Grammy View: From the Audience

LOS ANGELES — If you're not Madonna, Eminem, or a big record-industry mogul, people act genuinely surprised when you tell them you're going to the Grammy Awards. The guy you rent your tux from begs you to keep track of what type of collars the men are wearing. Your boss just rolls his eyes and says, "If you want the day off, just tell me you have a doctor's appointment." Because, just like the Oscars or Golden Globes, the biggest night of the year for the music industry is also a big deal for ordinary people. It's an excuse to invite some friends over for beers and popcorn, and maybe the chance to win 40 bucks in the office pool.

But wouldn't it be a million times more exciting if you were right there where the action was happening, in the same room as all those superstars, instead of sitting at home, wondering if your onion dip is up to snuff? Well … no. Actually, folks watching the Grammys at home have it pretty sweet. They can switch channels and view something else during the boring numbers. They can actually see Madonna's face up close. They can choose whom they watch the show with. And they only have to set aside three hours of their day for this extravaganza.

Just to prove how much better the Grammys are when viewed from the comfort of your own domicile, Wall of Sound dispatched a pair of ace undercover agents to Los Angeles for the actual ceremony. If watching your Mom pick up wrapping paper on Christmas morning is your idea of fun, or you thrill to the idea of being locked in a room for three-plus hours with no food, water, or bathroom breaks, attending Grammy Awards might actually be your cup of tea. Otherwise, you're much better off in your living room, where a cocktail doesn't cost $7.25 and the bar doesn't close just when the action's beginning.

But enough complaining. Decide for yourself. Here are just a few of the dubious pleasures TV viewers miss that make attending the Grammy Awards such a mixed blessing:

BEFORE THE SHOW Did you know that the Grammy ceremony actually begins at lunchtime, at 12:30 p.m. PST? Even if you skip the three-plus-hour pre-show (you know, the "in ceremonies held earlier" nonsense they zip through at points during the big broadcast), attending the Grammy Awards takes up a whole day. Before you even begin navigating the Los Angeles freeways and one-way streets like a rat in a maze to get to the venue, you have to get dressed. In evening wear. At lunchtime. Sure, you could wait a little later — but you have to allow time for traffic. And the backup at the parking lot. Because you have to be there no later than 4:30, when the doors are locked and no further guests are allowed in.

But once you arrive, and safely stow your chariot, then the magic begins. As you stroll down the red carpet, stars flank you on either side … not! The famous people have to run a gantlet of press — corralled in tiny pens like cattle — waiting impatiently, waving microphones and cameras in their shiny, Grammy-nominated faces, while the rest of the ordinary ticket-holders are hustled into the building. Nobody with a platinum record is going to sidle up and ask where you got your shoes; they're too busy spouting sound bites.

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