Arsenio 'gets busy'in a surburban back yard

August 14, 1993|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff writer

DERWOOD — Woop! There it is!

There indeed, was that night thing, that Arsenio Hall thing, turning up in, of all places, a place so suburban it's a suburb of another suburb (Rockville).

At 8 p.m. last night -- a time when moms and dads are usually firing up the Weber grills and kids are heading to the mall -- Arsenio Hall popped out of the back door of a Derwood house into a backyard-turned-dogpound (that, for you "Nightline" and Leno watchers, is Arsenio-ese for his wooping-it-up audience section).

This out-of-studio experience was only the second for the show in its five- year history. For the 1,000th show, Arsenio and Co. did the Hollywood Bowl. And now they've done Derwood.

"Look how big this brother's back yard is," exulted Mr. Hall, who brought his late-night celeb-fest to Freddie and Selena Payton's home. He was there because the Paytons were the winners of his "Arsenio in the House" viewers contest. "I'm glad to see there's one black family that got the 40 acres and a mule."

But you already know he said this, if you turned on your TV to WBAL-Channel 11 last night at 11:30, when a tape of the show shot four hours earlier was aired. You saw comedian Bobcat Goldthwait growling out jokes, singer Patti LaBelle belting out "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and r&b guy Johnny Gill adding to the general decibel level that had been building all day.

"This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened," enthused Kathy Tait, 49, who lives several doors down from the Paytons. "And you could not get a nicer family than them for this to happen to."

All week, neighbors have watched towering scaffolding rise in the back of the Payton home, from which lights were strung for the taping. Thursday night, Mr. Hall came to meet the 'hood,shaking hands and making friends all around. And finally, yesterday -- "utter chaos," was how Devin Payton, 19, described the scene of which his home was the epicenter. Crowds came to gawk at the limos, catch a glimpse of the stars and, if they were lucky, to be among the 1,200 who got to put down their blankets and watch the show, al fresco.

"There's a different kind of heart on this street than on Sunset Boulevard," Mr. Hall said during one of his forays into the street scene in front of the house.

Among those gathered for the show were Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and his family, who got nearly as big a cheer as Arsenio thanks to big contingencies from his city -- a clump of green-T-shirted residents from the Sandtown Winchester neighborhood, for example.

"We wanted to be in the house with Arsenio," said Eric Goods, who with his friend, Bernard Yarborough, won tickets to the event from radio station WERQ (92Q). They held up a sign commemorating their late friend, basketball star Reggie Lewis, to great applause all around.

The Paytons were chosen from several thousand people who wanted the A-man to tape his show on location at their house. Or, in the case of the crew of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, their aircraft carrier, currently stationed in the Adriatic Sea.

It was the Maryland crabs that the family offered that pushed the Paytons' entry over the finish line, said Mr. Hall.

Chuck Hopkins of Crab Alley in Gaithersburg, obliged with about five bushels. "All jumbos," said Mr. Hopkins, who called the Paytons when he heard they'd promised Mr. Hall a crab feast, and offered to provide them gratis.

Joked Mr. Hall before the show, "They've given me crab cakes, crabaroni . .

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