Monday, November 25, 2013

Locum Tenens

Second from the right is Joan O'Donnell.
She was Vivien Leigh's Stand-In for the epic movie "Gone With the Wind". 
Photo taken in 1940 with Joan's mother and brothers. 

Aside from the occasional bouts of mid-day narcolepsy wherein I’m either dreaming that I’m toiling away on a television show (oh, sooo close to tonging a donut at Craft Services!), or lost in Las Vegas unable to find my purse (don’t need a psychiatrist to interpret that particular recurring nightmare); I’m expanding on my last blog post, as I’ve since chosen to don a plethora of metaphorical hats.
Of late, lured by the intoxicating promise of winning $5,000.00 a week for life by the Publishers Clearing House emails which threaten me with “DO NOT IGNORE!” warnings lest I use any other search engine, I’d kind of run out of things to look up.  I don’t suffer from any medical issues (hey, my parents take mid-day naps too!), I couldn’t give a crap about what’s “trending” in pop culture (I weep for our currently wildly illiterate children); nor did anything (aside from getting back to work in January!) peak my interest.  

Ergo and Q.E.D. (I’m being redundant to make a point,) I donned an imaginary professorial mortarboard and typed “stand-in” into the research engine to determine just what the intellectual world might think of my chosen career.
Apparently (as cited by the Merriam-Webster database), the following synonyms apply:  “Backup, cover, designated hitter, fill-in, substitute, reserve, sub, alternate, understudy, apology (WHAT???), makeshift, stopgap.” 

Also, if I read the website correctly, a “Locum Tenens” (aka “stand-in”) dates as far back to Medieval Latin circa 1641.  (Good Heavens!  In lieu of busses, were we all thrown under chariots???)
With my imaginary mortarboard still atop my red-headed ponytail intact as PCH on the following evening once again terrorized me with menacing “AT RISK IF YOU DO NOT RESPOND!” warnings, I benignly entered the date “1641” into the parameters to appease the theoretical cash mongers.

Turns out, King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland was actually beheaded in 1641...  (Thanks for that cheery info, PCH.)
Ergo and Q.E.D., clearly I needed a new hat on my noggin whilst I still had a head.

Donning an imaginary powdery blue wig with ringlets, strutting about the bat-cave with an occasional “Pip, pip”, “Cheerio” or “How’s about a spot-o-tea?” (incredibly lame) British accent, I settled me-self down for a proper inspection as a Tory Barrister to contemplate the litigation of my on-going embattlement with the EDD (Unemployment Dept.).  A triplicate form had arrived via snail mail (TRIPLICATE!), once again demanding to know my earnings for a week back in September, wherein I had declared my whopping earnings of a “Saved by the Bell” residual check for all of $6.34.    

And just like that (*whistle*), this faux Tory embraced her American Indiana Hoosier heritage, strapped on a metaphorical cowgirl Stetson and hopped upon her mighty High Horse named “Righteous Indignation”.   If I had to dig my spurs into the Government one more time, by golly, they were in for some serious whupping! 

Ergo and Q.E.D., I once again needed a cooler head to prevail (despite my endless range of acting diversity), as a better brim with which to view the bigger picture could certainly “behoove” me. 


My triplicate EDD form filled out, my oath of authenticity duly signed with my signature for the third time (FFS), and heading to the bank a few days later to deposit a (literally, one year ago) reimbursement check for a “free” flu shot last November from the Motion Picture Television Fund, I opted for a new imaginary cap to crown my cranium.
Stopped at a red street light at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and Fairfax, I sat in my car and glanced at the patrons waiting for a bus.  I clearly remembered my prior forlorn days of public transit seven years ago (not anything I’m proud of, but some lessons are hard-earned and well worth the outcome!); and coddled in the comfort of my Toyota “Cecilia”, I tried to strap on blinders to avoid recalling any further unpleasant sense memories.

Yet before I could even begin to rein in any acutely absurd observations, I found myself already sporting a Sheriff’s hat, my inner Barney Fife once again welling up to the task and eager to prove my current worth as a some sort of valuable contributing member of society!
And whilst I certainly didn’t mean to stare, one gentleman in particular immediately caught my stealthy eye.  He didn’t see me of course, nor was he one of those deranged ding-dongs who stand in the middle of the road looking for the giant orange metro liner. (It’s the size of a HOUSE, people!  Trouncing into the street won’t make you see the bus any sooner, nor make the driver arrive any quicker.  And did I mention that it’s ORANGE?) 

But I digress!  
Instead, this unique (maybe 80 year old gentleman?) public transit patron worked quite diligently to surreptitiously stuff his ziplock of narcotics (?) deep into the sole of his right lavender striped sock, casually lowered his pant leg for concealment, popped open a silver can of Fresca, took one sip, poured half of the soda out behind the bench, and proceeded to refill the container with a half pint of liquor pulled from a brown paper bag.  (Well, at least he wasn’t driving under the influence!)

“Ergo” and all “Q.E.D”s aside, the likelihood of me without an official Barney Fife tin star pulling to the side of the road to summon police seemed preposterous, as two black and white patrol cars had already barreled past me with full lights and sirens blaring down the boulevard obviously in pursuit of a significantly more dangerous criminal.

I also no longer needed my cowgirl Stetson, as much to my shock, awe and overall disbelief in urban myths, my bank drafted an email to alert me that a wire transfer from EDD was in effect to wrangle, lasso and eventually deposit $317.00 into my checking account.  WOO-HOO!!!  (And ta-ta, Tory Barrister wig, you mawkish magpie!) 
And while I shall always sport my imaginary professorial mortarboard in search of my ongoing quest for knowledge, this Locum Tenens was due to don the annual bonnet that has yet to ONCE ever comfortably rest upon my big old Charlie Brown head:  i.e., the Thanksgiving cook’s toque...

For your dining pleasure my friends, would you care to preview this year’s potential menu?
Certainly I’d enjoy some appetizers:

And what’s a fabulous holiday feast without spuds? 
(Just add water to the fill line, nuke the granules and in about two minutes you get fluffy “mashed potatoes”!) 

I even sort of had a festive dessert!

(Is a half-eaten maple bar donut supposed to lose its glaze in a plastic bag like that?)

Yet as to the main course?  Hmmm...  That might take a bit of creativity as any kind of fowl generally creeps me out... 
But A-HA! 

Like a beacon of light on a miner’s helmet in the darkness, one item shone brightly on the shelves at my local 7/11!  After all, how could I POSSIBLY go wrong with a microwaveable “Ultimate Cheeseburger Mac” bowl of beef, elbow pasta and a creamy Velveeta cheese packet, co-mingling like family gathered at Thanksgiving dinner?   

Hmmm...  (I’m by no means slandering Kraft Foods for a well-intended idea for those of us who so often dine alone on holidays, but 1020 mg of sodium???  Did you put the salt-lick in with the cow?  And why am I having sense memory flashbacks to the smell of opening up a can of Alpo for my childhood dog “Poppy”???)

As Thanksgiving grows near, I must say that I’m mostly grateful for all of my family and friends who’ve stood fiercely by my side during a challenging year.  For your love, laughter and support, I thank you from the bottom of my heart to the tip of my bonnet!
And as to the looming day of obligatory feasting?  Well, what can I say...  Sometimes you just need a talented stand-in.  (Or, you know, a McDonald's drive-thru!)

~Pumpkin pie P

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Barking Up the Wrong Tree?


With far too many months of Tinsel Town shunning my brilliant abilities as both and Actor and a Stand-In in the world of television Sit-Coms, I was becoming rather disheartened.

“You always have the option of relocating to our winter condo in Florida!” my Mom cheerfully motivated me; the likes of which would substantially decrease my financial output vis-à-vis living in Los Angeles.  “You could even go back to school if you want to!” she rallied enthusiastically.

Contemplating her best of well-meaning, heartfelt good intentions, my pea-brain paused to envision my potentially glorious future.  Might I earn a Master’s Degree?  Could I possibly delve into the realm of Academia and hurl all of my mental processes away from Hollywood and into the promised land of eventually achieving a most coveted PhD?
“Paging Dr. Penny”...     

Oh, I quite liked the sound of that!
Unfortunately, my pea-brain also contemplated the following drearier scenario:

(Well, I DO know how to type, and I DID learn how to capitalize letters in a phone text just a few months ago...)

But whilst I couldn’t be sure precisely which road my pea-brain was rooting for (aside from my current routine rut of unemployment), I certainly had a host of other skills in my quiver of opportunity arrows that didn’t involve three years of grad school, nor a time-travel machine back to the 1950’s.
After all, I could follow the path of religious enlightenment and become a nun (well... I actually played a nun on TV and the wimple was kind of itchy on my head, plus they frowned on my use of mascara); or I could pursue a career working with Kindergarten children (well... I’ve played a teacher on TV too, and quite frankly I can’t deal with all of their pre-adolescent germs); but certainly I could learn a trade and get hired as a receptionist (well... I also did that on TV, and real life as well, wherein I was dubbed “world’s worst receptionist” since I kept hanging up on clients calling ‘collect’ from prison to the real live law firm – (hey, I saved the attorneys a lot of money that day!).  But surely I could get a job as a waitress (well... I played that role on TV too, and it turns out that Producers aren’t terribly comfortable with my inexperienced lack of ability at attempting to handle food on camera in front of highly-paid Actors’ faces). 

But certainly I could find an alternate niche in the world if need be.
And delving through the care-package of goodies from my Federal Special Agent friend “Rose” who works for the Department of Justice (no lie!), I gasped in awe at my potential future career...

Yes my friends, I am now the proud owner of two grey shirts, which designate me as a (very unofficial) ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) Agent in basic training!!!

Ooh, I had so much to learn if I were to successfully make it through the Academy!  Granted, I’ve not held any sort of weaponry in my hands since taking a fun class on trap and skeet shooting in college wherein we also had to qualify with rifles in a target range (standing, kneeling and prone); but pouring a cocktail (Alcohol) and lighting up a cigarette (Tobacco), I was two-thirds on my way to graduation!

“Code 4” I announced to HQ (that’s “Head Quarters”, for you civilians), signifying ‘no further assistance needed’ as I had successfully channel-surfed my television and located a marathon of the reality show “Cops” on Spike TV.  “Code 4, code 4; roger that, affirmative, copy” I nodded ever-so officiously to my make-believe walkie-talkie, adding a “Kksshh” noise for authenticity into my t-shirt sleeve.
Within the first half hour of the “Cops” marathon, my future had become crystal clear.  I was absolutely destined to become a K-9 Special Agent!  Yes, my imaginary fearless four-legged German Shepherd companion “Thor” and I would tackle the Academy together, devote our lives to sniffing out bombs, tackling bad guys and enjoy celebratory biscuits after having saved the day!  Good boy! 

Yet the more I watched the marathon, the more real “me” crept into the picture...
Granted, the high speed chases got my adrenaline running (I think Cecilia – my 1997 Toyota – and I once hit 35mph on the mean streets of LA to which afterward we both could have used a mild sedative); and yes, there was no end to my joy at watching highly trained Officers armed with Tasers zapping the crap out of 400 pounds of aggressive criminals (Replay!  Replay!  Replay!).

But as my official boot-camp into the work-force has forever been the seductive Hollywood allure of the random 30 minute escape from “reality” into Comedy, I simply couldn’t ignore my inherent Tinsel Town training.
Number One:  Could the Audio technicians possibly consider decreasing the volume after a foot pursuit, so as not make every chivalrous take-down sound like our Heroes in Law Enforcement are gasping for their final breath?  They’ve got the burden of carrying a gazillion pounds of equipment around their waists whilst simultaneously attempting to cuff scrawny, seriously sweaty meth-addicts who squirm! 

Number Two:  How, on God’s green Earth, is there not ONE single channel devoted ENTIRELY to the reality footage of K-9 police dogs on patrol?  “Show your hands, or we will deploy the dog, and the dog WILL bite you...”  (Replay!  Replay!  Replay!)  Good Boy!  And as a further thought, after chomping down on a drug addict’s thigh for a solid twenty minutes, must the K-9 attend rehab to detox?  (Sure the aggressive pooch can lick himself, but I doubt that even THAT would get rid of the stench in his highly trained nostrils.)
Number Three:  This one is more of a mathematical poser.  As the marathon continued and I absorbed as much Law Enforcement as possible, I became acutely aware (well, I AM an unofficial ATF Agent in training!) of an uncertain amount of anomalies.  How is it, that despite living in a house on wheels (not judging, just observing) so many “persons of interest” who apparently cannot afford dental care (again, not judging), are equipped to possess an excess of money with which to purchase not only military grade AK-14 machine guns that fit snugly into one’s underwear, but the additional financial perspicacity to afford a $200.00 tattoo of a marijuana leaf on the shoulder, and a $400.00 tattoo portrait of Jesus on the neck?

Lastly (and maybe I’m just splitting hairs at this point), how in the world, despite my comedic training in the land of Sit-Coms, could I possibly keep a straight face when the junkie who’s just been arrested, swears that he didn’t know anything about a capped needle full of whatever drug he’d hidden between his butt cheeks?  (Yes, I’m judging now!)

To say the least, after a riveting twelve or so hours of Tasers, take-downs and transports to jail, my inner Barney Fife was officially quashed. 
As much as I admire and respect my friend “Rose” and her multitudes of fellow Law Enforcement compadres for the difficulties they face each and every day, I have absolutely no patience for such drama...

...And so, back to the drawing board for me...

“Hi Pen!  If you would be willing to join our crew, I’d love to invite you to Season Three of our show!” one of my favorite ADs cheerfully welcomed me into the fold as I whole-heartedly, gratefully accepted her offer back into the comfortable safety zone of my Sit-Com world.  (Seriously, I almost cried!)

Whilst our show won’t begin production on-stage until January, I must say that I’m beyond thrilled to be booked for 13 episodes!  I’ve worked with this extraordinary Second Team before, as well as the fabulous ADs; and for reasons known to a handful of people, I suspect that The Universe is smiling.

“Kksshh: All units; Code 4.  Kksshh.”  (!!!)

Blessed to be recruited back to where I truly belong,
~Hollywood K-9 P