With my gorgeous Actress on stage performing a scene where she (blissfully) physically did nothing more than sit down and have dialogue with two other actors, I scurried up into the audience seating and rifled through the outer pocket of my purse in search of my lighter, contemplating the reckless abandon of sneaking outside for a ciggy puff or two on a show that has become a notoriously bladder-busting-bonanza for our crew. Certainly no one would miss me for thirty seconds and should our AD eventually get around to calling an official “take five” I’d be properly “nicotined” in advance and able to run to the restroom with 75 other people who all seemed to be standing cross-legged in the “I Gotta Go” Polka dance pose on stage.
But as if I’d been reaching for a brownie at Craft Services – an ongoing Cosmic joke if you’ve been following my blog – I heard my name (or a familial version thereof) being whispered from the stage below the audience area.
“Psst! Penelope!” my UPM waved me over to the railing as I guiltily knelt down beside him feeling like Sylvester with Tweety’s tail feathers in my mouth… “So how’s it going? How has everyone been treating you?” he asked thoughtfully.
As sure as I still have two legs to stand on after decades of dancing around the politics in this business, I could immediately sense the danger in the Hollywood Land Mine Line of Questioning and the risk/reward of “stepping in it”. Yet having known our UPM since he was a mere Associate Producer - he being the first Executive to ever hire me way back when I was so painfully green, that I seriously thought McDonald’s commercials were actually shot with real McDonald’s employees – I naturally still consider him to be a friend, a confidant and mentor.
And there was so much to tell him:
“My department desperately needs the normal paid prep time of a half hour before rehearsal to transfer our notes into the new scripts – which would have been a small price to pay that we would’ve run into a meal penalty on Thursday – but the simple payment of twenty-five bucks a piece certainly wouldn’t have broken the budget. Plus, as we are all professionals and always here prior to our call time, it would be helpful if the DP didn’t have access to us until we’re officially on the clock. We can’t exactly prep our scripts if he’s got us meandering around like monkeys in new sets every week while he checks for shadows on our faces. We’ve been happy to help out thus far since rehearsals always seem to be behind schedule, and we’re more than willing to be of assistance should we be able to make the process move along more efficiently, but seriously, I had to throw away a plate with THREE strips of bacon this morning to go stand-in for lighting fifteen minutes before we’re even supposed to be here, and that’s just wrong” I sighed haplessly. (I was really looking forward to that bacon!)
Personally, I thought it was an eloquent speech which hit all topics directly on the head without being accusatory in any manner whatsoever. In fact, I was quite surprised that my pea-brain had formulated such a professional diatribe without prior rehearsal in the bathroom mirror and my own script changes.
I was a genius!
I was a fearless impromptu leader!
I was also being stared at by my UPM who hadn’t actually heard my internal mental outpouring, but was instead wondering why I was staring stupidly into space and hadn’t yet bothered to answer him.
“Good. People are very nice” was all that fell inelegantly out of my mouth.
“Glad to hear it. So, do you remember the name of that guy we had on our other show, ‘cause we need another stand-in for D.W., and he’d be great if we can get him for a day” my UPM retrained his focus to his smart phone. “I think he friended me” he continued distractedly, pulling up his FaceBook page.
“Paul” I told him as he wandered off to send a text message. And still squatting by the railing I whispered sarcastically to myself “Good job, Penny!”
As The Universe would continue its ongoing comedic antics, I found myself headed home behind a dark convertible on the canyon with a male driver who looked suspiciously like one of our Triad of Executive Producers. I couldn’t be sure mind you, and the last thing I wanted to do was honk and wave at a total stranger as he turned off on Sunset Blvd., but I filed the info into my pea-brain should a moment occur to attempt a personal conversation with one of the Powers That Be.
As my Dad always says, in the end we’re all people putting our pants on one leg at a time, right? And although I’d kept my mouth shut to the UPM, I vowed to attempt to open up more personably should the opportunity avail itself ever again.
And standing alone at Craft Services without masses of assistants swarming the EP while he selected a heart-healthy breakfast, my next opportunity had clearly arrived.
“Do you by chance live in the West Hollywood area?” I asked casually plucking a sesame seed bagel off a tray. “Because I could have sworn I followed you over Laurel Canyon the other night!” I smiled cheerily.
“Nearby” he offered pleasantly to the potentially creepy stalker (me) whose name he couldn’t quite recall at the moment. “I’m actually up in the Hollywood Hills” he politely added (vaguely).
“I bet it WAS you!” I continued jovially. “I’m still glad I didn’t honk and wave, but you have a dark colored convertible, maybe a Buick?” I offered sincerely, not particularly adept at identifying emblems on the backs of automobiles but making a valiant friendly effort nonetheless.
“Well it is a deep color, but not exactly a Buick” he smiled modestly, heading back on stage.
And ever so proud of myself for taking a chance at elevating my status from being regarded simply as a lowly stand-in to an Actual Human Being, I whispered smugly to myself “Good job, Penny!”
Seeing the convertible skirt its way up Laurel Canyon a few mornings later, Cecilia (my 1997 Toyota Tercel CE) and I smiled. Not only did the EP presumably put his jeans on one leg at a time, but we dealt with the same traffic, the same gutter-snake drivers cutting us off and the same picturesque view as we headed into the Valley. “We aren’t all that different in the big picture” I told Cecilia, aside from the EP pulling into the main gate, myself being routed to a parking structure a city block away.
And meandering across the lot on foot, I happened to notice the EP’s car in his designated spot near the stage, only to stumble upon and physically choke (up close and personal) at the insignia:
Yep, definitely NOT a Buick!
(Say it with me now, “Good job, Penny!”)
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
With love and irony,
~One Red Cent