SHOW BIZ FOLKS--A-B-C-D LIST performers who write and want to be considered for a new anthology on the subject of distasteful, repugnant, offensive, or pleasurable, legal or illegal, bizarre or wacky wastes of time that you've endured to stay in the game of making it in showbiz. I want to hear it all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Witches Bitches and Naked Zombies

                Surviving in the arts has never been easy for me and in this current economy without a pension from any of my chosen careers, acting, writing and design - the stakes get riskier.  I have always believed that living on the edge came with the territory.  It’s a fact that only 5% of the Screen Actors Guild membership actually makes a living from acting, and most of them are men. So it’s no surprise that I still live on the edge and have even slid down the cliff like so many houses in the rainy season of Los Angeles.  I have calluses on my ass to prove it. 
                As the Knitter to the Stars, a hobby/ business was my crafty way of supplementing my pathetic earnings from acting, and in the months of September through January I used to earn most of my yearly income by selling my hand knit sweaters. The operative words here are “I used to.” That brings to mind the last time I called the utilities company to complain about the increase in my gas bill.  As I bitched about my dwindling earnings compounded by the rise in gas I could picture the gum-chomping gal on the other end of the phone filing her long fingernails.  When I told her that my bill “used to be …” she cut me off abruptly and said, “Yes girl, and I used to be a size 7.” I got the point.  No use in complaining the times they done have been a changing.
                So last Sunday after a rained out craft show hosted by the Designer’s Guild of America I had been counting on to make the rent, I returned to my couch and watched ten hours of recorded TV programs on my DVR in between long naps.  I guess you can say I was depressed.  These Art and Craft Boutiques have not only put me in the red but the mere set up and break down drain every ounce of my dwindling life force as I careen way past the age of a much needed retirement from schlepping. 
                Like many of those dump asses you see interviewed on the 6 o’clock news after their houses slide off the cliff in the LA downpour, I stand over the rubble and ruins with my hopes under mud and talk about how I will rebuild on the same spot.  Optimism is not always the best healing balm in the real world but on Monday I picked myself up and brushed myself off because I had a commercial audition.
                While inside the casting studio, an eager meter maid gave me a big fat parking ticket because I had failed to read the street sign properly. Chalk that one up to foggy thinking, a side effect of too much TV, sugar and napping.  You would have thought the ticket would have sobered me up but no, the Universe decided I needed yet another bitch slap to wake me. In heavy Hollywood traffic, I made a quick maneuver to get into the left hand turn lane and lightly nicked a brand new Lexus I didn’t see in my path. As the old adage goes, when it rains it pours.
                The driver of the shiny new car screamed at me to pull over and for a split second I entertained the idea of pulling away but then thought of the bad karma that act would incur.  Considering I was still paying off some old bad karmic dept I obeyed and pulled over into the Ralphs supermarket parking lot so that I could give the driver the necessary documents to ease his anger. 
                When we all stopped, he and his wife jumped out and began to scream, calling me all kinds of names for stupid.  I could see that I hadn’t even put a dent into their car but merely a light scuff mark on their paint caused by my rubber bumper. When I pointed this out the wife told me to “shut up” and “how dare you say the damage is minor,” as she cast dirty looks at my beat up Honda.  She said, “This is a brand new car and now we are going to have to replace the entire bumper.  And on top of that you have greatly inconvenienced us.”  She continued to rant, “I’m already late for my chemo treatment.”
                The way they were both going at me, you would have thought I was her cause for cancer. What can you say when someone pulls out the cancer card.  I kept apologizing and eventually after the husband inspected my documents and realized I was not an illegal without auto insurance, they both calmed down somewhat.  Since bad news usually comes in threes, I had reached my quota. As I drove away wiping the dog shit from the Universe off my aura, I contemplated that it could have been worse, much worse.  I could have been the one on my way for chemo treatments.
                Grateful to be home in one piece, I picked up my phone messages from the reclining position on my couch and heard the voice of a casting director informing me that I had been selected to be a special featured extra on a movie. There it was, the ray of sunshine I had been hoping for on what had been a darkly clouded two days.  This was not just any ordinary extra role, but a job that paid $400 for eight hours, four times the SAG day rate because there was some nudity involved.  I had been a nude artist model in the 80’s and two decades before that I had been a nude Go-Go dancer, so it was a no brainer.  I would accept the job.  After all, it was a union production and the director was Rob Zombie, a famous cult director in the horror genre of film-making.
                Being an extra is not a funfest for an actor but is something I started to do a few years ago when I was shy of my earning quota for Screen Actors Guild benefits and pension plan credits. For the most part, you are nothing more than a piece of breathing furniture, but after my losses all I was thinking about was the money, so I was looking forward to the two days ahead to be a naked lady in the next cult classic, titled, The Lords of Salem. 
                The night before the shoot I got my call time for 3:45PM the next day, which meant it would be a night shoot or at the least go until midnight three hours past my bedtime.  I didn’t mind if it would go into overtime since that meant time and a half and double time if we went over 12 hours.  When I showed up at 3:30PM, the friendly extra wrangler greeted me with a sunny good morning and offered me breakfast at the food wagon.  These are the perks of being an extra, all the food you can eat and you don’t have to learn any lines. I soon was guided to the holding tank, a large room in the basement of an old classic downtown movie theatre built in the 20’s, where I met the other 30 women that were to join me in the hours ahead. I marked my territory with my bags of wardrobe on two plastic folding chairs.  Funny they expect you to bring at least three wardrobe options for a nude scene, but hey I wasn’t going to complain. Then I sat myself on another chair in between all my stuff. Without knowing it, I had picked a good spot.  At our table there was a performance artist, a yoga teacher and a Shakespearean actress, all who appeared to be in their 40’s or early 50’s and for the most part the conversation was interesting throughout the evening. 
                After sitting around for an hour plus, the second AD came to give us some information about our roles in the film.  According to the script we were descendants of the persecutors of the Warlords of Salem and that these Warlords had returned from the dead disguised as a Rock Band to take their revenge on us for their deaths.   In the up-coming scene the Rock Band would play a hypnotic rock song over the radio waves that would lure us like Zombies to this Theatre for a Rock Concert where we would begin to strip. Eventually in the scenes to follow the concert would turn into our blood bath, and we would all end up dead and naked in a pyramid pile on the stage. 
                I thought it interesting that for some reason there were only female descendants of the warlord’s persecutors and as a good actress trying to find my motivation I asked the 2nd AD about this hole in the script.  He responded by telling me it was best not to try to make any logical sense out of the story and I took note. After many hours of sitting on the plastic chairs in the holding tank I realized that some of these extras were practicing the Method technique to capture their characters.  It soon became obvious who was a witch and who was a bitch. I had a bit of an altercation with one of the women sitting near me in the theatre before we started shooting.  I was struggling to hear the AD’s directions since the cavernous theatre made an echo and I missed a few word in his directive.  I turned to my fellow actress, and I use the term loosely, to ask her to clarify what the AD had just said, and out of nowhere she reprimanded me.  “You should have been listening.”
                “I was listening,” I replied.
                To which she said, “If you were listening you would have heard him then.” 
                I could not believe that this trailer trash, biker chick harlot with long stringy fried blond hair was talking to me like that.  Where was the sisterly love? Not on this set with this bitch.  I held back from saying what I wanted to say and replied with, “Never mind, I wouldn’t want you to tax yourself,” and turned away and made a point to hate and avoid her for the rest of the night. 
                We were six hours into the shoot and everyone still had their clothes on when they broke us for lunch that consisted of three meat options, five starches, several overcooked vegetable dishes, and a salad bar and desert bar to follow. It was well after 10:30 PM when I was fully bloated from the huge meal when they finally called us into the theatre for the first scene where we would begin to shed our dignity.
                It wasn’t until I saw the lot of us naked that I knew why this film would fit into the horror genre. Rob Zombie is an equal opportunity employer and I was not the only overweight actress over 65 on the set.  The assortment of ladies was diverse.  We were of every age, size and color. There were tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, old ones, young ones, brown ones, black ones, yellow ones and tattooed ones.
                In the scenes to follow, when we were completely stripped down to our birthday suits, I could see that the rude bitch I had had words with earlier had more tattoos on her scrawny ass then a drunken sailor.  So the night passed with us disrobing and then going back to one.  That means getting dressed again and starting the scene over again and again for all the many different camera angles.   This went on until 4AM but I didn’t care because all I was listening to was the sound of a cash register ringing in my ears, cha ching, until we were wrapped after a twelve-hour day.  They told us we would all return the next day for the final scene. Could I endure being a cold nude zombie for one more day for hefty earnings? Yes, cha ching, cha ching. 
                Day two I checked in and went straight to holding.  Wardrobe came down and told us to get naked and put on our robes since we would be doing the final scene soon.  So we sat around for at least another two hours in our bathrobes waiting.  Finally we were herded into the theatre and sat there for another hour until the lighting and logistics were ready.  I watched as the crew built a pyramid of boxes on the stage leading up to a platform where the stand in, stood for camera and lighting to make all their adjustments.  Rob Zombie’s wife was the head witch, who would be the top of the naked pyramid cake once we stared to roll.  After all the elements were in place, it was time to position the human props in place on the pyramid chain.  They asked for volunteers to drape their bodies over the boxes. These actresses required flexibility. Not needing to be a hero, I held back and waited to fill in the last places on the stage floor. Not having taken yoga since the 70’s, when I used to be limber, and after years of being an artist’s model, I know how difficult it is to hold a pose, especially an awkward one.  This scene would require us to hold our breath too.  This arrangement of bodies went on for some time, while we still had our robes on.  Once the final adjustments and touches were added they brought the star in for her position on top to the heap, cleared the room of unnecessary crew, and had us take off our covers. The stage floor was cold beneath me but at least I could lay out flat.  The only problem was that to my left the skinny tattooed bitch had her scrawny ass and back to me.
                After the first take, the director decided he didn’t want her in that position because her tattoos were ruining his shot so they plucked her out and hid her in the back of the pile.  While all these bodies were moving about I was busy making friends with my neighbor to my right whose face was under my right tit.  As we were chatting I didn’t noticed who was replacing the tattooed bitch and when I turned to my left I saw the biggest, fattest white ass, like the moon over Miami, staring me in the face.  I was so surprised by this full moon in my face that I blurted out without censor, “Oh My God, there’s a big fat ass in my face.” I couldn’t believe I said that out loud and felt immediately embarrassed for the poor woman whose ass I had judged, but I didn’t mean to be cruel; it just slipped out.  She pretended not to hear me, but my neighbor to my right had to struggle to keep from laughing. 
                Just before cameras were ready to roll again, one last adjustment of bodies was made, and the director tightened up the space between my face and the fat ass with a little wrinkled up old lady who had breasts hanging down to her knees.  Her buttocks were now even closer to my face then the moon over Miami’s had been.  After several more takes and calls to action and of all of us holding our breath like you do for your mammogram x-rays, we were getting close to the final take. With one more role of the camera and all of us extras holding our breath, the director called “cut” for the last time. 
                At that very moment the little old lady to my left farted in my face. It was almost inaudible but just loud enough for me and my neighbor below my right tit to hear it at which point we both burst into laughter.  Then, while I was shaking and jiggling all over from suppressed laughing so hard, I too farted just loud enough for my bosom buddy on my right to hear and then we both lost all control.  The heaping body of females above us was wondering what had happened and a few called out, “what are you laughing about?” But we didn’t answer and just kept laughing.  It’s a good thing that last take had been the Martini shot, as they call it in the Biz, the final shot of the night, because if I had to hold my laughter or my gas back any longer, I may have shit myself.   So there goes another saga in the days of the life of an actor/extra/designer/writer.  As I sign off, I’m still waiting for the check.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who Am I Anyway?: The Juggling Mother of Invention

Who Am I Anyway?: The Juggling Mother of Invention: This is a SHOUT OUT to all SHOW BIZ FOLKS who have stories to tell about their day jobs.
A-B-C-D LIST writers, and performers, who would like to be considered for a new anthology on the subject of distasteful, repugnant or offensive, legal or illegal, bizarre or wacky wastes of time that you've endured to stay in the game of making it in showbiz. I want to hear it all.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Juggling Mother of Invention

WHO AM I ANYWAY AM I MY RESUME????? I almost cried when I heard that song sung in the film version of A Chorus Line is a 1985.
That year I was thick in the struggle of trying to make it in show biz.  I had been writing and performing on the fringe of San Francisco and LA for two decades. I was a single mother of a teenage daughter and had had more day jobs then runs in my pantyhose, that is if I had worn hose at all.  I made a point to stay clear of the corporate world since those jobs would require commitment and I was the consummate temporary gal and too creative for my own damn good. Keeping my calendar clear for auditions has always been my excuse for not taking full time permanent jobs.

As a crafty kid who had not yet learned how to knit and sew, my mother caught me plucking all the balls out of my beautiful floral patterned chenille 50s style bedspread. She begged my older cousin Loretta to teach me how to knit as an alternative to curtail my compulsive behaviors.  Years later, I became known as the Knitter to the Stars when I turned a hobby of hand knitting into a business by accident. I’d knit like a fiend in acting class while my fellow acting students did their Miesner exercises.  When the actresses/models who were getting all the big bucks in Hollywood noticed what I was making, the next thing I knew I was in business.

Without a business plan or investors, within a year my hobby went from selling the occasional sweater to having a sales rep in NY and one downtown LA with a full knit line at each showroom made by my very own two hands. This endeavor led to accounts at Sacks 5th Ave., Bergdorf Goodman’s and Bendels in N.Y. along with wearable art galleries from So Ho to Brentwood and boutiques from Madison Ave to Beverly Hills and Vegas. I paid a Mexican man to work on the hand cranked, knitting machine I owned in my dining room while I did all the hand pieces, finishing, and shipping in my living room or bedroom. Yarn was strung from one end of my two bedroom apartment to the next and my daughter would come home after school and find angora fuzz balls in her peanut and jelly cracker snacks. 

I bankrolled this business with the first commercial I ever booked and used every bit of my residual income to make more sweaters.  I was working 24/7 but still never had any money.  To keep my daughter entertained I even took my needles into the movies on weekends and knit in the dark but I didn’t care because I was free to go to auditions if I ever got any. Besides knitting for a living wasn’t so bad, since I could do it on the couch with the TV on, lying on my ass, and with my eyes closed if I needed a nap.

By the late 80’s I was a burnt out knit junkie and created still another business without a business plan called, Tell Mama, a personal assistant agency.  My idea was to provide temporary personal assistants to Hollywood’s A-listers or anyone who could afford a part time temp assistance.  As a cute rubinesque Mama, holding her arms out with her apron strings undone, my logo welcomed requests for virtually almost anything.  Under this caricature of me on the flier, I listed all the services that Mama would do for you from A to Z; Advice to Zipper Repair.   

I never generated enough work to put other Mamas to work and ended up doing all the assignments myself. While passing my fliers among a group of successful friends at the Rose Cafe in Venice one day, a series writer for a popular network show saw my adorable marketing tool.  He turned to me and said, “It’d be a lot easier to write the sitcom.”
To which I replied “Don’t you dare,” and ran home and wrote the outline and treatment for the TV series Tell Mama and registered it with the Writer’s Guild before he could. 
That was always my dilemma the SHOW BIZ dream always came before making a living.  Due to this I've performed for the last three decades like the plate juggler on the Ed Sullivan Show of the late 60’s.  For those too young to know this reference, he was a juggler who kept dozens of plates or bowls spinning in the air on the tops of long sticks.  That was me, the juggling mother of invention wearing more hats than the women in a Baptist congregation on Easter Sunday.
I've toiled under the Tell Mama, umbrella, performing acts of cooking, catering, running personal errands and or waiting for the cable guy. I continued to knit for the stars, when they wanted me, and during that period became Dean Martin’s part time maid for two years.  All done in the hopes that one day I would sit on the couch next to Johnny Carson promoting my new sitcom and tell funny stories about all the jobs I had had until I made it in Hollywood. Well Johnnie retired in 1992 and I’m still knitting and juggling and planning for my appearance on Letterman.

Like Frank Sinatra sang in, That’s Life: "I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king. I've been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing: Each time I find myself, flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race."

Tell Mama what you have done to stay in Show Business; anything, legal or otherwise, I want to know.