Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The BRILLIANT Marty Feldman as "Igor"!

“MMMMHHHH!” I groaned with every heavily leaden footstep ala Peter Boyle as “The Monster” in the classic black and white 1974 film Young Frankenstein.  “MMMMHHHH!” I plodded painfully slow in my motorcycle boots with arms outstretched toward the comfort of my welcoming sound stage, clasping the hand railing as I lumbered up three whole steps. 
“Pen-nay! I need you to be Her until She arrives!” my AD shouted, as I rounded the corner with yet one more “MMMMHHHH!”
Now, I don’t know precisely what I did to myself, but for the last week or so since I worked on a television pilot, I’ve been experiencing some excruciating pain in my left heel.  And thumping my way at lunchtime to the Medical Department on my regular studio lot, I presented my symptoms to two completely baffled nurses.
“Did you hurt yourself recently?” one of them asked as I leaned back thoughtfully and took some personal inventory: 
Well, I had been up for the role of a computer Voice Over that was eventually given to someone else, so I was certainly suffering from a bruised ego…
And then there was the unfortunate entrance from a staircase, which by the brilliant aesthetic creativeness of the Set Design Department included a blind step off of a landing into the ‘sunken’ living room that had tripped most of my Second Teamers up and down, our Director up the steps, and me as well; landing inelegantly in a full-on knee-plant flailing to keep my chin from hitting the floor by grabbing onto the back of the couch.  (Not terribly graceful, but resulted in only some grossly purple/blue/greenly bruising of both of my knees.)  And requiring some humiliating assistance to get myself back upright to finish the scene, again, really only a wounded ego…
“Nope” I eventually confirmed to the perplexed medics.  “And I took two Ibuprofens at 12:35pm which had absolutely no effect” I informed them.
“Hmmm… well, take two more in four hours, and buy yourself a tube of Arnica” one nurse piped up.  “It’s excellent for deep-tissue bruising, if that’s what you have?” she offered cheerfully.
FYI, should you find yourself suffering from “plantar fasciitis” as “diagnosed” (I use the term loosely) by many of my co-workers who have also suffered foot pain, I suggest you forget the homeopathic Arnica and go straight to the moderately more effective (albeit stinky) topical “Icy Hot” followed by a couple of hearty cocktails.  (Seriously, three voddies and I was GOLDEN!)
Depositing a few paychecks and discovering that my account balance had essentially doubled overnight, I nearly tap-danced out of the bank the next day.
OOH!  I could work on some more body parts with my e-filed tax rebates!
Now, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve had correct vision for many years…
And subjecting myself to every possible examination on the planet, I was analyzed by the Doctor’s Assistant “Igor” (OK, so she didn’t actually have a hump back, but that’s neither here or there); was blissfully pointed to a variety of different colored chairs in my ongoing blindness; endured the glaucoma ocular air puff (about twelve times since despite the polite countdown, I couldn’t stop blinking); was checked by another machine and was told that my blood pressure is moderately high (well, STOP PUFFING AIR IN MY FACE!); was given two separate tries at my depth of field perception – one on the computer, one with lenses and a hand-held pad; passed the color-blindness test; attempted to focus on what they tell me is a “farmhouse”; had my retinas scanned by a terrifyingly large computer apparatus whilst my head was being hand-held and maneuvered into position with my nose pressed against the machine; and despite my “Abby-Normal” level-headed decision to walk in the door that day, I came terribly close to having a monster panic attack!
“I promise I can help you” the Doctor eventually assuaged my anxiety in a soothing voice as I begrudgingly smudged away half of my make-up smeared all over the hi-tech machinery. 
“I got it” Igor added with a smile and a sterile wet-wipe.
And with a few more “better or worse?” tests, the Doctor guided me into a sanitized room wherein she plucked my eye wide open and physically crammed a disposable contact lens onto my cornea.
“Look down, look left, look right, look straight ahead.  How’s that?” she inquired.
“All good?!” I blinked surprisingly at the newest version of my world offering a bit of clarity.
“Great!  Now let me put the other one in” she continued, peeling back my upper and lower eyelids and placing the nearly invisible saucer on my other cornea.  “Look down and up” she directed me as the flotation device wandered casually into place.
Scanning the room, everything appeared in High Def!
I could read!
I could see far!
My right eye was being trained for distance, my left eye for closer viewing!!!
“Now let’s do a test with you” my Doc recommended, as I washed my hands profusely before performing the task of plucking out and properly re-inserting the lens in and out of my eyeball all by myself.
“And you’ll NEVER have to purchase any solution EVER AGAIN” she smiled.  “You simply wear them for a day, and then THROW THEM OUT!  So you never have to worry about cleaning your lenses or re-introducing any allergens into your eyes” she added.  “And for full disclosure, if you wear your lenses every single day for a whole year, you’ll probably pay about $600 for a twelve month supply – just so you know,” she added informatively.
“Yeah, I might consider wearing my glasses A LOT on my days off…” I nodded.
“And about your glasses…” Igor typed busily on her computer as I pulled out my debit card.  “You’re getting the Premium AR, MF (?) Scratch-resistant, progressive HD lenses which cost $435.00.  Oh, and the eye exam is separate, so since you got checked for a contact lens fitting, THAT total is $179.00”
“MMMMHHHH…” I moaned gutturally. 
But hey, on the bright side, I had all the exams, I had my tax rebates (sorry Las Vegas, you’ll get NOTHING from me this year!) plus a couple of weeks of free contact lenses and other miscellaneous eye-care stuff in my swag-bag from the Doctor of Optometry.
“Oh, and by the way, since you’re purchasing new frames, your HD lenses are half off!” Igor brightened (as did I!)  “You don’t happen to be a member of AAA?” Igor wondered before taking my card and heading off to the credit machine.
“Why, yes I am!” I burrowed through my purse to retrieve positive proof.
“Excellent!  That’s another $19.00 off!”
(Thanks Dad!)
Beginning to think that it’s all MAINTENANCE after the age of 40, but happy to know that there’s a Dr. Frankenstein when you need one,
~Bright-eyed Monster P

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Perks, Mertz and Personal Quirks

Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, Stephen King’s “Christine” Cecilia (my 1997 Toyota Tercel CE) pouted as I turned the key in the ignition. 
OK, OK!  So we had to be up painfully early, and we had had a couple of twelve and thirteen hour work days where she was stuck in a parking structure; but she’d spent the night at home under a lovely jacaranda tree, and we only had a few more lengthy days on our pilot which included a VIP slot on a Saturday wherein she could embrace her inner driving Diva and I could embrace my inner dorky desire to waltz through the Warner Bros. Main Gate ala Pee Wee Herman!
*Check Engine* Cecilia replied passive/aggressively with a bright orange icon.
Oh, FFS…
By all accounts – at least those extremely rare few conversations that I was privy to – the pilot was coming together quite beautifully:  funny, well-written, clear and concise characters with well-defined relationships, and frankly (despite my perhaps somewhat unorthodox sense of humor) it just made me laugh!
And with an extended lunch hour as our cast took part in some interviews, I traipsed happily down the lot to see if my friend Ellie Mae (also working on a pilot) might be available for a lovely ladies lunch.
It was just one of those uncommon moments when my world made PERFECT sense and ANY future events of the day couldn’t POSSIBLY change my attitude!
I saw the four strangers huddled together only shortly before they saw me.
All the little hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up as my “fight or flight” instinct kicked in.  But I couldn’t show any fear or emotion as I attempted to pass them, or I’d be a victim in a heartbeat.
“Stay cool, stay calm” I told myself, holding my breath and walking with a steady professional purpose so as not to catch an eye and require Security Guards to come to the rescue.
And rounding the corner of another stage safely, I exhaled deeply in relief from the personal unbridled savagery that might’ve potentially occurred…
Daubing my sweaty upper lip with a tissue, I couldn’t help but smile confidently at my brilliant self-preservation survival tactics: 
I got to see the ridiculously handsome Actor Simon Baker up close and personal for the SECOND time in my life who just happened to be standing on the lot; AND I managed to restrain myself from Ethel-Mertzing him!!!
Having not shared the same happy heart-palpitating adrenaline of the day as I did, Cecilia obliging took me home; navigating herself once again under the jacaranda tree in an amiable way to allow us free access to leave regardless of our upstairs neighbors’ shared parking spot and any possible conflicting work hours.
“It’s supposed to rain for the next few days, so we should probably leave a little early” I pondered out loud.
*Check Engine* Cecilia’s dashboard icon replied petulantly.
And crabby as she seemed in the moment, I still protectively locked up her steering column with the bright red ancient apparatus known as “The Club”.  (Hey, every Diva needs her bling!) 
Whilst it was actually only a thirteen hour work day, I’d been up since 5:30am trying terribly hard not to look like a withering version of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum version of, well, ANYONE, so by the time I piled what was left of my weary carcass into the car around 9:45pm, my ass was dragging.
“Let’s go home, Cecilia” I sighed.
*Check Engine*
“Yes, yes, I’ll take you in for an oil change soon” I whined.  “Can you please just get us home?” I begged, wheeling her around three loops to the bottom level of the structure, only to be met with a misting of light spittle from the incoming rain clouds.
Now, Los Angelenos are notorious for their inherent lack of ability to drive in any weather which does not live up to our usual standards of Paradise; and with even a hint of moisture in the air, cars start hydroplaning all over the freeways, mayhem ensues, and next thing you know the only breaking news in Hollywood has surprisingly nothing to do with Lindsay Lohan, and everything to do with STORM WATCH 2012!
But lucky for me (a native Hoosier), I’d spent my teenage years driving my white bitchin’ 1978 Camaro (“Bessie”) through rain, sleet, blinding snow (and even a telephone pole!) and yet somehow always managed to make it home safely. 
So what harm could there be in a puny little mist?
In my ongoing eternal (albeit finite) quest to make sense of the world around me, I’m beginning to learn that as soon as I dismiss “something” as “nothing”, I’m inadvertently pressing some sort of wildly hilarious Cosmic Joke Button…
With the green light go ahead, I made a left onto the street as whispers of precipitation gently kissed Cecilia’s windshield.
But it wasn’t until we had barreled down Forest Lawn at a whopping 45 mph to the red light at Barham however, that I felt the need to hit the relatively unused and somewhat torn apart rubber windshield wipers.
Now, for those of you who have never parked your car under a jacaranda tree, please note that whilst in bloom, you’re generally looking at a visually pleasing purple dazzling creation of Mother Nature that will adorn your automobile like a float at a West Hollywood Parade; but when not in bloom, the damn thing becomes an evil demonic seeping mass of miniscule leaflets and invisible syrupy-like ooze. 
“No worries!” I explained to Cecilia as I attempted to peer through the goopy mess of tree sap and smoggy sprinkle.  “That’s what wiper fluid is for!” I beamed, squirting a dry well of absolutely nothing.
Suffice it to say, I have now been labeled as a certifiably crappy OFFICIAL Los Angeleno driver.
And at the almighty speed of approximately 5 mph in a drizzle, whipping my arm out of the window with a paper towel to clear a pocket of vision at every red light, I got honked at, flipped off, and verbally assaulted by every other driver who had the great misfortune of winding up behind me in my painfully slow yet safe path to home.
*Check Engine*
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” I sighed again, as Cecilia and I gave our own metaphorical middle fingers to the jacaranda and sidled up behind my neighbor’s car; blocking them in, but knowing full-well that we would once again be leaving early for our final Saturday shoot in front of a live audience.
For decades now, my parents and I have ended our long-distance conversations with the same words – “I Love You!”  
“And be careful!” they always tell me; (my personal verbal amulet of protection!)
So to my Mom and Dad – my utmost gratitude.  May you continue to bless me with gentle cautions to always keep me out of harm’s way!
To my fellow L.A. drivers that night – my apologies that you felt the need to be complete jackasses  if I unintentionally hindered your path.
And to Cecilia – Seriously???  You turned off the “check engine” light exactly FIVE minutes before I wheeled your chassis  into Jiffy Lube???
Well played!
Back to embracing my “regular” show, and wishing you all a smooth ride this week,
~Low Rider P

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oh, the Sacrifices We Make for a Paycheck!

“Zanshin is a term used in the Japanese martial arts.  It refers to a state of awareness – of relaxed alertness.  The literal translation of zanshin is “remaining mind”.  In several martial arts, zanshin refers more narrowly to the body’s posture after a technique is executed.”  ~Wikipedia.
Arriving early as always to begin an odd schedule of seven random days shooting a pilot during my (oh-so-hoped-for-two-week) hiatus, the Security Guard at the gate (a gazillion miles away from my stage) gently admonished me for arriving before my call time.  “We don’t generally let people on the lot if you’re over an hour early” he apologized. 
But seeing as how the only alternative was for me to sit in my car and idle for the next four minutes whilst traffic backed up behind me, he kindly printed out my Visitor Pass.
“Well executed” I patted Cecilia’s (my Toyota’s) steering wheel, who hummed modestly as we pulled into the parking structure.
Ooh, the excitement of a new show!
Ooh, who would I meet?
Ooh, who would I “be”?
I certainly had a sense of “relaxed alertness”, in that I was a bit sleepy, yet excited about whom I might get to perform for and what characters I might get to portray!
“You’ll be shadowing the Mom and the granddaughter, and doing the Voice Over in the Cold Open B” my AD instructed me, as I fervently marked my script’s cast list.  “And we may not have the granddaughter for the Run-Thru, so just be prepared” he trailed off, rushing about to tend to other business on his headset.
Piece of cake!
I’d worked more difficult shows in my DREAMS!
What I didn’t anticipate however, was unwrapping an eggy, cheesy and hammy croissant breakfast sandwich to hopefully jumpstart my day which unfortunately smelled suspiciously like a combination of old airplane food and feet.
And suffice it to say, by the time we broke for lunch, my little body was rebelling…
“Just a heads up” I alerted my ADs.  “Waves of nausea happening!  Sweating profusely!  Thought you all might need to know…!”  I gurgled unpleasantly.
“Well then, stay near a trashcan” one of them recommended, head down as he typed busily into his laptop.
“Closest bathroom is over at the commissary” our Stage PA piped up helpfully, pointing a friendly finger toward an exit door. 
(OY!  This was NOT how I wished to tackle my first day!)
With fifteen minutes to go (and “to go”) before Run-Thru, I scampered around the Warner Brothers lot in search of some sort of concoction at the nearby gift store, only to happen upon a FABULOUS skull and crossbones bracelet that I absolutely HAD to have (screw the fact that I didn’t qualify for the studio discount – they only had three bracelets in stock!); made a store employee belly-laugh at my graphic t-shirt that said “The ONLY thing we have to fear is FEAR ITSELF… and spiders…(which he squealed at and agreed with!), and eventually wound my way with his direction to the Nurse’s Station under the big Red Cross sign a few buildings down.
“What can I do for you?” the lovely lady asked.
“I’m guesting on stage 19 and I’m having a bit of tummy trouble…” I whispered.  “Do you by chance have any kind of Pepto-Bismol thingy?”
“No.  We don’t have ANYTHING like that” she shook her head negatively.
(Oh dear God, this was going to be a VERY UNCOMFORTABLE Run-Thru!)
“I’M KIDDING!” she giggled.  “I’ve worked on this lot for sooo many years!” she laughed; “and you are NOT the first human being with tummy troubles!  So, what are your symptoms, sweetie?” she wondered maternally.
“Um, nausea:  and it seems to be headed, uh, south…”
“Here, take two packets” she nodded, palming me a couple packages of belly-friendly chewable stabilizers.  “Use as directed and I hope you feel better honey” she smiled sending me on my way.
And with some probable pink chalk in my teeth, a few minutes left prior to Run-Thru on my watch (and a bitchin’ new bracelet!); I managed to make it on-set, on-time, Bismuth Subsalicylate tablets (really? Windows Vista didn’t spell-check me on THAT?) dissolving in my mouth, my AD informed me that I would indeed be performing cold for the Producers.
Sans introduction and any fore-warning to our Producers, Writers and Cast, I leapt up on cue in the middle of our first scene together and embraced the Star of our pilot as scripted, standing-in for a ten-year-old little girl.
And clutching our Hero as “his niece” had rehearsed, I wrapped my arms cozily around our Leading Man for two lines of dialogue who stared at me blankly like I was an on-stage stalker.
Curled up on the floor with my shoes off in a corner (in respect to our Set Dec and Props personnel), I laid splayed on the carpet as our television play continued into the Second Act, when once again I delivered a line in lieu of our adolescent Actress who was still unavailable.
“I guess I should’ve said ‘filling in for “Hannah” is…’” our Director kerfuffled to the Network and Producers; searching for my name which completely eluded him.
But by Act Three, I was busily embracing my zanshin:
All of my techniques had been executed on stage, I was ever-so mindful of my alertness, and frankly, all I wanted to do was be released from work and sent home to allow the Bismuth Subsalicylate tablets to assist in resuming my normal body’s posture!
(Translation:  I just wanted to be HOME and near my own bathroom!)
In “hindsight” (if you will), I did find some humor in the fact that between our Hero and our Executive Producer who both have ties to the Oscar nominated movie Bridesmaids, what better pilot for me to have had some uncomfortable bodily function issues?!
Wishing you all a non-crappy day at work,
~Hollywood Martial Artist Pepto P ;)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Extremely Wowed and Incredibly Gross

“At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”  ~Belgian Surrealist Rene Magritte regarding the above painting titled "The Son of Man".  (Oil on canvas; 1964.)
Personally, all I felt was some bizarre flux in my highly advanced molecular acuity regarding my childhood sit-com-related obsessive experiences, when suddenly my left arm flung wildly out of control for no apparent reason and randomly knocked a can of Diet Coke all over the floor. 
“Oh I’m so sorry, so sorry, so sorry…” I apologized profusely as our Stage PA handed me a roll of paper towels and wheeled a trashcan near me for me to do a quick goopy clean-up before our Cast began their table reading.
What on earth was wrong with me? 
Something was CLEARLY out of sync in my world… 
And whilst the phenomenon doesn’t occur terribly often, my sixth sense was telling me that I was about to experience what I have come to refer to, as a “Little Did She Know Day”.
My gorgeous Actress was present, she was feeling well-rested, and with the entire Cast on stage on time, I would have no significant worries or pressure for the day!
So what was up with the mental and spazzoidical (my word) drama?
Finishing our own private Table Reading of the script, I collected my banged-up, bruised and beaten can of Diet Coke to take to the recycling bin, only to find myself absolutely paralyzed in a Director’s chair as a man with a silver pony tail made his way through the crowd to hug and personally greet everyone that he knew; his familiar voice resonating somewhere back in the heart of my youth.
Whilst I couldn’t see his face buried in the arms of all the people clutching him, I caught a glimpse of a nose here, part of a chin there, and searching my personal mental archives to retrieve my databanks of adolescent sit-com-watching history, a face was beginning to take shape…
“Hi!  What are you doing here?!” my gorgeous Actress (who just so happens to originate from very near The Big Apple) clasped her arms around the visitor blocking his visage from my view once more.
“We’re shooting a show on location outside that I’m directing” he told her.  “I didn’t want to disrupt your rehearsal time, but I absolutely had to stop by and say hello to you my dear friend.”
“Everyone, this is Henry!” she informed the crowd of us for anyone who’d never had the pleasure of meeting the Hollywood Icon known as “The Nicest Man in Show Business.” 
And as my Actress moved to the side, I found myself in a full-blown time machine.
I was maybe 12 years old?  I could see the panels on the walls in our refurbished basement in Indiana, the pool table on the other side of the room that my frantic parents protectively stuffed me and my sister under during tornado warnings, the wooden staircase separating the two, and despite the L-shaped sectional couch behind me, I found myself camped out cross-legged on the carpet in front of our television completely engaged in one of my favorite sit-coms.
Smash cut to present time and my adolescent pea-brain still trying to make sense of the adult/professional situation unfolding before my very eyes…
“The Fonz” aka Actor/Director Henry Winkler was in my living room!  He was in our living room television set!  Well, that is, not actually on our TV set back in Indiana, but he was ON our set that’s the “living room set”!  On stage!  In person!  In our living room television set!  Right in front of me!  (I know, I know; I’m still mentally Ethel-Mertzing him, but I can’t HELP it!!!) 
“Again, my apologies for disrupting your rehearsal!”  Mr. Winkler added politely as the Cast swarmed him to take group photos for their Twitter thingies. 
And smiling warmly for each and every picture, he walked off the stage graciously, taking a moment to acknowledge our working CREW with a shrug and a humble “Can I get you guys anything?!”
*insert teenager girly sigh and sudden desire to own a poodle skirt*
Ahh…  The Magic of Hollywood…!
“Unless I text you otherwise, she’ll be here at 9:45am for the morning run-thru.” my AD smiled assuredly as he signed me out for the day. 
And walking to the parking structure, I almost made it all the way to my car before the text came in!  (Ooh, so close!)
Relatively confident in representing the nuts and bolts of the episode in lieu of our gorgeous Actress to all of our technical departments the next morning, I felt as though I had effectively portrayed the scenes with all due respect; as well as picking up and delivering the cues to all of my fellow Actors.  And I must say that (despite the massive re-writes) meandering the length of the stage for our final scene, I was feeling…, well…, kinda proud of myself! 
Was it the presence of a Hollywood Icon that had graced our stage that assisted in my performance?
Were we somehow blessed by the cosmic humbleness that randomly attaches itself to a decent and good-spirited human being?
Oh, what did The Universe wish to show me?!
For those of you who remember old episodes of Happy Days, “Fonzie” was absolutely terrified by one thing and one thing only: liver.
And showing our final scene, I discovered my own Fonzie-esque "kryptonite":
“I brought your father some beef tongue” our Guest Star paraphrased her script, pawing at a slice of an apparent ethnic delicacy with acrylic fingernails and indulging in some tongue-on-tongue action; the equivalent sound of a fruit roll-up flapping juicily in her mouth.
And just like that, I was DONE!!!

Looking forward to hiatus for a few more days; ever so thankful to have already booked a pilot at Warner Bros., (ooh, I can pillage the gift shop!) and praying that I NEVER EVER have to see or SMELL beef tongue again (Oof, I’m still choking back the vomit!!!),
~Poodle-skirt-searching P  :)