Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where's George?

Absconding with containers of blackened salmon, pasta and vegetables, four freshly baked cookies and one spectacular looking strawberry yogurt granola parfait (with whipped cream and a cherry on top!), my friend Lori and I darted around the side of the building like raccoons hiding from a farmer with a brain-mashing shovel.
It was headed right toward us, but we were relatively certain that it hadn’t actually made eye-contact. Yes, we had been officially signed out at work by our Second AD “Diddy” as the audience loaded into the house; we were free to take food to go, and there was nothing preventing us from driving to our respective apartments, except for the fact that the farmer (aka our temporary First AD) seemed to be hovering…
“I think the stairs are over here!” Lori whispered, as we ducked behind a private bungalow, ferreting our way down through the trees to the obscure parking area where the Security Guards had guided us that morning.
“See you tomorrow!” we waved quietly, slinking into our cars, a waft of steamed broccoli lingering in the air.
“Whaaaat now…?”  I sighed despondently as Diddy’s name appeared on the caller ID at 7:35pm that night on my landline. “This can’t be good” I whimpered in my pajamas to my heroic black feline sidekick ‘Pretty’ who had lurched onto the coffin table in my gothic living room ready to take on the world (or at best, a saucer of milk, should her purring coercion and eerie vulture stare manage to eventually wrangle me into the kitchen).
“Would you like to buy yourself a big bottle of vodka?” Diddy asked after I had tentatively answered the call.
“Is that a trick question?”
“You won Dollar Day!” he laughed. “I’ll text you when Ken’s finished counting your winnings.”
In what’s become a bit of a Hollywood sit-com tradition, actors, crew members, office workers and even the highly paid Suits have all taken an interest in defacing “George” by writing their names on bills and stuffing them into a jar in hopes of winning a few extra bucks on show night. And to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t exactly smacked anyone in the face with my ponytail while racing to my purse in an eager desire to cough up one bit of my meager paycheck to the cause…
But the thing is, sometimes helping a crew pull together is just the right thing to do.
And paroling two crisp bills from the confines of the back of my checkbook (ultra-flat and mass-transit-ready should I ever need to hop a bus!), I scribbled my name with the rest of my co-workers.
A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore hardcover book for you!” I smiled at our Camera Coordinator the next morning, who deftly returned my grin with an equally weighty hardback Carl Hiaasen novel in exchange, ironically entitled “Lucky You”.
And with eighty-three dollars in my hot little paws from Dollar Day (OK, $73 after I insisted Ken take ten bucks to go to McDonalds on me), I did feel lucky!
It was our last day of filming in front of a studio audience before a lengthy hiatus, and sure, it had been a difficult schedule doing two separate live tapings in two days; but as the Entertainment Industry demands, “The Show Must Go On.”
Now, as far as recurring anxiety dreams go, I’d had this one dozens of times.
There I am, planted on stage, partially naked, script in hand, but for the life of me I can’t remember the words I’m supposed to say. Looking down at the papers clutched in my sweaty palm is always fruitless; I’m either eternally on the wrong page, or gripping an old draft that’s been rewritten over and over. But this particular scenario was even wonkier than usual…
250 zombie-like audience members had silently filed into the house, staring creepily as my fellow Stand-Ins and I (signs hung obligatorily like albatrosses around our necks) moved quietly about the stage with absolutely no dialogue, all under the careful guidance of our Director. And taking a seat on the couch as my Actress had done, I glanced at my legs just to make sure I was actually wearing pants. (*whew!*)
But where was George?
See, usually in the nightmare, George Clooney eventually makes a grand entrance, hands me a martini, and bantering some terribly charming Cary Grant-esque witticisms, skirts me away from whatever mayhem lay before me. But unfortunately Mr. Clooney was nowhere to be seen: Only the farmer with the brain-mashing shovel.
“So you guys need to hang around tonight! Nobody leaves early! And make sure you give the actors the notes from the Director before each scene, OK?!” we were admonished, as if the unprofessional act of camera-blocking in front of the live studio audience was somehow our fault. But like five toddlers allegedly caught eating paste during recess, we nodded obediently.
After all, a crew has to stick together.
Unfurling the wad of bills later that evening, I smiled at each of the written names of my co-workers who had all patted me on the back, glad-handed me in congratulations for winning Dollar Day and cheered me on in the spirit of one of the ‘little’ people collecting the Show Dough. “Don’t try to deposit them all at once in the bank” an audio guy piped up, as audio guys are apt to do. “That’s defaced money, and they probably won’t accept it” he added helpfully. (Frankly, I was more concerned with the appearance of looking like one painfully lousy stripper in front of a teller…)
But scanning through the dollars, I belly-laughed out loud to see the last bill rubber-stamped with the official “” website imprinted on the back.
Wherever the “L4499---7E; Series 2006” dollar may be these days, he gets a hearty “Spasibo!” (i.e. ‘thank you!’), for helping to pay for a quart of milk at my local Russian Deli for my feline sidekick.
And wherever my crew may be during our hiatus, I owe them all a hearty “Spasibo!” too, for reminding me what it feels like to have an extended family, no matter where my place happens to be in this world.
With love and best luck to you (and not eating paste!),

Saturday, October 16, 2010


As I'm new to this site, I thought I'd share a bit of my Hollywood history blogging.
(Nov. 2009)
Although I couldn’t quite make hide nor hair of the situation in the moment of standing in front of four television cameras, I felt the most compelling urge to jut out my lower jaw ala a Bulldog with an under bite…
Sure the desire may have been accredited to a few unsightly wrinkles, tired puppy eyes, or the fact that I was feeling a bit “stocky” after feeding relentlessly on free food (hey, I will LICK that bowl CLEAN if you leave it out!); but having been trained to be a champion, I stood perfectly motionless on my designated spot.
Our Director of Photography was pacing about, staring up at the lights, down at our faces, up at the overhead lights again and then waving us around to saunter over to our next position.
“Psst, Penny!” I heard him whisper, catching my eye and motioning for me to move my bangs away from my forehead.
And suddenly, the desire to have an under bite was further enhanced by an indescribable longing for a Pekingese (?) Pomeranian (?) accoutrement to hold the front of my hair straight up in a tiny pink bow.
“Next” he directed us with a flick of his fingers, as we all obediently trotted the well-rehearsed oval in the room.
“Hello?” I began the scripted dialogue, answering my fake cell phone and glancing compliantly at the floor as my Actress had done all week.
“Psst, Penny! Chin up… CHIN UP!” the DP chimed in yet again, motioning with his hand and an imaginary squeaky chew toy. “Favor B and C cameras, but stay ear-level with Chris while he listens in to the conversation!” he continued with hushed enthusiasm. And squaring my hind legs (if you will) like a Pug for the vertically challenged actor, we managed to finish the scene with all proper jumping about playfully.
I was just about to metaphorically lick myself congratutorially after a few more hours of bounding around like a loyal Labrador in the park, setting up three different camera angles on location, perking up my ears and barreling towards whomever was calling my name at any given moment; when at last my Actress arrived.
And territorially shepherding her (in her treacherous five inch heels) to her first mark for the opening scene onto some perilous rocky terrain, I stood guard ala a protective Great Dane until the cameras were ready to roll.
*Sound Speed: Scene H, take one, Cameras A, B, C and X. Marker.*
“Thank you my Precious!” she smiled, statuesquely bending down to plant an affectionate kiss squarely on the top of my head.
And skittering away, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps there might be a miniature sweater and a large designer handbag somewhere nearby for me to hop into…
As no official ribbons or trophies were handed out, I suppose I’ll never know if I won the title of “Best in Show”; after all, no one examined my teeth, stroked my belly or even bothered to fondle my tail. (Darn it!)
But still slobbering lovingly,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes!

(This is actually an old photo of Cecilia's first Television appearance.  Note the Colorado license plate was her "wardrobe".) 

Ferreting through my purse anxiously in search of my passport while stopped at a red light, I was certain that Cecilia (my car) and I would soon be pulled over for a spot-check at the border.  Did I have any fruits or vegetables in my possession?  Was there anything in my trunk I would need to declare?  And what were my intentions for visiting; business or pleasure?   
A half a car length in front of me at the same red light, my co-conspirator Dev glanced in his rear view mirror cool as a cucumber and gently brushed a few hairs behind his left ear.  Was this some sort of code?  Was he waving me off?  We hadn’t even prepared a proper ‘safe word’ on our cell phones in case of a sudden abort of the mission at hand! 
But trusting and following my friend, I took a left into an ominous parking lot and parked Cecilia in front of a tall cinderblock wall. 

“You would have panicked if you drove here all by yourself, wouldn’t you?” Dev smiled warmly through his rolled-down window as I slithered gelatinously out of my tiny Toyota. 

“Are we in Canada?” I asked in a cold sweat, my lil heart still pumping adrenaline like a bunny rabbit. 

“No dear, just a few miles down Ventura Boulevard from the Studio. See you in the morning!” he beamed, wheeling around ala James Bond in his sporty convertible and heading off to his own private hideaway.
“So, Cecilia sounds like she has a wad of gum stuck on her left shoe.  And she absolutely hates being turned hard left or hard right and makes this weird wobbly noise.  Plus she seems to get panicky when I drive at night in the dark.  But don’t worry about the ‘check engine’ light that’s on – she just does that when she’s cranky.  She’ll turn it off when she feels like it” I added for clarification. “After all, I had to work late last night, so of course she turned it on…  Anyway, I need to buy her two new front tires” I summarized logistically.
“Uh huh” the salesman eye-balled me warily as if he was listening to a certified lunatic.  “So what kind of car do you have?” 
“Oh, she’s a Toyota.” 
“Right. And the model?” 
“Celica…” he typed. 
“No, she’s a CE.”
“There’s no such thing as a Celica CE…  You know what, just show me your car…” he huffed pointing me to the door.  “Why did you park so far away?” he huffed again as we walked the length of the lot.
“I told you that she doesn’t like to make hard turns, and there was a delivery truck idling dead center in the middle that I had to go around” I explained. (Duh!)
“That’s a Tercel.”
“I know.”
“You said it was a Celica.”
“No, I said her name is Cecilia.”
“You said it was a Celica CE.”
Nooo, I said she’s a Toyota named Cecilia.”
“But you…  But I asked…  Just.  Give.  Me.  The.  Keys.”
“Geez, fine, whatever” I sighed.
Pacing back and forth like an expectant father outside a maternity ward in front of the “NO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONEL BEYOND THIS POINT” sign, I maintained eye contact with Cecilia for comfort, as a portly mechanic scooted her driver’s seat all the way back, loaded himself inside with great difficulty and eventually angled her into a chamber of the garage.  “I’m right here!” I whispered reassuringly as another grease monkey gave me the stink-eye for hovering too close to the door. 
But hoisting her high in the air until her wheels were dangling six feet off the ground, her headlights peering over the tops of the SUVs surrounding her and essentially waving to the peasants below, I swear I thought I saw Cecilia smile.
“Penny?” my portly mechanic called out as I had finally begun to relax in the waiting area a half hour later with a crossword puzzle.  “Your car desperately needs an alignment.  Would you please follow me?”  And leading me out to the work area where my Toyota was still the tall reigning Princess lording over the Almighty Kingdom of the Valley Garage, he showed me some green graphics on the computer screen.  “Both the camber and the caster readings are within the specified ranges, but this here is very bad” he pointed sympathetically to a scary red chart. 

“Sooo, what does that mean?” I asked naively. 

“See how these markers are so close together?  Well, basically, your car is pigeon-toed.” 
A couple hundred dollars later, I retrieved my keys and floundered in the vast roominess of my readjusted driver’s seat unable to reach the pedals.  “The mechanic seemed quite nice” I shared with Cecilia as I flopped around awkwardly, eventually scooting my way closer to the dashboard.  “Are you OK?  How are you feeling?  Shall we get you home?”  I continued maternally to my automobile, scrounging around for the lever that would return my posture to the usual upright granny-type driving position wherein my  white knuckles could be firmly locked at ‘ten’ and ‘two’ on the steering wheel. “We’re just a few miles down the street from the canyon to get us over the hill” I added, easing our way onto the boulevard.
But hands off the steering column for a solid city block, Cecilia motored steady and true in a straight line. Her ‘check engine’ light wasn’t glaring anymore and by all accounts she owned the road.
“Our show got picked up for 15 more episodes!” I shared gleefully with my parents on the phone tonight. “So I can afford the bill, and Cecilia drives like a dream!” I squealed (neither confirming nor denying having spun her around in a couple of 180s on my street).  
“That’s great!” my Mom and Dad cheered. “But we’re still going to put $200 into your bank account to pay for the tires.”
Embracing the parental instinct however it may choose to manifest itself,