In the sea of hundreds gathered Monday night inside the ornate War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, one man and his signature sailor hat sat supreme in Orchestra Row R, Seat 102.
George R.R. Martin.
The famed author's imagination helped inspire this night's epic opera: the Season 5 premiere of HBO's "Game of Thrones." As he marveled at the beaux-arts finish of the interior, those around him were busy pulling out their cellphones and snapping -- conspicuously, and not-so conspicuously -- photos of him.
Martin had just wrapped up interviews on the black carpet, which was streamed live on the show's Facebook page. A couple of hundred fans who preferred old-fashioned gawking to the tech-savvy option, stood on the street holding posters as the "Thrones" cast filtered into the venue.
All the while, winter was gearing up for its on-screen arrival.
But before that, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss took to the stage to reflect on the journey "Game of Thrones" has taken since its launch in 2011 -- becoming one of HBO's highest-rated series. It's fourth-season finale, which aired last June, brought in 7.1 million viewers.
"Five years ago, Richard and [HBO's President of Programming Michael] Lombardo sat in a screening room watching our flawed pilot and deciding whether or not they were going to make the show," Benioff recalled to the packed house. "And its hard to imagine the fate of our show and everything we had been working toward depended on what they saw there."
Thinking up what might have been had the show not taken off, some interesting possibilities arose.
"I'd probably be buying toilet paper for Glenn Frey of the Eagles again," said Weiss, who had spent some time as a personal assistant to the musician.
"I would be teaching seventh-grade English again," Benioff, a former English teacher, suggested. Then he deadpanned: "Kit Harington [who stars as Jon Snow] would probably be a Jimmy Choo spokesmodel." (Note: he is.)
Then the praise for Martin came:
"We try to imagine what our lives would be like without your books, and the thought is even more terrifying than the things that happen in your books," Weiss said.
In the distance, Martin motioned a thumbs up. Then, in true "Game of Thrones" fashion, a message from Varys put a spin on the "silence your phones" PSAs: "Should your phone ring during our screening, you will be executed."
Message received. And we wouldn't dare try to give spoilers either.
But when we caught up with Martin at the lavish afterparty across the street at City Hall, the seal of approval had been bestowed.
Seated in the VIP area on the second floor -- overlooking a musical performance that mixed Moroccan, Turkish and Egyptian styles, along with two belly dancers -- Martin had four words to sum up his thoughts on the Season 5 premiere.
"I absolutely loved it," he said.
The 66-year-old writer, who is in the throes of trying to finish Book 6, added: "Seeing it on the big screen like that, goodness, it was just breathtaking. I think fans will be very pleased. Very pleased."
Nearby, Harington and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Natalie Dormer (Margaery) -- and their cast brethren -- were seated just a few feet away from an imposing iron throne that stood at the top of a grand staircase. Across the room, "The Jinx" director Andrew Jarecki was making the rounds as Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) posed for photos.
It was the area of the party a number of people on the first level wanted access to, imploring those who descended for their exit if the VIP wristbands could be handed down.
"Please, please!" asked one. "I want to say I got the full experience of 'Game of Thrones' at City Hall."
Season 5 begins April 12 on HBO and the recently announced HBO Now, the network's standalone streaming service.
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