Courtney Conquers has been a Lady Gaga fan for 10 years—even before “Just Dance” was released—and like any dedicated Little Monster, she jumps at the chance to see her Mother in the flesh. “It’s been a decade of fangirling and networking and being crazy but not too crazy,” she tells Glamour.com. “So every once in a while, I get emails or links for opportunities.” Earlier this year, for example, she attended a taping of the Recording Academy’s Elton John tribute, at which Gaga performed “Your Song.”
Another opportunity arose in late April 2017, when Conquers and her friend Jamie (also a Gaga fan) got word that tickets to A Star Is Born filming event in L.A. were available. (Proceeds went to Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.) In a matter of days, Conquers found herself witnessing the making of the movie’s most pivotal scene: when Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) pulls Ally (Gaga) onstage to sing “Shallow” for the first time. Here the 29-year-old Toronto native tells her story.
I run a blog called the Drag Coven with my best friend, Jamie, and we were on our way to L.A. for RuPaul’s Drag Con when a mutual friend sent us a link and was like, “Hey, I don’t know when you’re gonna be in L.A., but you guys should do it.” It was a sign-up link where, for $12 a day, you could go for two days and be in a scene of A Star Is Born.
We panicked because we were actually going to be in L.A. those days, but we had approximately T-minus 45 seconds to get the tickets for both of us—Gaga sells out like that, no matter what—and we were [on an airplane] about to take off. But we got them.
We didn’t know in what capacity we’d be involved, or where we’d stand, so we just went in the morning and got in line. We’re used to this—we’re those intense fans. The first thing they did when we walked in was make everybody put their cell phones in a locking pad. Then they filed us in, the appropriate number of people for each row. The people who got there first were closer to the front.
They [also] sectioned off a place at the front to put people who were there for fun but who kind of knew how this worked, who could hold their own. They wanted them to have followed the dress code. We were supposed to dress like we were going to a country-rock summer music festival. We were told specifically not to wear anything Lady Gaga–related, which I’d say at least a quarter of the people didn’t listen to and had to turn their shirts inside out.
“[After the filming] friends would be like, ‘I’m so excited. Can you hum the song for me?’ I’d say, ‘Actually, I can’t.'”
There was a warm-up host playing Lady Gaga trivia with the crowd [to compete for spots in the special section]. Jamie and I met up with a group of about seven [Gaga fans] we knew and got the questions right. So we ended up bumping [even closer] to the front. I doubt you’ll see us, but we were right there.
There were several hours where I definitely saw why they needed us there, but we weren’t active. Earlier in the day they had to do setups and practices with body doubles and stand-ins. They had to get the lights right.
We were there long enough that they made sure we had a meal. They gave us vouchers, which was good, because [the options were] very overpriced concert-venue foods. We all got hot dogs, a bag of chips, and a drink. But people got tired and squirrelly. There was one lady who was being particularly rude, shouting out of turn when set people were trying to concentrate. I ended up just taking her hot dog and eating it. She had it sitting under her seat, so I said, “You know what? She’s not eating that, and she’s really bugging me.” She didn’t even notice. It’s survival!
Before Gaga came out, they were hyping us up by getting the crowd to sing Gaga songs. But then they were like, “OK, maybe getting you to sing Gaga songs was a mistake. What we really need from you is to pretend this is not Lady Gaga. You do not know this person. She is not the pop star you know and love. This is just some girl; you’re curious but not that enthused. Do not shout things. Do not go wild. Lady Gaga does not exist in this universe.”
We saw Gaga and Bradley do their scene probably about 18 times [over the course of both days]. They had internal mikes, but they turned the big amplifying mikes off; it wasn’t a full-on concert. People [outside the venue] were sending drones in trying to record the music—the crew caught them and explained, “We actually need you to be quite quiet, because we have to play the music so the people onstage can hear it, but soft enough that these drones won’t pick it up. You’re probably not going to hear anything.” [After the filming] friends would be like, “I’m so excited. Can you hum the song for me?” I’d say, “Actually, I can’t.”
“I slammed face-first into an absolute tree of a human being—it was Bradley Cooper!”
On the end of the first day, I went to the bathroom and whipped around the corner really fast; I slammed face-first into an absolute tree of a human being—it was Bradley Cooper! He almost knocked me on my butt. He was very tall, which I didn’t realize. (I was there for Gaga; I’m not an obsessive Bradley Cooper fan.) I was taken aback and was just like, “Oh, sorry.” And he went, “Oh, sorry.” And I said, “No, I’m sorry.” We kind of got in this sorry war, which was funny. He went, “Thank you for being there. How’s it going? Are you having fun?” And I said, “Yeah, it’s really good. I’m excited to be here.” He was like, “Oh, great, thank you.” And I went, “No, thank you.” And he went, “No, thank you.” He started laughing, and I got flustered and mumbled, “OK, I have to pee now.” I ran off, so embarrassed. He was very nice.
The second day they took us up into the higher stands to shoot again. (We’d only paid $12 for the first day, but they basically said, “Anyone who’s here today can come back tomorrow if they want to.”) You don’t end up seeing Jamie and me in the movie then, either, because there’s a flash of a spotlight [when Gaga walks past us in the scene]. It was cool because they did a couple takes and she walked by us over and over and over again. At one point she was standing, waiting for the take to start, and she kind of looked up and Jamie and I went, “Hey, girl.” She’s known Jamie longer, so she definitely recognized Jamie. I haven’t seen Gaga in a couple years, and I got a radical haircut since then, so she gave me this look. I saw both confusion and recognition. It was a very quick interaction, but very cute.
[Near the end of the second day] I remember them saying, “If you absolutely have to go, exit to the left and we’ll unlock your cell phones. If you can stay, please do.” They were checking that they got everything they needed and everybody was milling around waiting; there was downtime on set. So we stayed, and Gaga went to the piano and started tinkering around. Then she suddenly started singing her own music—she just did a mini concert out of nowhere. Jamie and I, being the adoring fans we are, immediately said, “Screw the seat I’m sitting in,” and hopped to the front of the stage. She did “You and I” and “Edge of Glory” and a little bit of “Born This Way.” Bradley Cooper came out and sat on one of the speakers and was smiling at all of us; he clearly enjoyed seeing her entertaining us. It was very sweet and the smallest little Gaga concert I’d ever been to.
Then they said, “All right, that’s a wrap.” We all cheered, and Gaga and Bradley each got on the mike and said, “Thank you so much for being here.” [The crew] unlocked our cell phones, and that was it.
When we saw the scene onscreen it was very weird. It was cool seeing it up there when we’d been there to see the inner workings. We were also seeing this woman, whose career has greatly influenced us, on the big screen in a new capacity. She was so good. She was even better than I thought she was going to be.