Monday, November 26, 2012

Mutiny on the Bountiful?


Breezing onto the stage a half an hour late, our temporary Director (and I use the term loosely) a man of unbridled accomplishments who had led our hearty team throughout three whole episodes of rough waters, announced that he had not yet read the script for the day, and wondered out loud if there were any small changes he might need to know about!
(Insert painfully long pause in the space/time continuum as an entire television crew rocked forward and aft whilst sharing extremely annoyed glances at each other; coupled with a prolonged period of eye-rolling, heavy sighs, and irritated groans, not to mention a few guttural expletives and threats of potential flogging.)

As is the par for our abnormally listing ship of a sit-com, once again the episode had been completely rewritten overnight (they even changed the title!), and even before showing the scenes to the tech crew, the Powers That Be had to hear their words out loud, as they continued to rewrite each and every scene on what should have been a simple camera-blocking day.
Flat-out frustrated at arriving on time for their early morning ESU set-up, sitting on apple boxes and frankly just dicking around (pardon my language) for hours on end, suffice it to say, the Crew was HIGHLY AGITATED.

But as the yellow, then pink, then green, then buff-colored pages filtered down onto the stage from the Crow’s nest (aka Writer’s Room), we appeared to have an actual workable script!
Man the decks, sea-farers; it was time to set sail!

“So Camera B goes to a two-shot right on the bread crumbs bit” our (also temporary) equally unprepared newly hired expert Technical Coordinator informed the Operator.
“Um, the bread crumbs joke was cut, at least for now” I offered up helpfully.

“Oh.  Well then take this line cue” our Technical Coordinator suggested, reading a speech which had ALSO been deleted.
“Um, that dialogue is gone too” I informed him, now fervently backed by my fellow Second Teamers who are on top of their game and were reaching a hearty level of peevishness.  (Sub-text:  “Hey, we put up with a lot of crap for our measly paychecks, but if you’re going to rake in a pant-load of money, is it too much to ask that YOU do your freakin’ JOB and READ the CURRENT SCRIPT?”) 

OH, it was indeed a MUTINY!  Never in my life or career, had I witnessed a throng of below-the-line people, throw down the gauntlet and challenge ANYONE higher up!
But sometimes, a Crew deserves a Voice!

Frankly, our lunch break couldn’t have arrived fast enough.

Now please don’t get me wrong kind readers, I LOVE my job, and I am SO blessed to have sustained my career in an unusual occupation, but I have such a low tolerance for inefficiency and lack of preparation.
And having freely vented my issues with true comrades at the commissary, I stared blankly at my shoes as one of my friends warmly hugged our Technical Coordinator who exchanged all of the polite “good to see you!” Hollywood greetings.

Uch.  Was I a horrible person?  Perhaps I hadn’t given the man a proper chance?  Was I being too critical on waters that are (at best) renowned as difficult to navigate??? 

But with graceful good-byes to the gentleman, my friend slipped her arm through mine and whispered into my ear these sage words:  “He’s THE most incompetent man I ever had to work with.”
“We’re devils and black sheep, we’re really bad eggs. Drink up me ‘earties, YO HO!” 

(Hey, sometimes you have to channel your inner Johnny Depp as the crazy/heroic “Captain Jack Sparrow”, even if you and your ‘earties are only sipping Diet Coke!)

To say that our Crew didn’t give a crap after lunch would be an understatement.
Our Director was thrilled that after three episodes he was done, and relinquishing all power to the Executives, he sat numbly in a chair, head in hand.

And at that singular moment, I understood.
One person can only do so much.

Scampering onto the set and flinging a sign around my neck to designate my Gorgeous Actress for our delightful Guest Star, I planted myself accordingly into the scene with a Pop Star Singer who may or may not “just wanted to have fun”  back in the 1980’s.

And taking my position, our lovely Guest Star rightfully wondered who the heck I was.
“Got it, Penny!” she laughed as she read my albatross sign, punching me playfully in the chest.  (Um, “OW!” but I’m OK!)

Barring a strong Captain at the helm, there was little to bring our Crew back together to guide our ship into a proper heading.  Re-writes continued to wash over us all like a deluge, and with no dry land in sight, we began to spiral into a full-blown maelstrom.

Speaking a technical language ever so foreign (to me and most of my swabbies), regarding how to most properly amplify her voice, our Guest Star communicated with our Audio Department who brilliantly worked some kind of dolphin magic.

And performing a classic Gershwin tune, I’ll be darned if every single Crew member didn’t stand up and allow themselves to be bathed in her voice; our very own private concert, uniting us together in spontaneous thunderous applause!!!  (I actually cried!)

Feeling particularly blessed to have a bit of time off, yet undeniably (extremely!) grateful for the work to come after hiatus, I shall throw my hat (um, verily?), er, uh, Captain-esque-ishly to our Hearty Crew!!!

May ye all have dined with delight over your Thanksgiving Feasts!
With love,

~Swashbuckler P
Author’s addendum:

Would I let you down, friendly readers, and NOT post my yearly disastrous “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” kitchen malfunction?  Aww, you know me better than that! 

(Yeah... that would be 1/4th of a refrigerated bagel that REALLY should've been toasted prior to the "Use By" date...  But I REALLY did have better food this time around!)  :D


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Which Hat Shall We Wear Today?

Bette Davis (left) and her Stand-In Sally Sage on the movie "Now Voyager".  (1942)
Festering internally at the prospect of this so-called man named “Mario” employed for the day to take over MY job as a Stand-In for my Gorgeous Actress, I stood petulantly with arms folded in the shadows behind the lighting crew as they rigorously created a Hollywood day of sunshine (in the flux of occasional rain) as we prepared to shoot one scene of our sit-com on location.
“The car isn’t a stick shift, is it?” I wearily confirmed with my ADs paranoically (hey, it’s my blog, and I can make up my own words), recollecting a childhood trauma of my sister allowing me to drive her VW Bug around our front lawn wishing-well island of flag-stone and plowing through two 10 speed bikes into the garage at the tender age of twelve-ish-ness. 

“Um, no…  It’s not a stick shift” I was patently reassured.
“Well, that’s very good then!” I beamed; script in hand and most ready to perform the scene in lieu of my Gorgeous Actress who was still in Hair/Make up.

“Watch your eyes, Mario!” the electricians chimed in unison, bathing Mario in a golden waft of flattering, age-defying warmth that seemed to erase every single wrinkle on his face.
“Go ahead and hop in the car” our First AD directed my co-worker Tara to sit-in for the passenger.  And within about fifteen minutes later, she too was effused with her very own personal glow of idyllic lighting.

“But, but, but, I wanna sit in the car too…” I mumbled to myself.

Meanwhile, feeling completely irrelevant and unnecessary to the filming, and simply trying to take up as little space as possible while all of the most imperative cogs of the Hollywood infrastructure worked their magic, I selected another “visible/yet invisible” locale on which to stand; a small island between the lanes of incoming and outgoing traffic through the security gate where we were shooting.
“Heads up!  Watch your back!  Cars coming through!” our Associate Producer suddenly found himself directing traffic ala a Studio Security Guard, until Very Important Phone calls were made and a fleet of gentlemen with official STOP signs eventually came to the rescue.

And although meetings had been taken and preparations had apparently been mapped out accordingly by the Higher-Ups of the Studio Lot, things had gone horribly awry.
The chatty morning talk show on the sound stage next to ours had two different audiences filtering in and out willy-nilly, plus one sit-com on the lot had ordered up 150 background actors who had completely filled up the North parking structure, and with no alternative, they’d been re-routed back to the gate where we were filming.

All in all, well, let’s just call it mayhem.   
Approached by my favorite UPM that I’ve known for decades, we stared at the scene unfolding before us together in awe and silence for a few minutes, gusty winds occasionally spraying our faces with mist.

“So, Mario is standing in for you…” he mused, always calmly focused on the tasks that he has the ability to actually control.
“Yep” I concurred, still a wee bit miffed at being replaced.

“Well, at least you’re not sitting under a silk in the rain” he offered pleasantly.
“Well, yeah, there’s that” I yielded, nodding agreeably.

“Not to mention the fact that it’s a $200,000.00 car…” he tilted his head thoughtfully.

“I just hope Mario can do her New York accent” my UPM smirked dryly before walking away.
Oh!  To think that I might have had to be in the driver’s seat of a car that cost $200,000.00 and I would’ve had to put it in gear and actually navigate the automotive Work Of Art around all of the angry drivers trying to access the parking structure?  What was I thinking?!?!  Give me the cold, the rain and whatever else The Universe had to throw at me!!!  My life was blessed!  (My ass was freezing), but MY LIFE WAS BLESSED!!!  “Bring it on!” I crossed my arms once again in defiance as the rain began to cascade.

“Penny to the set please, I need Penny on the set.”
(Oh!  When will I learn NOT to challenge The Universe?!!!)

Most UN-accustomed to the tedium of standing-in for a Stand-In, our Transportation guy Mario had answered his cell phone, and despite the Camera Operators trying to line up their shots, he had randomly exited the vehicle and wandered off for a chat.
And only by the Grace of God (having watched my friend Tara struggle with how the heck to even open the door handle), did I slide into the driver’s seat effortlessly of the Aston Martin:

Oh, the car was luxurious!  There wasn’t even a gear shift thingie!  There were only buttons on the dashboard to put the car in neutral, drive, reverse and park!

Mmm, mmm, mmm…  A girl could get used to that…!  But less than five minutes later I heard the voice of my Gorgeous Actress approaching me with all due “thank you”s; my immediate cue to exit the lap of luxury.

Having been up since 5:30am, on my feet all day and positively exhausted by our wrap time of 11:12pm, I was crawling out of my skin.  And tossing my work stuff into Cecilia’s passenger seat, I sighed heavily as she immediately, accusatorily turned on her “check engine” light YET AGAIN.
“Yes, OK?  YES!!!  I CHEATED ON YOU TODAY WITH AN ASTON MARTIN!” I informed my 1997 Toyota.  “HE WAS CHOCOLATE BROWN, AERODYNAMIC AND CRADLED MY BODY LOVINGLY!” I confessed – much to the bewilderment of my fellow co-workers who were also piling into their automobiles after a long-ass day…  (Oops!) 

But arriving home safely and jonesing for a cocktail, waaay too tired to sleep (this may be confusing to some people, however it makes perfect sense to a lot of workers in the Industry), I logged on to the poot to check my emails. 
“Please review your recent purchase!” wished for my assistance regarding a Halloween-ish (aka year-round for me!) acquisition of a magnificent set of four handmade, lead-free crystal, crafted in America, (decorated by artisans at the Susquehanna Glass Company in Pennsylvania) wine goblets.  “Please use the product before providing your review.”

And donning my Critic’s hat, prepared to give a rave review on their appearance alone, I paused in contemplation…
I’m not even a wine drinker!  I’d only unwrapped one glass, admired its excellent craftsmanship, then wrapped it up again like another Work of Art (well, $35.00 for the set, not $200,000.00!) and put the goblet back in the box.

But you know what?  Sometimes you deserve to treat yourself.
And pouring my voddy/diet 7Up out of my Rite-Aid glass (with a paper towel wrapped around it) into my elegant bat-goblet, I couldn’t help but recline leisurely.  (Who knew that finely balanced crystal could hold 19 ounces of a mixed drink gently in the palm of your hand?!?!)

Gearing up for three more days of hard work, but busting out the crystal glasses for two weeks of hiatus over Thanksgiving,
I’ll just be me,

~Hat-free P :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Safety Blankets

Thrashing around in my sleep (as a perimenopausal woman of my age is apparently wont to do), I awoke abruptly at 1:30 in the morning, completely astonished that within the small window of three and a half hours of hardcore REM sleep, I’d somehow miraculously managed to remake my bed with the top covers all splayed upward.  (One end even had a proper hospital corner!)  WTF???
Did I have a hot flash followed by cold feet?  Possibly.  But more than likely (I surmised with all of the inexplicable genius-ness that seems to manifest itself in sleepy-tude, wherein, without so much as the assistance of counting on your fingers, we share that Divine Supernatural Gift of Einstein-esque ability to discern to the exact MINUTE of how much longer we get to sleep):  yes, more than likely, I was having a small panic attack.

As our sit-com had been on hiatus for a week, I’d stayed up ‘til 10pm, waiting patiently for the script to arrive via email so I could at least have a handle on what I might need to do, plus once again, we had a new Director coming to our stage that I’d never worked with, nor did I have any input from friends as to what to expect!
And logging onto the poot all bleary-eyed at around 1:37am, still without a script to glance over, I thanked God for my… um… my… (Well, see, I can’t do the math NOW!); but for my precise timing left until the 6:30am alarm clock!

Flopping back on the pillow, I flailed around a bit in the darkness wondering how I’d ever get back to sleep.  I missed my feline companion Pretty who was such a comforting, warm-bodied, albeit wet-nosed opiate.  And worse yet, I’d screwed up the date of her adoption in my last blog post, which was actually Oct. 29.
But being still in the silence of the night, I heard the strangest sound coming from the left side of the bed…

Call it a Halloween miracle if you will: but my animatronic, “Perfect Petzzz” snow white fox “Cousin Itt” stuffed animal (who seemingly sighed his final “breath” two months ago), suddenly started purring like a kitty in its creepy little make-shift fake bedding.
And… sleep!

Grabbing a paper copy of the missing script (apparently lost to all “Yahoo!” users) early in the morning and graciously informed by my Second AD that I would be filling in for the extraordinarily artistically challenging roles of (my words) “Hot tub Blonde #1 and Hot tub Blonde #2”, I thanked him for the heads-up. 

Taking our shoes off and clambering into the spa with our Guest Star (clothes on, no water!), I nestled appropriately into the arms of a swarthy Englishman whom I had done a series with (short-lived, as many may be) back in 1995.  And re-introducing myself, we hugged warmly as old friends do at the prospect of once again performing scenes together after so many years!
Feeling particularly honored that our new Director respected me enough to ask me to stand up on a spoken line (always a good sign, as we Stand-Ins are often completely ignored), I did as told, all the while acting the part (according to the script on the day) of a 20-something year old “flotation device”.  (Crap!  Had I known in advance, I might’ve been able to drudge up a ten-year-old Wonder Bra!)

Yes, such is my occupation… 
But to think, in hindsight, that I should be even remotely nervous the night before? 

After TWENTY PLUS years (insert hands-on-hips posture as I mount the saddle atop one of my High Horses (yes, let’s call him “Pfft!”)), in the niche of the sometimes inconsequential cobweb that dangles precariously from the bottom rung of the Hollywood Ladder, I’ve established my NAME in this business!!!

And thanked for my assistance in the scene, my Englishman briefly casually massaged my shoulders as we stared together at our catered Craft Services sterno flames heating trays of blackened salmon, almond chicken and miscellaneous side dishes.  “It’s so nice to work with you again” he smiled genuinely, with an affectionate gesture of a cheek to cheek face hug.  “So, what’ve they got there for us to lunch on, Peggy?”
After TWENTY PLUS years in this business (insert hands-on-hips posture as I may or may not have lost my footing dismounting my High Horse), I had established my NAME in this business!

And apparently, that NAME is once again “Peggy”!

Climbing into my car parked on the roof of the structure at my favorite studio lot shortly thereafter, I actually looked forward to running some errands.  After all, I was off from work early for the day on my first week back after a one week hiatus and (Luddite that I still am); I had officiously mapped out my entire route of tasks to achieve on a Post-It note.

*click, click, click*

*click, click, click*
Seriously, WTF???

*click, click, click*
AW, C’MON!!!

Call it a second Halloween miracle, but dialing AAA once again (and feeling ever so proud that I, with my security badge, had the authority to allow the truck onto the premises!) we scurried up to take care of my car who, much like my animatronic Cousin Itt, had apparently died.
“I can get her going with a few taps to the starter to get the cogs in place, but if you have a good mechanic, I’d get that starter replaced today because this is just gonna get worse and keep happening” my friendly AAA Superhero Jack recommended.

And scurrying over Laurel Canyon, I wheeled Cecilia safely into the comforting arms of my brilliant mechanic and friend Jose. 
“Uh-oh” Jose hugged me.  “What’s Cecilia up to now?” he smiled, well aware of the bond between me and my automobile.

Normally, immensely grateful to embrace our bizarre schedule of having Tuesdays off for the Writers to work, I couldn’t help but fret.  What if Cecilia couldn’t be fixed?  After all, we’d been through so much together!  And to this day, after our “ordeal”, she STILL has safety pins on her dashboard as a gentle reminder!

And walking five or six city blocks to Jose’s business, not yet sure of Cecilia’s status, but feeling the need to be close, I hovered around Sunset Blvd., waiting for the call.
There was a delightful flower shop with spider webs and black roses in the window; a garishly lit neon tattoo parlor (tempting!), and an Eastern European Deli where I stopped to buy a bottle of water and was blathered at in a foreign language by the shop keeper.

“I’m sorry, how much?” I pointed to my water.
“Oh.  Not Russian?  One dollar” he smiled, carefully displaying four ones from my five on the countertop for the security camera.  (Was I in Vegas?!)

And lurking around the corner to get a glimpse at Cecilia, I saw that her hood was up, which meant that I STILL had to buy some more time.
So continuing my walk, I happened upon a comic book store.

Harmless, right?
Quite frankly, I’m not sure which made me the most uncomfortable…

There were Hollywood technicians setting up video for a live chat with someone highly respected in the comic book world, as well as a small throng of said celebrity’s followers who seemed completely unnerved at the presence of an actual female in their store.

I was Penny (myself, with my red-headed ponytail), yet somehow I seemed to be standing-in for Kaley Cuoco as “Penny” on The Big Bang Theory…
“So sorry, I’ll get out of your way” one scrawny lad who was decidedly not in my way and who couldn’t make eye contact with me scuttled off hurriedly. 

“I’m just gonna… over there…” another twenty-something kid with a pierced lip disappeared down an aisle with an armful of graphic novels.
And feeling bad for making the kids uncomfortable in their natural habitat, I returned to the maternal task of stalking Cecilia.  After all, I just wanted to collect my car and once again appreciate the simple joys of the safety of my vehicle!

With Cecilia home (sporting her eager new starter AND a swanky durable front tire!), I witnessed my third Halloween miracle – an envelope in my mail box, hand-addressed from the Department of Unemployment.  I’d endured one demoralizing telephone interview from the EDD, plus two written appeals that the Adjudication Center had flat-out denied.  But having Xeroxed my paperwork from SAG/AFTRA, as well as the envelope with the postage highlighted in yellow to indicate the DATE RECEIVED of my RESIDUAL CHECK from a CBS episode, I withered at what fresh Hell EDD had to bestow on me now for telling them the God’s honest truth for the FOURTH TIME.

Not an apologetic vase of roses?  Nor a thoughtfully written card?  Just a dismissive notation once again allowing my benefits after FUCKING ME UP FINANCIALLY FOR TWO MONTHS IN A ROW?

Well, bloody hell, thank you very much.  (Seriously, am I the very first Actor in Hollywood to ever get a residual check?)

Staggering through another thirteen hour day of camera-blocking, it was finally back to bed for me!
Well, not exactly MY bed…

“Can I see Penny on the monitor under the covers?” our DP wanted to know as he trained two cameras onto the set to check his lighting.
Oh don’t get me wrong – there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to kick off my shoes and crawl comfortably under the blankets on our cold sound stage!  Unfortunately however, having accrued two Union Meal Penalties (we have to break every six hours of production for a real meal, or we get paid a small stipend) I had taken the liberty of grabbing a snack from Craft Services backstage; a most unfortunate choice of pita bread and hummus.

Now, to be delicate, may I remind you kind readers, that hummus happens to be a bean-based dish…?
Stalling to the best of my ability with the DP, I diplomatically explained that I needed permission from Set Decorating before climbing into the bed.  (True!)

And call it my final Halloween miracle; I was blessed that Set Dec needed to swap out all the covers for a different look on a separate day, as I gently excused myself into a dark corner out of the way before ever approaching the bed.
Starting to think that “Pfft!” is a REALLY bad name for a High Horse,

~Perimenopausal Penny