It all started out so innocently. We watched the show because it’s summer and nothing else is on, and because it takes place in Newport Beach, so we could tease Bella. And then, the unthinkable happened: we started to like it. We started making sure that we never missed it, and thanks to the magic of Tivo, visitors to our apartment never missed it either. So, you can imagine our glee when last week, Mike sent me an instant message.

The Boyfriend: Did you get that O.C. email from Sharkeez?
plasticheather: NO!!!! What is it about?!?!?!?!
The Boyfriend: I dunno. Something about a party with the cast.
plasticheather: WHAT?!?! WITH THE CAST?!?! AAAAHHH!!!!
The Boyfriend: I take it from your response that you would like me to forward you this email.

Upon receipt of his forward I immediately sent it onto all of my friends. The Cast of The O.C.! At Sharkeez, my old workplace! Wow. It was too much for us to take. For a week, we waited. We watched Tivo’d episodes and sighed. Next Tuesday, we were going to watch it WITH the people we’d quickly grown so fond of. I called my old boss, hoping for some preferential treatment. “Sorry H, you gotta get down here early like everyone else – I can’t save any tables.” Well, that should be easy enough. Sure, I’d be competing with other fans that get out of school at 3 P.M., but I was fairly certain I could find a way to get out around that same time. And I did. Isn’t it funny how that works? At 3:45 on Tuesday, Bella, Brooke, and I found ourselves walking to Sharkeez, tossing trivia back and forth. “Sure, you may know that about Benjamin, but did you know that Adam was in Gilmore Girls AND Once and Again?” We talked about the cast like they were our friends. We knew that once they met us, they would want to be our friends, so why waste time with silly formalities?

We rolled up on Sharkeez and were immediately taken by the large fencing and stage that had been set up outside the bar. And the lights – they were everywhere. And not just TV lights, but those giant searchlights. This was going to be big. Granted, we’d heard ads for it all week on the radio, and seenstories about it on TV, but we didn’t realize the scale. Obviously, none of these people had ever been squeezed into Sharkeez. We were surprised, but happy, that a crowd hadn’t formed yet, and we immediately got a table inside the bar. Only 5 hours to kill until the show started. So, we ordered food. We got pitchers of margaritas. We took pictures. We greeted other people we knew. At one point, I started talking with a floor guy that I’d used to work with. He was ecstatic that his shift ended before the cast was supposed to get there. “What I don’t understand,” he said, “is the point of having this event at a place where the majority of the fans can’t get in.” Ah. Yes.

You see, Sharkeez in Hermosa Beach has age restrictions. Based on the type of liquor license they have, no one under the age of 21 can be on the premises. At all. For any reason. Even if it is an infant in a stroller, or a teenager getting takeout for his parents, they are not allowed inside. Having worked at Sharkeez, I had been forced to kick out youngsters on many occasions. And, I knew that this would work to our advantage – we’d be able to sit inside with the cast, while the screaming throngs of 14-year-old girls would have to stand outside. We took great pleasure in watching girls get turned away from the door, over and over, as if they thought they each had a better chance to get in than the girl before. This isn’t to say that a lot of girls who APPEARED to be under 21 didn’t somehow make it in. I don’t know what tipped me off, maybe it was their Midori Sour drinks, or their teeny tiny bodies, or overhearing them talking about algebra in the bathroom. And MAN! I did NOT dress like that when I was so young. These girls had on mesh tops, or itty bitty tank tops. Some of them had on O.C. shirts that they’d gotten for free – and then proceeded to rip and tear into something that barely covered their boobs. Anyway, it’s not like we openly mocked these girls or anything. Oh wait, we did. Do not mess with us on our own turf when we have beer and time to kill.

As the time went by, more people started to show up. Unfortunately, not everyone could get in. Despite the fact that we have been regulars at Sharkeez since our senior year in college, Jackie, Woodsy, and Dana couldn’t get in. Not even my pleas and offers to work for free helped. And then they wonder why everyone goes to Fenner’s? Hmph. As I turned to go back inside, I realized just how many people were outside. I would place my guess at “tons.” There were teenagers and parents everywhere, and a fair share of people old enough to come unsupervised. The local Top 40 radio station was broadcasting live from the stage, and people were screaming at the DJ, trying to get on the radio. I ran back inside and told everyone.

At around 8, the cast started showing up. We would have never known it except for the DEAFENING scream that came from outside. The actors were pulling up in their assorted limos and the kids outside would shout their approval, no matter who it was. Random chick that went to cotillion? Check. Peter Gallagher? Check. His eyebrows? Check, check. Not that the fans inside the restaurant were any better. We were sitting close enough to the windows to be able to see when the cast members would step on the stage. When a certain actor was spotted, someone would inevitable yell out their character’s name. “There’s Marissa!” “I see Seth!!!” It was hard to not get caught up in it all, especially when the entire cast was mere feet away. Really! The entire cast! I wasn’t surprised that Mischa Barton, Benjamin McKenzie, and Adam Brody showed up. I was surprised to see Tate Donovan and Peter Gallagher. Pleasantly surprised. Okay, I was positively jumping up and down, screaming. I am a dork. Then someone noticed that all the TVs in the place were being changed to Fox, and we realized that it was almost 9. “Hey,” Bella said, “When the heck are they going to get their O.C. butts in here so we can see them?” When there is only 20 seconds until the show starts is when! The cast RACED from the front of the bar to the back, where their tables were, and the mob around them was so thick I only managed to get pictures of heads. But, they definitely heard us screaming their names. We were only ten feet away, and we didn’t scream the nicest things. What did I say about beer?

Not to be deterred by our brief glimpses of our new best friends, Brooke, Brianne, and I decided to visit the bathroom…which just happened to be right by where the cast was sitting! What a coincidence. On our way back, Adam Brody was standing inches away from us. Brooke and Brianne each reached out and touched him, turning back to triumphantly grin at me. Not to be outdone, I also reached out to touch him, and managed to grab a bit of his shirt just as I got pushed from behind. I tugged on Adam’s shirt as I regained my footing, and he looked down at his arm to see what the pull was. I quickly ran away before Adam Brody could think I was trying to rip his shirt off.

Upon returning to the table with everyone, we talked about how loud it was and how it was impossible to hear the show. Then, Mike mentioned he was hungry, and Leslie said that she wanted sushi. That was all I needed to hear. Mike and I decided to leave then, to get food, and to avoid the crush of the crowd when the cast left only 20 minutes later. As we walked to the sushi place, Mike said how weird he thought it was that The O.C. had a big party in Hermosa Beach, when the show is set in Newport Beach. Then I pointed out that almost the entire show is filmed in Hermosa Beach or in Palos Verdes, our neighboring town to the south. “Wow, so it was like we were in the O.C. this whole time!” Mik said sarcastically. Indeed.