the elevators, to pass through the metal detectors, and get sent up to the studio. We got down the stairs fine but had to shout for help on just where to go from there; when I went to tapings in the 90s we just started from outside the elevators.
Though the studio's on the sixth floor, the audience rides up to the seventh in order to walk down the many twisting corridors of a building constructed for radio sets that was extensively renovated to provide hundreds of TV studios that Tom Snyder could record Tomorrow in. There are more exposed drop-tile ceilings with rivers of cables than you have ever seen. Approaching the Late Night studio the corridors get lined with 8 1/2-by-11 glossy pictures of moments from the show, most of them from the 90s. Some of them I recognized from long-ago trips, but then it's not hard to guess they'd include a picture of the time David Letterman was on, or of the William Shatner visit when Shatner couldn't name the character he played in Generations.
Throughout the process of getting upstairs we were warned that no photography was allowed, as they always say about these things, although they added a twist I hadn't heard before. The current pravda is that you must not take photographs because the studio is copyrighted and of course if you violated their copyright they'd have to have security confiscate your camera and probably eject you from the show.
As we were brought in to the studio it turned out that our satisfyingly low number of 14 did not mean we were going to be in the lowermost rows of seats. The seats on the stage-right side of the audience, nearer Conan's desk and more likely to be on camera, were already filling up, and even on the stage-left side, by the band, the first three rows were crowded. My father and I were tucked into the fourth row where I knew I might be seen on camera if they had a long, slow panning shot and I were to hold up a pair of signal flares. Down on the studio floor a large number of people, some of them rather older, retired-looking folks, were hanging around by the exit there, taking photographs of the whole set. A page told me I should get fix my wristband so it was fit around my wrist, which I earnestly pretended to do until he went to something else.
Trivia: Pennsylvania incorporated 41 banks in March 1814. Source: Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, Peter L Bernstein.
Currently Reading: Civilisation, Kenneth Clark.