Saturday, January 07, 2006

Live long and . . . feel good.

January 6th, 2006

Seems like just yesterday I was talking about the death of "Star Trek" (not sure if I did that here or not). It would be nice if that franchise were to come back in some way.

Today I worked on a commercial for Aleve. Commercials are nice because they usually pay more than films or TV shows. But this was a special commercial, to me, at least.

I'm going to make a confession to you . . . something I think I've only told one other person: my father is Keyser Sose.

No, actually, the confession is, the reason I first signed up to be an extra, was so I could be on "Star Trek." There was some kind of Star Trek FAQ I discovered around 2000, and it mentioned that to be an extra on "Star Trek," you had to register with Central Casting. So the moment I got fired from whatever job I held at the time (it was neither the first nor the last time I'd be fired), I went on down to Burbank to register with Central Casting and qualify to go boldly where . . . well, you know.

Thinking back, I guess "Voyager" was the only Trek on TV, but that show was quite difficult to get on because its premise necessitated that there be the same extras week after week (much like "Lost" is now, I suppose). I never got close to being on that show, and when "Enterprise" started up, I think I had already moved on to a new (and menial) job. I guess there was NEMESIS--I know a couple of guys who were extras on that--but it too came after I'd stopped doing extra work.

I'll admit that my love for "Star Trek" has waned in recent years (that's easier than admitting that I love "Star Trek," I suppose), but I was quite excited when I found out I would be playing a guy at a Star Trek convention for this commercial. It was shooting down at the Long Beach Convention Center, and it was another big call of around two hundred people.

"If you have a Star Trek or Sci-Fi costume, wear it!" the information line announced (the Aleve people must have made some deal with Paramount). Sadly, the closest I have is a Doctor Frank-N-Furter costume my mother made me for Halloween two years back. And even if that qualified, I've gotten much too fat to put on the fishnets again.

I did get a STAR TREK: NEMESIS t-shirt for attending the opening of that worst-of-all-Trek-films*, but I have kept it in the trunk of my car alongside a pair of torn pants, extra socks, underwear, shoes with a hole in one, and a big bottle of cheap cologne. So I dug it out, ironed it, and wore it to the shoot.

I was one of only a half-dozen or less who actually wore Trek-related clothes. The rest wore normal clothing or Wardrobe provided a vintage Trek t-shirt, an ill-sized uniform (though there were two hot girls they squeezed into form-fitting jumpsuits), or a generic Sci-Fi outfit. There was also one Klingon, one Ferengi, one . . . what were they called? Like Major Kira, one Vulcan, and one Borg. These trademarked aliens were semi-professionally done, and all were paid extra to be made up that way.

Most memorably, however, was a fat, balding guy with sideburns and the most ridiculously tacky Seventies Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon-type space robe on. He looked so indescribably gay (sorry, I searched for a more appropriate word and found none) that in the end, I had to draw him, rather than describe him. I put him with his arms outstretched, ribbons of sunlight coming from his chubby head. "San Dexter, Patron Saint of Geeks and Nerds," I christened him. Hopefully, he'll catch on in some way and I can light votive candles to him next time a superhero flick comes out or I feel the need to put on WRATH OF KHAN.

I've only been to one Star Trek convention ever, but let me tell you, there were more hot babes in ONE SEAT at today's mock convention than EVER attended a real convention. To be fair, I'm sure the male attendees were exponentially handsomer at today's gathering also.** I'd say that only one in five of the extras was "appropriately" dressed, and was informed that only those pre-selected, Union extras, will actually be seen in the commercial.

The ad tells of one Leonard Nimoy, who, due to muscle ache and/or arthritis, is unable to repeatedly make a certain gesture that he made famous. But here comes Aleve, a glorious medication that does wonders for his sore hands, and when he comes on stage before his anxious fans, he's able to spread his fingers and drive us into a frenzy of elated, almost orgasmic, appreciation. And that's it.

Nimoy looks good for his age (though not quite as spry as the great William Shatner) and came out time and time again do his scene. While I'm sure Aleve paid him a princely--even obscene--sum, he carried himself with a quiet dignity (that Shatner has never seemed to need) and was impressive in his patience and ability to laugh at himself.

We weren't required to do much but stand, applaud, pause, then erupt in applause. Because there weren't enough of us to fill the convention center, we had to move to various sections of the auditorium, to be comped together in post-production. It took a while, but it was actually one of the easier shoots I've been on. And there were many familiar faces, including my friend Hagopian (Mark). Not to mention the hot chicks and Nimoy himself.

We didn't even have to work that late in the day, and I had enough time to go see MUNICH afterward. Today's commercial may be the closest I get to fulfilling my aspiration to work on "Star Trek." It sure beats working for a living, that much I know.

Rish Tiberius Outfield

*Yes, worse than THE FINAL FRONTIER.

**At the con I attended, I was disturbed, rather than elated, to find that I was among the more attractive convention-goers in the audience. Yes, me.

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