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Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:33 p.m.

Ann Arbor goes wild for 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' at Walgreens

By Danielle Arndt

If talk show host Ellen DeGeneres truly had been outside the Walgreens at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Maple Street, she would have seen a large crowd, sporting Santa hats, Rudolph noses, Grinch costumes, lights and garland, plaid Christmas pajamas, elf ears, boxes wrapped like presents with cut-outs for arms, and a whole lot of love.

Hundreds of people from Washtenaw County, west and southern Michigan, northern Ohio and even Hawaii traveled to Ann Arbor Wednesday night in pursuit of a mysterious tweet, posted on DeGeneres’ Twitter page Tuesday night:

  • “If you live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and you aren't following me, I would start now, and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow's a big day.”

Joe Kelley, a professional photographer and soon-to-be children’s book author, had no idea what that meant. But he and business partner Nick Rokicki hopped on a plane from Maui, Hawaii, and jetted off to Michigan.

Details emerged later Wednesday via Twitter, revealing the location and telling travelers to dress in holiday attire as well as to bring a toy for Toys for Tots. The toy got attendees a raffle ticket for a chance to win a $5,000 gift card to Walgreens.

The event started at 7:30 p.m., and at 9 p.m., DeGeneres appeared on a TV set up in the Walgreens parking lot during a live taping of her show from California. The episode featuring the footage from Ann Arbor will air on Monday.

Kelley said Rokicki is a huge fan of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and Kelley has family in Plymouth that he planned to visit soon anyway.

“We just figured we might as well,” he said.

Kelley also has a soft spot for Toys for Tots. His younger brother died at age 20 serving in the United States Marines.

“So pretty much anything benefitting Toys for Tots and I am there in a flash,” he said.

At first it was unclear whether or not DeGeneres herself would be in Ann Arbor. Most people expected the star would not be.

A member of DeGeneres’ camera crew said Ann Arbor’s turnout was the best he has seen in his two years with the show.

Adrian College senior Laura Brunet was “pretty bummed” when she learned DeGeneres would not be coming. It has been her dream to meet the comedian and philanthropist, she said.

The excursion from Adrian was Brunet’s first outing since having heart surgery last week. She was dressed as a large present marked “To Ellen” and eagerly waiting at the front of the line.

“She’s so inspirational to me,” Brunet said of DeGeneres. “She’s very giving. I think more people who can, should be more like her.”

Brunet was very hopeful one of DeGeneres’ giveaways would be cash.

“I was really hoping maybe I would win and it could help me pay for my medical bills,” she said.

A number of students from the University of Michigan came for their five minutes of fame, including a group from the university’s marching band and the women’s hockey team. A sign in the front row stated: “#Forgetfinals, @TheEllenShow is here.”

Roommates Allie Laurin and Kiersten Popke, both juniors at U-M, dressed up as the Grinch and the Grinch’s dog, Max. Popke spent most of the day watching DeGeneres’ Twitter feed and planning their outfits while working at East Quad. A mutual love for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” helped the two women’s friendship blossom as college freshmen.

Gloria Ryan, 85, drove from Toledo, Ohio, with her two daughters to experience the live shooting of the show. She said she watches DeGeneres every day and enjoys the star’s sense of humor and smile. The woman sat inside the Walgreens in her wheelchair and watched the “crazies” who were outside freezing.

Ryan said while she didn’t get to see everything, she was glad she made the trip for the experience.

The Ellen Show’s appearance was great for the Ann Arbor Walgreens, said manager Tracie Klotz, adding it significantly boosted sales, since many of the people who came out purchased their toys at the drugstore.

“We also just opened last year and are kind of tucked back away from things, so many people didn’t even know we were here,” Klotz said. “And we’re a Toys for Tots drop location.

"Now when Ellen isn’t here, people will know where to bring their toys.”

Walgreens and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” are both partners of Toys for Tots. Klotz said she was told the show chose a Michigan location for its holiday giving promotion in hopes there would be some snow. Klotz did not find out DeGeneres would be shooting at the Ann Arbor store until about 6 p.m. Monday.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 1:15 a.m.

Ellen usually doesn't show up for the Twitter events, so anyone who was disappointed by her absence should have known better. And while I agree that many Americans have an unhealthy obsession with celebrities, Ellen is not a typical celebrity. She uses her talent as a comedian to bring joy and healing to people's lives, instead of simply making fun of easy targets (as do the vast majority of comedians). She is also a very generous philanthropist, and she seems to genuinely believe in the power kindness. I suspect many of the negative comments here are left by people unfamiliar with her work.

Buster W.

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

Hey, did you hear Lindsay Lohan will be a guest on Ellen on Dec. 15th? Yeah, she'll be on to help promote herself in a coming issue of Playboy. What does this say about Ellen? Disgusting.

tom swift jr.

Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Hey, Buster... most of us weren't aware of this... looks like you have a special interest in Lindsay Lohan?

David Briegel

Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 3:43 a.m.

I definitely think you should avoid watching that show!


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

My friend Laura and I were the girls with the GIANT Bows! And we're dressed as X-Mas present!!!!! Ahhh so much fun! It was great to see so many people come out and donate toys for Toys for Tots!


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

I appreciatte the turn out and the donations. It is pretty sad however, that it takes a celebrity(or a $5,000.00 gift card) to encourage people to donate, and Two Marines standing by a donation box at a Toys-R-US for 8hrs doesn't do it. I'm willing to bet more than half of those people would never have donated something otherwise, but because Ellen may be there they'll drive an hour and donate. The program is run by your local Marine Corps Reservists(a majority who have deployed overseas for you), and the toys are given to local families in your neighborhood. It just kind of sad. That's my preaching for today, sorry.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

No need to be sorry. I drop off at Toys for Tots every year...needless to say, I cannot thank you and your fellow Marines for your service!


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

I donated to Toys for Tots before this event even happend! I got to do it twice! Who doesn't love Ellen? All she does is good! And even if it takes her encouraging people to show up somewhere with a toy, good is all that is coming out of it. It's a win win just like her tweet said!


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

I just can't believe how people can possibly be negative about something so positive that a celebrity can do for local charities from far away, with no ties to the area. Seems to be typical for certain people to read articles about local happenings and share their negative opinions all the time. Such a shame that this small percentage is so blind to the good things that others are trying to do around them.

Usual Suspect

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

I hadn't seen any negative comments about the charitable aspects of this event. Where do you see them? I have, however, seen criticisms about celebrity worship and about a celebrity fooling people into thinking she was going to show up, but that has nothing to do with charitable giving. Seems to be typical for certain people to read comments about articles and share their negative opinions all the time.

tom swift jr.

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

Some folks sort of exude bile. It doesn't matter if they are standing in a pile of sewage, or standing in a pile of sugar, they are still going to exude bile, it is the nature of the person.

tom swift jr.

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Let me say one word to all the nay-sayers.... Grinch


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 7:12 p.m.

I think its great for the community and Bravo to Ellen and Target for their help. I just think grown men flying in from Maui is a little strange.

Tom Teague

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

And all those residents of Whoville singing and waking Max. Hummph.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

Indeed! Good Night and Good Luck


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

"Joe Kelley, a professional photographer and soon-to-be children's book author, had no idea what that meant. But he and business partner Nick Rokicki hopped on a plane from Maui, Hawaii, and jetted off to Michigan." And grown men were willing to admit this? Good thing it wasn't Britney Spears or they would have fainted!

Jessica Webster

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

2500 people bought toys at local businesses, and 2500 children in need will receive them. To top that off, one lucky winner got $5000 to spend at Walgreens, and another will be flying out to be in the audience for Ellen's TV show. Sounds like a win-win. I was there last night to witness the spectacle . Everyone was in great spirits, laughing and singing carols. Most people were expecting Jeannie, Ellen's staffer who travels around the country for events like this, so I didn't get the sense that too many people were disappointed.

Silly Sally

Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

I don't "hate" this event. That is your term. I just think that it is sill to stand around in a parking lot at night to watch something on TV, and to drive up from Ohio to do so. Getting toys for the USMC Toys for Tots is always good. But Ellen...? Get a life. There is a reason that TV is hardly worth watching anymore, with the football game 2 weeks ago an exception.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

Exactly! If you watch the show, you know how this works! I read in the Dexter Patch this morning that toy donation was down for Washtenaw county and I'm sure that is why she chose Ann Arbor, because she would get the biggest turn out here! What is wrong with all the haters? Seriously.....

paul wiener

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

I would have liked to see some reporting on how the police were notified in advance, what traffic and parking were like on one of the busiest corners in the entire city, and whether any A2 officials had a problem with a national celebrity with unrestricted airwave access suddenly commanding an event on its turf that could cause enormous disruption. After all, any celebrity can do this, regarding any cause, anytime. As wonderful as the cause is, it strikes me as a very dangerous, selfish way to promote it


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

I drove by and saw no more of a problem than when herds of pedestrians to to cross Plymouth rd.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

I have heard of events similar to Ellens taking police off guard and then having to call in more police to control the crowds. I agree, this could have gone so wrong on so many levels.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

Give me a break. This isn't like the president coming to town. There have been plenty of celebrities that come to this town on a regular basis who are far larger than Ellen. George Clooney, Courtney Cox, Drew Barrymore. Ellen gave promotion to a store that is helping with a cause she believes in. The store had things set up for a crowd. It was hardly dangerous or selfish.

Lori Mann

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

We need to have more of these kinds of events. Yes Ellen wasn't on the spot, but people love to be apart of ELLENS world. Thanks for all that donated and made the State of Michigan proud. Happy Holidays "ALL"


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

I've been to many events in Ann Arbor and have never seen a crowd like this one!: Polite, interactive, there for a good cause and a good time. I'm glad there are celebs like Ellen that bring out the best in people and drive them to donate to a good charity. The Christmas attire was unparalleled! Hats off to the lady with the huge bow headpiece; you've got Aretha beat! I hope the WAAM/Salvation Army event on December 10th at Tree Town Toys has a great turnout as well.

David Briegel

Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 3:36 a.m.

us, HOGwash!

Usual Suspect

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

"Polite, interactive, there for a good cause and a good time." In other words, it was just like a Tea Party rally and the exact opposite of an Occupy rally.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

Woah! She didn't even bother visit A2, but instead teased her fans? That is wrong and total rip-off. Wonder what the Walgreens campaign paid her for this stunt?


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 2 p.m.

So Ellen was supposed to show up but did not?

Silly Sally

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

This is celebrity worship, at least not at its worst. Don't some people have a life? Driving up from Ohio to see her on TV. Wow! I drove by to get a flu shot, saw the crowds, remembered and drove on. This is so silly.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

If I was an Ellen fan I'd feel kinda ripped off. Seems like a lot of hype and hassle to promote a good cause.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Jeanie was there!!!! If you watch the show, this is usually how these gigs go down!


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

I totally agree. Toys for Tots need to find a better way to get promoted then this. Although I heard last year they got half the toys they were expecting due to the economy. They thought about not doing it this year. Guess Ellen is gong to change their minds.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

"Balance Details..." $917,000.00... Comerica Bank Maybe I should have spent a few bucks on a spellin and grammar book.

Silly Sally

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

If I were a fan, I'd feel that way, too. I agree. This was self promotion disguised as a charity

Usual Suspect

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

I just don't get the celebrity worship that goes on in this country. I've had the occasion to meet with and work with several celebrities over the years, and to me they seem like pretty much mortal humans. There are people with the same attributes as this person right in your own neighborhood, but you have to get out to meet them, not sit there watching the tube. As a matter of fact, here are some of them - and they're also local business owners - doing the exact same type of event, but actually in person, not playing with your mind by fooling you into thinking they're going to show up in person and not doing it: <a href=""></a> See you there!


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

Dude! Ellen does great work and she takes a lot of flack for every bit of praise she receives. She's a good role model and should be celebrated. Also, people were just enjoying something fun &amp; exciting. Don't be a downer.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

4 arrests were made and 12 people were expelled from the parking lot.........No wait, thats a football game, my bad.