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 “WheresGeorge.com” 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!),