Surrounded by theFrankly (unfortunately), so is quite often the case on sets when our “television families” invite one-day “guests” into the comfort of our lives. And much like “real life” families, you sort of expect to be eaten out of house and home, and just pray that they don’t walk away with Grandma’s china.
locusts of snot-nosed adorable precocious tween-aged background players and
their scavenging protective Stage Moms who were pocketing free food
from Craft Services like greedy-eyed marsupials on crack tending to the
care and nurturing of their progeny, I stood motionless, unable to look away
from the utter carnage, um, feeding frenzy er, idyllic maternal
happenings. “The AD said to grab a quick
snack before we change into wardrobe” one peaches-and-cream-faced nugget yanked
his mother by the shirt sleeve to the hot food area, snagging all but the last few
measly greasy pieces of bacon. “I can
save these donuts for later!” another obnoxious cherished darling piped
up; stubbornly unwilling to part with any of his Trifecta selection of a maple
bar, chocolate-frosted cake delight and glazed honeybun.
But as I’m still the new kid on the block at my current temporary show, and although we had been put to work prior to our call time for Lighting (hey, whatever helps the crew!), I politely held my tongue in deference at Crafty, clasped my hands over my growling belly, and only after the mayhem subsided a bit, folded the last of the bacon into half of a poor man’s BLT (sans the “L” and the “T”).
“Where’d ya find the mayo?” the young master Nugget wanted to know as he ogled my meager sandwich, a dribble of hot sauce from his heaping plate of cheesy scrambled eggs drizzling down his chin.>>><<<
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve been there... Tough economy! Money is tight! And I’m at the TOP of the list to grab a banana out of the fruit basket (plus maybe two or three fun-sized Snickers bars from Props) and a Diet Coke out of the refrigerator after I’ve been released for the evening after work!But the essence of what had bothered me the most required a bit of soul-searching...
Certainly the children weren’t terribly at fault. They were simply young and hungry“I dunno...” I postulated to myself at home that evening. “Maybe I’m just a horrible person with no inborn maternal instincts” I contemplated, mindlessly patting Pretty’s “Reclining Faithful Feline Urn” containing my heroic side-kick kitty’s cremains. “At least you had the decency to wipe your chin with your paw after a saucer of milk!”
self-entitled, pre-adolescent meal tickets actors! And who is to say that they had never stepped
foot to wildly ransack anything they could stuff in their hoodies on a studio
lot before that day? Even the Stage Moms
who farmed them out like cattle in order to hoard single serving packets of
snacks couldn’t necessarily be blamed! After all, it took me YEARS as a newcomer to
understand and respect the echelons and hierarchies that exist in show business! (I
STILL find the majority of the lines to be ambiguous at best as they vary from
one production to another.)
>>><<<With a ridiculously fabulously early out-time from work the following Wednesday - courtesy of one of Hollywood’s most notoriously speedy Sit-Com Directors, who barrels through scenes at the speed of lightning and who appreciates the fact that a whopping 20 minutes of a Sit-Com needn’t take up more than five hours of rehearsal (including lunch!) prior to a Network Run-Thru - I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.
And hopping into Cecilia (my 1997 Toyota), we hit the road carefree! Oh, the glamorous life of working in Show Biz! Ah, the non-restrictive joys of earning a paycheck, but to still have the luxury of time to one’s self! Yes! I was a single woman in the heart of Tinsel Town with no obligations whatsoever, money forthcoming and the world at my fingertips! I could spend the afternoon however I pleased without the slightest repercussions!Until...
Having driven past the official “Star” Smog Check location a dozen times (with my DMV Renewal paperwork lurking ominously on Cecilia’s passenger seat), The Universe saw fit for us to be stopped at a singular red light on the usually well-synched green-lit travels of Santa Monica Boulevard. And with absolutely no traffic behind or near me (how is that even possible?), I conceded to the ‘Will of The Universe’ and obligingly wheeled Cecilia into the right lane to turn into the unknown alien automotive center.“We need a smog check” I whimpered, sweaty paperwork in hand, as Cecilia attempted to quash her occasional Tourette’s syndrome engine chirping noises.
“This other car is leaving now, so pull yours in, and you’ll be done in ten minutes!” the nicest Smog Star Man welcomed us into his garage. “You can have a seat right there” he offered politely as Cecilia and I maintained mandatory ‘mother/motor’ eye contact. “How are you today?” the Star Man wanted to know. “And how did you hear about us?” he queried professionally as he took down our personal information as a local drive-by. “Well, hopefully you’ll visit us again in two years for your next smog check!” he smiled, stuffing some sort of tubing into Cecilia’s tail pipe. (Now, perhaps it was just my skewed protective maternal observation in the moment, but I could SWEAR that Cecilia GLARED at me for allowing such a personal violation of her under-carriage!)“So, what’s with the whole “Star” Smog Check program?” I poetically reciprocally probed the technician.
Now, this is a huge FYI, PSA for California drivers: Only the “Star” stations are officially licensed by the state. They aren’t allowed to perform any mechanical fixes to your automobile if you fail, so there’s no money in their pockets if your car doesn’t pass. There are still a plethora of smog testing garages all over the state, but those without the “Star” license, can blame your catalytic converter, sock you with a $300.00 bill, and leave YOU feeling like you got the tubing stuffed into your under-carriage. ADDITIONALLY, make sure you warm up the car’s engine for at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to a smog test. The mechanics are not allowed to do so for you, but Cecilia nearly failed the first part of her exam as she’d only been driven a few blocks from the Studio. Solid info from the Star Man, and I just want to pay if forward.>>><<<
As to theBut none of my extemporaneous soul-searching could have even begun to scratch the surface of what has become “acceptable” in the adolescent world these days, until I recently chatted with my Mom and Dad regarding my youngest nephew (age 13):
sticky congregation of
thieving, conniving monsters most welcome guests on the show, I’d almost
made peace with myself and the acceptance that children today are simply treated
ever so differently than when I was growing up.
(Seriously, my parents would've
quietly spit into a tissue to wipe sauce off of my face before ever letting me speak to an adult.)
“The whole grading of “A” through “F” is gone at his school. Teachers aren’t allowed to use red ink on a paper, since it might hurt a child’s feelings. (Are you kidding me?) And no one loses in a sporting competition, since keeping score might upset someone emotionally. ‘Both sides played very well’ is the standard response after a game.” (Wait, WHAT?) And when asked what percentage of homework the teachers might actually expect to be turned in this semester, my nephew (MY NEPHEW!) graciously aspired to a whopping mediocrity of 80%. (I’m sorry, but when the bloody fucking hell did doing homework become negotiable?) UCK! I nearly blew a gasket! Someone call the Star Man! (Just don’t touch my under-carriage!)>>><<<
Frankly, I needed to return to a kinder, gentler view of the world since all of this molly-coddling madness made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.And as if on cue from The Universe to re-awaken my inner child-like awe (which, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, I still get every single time that I’m permitted the honor of working in Tinsel Town and stride onto a Studio lot!), there he was...
“How did THAT happen?!” my parents wanted to know, having received an emailed photograph.“He and his son co-wrote last week’s episode!” I gushed uncontrollably on the phone.
And flashing back to Thursday where my fearless friend JT offered to arrange a Photo-Op with our Guest Writer, I attempted to stifle my brimming inner Ethel Mertz to the best of my professional abilities.“Hey, JT, how are you? Good to see you again!” the Guest Writer smiled warmly, shaking JT’s hand like they’d known each other for a lifetime.
“This is my friend Penny” JT nudged/jostled me (full-on deer in headlights) closer as I stood tree-like appropriately immobile outside of the personal space of the Hollywood Legend. “She was hoping to get a photo with you if you don’t mind.”“I’d be happy to! Where would you like us?” our Guest Writer pleasantly obliged, as I lost all ability to speak, function or express my elation in any manner whatsoever aside from the occasional Tourette’s “EEK!”, an awkward hot flash and some mild hand tremors. (Hey, like mother, like automobile!)
Allow me to share an iconic photo which will forever remain close to my heart; of myself and the brilliant Director, Actor, Producer, Creator of “Happy Days” and “The Odd Couple”; whose screen credits I still recall from childhood; and the brother of the only other “Penny” I’ve ever met (who disappointingly actually turned out to be a “Carole”, but hey, glass half full!): GARRY MARSHALL.
Wishing you all a shiny red helium balloon of joy tied to your wrist so you don’t lose it this week,~Protective P
p.s. Wipe your chin!