Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (aka CHICK FLICK)

YALE... New Haven, CT... summer... and a couple of hundred sweaty background-extras sitting around for 5 hours in the sweltering heat of the holding areas surrounding St. Bonneface School on yet another New England street named Broadway. An occasional breeze wafts through the closely built housing, causing the welcomed venturi effect of a faster, cooler wind tickling our well-dressed perspiring bodies. But it's only momentary and then it's back to the "Sisterhood of the SWEATY PANTS 2, 3, 4...".

This was BRUTAL! Yesterday I was doing a commercial for Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare in Sea Cliff, Long Island -also a sunburning 90 degree standing-forever-outside ordeal in addition to eventually being "trapped in the holding bus" for a long time -without a/c!!!

This morning however, I had a great yoga class on the beach and utilized it's calming effects for... "most of the day".

Got checked in at noon, but it wasn't until after 5 PM that we were taken to the set location around the block, University Theater, where we were seated and told that the a/c was off so as not to interfere with the sound recording's quality. (Moan!) Some of us were placed in the back row and told to clap vigorously as one of the cameo stars, Kyle MacLachlan, dressed in a white suit came in and observed the make-believe play that was taking place on the real stage in the front of the theater. He would make empathetic facial grimaces and self-congratulatory gestures to acknowledge the "make-believe play's success". Then suddenly, the upcoming Moroccon-madam-director, Sanaa Hamri, yelled CUT, went over to Kyle to give him some direction and called him "Bill"!? "Oooops!" she demured. "Did I just call you Bill? I'm so sorry..." Followed by lots of nervous laughter. And then retakes.

I was enthralled... (flashback)... here was the star of DUNE: The Desert Messiah -in person...yessssssss! I didn't see any of Kyle's other works (e.g. Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, etc.), but I really liked his role as Paul Atreides (Muad'Dib) and he became a sort of sci-fi icon for me... (back to the present)...

Later on, we the background, were shuffled around for various effects and then sent out into the street as our new holding area... for the next 3 or so hours!? CRUEL, very cruel... very. So we chatted, networked, exchanged cards and occasionally wandered off to feed ourselves at the local stores -because there was no food provided for the multitude of extras, although there was plenty of fancy "mangia" -seafood with safron rice...mmm... for the principal cast and crew. This was really, really LOoooooow! And then it began to RAINNNNNNN!

At that point, we were taken back to the former holding area where we were lined up inside the church's ultra-dim main service hall and told to get our vouchers signed. The line was enormous and there was only one -ONE production assistant to check and sign our I-9 paper. The camel's new straw was starting to strain, even under the auspices of the religious surroundings, and people started to "sneak" in at the front of the line. The expected result: YELLING and CURSING!!! I was lucky to be among the first 20 so I got out relatively quick and went to pick up my backpack and jacket. Unfortunately they were MOVED!!! And no one knew where they were... I searched franticly in the netherworlds of the school and happened upon an area in the basement, where the SAG union people were carousing and enjoying trays of FOOOOOD -amongs them the coveted seafood with safron rice! I wasn't going to give in to that. I was on a mission to find my belongings and get the hell outahere!

Went back upstairs to the church service area and saw some clothing on the floor...amongst which were my backpack and other self-supplied wardrobe. Scooped them up and ran out the door... the WRONG DOOR! It was now raining more profusely and I was totally disoriented. I was frustrated and angry at the chaotic manner in which we were handled -it used to be so much more professional. This was a MESS! But the rain started to take it's extinguishing effect and I started to feel calmer with each soaking step. I found my way down York Street and as I passed the mostly deserted set-location, there, under the SAG-food tent, a lonely figure wearing glasses and a red polo shirt, was scrounging through the last vestiges of nourishment. I recognized him; it was Kyle MacLachlan. As I passed by, I yelled "Have a good night Kyle... or is it Bill?" He waved back and said good night with a friendly squinting smile -not knowing who the heck I was. And that was the perfect ending for me on this gig.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chess Babe not a bitch

Jennifer Shahade, a definite star on the chess scene, wrote a provocative book entitled: CHESS BITCH -essentially addressing all the foibles and fables about women in chess. So when the grandmistress held a simultaneous play event at the Nassau County Museum of Art, my wife and I went to see her in action -and I actually got into the act as one of the 18 players.

Having a reputation for liking to "dress up"... she wore a summery see-through dress with a plunging neckline... the rest of us wore jeans and t-shirts on this sunny afternoon under the white tent of the museum's latest attraction, surrealism in the art of chess!

Her short introduction was very friendly and very direct. When asked about her background and name, she immediately addressed the fact that she was born in the USA of a Lebanese-Jewish heritage. She had started to learn chess at age 6 but didn't really get "into it" until about 13, in high school. She graduated NYU and decided it was easier to make money playing/coaching chess rather than doing the 9-5 grind. Good choice Jennifer! Let the games begin.

Simultaneous play rules proclaim that the GM has white and we, the players must move when she comes around to our board. She opened with her king pawn to e4 and I countered with my queen pawn to d5... Not a very popular defense but one I've been experimenting with during my Sunday morning Bagel Boss Deli-friendly games. Needless to say, I haven't kept up with my chess-acumen, although I did play quite a bit in my college days and even got a chance to joust with Rossolimo in his old Greenwich Village chess studio back in the 70's... and beat him in one of the 16 games I managed to note. So much for my chess-braging. Playing with the ebullient Jennifer was a different experience... As the games progressed, her energy level started to rise as well... in fact towards the end games she was practically running from board to board. And then one of the organizers yelled "PIZZA's here!" Game or no game...we were all famished from all the concentration and we just started to sneak off to the pizza table. But food makes your mind too relaxed and my grand-opponent missed a good chance to fininsh me off quickly on her 24th move, at the following position:

The pretty sacrifice with B x p/g would have quickly ended my bold attempt to become the CHESS BASTARD! Alas, she missed the fast-track opportunity and opted to prolong my inevitable demise on the fortieth move, when I reached across the board, shook her hand and resigned. My wife really liked that move!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

DAMAGES! with Glenn Close

Glenn Close is a lovely lady... but I really didn't get to see more than the back of her head duing the filming of her new TV pilot: DAMAGES!

My newly unempoyed status from my real-life job of a consultant has released me from my daily 5:AM wakeup time and the nearly 5 hour round-trip drives to New Jersey for the past 11 months. The welcome call time for my return to the world of showbiz was a comfortable 2:PM in NYC's DUMBO -and holding was at the stylish Toro Restaurant near the set around the corner: Water Street Restaurant. We were instructed to bring 2 changes of clothes but ultimately were stuck in only one. I brought a suit and a sportcoat, which was stylishly coordinated by the costume department as a "mix" of my black suit-pants, the grey sports jacket, a glossy green shirt that was vehemently complemented with my solid maroon tie!? I would never have guessed to do this. But then, I'm not a fashionista!

During my stay on the second floor of the Toro, I made friends with a couple of the other extras and we shared our experiences... for 2 hours. At 4:PM we were taken to the set where three of us guys were strategically situated at a table for four. We were to mime our dinner conversations while Glenn Close and her "son" were having an argument a few tables away from us. There were numerous takes and the girl who played the waitress for their table later told us how nice Glenn was as she introduced herself -thereby breaking the ice barrier which prevents us extras from initiating direct contact with the stars. Our table had a "young waitress" assigned also, and during takes we found out that she had attended UMASS a while ago. Hmm?

As the takes ended, the extras were shuttled into the basement bar area of the set. One could only assume from the strange juxtaposition of the drum set on a single shelf, that only "raves" were occuring down here. At any rate, it was calmingly dim and we all found a place to perch. I sat next to our waitress and initiated a philosophical conversation. She was intelligent and expressed her beliefs in "helping all sentient beings"! Our conversation went haywire somewhere and she became adamant in her attitude toward "theoretically not helping someone in need" (e.g. an old lady falling in front of her). For some reason, her new attitude became very stubborn: "Are you crazy? I really don't know what I would do in a theoretical situation... It's not MY JOB to help someone... ". But I suspect it was all an act (DUH?). I say that because, in the beginning of our conversation, she interrupted our talk, politely excused herself, went over to a lampshade that had been precariously perched against a lit lightbulb, and fixed it..."to prevent a fire". ACTions spoke louder than all the smoke we'd been blowing in each others' face during the wait for the next shoot. Which was never to be for us non-union extras. We were dismissed for the day and the pay was a bit more than usual: $100. Nice surprise... even better, the time had disappeared very quickly with our bullsession.

Epilogue: That's me in the cirlce of the 3rd episode... (I'm feigning "obscurity").