Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Outfield of Gore

February 28, 2006

A year or so back, I went to see a no-budget horror film called THE WIZARD OF GORE for my horror website. It was really bad (I described it then as "as dull as an economics lecture in a language you do not speak"), but even more cheap, directed by famed shlockmeister Hershel Gordon Lewis. I wasn't born in the era of drive-ins, so I don't really understand the tolerance people had in the Seventies for really, really bad movies, but then, I still paid to go see WIZARD OF GORE and you didn't.

Well, they're remaking it--since it's a little-known California law that ALL horror films made between 1969 and 1981 must be remade before 2009 or the lower half of the state will revert to Mexico--and on Monday, I got to work a day on it. I had been out of town over the weekend, so I only heard that we were shooting at a club and that we weren't to wear black, red, or white. With the little experience I have at clubbing (baby seals don't count), I dressed in nice slacks, a button-up shirt, and a tie.

When I got to set, I realised with horror, that I was the only one so dressed. Everyone else had shredded jeans, fishnet shirts and stockings, dresses with blood on them, patchy army jackets, faded t-shirts written over with marker, rainslickers with hoods, studs in their ears, noses, lips and anuses, grey flannel underwear with shorts over them, black MATRIX-style trenchcoats (even though we weren't to wear black), leather jackets and pants, fake furs, and the like. One girl even had a torn up Batman costume on over lingerie!

We were supposed to be at a secret underground club ("the first rule of Gore Club is . . .") where young people gather to see Montog the Magician's revolting illusions (or "illusions," if you've already seen the first film). Well, I stood out among the extras like real breasts on a "Deal or No Deal" model, and while they should have sent me home (after all, what was I thinking wearing a tie?), they didn't. Josh, the A.D. on DARK STREETS, was cool then and cool now and told me I'd be alright with Wardrobe. The wardrobe guy told me to loosen my tie and that was it. I was mocked quite a bit, with the most kind remark I received being that I looked like I just got off work.

We shot it at the Plaza Park Hotel, a huge, ornate structure built by corrupt, cigar-smoking men's clubbers in the Forties. It was impressive to me, as all buildings seem to be, having grown up on a farm in a town the size of a postage stamp. The hotel was decorated with lots of marble, mini-posters of the movies that had been shot there (most notably, THE MASK), and tons of Greek and Roman designs, murals, and sculpture, as well as astrological signs (were the Zodiac signs Greek? Or were they also invented by the Sumerians, along with the written word, the concept of hours and minutes, geometry, human sacrifice, astronomy, surgery, and boy bands?) covered the walls and ceilings. It also had a smell that reminded me of my grandparents' house.

We were playing two different nights' worth of clubgoers, who are disgusted when a geek eats maggots, cockroaches, and bites the head off a rat, and then are even more appalled when Montog slaughters a volunteer from the audience before our eyes (one with a broomstick and one with swords), only to have them turn out okay when the lights come up. An unusual number of the extras were African-American, and I asked a group of them, "Would black guys really go to something like this? This strikes me as more of a white guy thing." They laughed at that.

Also working was my pal John the Ladykiller. And sure enough, the hottest of the extras, a svelte, chain-smoking blonde, gravitated right toward him, spending the entire day and night by his side. Amazing. He didn't even try.

Interestingly, he asked me what I thought of the girl at "Deal or No Deal," the one that was hugging and leaning on him. He asked if I wanted him to set me up with her. I suppose that's the sort of thing that happens to real people, but not me.

The big, cold meeting hall was where we were shooting the club scenes. It had been decorated with crates, garbage, bottles, plastic sheets and graffiti, as well as severed mannequin limbs and torsos. It was pretty impressive, though the entire 1970 film could have been made on what they spent on just that one day of shooting, no joke.

The film stars Jeffrey Combs, Kip Pardue, and the always delightful Bijou Phillips (who I complained in this blog about last month). The lead actor of the film, playing the evil Montog the Magnificent (how I remember that, I'll never know) is Crispin Glover, who they say is the most eccentric actor in the business. He was wearing a white tuxedo that looked more like a fencing outfit, along with an over the top Ace Ventura pompadour and an even more over the top baseball mitt-sized bulge in the crotch of his costume. I mean, you could lose an eye, kids.

Apparently, Brad Douriff is also in the film. Hearing that, I took along my BRIDE OF CHUCKY DVD in case I ran into him. My niece--being (sadly) related to me and (even more sadly) having red hair--is obsessed with Chucky, and it would have been cool to tell her I met the man behind the murderous doll, but he wasn't working that day.*

We've all heard the Crispin Glover stories--how he is certifiably insane, how he screwed himself out of the BACK TO THE FUTURE sequels, how he tends to believe he's his characters, how he bites and murders crewmembers on the films he does, etc. And yes, he was strange, but not unprofessionally so. I said hello to him, but that was it. I wanted to have him sign my BTTF poster, but the vibe was wrong and I didn't ask.

Jeffrey Combs was 97% unrecognisable in his role as the Geek (is "geek" capitalised when it's an occupation?), complete with dirty, raggedy clothes, long grey dreadlocks, and a Gandalf-length beard. As a Horror/Sci-Fi fan, I have a tremendous respect for Combs. His "Star Trek" work alone is incomparable, and I've never seen him deliver a bad performance (even in bad movies), and called him "Mister Combs" when I spoke to him. He said to call him Jeff and shook my hand.**

At the end of the shoot, I sat down toward the front (on Night One, I was in the back and on Night Two, we were told to switch), beside a friendly girl I met on the set of "Boston Legal." She calls me Mushu, for some reason, he being the dragon in MULAN. To make me feel a little less out of place in my improper clothes, she put lipstick on me (not that it helped me look less dorky, but who was I to refuse?). Many of the dudes there had makeup, but on me, it only looked weird. We probably should've put tons on. At one point, she held up her mp3 player and said, "Guess what group I just discovered?" I shrugged and said, "Electric Light Orchestra?" since that was the one I most recently liked. And, of all bands in the world, that was the one she had just discovered. She freaked out at my psychic powers.

A few minutes later, after the stand-ins got up, I found myself sitting next to Bijou Phillips. By pure chance, I suppose. I'm sort of what you would call the opposite of a fan of hers. She's got a high, squeeeky voice, an evil temper, and is seldom quiet for long. "What do you call a blonde with two brain cells?" Phillips asked. "Pregnant," was the response, though she sort of screwed up the punchline.

In the scene, the evil Montog calls Bijou up as a "volunteer," using his hypnotic mind powers to get her to go up, then proceeds to skewer her before our shocked eyes. I've seen some directors who yelled--not a lot, though--but I've only ever seen an actor yell at the director or crew. That was Bijou Phillips, and she did it on DARK STREETS as well as on WIZARD OF GORE. Apparently, she doesn't like having a director tell her how to say her lines. The poor dear.

The shoot didn't go too late--we were wrapped around eleven-thirty--and though it had been raining all day and all night, I made it home before midnight. February, besides being the shortest month, has also been my least profitable. I'd better work extra hard (no pun intended) in March to make up for it.

Speaking of March, I should be starting out the new month working on an Anthony Hopkins picture. Not too shabby.

Rish "The Warlock of Gore" Outfield

*Did you know that in Latin America, CHILD'S PLAY is known as CHUCKY: EL MUñECO DIABOLICO?

**He may also have signed my RE-ANIMATOR and written "You're next!" on it. I'll never tell.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Feb. 23, 2006

Worked "CSI: New York" today in Downtown L.A.. I arose with no work at all, then decided to be proactive for once (for twice, actually) and submit myself for available roles instead of just waiting for my booking service to not call me. Nicely, I only made one call, and when I didn't get it returned, figured I'd spend the day killing small animals in my underwear as usual.* Around noon, though, my phone rang, and I had gotten the gig. If I'm to get ahead in life, I need to do that sort of thing more often. I drove over and wasn't as late as I usually am (someone should've told my parents that cousins maybe shouldn't marry).

We shot until two a.m. (I'm actually typing this at 2:38a.m.). I started out playing a businessman in a hotel bar (wore the same old black suit . . . that sucker has easily paid for itself this year alone), then switched over to NYPD (the uniform was welcome, since it got fairly cold tonight), and later switched back to businessman. They also used my car, which gets even non-union extras a small bonus, or "bump." We started fairly late in the day (a great lunch had been prepared, but I had just eaten), but accomplished quite a lot in a fairly short time.

Shooting at night--to me, anyway--is somehow more draining than shooting during the day. Maybe it's that it's colder at night, maybe it's the knowledge that the morning is fast approaching and you're probably not going to get enough sleep, I don't know.

I don't watch a lot of television, though I try to keep up with what's popular. Unlike my friend Jeff, I'm not a fan of the "CSI"s. If I were, however, I think "New York" is the one I'd watch.

In a couple of the scenes we shot (where I was a police officer), Gary Sinese and
Melina Kanakaredes** were also working. I was somewhat excited to meet Mr. Sinese, though I didn't get to talk to him. While I'm not gay (except when I throw a baseball), Sinese strikes me as a pretty handsom . . . okay, I can't say it. Sorry.

In most of these scenes, we were shooting on the Downtown streets (and in the street on our last shot), but in a much nicer section than DARK STREETS or SPIDEY 3. Passersby were actually allowed to stand around and watch them shoot. Many took pictures (Kanakaredes actually posed with some of them), and I found it odd that only one in five pedestrians at eight p.m. on a Thursday were American.

A girl pretended to be my girlfriend. She was very cool and we talked about movies for a couple of hours. She and I played a game, similar to the old Kevin Bacon one, where you mention actors and their films and another actor in that film, but she was much better at it than me. She was one of those people who remembers the name of the guy who played the second teen to die in the third NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or the ugly dude in the Aaron Burr commercial.

There was an exotically beautiful, Amazonian girl (in her defence, she told us she was only six foot one, though she was wearing entallening boots) who I had once told should submit herself for WONDER WOMAN auditions if that flick ever gets made. We made fun of her for a while, insinuating that nobody that good-looking could have a brain in her head and joking about all the simple words she wouldn't understand.

Later however, I called her Wonder Woman and she came over and talked to me for a minute. Turns out she was really very nice, and I kind of feel bad about it.

Another extra was admiring a football one of the guys was using as a prop and remarked, "Wow, that is a nice-lookin' ball." My fake girlfriend said, "That's what she said." It was either the best use of the classic old That's What She Said joke, or it was so late at night that I thought so.

Yesterday, I worked with Hilary Swank. I did get to talk to her. She was surprisingly attractive and unsurprisingly cool.

The film was called FREEDOM WRITERS, and while I'll never go see a movie called that (even less so once I found out what it was about), it was a pleasant experience, and I got to listen to a girl who was actually a Freedom Writer (don't ask, please) tell about her experiences living the lives that inspired the book that inspired the movie. Several of the ex-high school students got to be extras in a movie about their life.

We shot it way down in Long Beach (which is a lengthy drive for everyone, even if you live in Long Beach), in front of the Aquarium of the Pacific. Sometimes extras are paid mileage for their drives (union extras are always paid mileage if the shoot is on location), and it's always nice, especially if you're driving all the way up to Valencia or down to Long Beach. In this case, I wasn't given mileage. It was a nice sunny day, however, with a cool breeze coming across the harbour.

We were attending a fund raiser on a grassy hill (with REAL grass, mind you!), where various booths had been set up selling food (real food, but cold and stale, so we couldn't eat it). I was paired up with a soft-spoken girl who asked me about the book I was reading ("Sepulchre" by James Herbert) and that was about it. At one point, we were moved to the line where Hilary Swank and another actress were selling tickets. I got to buy some from her three or four times, using fake movie money, and that was cool.

After that, the A.D., who was really a nice guy (but SAG people still issued a complaint against him) told our group that those who wanted to go home could, and those who wanted to stay could stay and eat lunch. I didn't particularly want to go home, so I stuck around. They didn't end up using me again after that, just my car, so I sat around watching PATTON and reading until the extras for the night shoot arrived. When they did, I saw Serena, The Girl Who Lived, somebody I used to see all the time and wanted to take to HARRY POTTER, and she came over and sat by me. I hadn't seen her in a while, but she was so friendly that I thought I would try the make out line on her. In case you care, on the set of "House" a couple of weeks ago, a woman told me a dude had come up to her and said, "So, you wanna make out sometime?" After much discussion, she told me I ought to use it, since girls appreciate directness.

I don't know why I'm telling you this, because nothing came of it. The Girl Who Lived was called to the wardrobe line, along with a hundred others, and while she was gone, the few of us from that morning who were left were dismissed and told to hop on the shuttle back to the parking lot. Disappointed, I hurriedly wrote her a note telling her if she wanted to catch up, shoot the breeze, or make out sometime to give me a call.

I got back to the parking lot and found my car, but not my keys. I had to track down the A.D., and then the P.A. who had them, and then get stuck in rush hour traffic. But I chose to stay, didn't I?


*Though what they were doing in my underwear, I'll never guess.

**Melina Kanakaredes has to be the actress with the most difficult name to spell, though I guess you do spell it like it sounds.

Friday, February 17, 2006

February 17, 2006

I haven't done much you'd be interested in this week, so I haven't posted. But I could be wrong, and maybe there is something of interest in this week's experiences.

Monday I worked "House" again. I don't know how I keep getting on it, but I hope that continues (the girl at the Fox studio store might have recognised me, as she gave me the employee discount without me having to ask). We were continuing the episode from last week, but weren't on the hospital set with the regulars. This time a little church had been set up on an adjoining stage and we were all churchgoers, the kind who clap and sway and watch people get faith-healed.

It was a short day (we were done before lunch) and pretty easy. Except for an infuriating extra with a mop of unruly Dennis the Menace hair, who kept talking during takes and wandering around. He got moved to my section when Joel saw he was being a camera-hog, and the people in my corner started to trade places not to stand by him. This guy whooped and made asinine remarks, went up the aisle toward the preacher, and just plain couldn't shut up (not wouldn't, apparently his defective brain wouldn't allow it). I suppose I should be forgiving of stuff like that, but I actually wanted to jab him with a Taser until he stopped twitching.

On Tuesday, I didn't do Jack W. Shit. I watched ETERNAL SUNSHINE again, but that's about it.

Chalupa is my favourite Spanish word. Even more than chingaso.

On Wednesday, it was my day three on DREAMGIRLS. This time we were shooting up in Pasadena. We parked at the Rose Bowl, then were bussed to the holding area (a high school gymnasium), then were bussed to the set, passing the Doc Brown BACK TO THE FUTURE house on the way. They said there were between six and seven hundred of us, but it was somewhat well-organised in that there was enough food for everyone and the check-in lines were never long.

It was supposed to be 1975, and everyone had outlandish outfits on. A lot of the black extras got huge Afros and the white ones got long sideburns (I didn't get either, which disappoints me, since I stood in the makeup line for so long). What I did get was a bright red polyester suit and a fluffy creme-coloured shirt and matching shoes. A couple of the extras made fun of me, but I thought it was great, to get to wear something so hideously Seventies that it beggars comprehension. And it ain't like it's me wearing it, it's some 1975 Grammy attendee wearing it. I snapped a couple of pictures, and a few minutes later the A.D.s made an announcement that people shouldn't take photos of their wardrobe, as it was all copyrighted by Dreamworks SKG. I would imagine there were even more pictures taken after that.

I saw Vincent from last week's DREAMGIRLS table and he said, "Hey, you didn't print any of what I said in a magazine, did you?" I told him I didn't like people putting words in my mouth, and we were fast friends.

All we had to do was sit in a big auditorium and watch the performances. Beyonce sang part of one song and was, again, the best-looking person in the room. When Mark and I worked SPIDER-MAN 3, we made a geek list to pass the time of the top ten "Saturday Night Live" cast members. Surprisingly, we both had the the same pick for number one.

Said performer--Eddie Murphy--sang two songs (or lip-synched to his own playback), and was energetic, looking surprisingly young and healthy, and made everybody laugh just by saying the s-word. He unbuttoned his shirt for the audience and was supposed to have dropped his pants, but the most he ever got down was his zipper. I wonder if they'll suggest he showed more in the finished film.

There weren't enough of us to fill the whole room (probably a thousand seats there), so they moved us around, depending on where the cameras were. For some of this, the dude next to me wore his own period outfit. It was so pot-ridden, it smelled like Cheech & Chong's skid marks. Luckily, I got moved soon after, but before I did, he complained that we weren't allowed to have our phones on the set. When the man behind him explained why, he insisted that everybody, not just rich people, had cellphones in the 1970's. I didn't question him out loud, but I think I would've seen it in a movie or TV show if that were the case.

Unfortunately, also in the group I was sitting with, was the blond mental defective from the "House" church. I had never seen him before, and now I see him twice in a row. He may be an evil spirit sent to punish me for my crimes against humanity.

The shoot went until three in the morning (actually a bit earlier than they hinted we'd be getting out), and I got home around three-thirty. The next morning I was doing a game show (my first of the year), so I had time to get some sleep before heading over.

The game show was NBC's "Deal or No Deal," hosted by Howie "Never Funny Not Once" Mandel. They had security beyond the norm, actually wanding us AFTER we'd gone through the metal detector and had our possessions searched and/or confiscated. Mandel actually seemed to be a nice guy, and somewhat clever even, but I did wonder how hard it would be to host a game show where everything is up on a teleprompter and they halt the damn show every five minutes to do something again.

In line to get in, I saw a girl who worked with me on DARK STREETS, and had gone on to work it two more days beyond the three we did together. She told the others how much fun it was and that she would have happily worked on it another week. It's interesting how peoples' experiences can differ so much, but maybe it should teach me not to be so judgmental of those who complained about SPIDER-MAN 3 or the jobs where we only sit and clap.

I sat next to John the Ladykiller, who I like very much. He actually got up from where he was sitting to hang next to me. Unfortunately, that was next to the warm-up guy (a warm-up guy is a comedian hired to keep audiences energetic and awake during a long day of shooting a live audience show. They usually annoy the crap out of me because they tell lame jokes and ask people inane questions, and I don't like to be told to applaud or stand or jump around again and again and again. But hey, that's just me; I don't know if I could be a warm-up guy), so after lunch, we moved to the other side of the stage.

The show, if you've never seen it, is pretty entertaining, once they get going. There are twenty-six hot models (although you'd be hard-pressed to find a SINGLE non-implanted breast among them, much less two) with twenty-six briefcases, each with a denomination in it. The contestant has to pick one and eliminate the others, hoping they got the one with the high dollar value inside, or sell it to the evil, shadowed Banker, who attempts to buy their briefcase off them, depending on what numbers have been eliminated. I know that's a weak explanation of the show, but I shouldn't have even described that much (after all, do I explain what "House" is about, or "E.R.," or "My Mother the Car 2006?").

We entertained ourselves by deciding which models were the hottest (and which ones John had probably already done), and I picked number six. She was so good-looking . . . well, I don't know what. She could be a Cylon maybe. John the Ladykiller had a female friend next to him who he used to date the best friend of (and she thinks he's still dating her, so I wasn't to say otherwise . . . wow, this guy is like James Bond). She actually seemed pretty cool, cute, with a real sense of humour (not the artificial kind beautiful girls steal from "Friends" reruns and then paste on to try it out), and I wondered if, maybe . . . Well, it doesn't matter, since she was all over John, one of those things where she constantly touched him or put her arm around him or laid her head on his shoulder. Ah well.

The show was very slow and they constantly re-did spontaneous things because they missed them the first time, despite having ten cameras all over the set. The first game took forever, and I suspect that both the contestant and her family were all actors reciting well-memorized lines or ad-libbing according to a set script. Sorry, Mom.

We sat for two shows, taking up seven hours. They wanted volunteers to stay late for a third show, and I normally would've stuck around (for the extra cash), but he didn't have a car, so I gave John the Ladykiller a ride home. That guy is about the opposite of me in every way (he's tall and fit and handsome, into drugs and womanising and midget wrestling), and if I had half his charm I'd be writing this blog from a stripper's bedroom instead of my own.

Which gets us to today, Friday. I'm working in West Hollywood on a film called HE WAS A QUIET MAN, starring Christian Slater, William H. Macy, and Elisha Cuthbert (who I had a brief thing for, and still have the GIRL NEXT DOOR poster on my wall). We were shooting a restaurant called Solare and playing diners (I've often remarked that I have eaten in more fancy restaurants in my time as an extra than I ever have in real life).

Christian Slater looked awful: he had been royally dorked up with red, blotchy skin, thick glasses, an overbite, and fully half of his hair gone (I assume it was shaved and he hasn't lost it). If you saw him on the street, you'd never have guessed who it was, nor given him a second glance. It must be nice to get to chameleon yourself like that as an actor. Cuthbert had brown hair about the same as she did in the HOUSE OF WAX remake and I wondered if her hair is really blonde or brunette.

I saw an extra I work with every week who I've nicknamed The General (no idea what his name really is) because he was our garrison's leader on THE GOOD GERMAN, and he told me the plot of the film. It's quite clever, actually. SPOILERS: Basically, Christian Slater is a put-upon office employee who snaps and goes to work with a gun on the same day another employee does the same thing. When the other employee goes postal, shooting up the place, Slater pulls out his gun and dispatches him, becoming an unlikely hero. Cuthbert is shot through the spine and becomes paraplegic. END SPOILERS.

In the scene I was in, they had gone to a nice restaurant and he was feeding her in the wheelchair. Slater banged her wheelchair against the tables next to theirs, which included mine. We shot a fantasy sequence where she was fully mobile, then several passes of how it really was.

It was a very small shoot, and I believe there were fifteen or sixteen of us. Small shoots are infinitely preferable to big ones, since you'll sometimes get union vouchers and union food (got the latter, not the former) and always get more personal crew attention and camera time (got the latter, not the former). We didn't go very long, as the production had to be out of there by four for the restaurant to commence its usual day. I like small shoots and I like it when they're in a hurry.

Cuthbert struck me as particularly difficult to amuse, but the longer I sat by her, the cuter she got. I think the nose has something to do with it--her nose curves upward on the end in a really unusual way. I took the opportunity to say something to her, but the infamous Outfield stutter took over when I tried. It hasn't reared its ugly head since I gave that little elf on SANTA CLAUSE 3 the drawing I made of Martin Short crushing her in the door.

The woman I was partnered up with (my date at the table) was quite a good actress, forcing me to raise my game even in the shots where our backs were to the camera and pretend to talk and drink. She was, however, what the textbooks refer to as a know-it-all, telling me all about the inner workings of the film world (in Canada, she went to many auditions for real parts, before finally slumming it and doing Extra work), how she knew what the movie was about using deductive reasoning (I simply asked somebody), and the prestigious jobs she had gotten in her mere two months of working here in L.A..

She was a writer of poetry (hmmm*), but was making the transition to screenwriting, using all the bits of information she had picked up here and there. I tried to be friendly--and indeed was--but it got a little tiring to hear her condescend to me when I'm sure I had a decade on her, so I said, "I'm impressed you've actually written a screenplay. You have no idea how many people in L.A. call themselves screenwriters and when you ask them how many scripts they have written, they say, 'I'm still working on my first.'" Well, I'm still learning the format, but I've got the story for one all ready to go. "Oh," I said, "Whoops, sorry about that." Of course I knew that's what she was going to say, but I had to deflate the balloon a tiny bit (after all, she said "aunt" so it rhymed with "haunt").

We spent a couple of hours together on our "date," up at the bar and then at our table right next to the principals (Slater and Cuthbert). She told me about this bizarre diet she was on--not really a diet since she weighed about 97 pounds--something she called a "thirty-day cleansing." I told her I'd give her a dollar if she'd eat a Dorito. But I was just kidding. I don't have a dollar.

Rish Chalupa Outfield

*A screenwriter or storyteller talking down to a poet is, in my mind, like a basketball player or boxer talking down to a professional bowler. But hey, that's just me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Comics + Movies = Celibacy

I hate Valentine's Day. To me, there's a heck of a lot more joy in Memorial Day (and at least you get a day off). Since I hung out with Kristina last Valentine's Day, I figured I'd post this essay in honour(?) of that day.

"You're never gonna get laid until you stop reading comic books and going to movies."

I was sitting in a restaurant with my pal Kristina, sharing beverages and talking about life, when she dropped that bombshell on me. I had been bemoaning my lack of success with a certain female friend of hers, and always outspoken and seldom mincing words (even when it hurt), Kristina just laid it out there on the table. The main problem with my relationship woes could be found in my leisure time activities.

With these words, my mind reeled. Could it be true? Was it not a flaw in my body, face, mind, or personality, but in where I chose to hang out and what I loved to do? Could dropping those things be what it takes to have success?

And why do I dwell on this?

I love movies. I used to love comics just as much. I must admit that there are times, whether it's remembering them, talking about them, or reading them, when I love them like that again. There's a great fantasy element and sense of wonder in superhero comics that rarely shows itself in superhero movies or TV shows. Simply the smell of an old comic can take off fifteen or twenty years.

On the other hand . . . sex. That's, well, just a much bigger deal.

Movies for me are a huge deal, though, probably right up there with sex at the top of the list. Going to movies, renting movies, talking about movies, making fun of movies, writing about movies, looking forward to movies (good ones and bad), wanting to make movies . . . these are things that really fuel me.

So losing comics and movies is quite a price to pay. I know what you're thinking: dude, I'd cut off my banana in exchange for sex!

Well, first of all: ewww. Second of all, if you did, how would you have sex? You really must think these things through a little better.

There is little that can beat the thrill of going to a movie and being swept away to a new world of wonder, with characters that live and breathe, adventure, laughter, anger, romance, and triumph that beggars any we have actually managed to experience in our little spheres.

But I also know that one of those few things that can beat that thrill is the spark of real-life romance, the chemistry between two people, the sparkle in an eye, and touch of a hand (and, let's be honest, the sparkle on a tongue and the touch of a breast) . . . the horizon of new possibilities that opens up when that human connection is there. This is important to a person's existence, on a level that's more vital than the need to tell and hear stories.

Would I never read another comic book in return for sex? Would I burn my AMC Moviewatcher card and let the local multiplex forge on without me in exchange for someone to spend my nights with (kicking me when she rolls over and insisting I breathe toward the wall)? Would it be worth it?

And a bigger question is: what kind of girl are we talking about, who would ask that I trade away one or two of the few things that bring me joy in order to be with her? Like the fairy tale trades where you must give up your kingdom or family or voice to be with the one you love? But this is no fairy tale, and it says a great deal about the character of a person who can be so selfish as to demand their mate give up what makes him happy in order to make her so.

Kristina, in her blunt way, was trying to help me, I'm sure (though ultimately, she proved to be one of those people who prefers to step on fingers rather than pull someone to safety), and because of that, I have never been able to dismiss her words outright.

I was quite horrified at the thought of a sexless existence, but some of the people around me didn't feel that way. I spoke to an ex-roommate of mine about it, and he said that TITANIC was a weaker film because the characters of Rose and Jack have sex. He told me he thought it would be a much stronger romance if they never had sex. Though I agree that their tragic parting (whoops, spoiler) would become tragic had they never gotten it on, but I didn't understand the "stronger romance" part. I asked him. He said, "Well, they had something pure going, then they ruined it by taking their clothes off." I didn't know how to respond to that, especially considering he was a 32 year old virgin (just about the saddest thing I can think of).

Practically every one of my married friends (save one, gor bless 'im) has told me that sex is overrated, a very small part of a relationship, and that the world don't revolve around it.

I talked to Matthew, who was Kristina's friend before she was mine (and loves comics more than I ever could), about what she had said and he only shrugged. "But do you think that could be possible? That comic books and movies taint us toward women, driving them away the way garlic repels vampires?" "What if it does?" Matthew said, "Who cares?" Well, I cared. Sex is a big deal to me. Matthew said, "Yeah, I guess, but comics are a bigger deal." We had discussed this many a time, and Matthew's sex drive is that of a seventy year old Buddhist monk. Like the wise man once said, "Ahh, who needs girls? I’m ambidextrous."

I wish I could be like that, but I feel the loss, and I recognise the void in my life (for something that makes a lot of people miserable, but they'd never trade away). If anyone has some advice for me, I'm in the market.

I once saw a movie (no, it wasn't CHASING AMY misremembered) where a guy who was into Sci-Fi and comics and such meets a totally cool girl who loves comic books and movies and geek culture just as much as he does, and here's the thing . . . she doesn't look like something that's been living in the New York City sewers, killing and eating homeless people for the past dozen years. I saw the movie, but it was a stupid one, and so unrealistic, it made that turd THE CORE look like a Ken Burns documentary. You just made that story up, there ain't no girl like that.

So, on this girlfriendless Valentine's Day, Kristina's proclamation comes back to me, a little stronger than it usually does. Do I compromise what I love--in essence, who I am--to find a new love, a new me? Or, if I did, would I find myself just as alone, just as unloved, but in a world even emptier than the one I used to have, with my celluloid and three-colour fantasies?

I don't have the answer. Just the question.

Rish Socrates Outfield
February 14, 2006

"I've got a Dungeon Master's Guide,
I've got a 12-sided die;
I've got Kitty Pryde,
And Nightcrawler too;
Waiting there for me, Yes I do.
In the garage, I feel safe;
No one laughs about my ways.
In the garage, where I belong;
No one hears me sing this song."


Friday, February 10, 2006

February 10, 2006

"We're your dreamgirls, boys, we'll make you happy;
We're your dreamgirls, boys, we'll always care."

This happy refrain (I really have no idea what those words mean) has been repeated again and again on the set of DREAMGIRLS, directed by Bill Condon. I'm at L.A. Center Studios in Downtown, a small, but still nice studio, where they shoot the TV programme "Numbers," among other stuff.

I'm on DREAMGIRLS for three days, and it's been darn easy work (I mean, compared to marching in a uniform or wearing shorts when it's forty degrees, not compared to flipping burgers or wearing a suit to an office).

Dressed in Sixties formal(ish) wardrobe, we're in a nightclub set draped in sparkly blue, watching the singers perform. I guess DREAMGIRLS was a Broadway show about the rise of the Supremes, but I hadn't heard of it before now. It stars Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Beyonce Knowles in the Diana Ross-esque role. Today and yesterday's scene has been the three singers (Beyonce, Anika Noni Rose, and Jennifer Hudson) in long white gowns, dancing about as the song plays. Yesterday, I sat in holding, watching videos and stuffing my face for ten hours, and only got on set for the last shot of the night ("The Martini"). The singers performed for three takes and then we went home.

Today, though I was either lucky or unlucky, depending on your attitude, by being used from the get-go.

There are three levels of tables and I'm in the second (table 14B for you scoring at home), right in front of the stage. There are eight of us at the table, and they seem like a friendly sort. I have to admit that, watching Beyonce sing and smile, I started to imagine that she was singing to me, looking at me. The woman has charm. Big and dopey me, I fuzziness came over me like when I saw THE LITTLE MERMAID for the first time ("Where is that music coming from? What is this feeling in my chest? What is happening to me?"). Also, after every take, Ms. Knowles adjusted her bustline entirely without any self-consciousness.

This has been fun, really, and though I have no interest in the Supremes, I'll probably go see the movie.

If you know me at all, you know I keep to myself--almost as antisocial as Ebeneezer Scrooge or tyranist--and yesterday, I spent pretty much the whole day in my own company, finishing Golding's "Lord of the Flies," and watching DVDs on my sister's player. But today, especially since I've spent much of it on set, I endeavoured to be more sociable, spending time with Jonathan the Cartoonist, a girl I'd never met before who loves PRIDE & PREJUDICE more than life itself, John the Ladykiller, and chatting with the people at my table, all much more experienced than I am.

People, my sainted mother used to say, are so interesting, and you'll find good ones wherever you go. It was cool, everybody has horror stories to tell in this business, since almost everyone starts at the bottom and works their way to the second rung. Really trying to be outgoing, I asked the group what their best experience doing extra work was, as well as their worst, and if anyone had ever worked with Harrison Ford. The woman next to me was especially loquacious, telling about being on "Baywatch" and almost being set on fire for a reenactment show. The woman across from me was very nice, talking about the headaches of working on THAT THING YOU DO and WATERWORLD. The man between them, a balding, round New Yorker, was quite funny, and had been doing extra work for two years. He told me about being a regular on "Karen Sisco" and bumping heads with a surly craft service person, who teamed up with a haircut person to get him fired (mere days before the show was ultimately canceled anyway). I talked about working on FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS last fall, a real high point for me.

I have shared with you a few stories of my experiences--not all of them interesting, I recognise--but these folks had fascinating tales. Since we were together on set for most of the day, we got to know one another pretty well, but it wasn't until I brought in this notebook that the true personality of the woman next to me revealed itself.*

"What is that? A journal?" she asked. Usually, when people ask this, I explain that I am a writer and put stories in it, or sometimes write what show I'm on, or that it's a letter to the Corpse Bride inquiring if she has any sisters, but this woman was asking in a derisive way, so I owned it.  "Yep," I said, "but if you find it rude for me to write in it, we can keep talking." We spoke some more--she used to work for TV Guide, the woman across from me was a photo double on CARNOSAUR and had to dye her hair blonde, and the round man had once killed a Colorado child model just to watch her die. All things I have yet to experience.

Beyonce and company continued to perform, lip-syncing to playback, and doing clever period choreography. I saw this woman up close, and dang, girl, she's a handsome woman. Her awesome physical characteristics notwithstanding, I was amazed by how good-natured she was, take after take, and her ability to spin around, stepping over the microphone cord so it didn't trip her. Also, her smile and gaze out at us really did make me feel like it was me she was performing to. I remember Jason Lee in ALMOST FAMOUS saying, "I look for the one guy in the crowd who's not getting off and I make him get off." Ms. Knowles has a couple of advantages over Jason Lee, as far as I'm concerned.

"Hey," the woman next to me said, "What's your name?"

 I told her.

 "Last name?"

 I told her.

 "I don't want to see anything I've told you to appear in a magazine, do you understand?"

 I didn't, so I asked her to repeat the question. "A magazine?" I asked, "Weren't you the one who worked for TV Guide?"

Strangely--and irritatingly, since she'd do it twice more through the night--she repeated herself without clarifying. "You are not to publish any of my stories. I don't want it to appear in a magazine. Yes or no?" It was so cold and businesslike, I think she would've had no compunctions with squeezing my huevitos in her fist until I answered.

Returning a bit of her hostility, I said, "First, I don't know what you're talking about, and second, no." There was tension in the air and I hate confrontations more than George McFly and Rex from TOY STORY combined, so I pretended to focus on the performance and only spoke to the others at the table for a while.

Later, the guy began to make fun of the craft service lady (she was a good little Nazi), and the woman next to me says, "You better watch what you say. Don't you know they're recording us right now?" 


 "Didn't you know, they record everything the extras say. There's a guy at a soundboard listening to us right now."

I couldn't resist, I told her I have a paranoid friend who's a huge conspiracy theorist and I thought they'd really hit it off. She replied by telling us she was on a sitcom and made a suggestion to another extra and the producers heard it and incorporated it into the show. I didn't argue with her, but the round man did, and she would not be swayed.

Later, however, he made a little joke (a very little one) and she got immediately furious, saying, "I don't like people putting words in my mouth."

 He said, "It was a joke, relax."

 To which, she replied, "I don't like people putting words in my mouth."

"Okay," he said, "Okay."

To which, she said, "I don't like people putting words in my mouth."

The man couldn't take any more, and said, "You know, the only person with a problem here is you. First you jump on the kid for writing in a notebook, now me for what was clearly a joke. We all have to work here, so just shut the fuck up and sit quietly." The dude came to my defence, and even cursed at the woman for me. I was really impressed by that, especially since it's common knowledge that I was born without a spine. Amazing I can walk around, really.

A few minutes later, we were sent back to holding, where I wanted to talk to the guy. Instead, the woman came up to me--presumably to stab me to death before I could tell you this tale--and growled, "I don't know what was wrong with Vincent. I just don't like people putting words in my mouth."

Afterward, I did run into the man later and he unloaded a cartful of profanity about it, calling her as loony as a toon, and said, "You can print whatever you want, kid. If she didn't want it known she got her eyebrows singed off at a mock Great White concert, she should've kept her mouth shut. Once it hits the air, it's public domain." While I don't know if that's the case, I don't feel at all bad for the other boxer. If she hadn't freaked out like she did, I wouldn't have even mentioned her, let alone wasted a whole notebook page on it.

Day two was a pretty short day--I think I got home around eleven p.m.--and was hardly exhausting. Indeed, the hardest thing about extra work is often just the waiting in line to get your voucher, waiting in line to get your wardrobe, waiting in line to change your clothes, waiting in line to eat, waiting in line to change again when we're wrapped, waiting in line to return your wardrobe and get your voucher back, waiting in line to get signed out, and waiting in line to get on the shuttle to take you back to your car.

I've got one more day--the big call--next week, where I've got a great, tacky Seventies tuxedo on. I don't know that anything will happen of note that day, but if it does, maybe I'll say something about it.

Until then, I remain,

Rish "Dreamboy" Outfield

*I don't know why my Spider Sense didn't warn me about her (the alien symbiote must have nullified it), but the woman was as wacky as Drew Barrymore at a pet store.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

House Rules

February 7th/8th, 2006

These past two days, I've been working "House M.D." again, which is probably my favourite show to work. They really put you through the paces on this one, and I've been switching between playing a visitor, a hospital administrator, and a patient (didn't have to wear the suit today, thank Buddha).

One of the things I like so much about the show is how uniquely unfriendly and misanthropic Gregory House is. While some of that has to be natural to his character, Hugh Laurie is always perfectly nice to be around. As I remarked before, Laurie on the set is as American as apple pie and frivolous lawsuits.

The 7th was a really long day, but they all are. We shot a scene where a religious nutjo--er, a very spiritual young man, decides to try and faith-heal the terminal cases at the hospital, all the while singing, "Go Tell It On the Mountain." We shot the scene from every conceivable angle (including the Steadicam being the faith healer, then switching over to being a cancer patient).

"House"'s holding is in the cafeteria room of the hospital set on Stage 15 at 20th Century Fox. It is fairly comfortable, except we must be silent, we can't have food in there (is that irony?), and can't sit in the booths. The Fox lot is my favourite of the studios (it's nice to see a three storey Darth Vader greet me each day, and I usually buy a "Firefly" boxed set every time I work there), and it's also the second nearest to my apartment.

This is a tight-knit group. Right now, I'm listening to a girl talk about her recent experience as Keira Knightley's photo double and sometime stand-in on PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2 and 3. She had many adventures on the production, getting very drunk and being unable to spend her per diem in Barbados or wherever it was.* THAT would be a gig, wouldn't it?

There's a guy on set--a regular extra--who has a peculiar hobby: he takes toys and action figures and modifies them to be knights and monsters and hybrids, using paint and glue and props and toothpicks and such. He brings a large case filled with paint and accessories and just works on them all day while the rest of us read or sleep or talk or fart around. He took one of those Prequels Clone Troopers and turned it into some kind of marauding barbarian with a battle axe. I could not be more impressed with this guy if he told me also worked on PIRATES 2 & 3 as Orlando Bloom's butt double.

On practically every TV show, there are regular extras--background players who return for every episode, constantly on the set or office or etc. They don't have to jockey for work, but are contacted by the production company to come back week after week. Probably the best example of a regular extra I can think of was the alien Morn on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," who became such a joke in the production that they gave him his own episode.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a regular on a show, they say. The disadvantage is that it can get boring spending all day doing the same thing at the same place with many of the same people (you reading this who has a real job can surely attest to that). The advantages are myriad. Chief among them is that it's steady work--anywhere from one day a week (the "Criminal Minds" regulars get less work since there's so much location shooting) to five days a week (regulars on shows like "E.R." or "Lost" or "The Office," where it's usually all set in one place). Also, you get to know the cast and crew, and begin to feel that they are your friends and family. There's a better chance to get upgrades like residuals or dialogue that way (nearly every one of the "Scrubs" regulars said they'd gotten a line at one point or another), and of course, the sexual benefits are outstanding.

I have only been a regular on one show, Fox's "Boston Public," years ago. It really was an interesting, almost familial experience, going to that fake school every week and seeing many of the same "students" and "teachers." I got upgraded to a Stand-In one time, and on a couple of occasions, costar Anthony Heald had me read lines with him (he and I were reading Thomas Harris's "Hannibal" at the same time, and I delighted in telling him about reaching the reference to his late character from "Silence of the Lambs"). You do make friends on these sets, and I remember that one of the extras called me one night in a drunken stupour to tell me that I was a good guy and "I love you, man." I miss Aris.

I've mentioned that you see the same faces at many of these jobs, other extras booked through the same service, or of the same age group and/or look. One of these, a bookish, homely girl named Kelly, spent a little time with me, telling me about the advances of a tall, darkly handsome extra on the set who, despite Kelly's boasts that she is engaged, continued to flirt with her and at one point, bluntly asked if she wanted to make out sometime.

This was to her horror, apparently, but to me, it was a moment of admirable boldness. "He ASKED if you wanted to make out?" I wondered.

"Make out sometime," she clarified, "Can you believe it?"

Well, I couldn't, but the man had very thick Pierce Brosnan hair, so he was capable of anything. I asked, "Could that really work?" and she said, of course, that that level of confidence is greatly admired by the ladies, who are often sick of games and would prefer a direct proposition.

Then, said she, "You ought to try that sometime. You're good looking enough."

This surprised me to hear, since it's common knowledge that I was so ugly at birth that when the doctor slapped me, somebody called the ASPCA on him. Later, Kelly went on about the handsome extra's persistence, claiming that he grabbed her hand and then her butt. I found that increasingly hard to believe, especially since there was a girl on set who looked like Gwen Stacy. Maybe there's a certain attraction in a girl that spurns your advances, but I'm now wondering how much of her story is true.

I don't know how much longer I'll do this extras thing--sometime I'll explain the fun-filled hoops you have to jump through to join the Screen Actors Guild and how far I am from getting there--but I'd really like to be a regular on something again. I'd say my chances aren't good, but if there's any show that it might work out on, it would be this one.

I either mentioned it before, or thought about mentioning it before, but the assistant director used to get my name wrong. Today, the A.D., who I still think is the greatest A.D. in the business, kept calling me "John," even after he realised his mistake. Maybe I look like a John (the toilet kind?), I don't know.

I had asked for the next day off--I had an appointment at six--but when they asked me to return, I had to go for it. Before she died, my grandmother gave me some advice. "Listen to me," she said, "Never turn down an offer of food, work, or sex."

And I don't mean to, Mister Frodo, I don't mean to.

Rish Outfield, M.D.

*It was the Bahamas. Apparently, there's very little to do there on days off. Boo hoo.

Monday, February 06, 2006

February 6th, 2006

I got up hours before the sun this morning to play a wedding guest on a new show called "Pepper Dennis." We were shooting up in Monrovia, a suburb so far north, I expected its inhabitants to say "aboot" and end their sentences with "eh." But nicely done, they actually paid us non-union slobs a bit of mileage for driving up there.

What kind of name is "Pepper Dennis" for a TV show? I'd consider it a bad name for a dalmation puppy, even.

The star of the show is the nine foot tall supermodel Rebecca Romijn. She's actually attractive in person, believe it or not. I had the impression, from seeing her work, that she was not a very strong actress, but she seemed pretty capable on today's shoot. It's always interesting to see these female TV and movie stars up close and compare them to the fantasy. Romijn passed the test, though, so again I'm disappointed with the orange feathers and blue scales they stuck on her in the X-MEN movies. But I'm digressing.

I love the f-word. I set down my hot chocolate to go on set, and when I got back, someone had spilled it all over my chair and book. I say "someone" spilled it because we didn't have 6.9 earthquake during shooting. Stuff like that reminds me why Jeff so hates people.

It seems to me that the only two things I ever mention in these reports are a) that the extras complained a lot about this or that; and b) that there were attractive women on set, but b), kids. They've got five bridesmaids--two with definitely fake breasts, two with real (I'm guessing), and one that could be real or could be fake depending on how kind you think God is--pretty much all babetastic.

One of them, a blonde, was Top Tier. She coulda actually taken my eyes off of Ms. Romijn.

I've been dressed up for my all my gigs over the last two weeks, wearing this darn suit six days in a row. Doing this, you start to think people are always attractive and nicely clothed in real life. Of course, nobody looks like that blonde bridesmaid in reality, only in animated Disney movies, may they rest in peace.

The lead actor in the show is Rider Strong*, the star of something called "Boy Meets World." As he walked by, I said, "You know, I think he was in CABIN FEVER." He stopped and said, "Yes, yes I was." I told him what a good flick that was and he thanked me, seeming happy to talk about it. I imagine it's like seeing William Katt and mentioning HOUSE or seeing Henry Winkler and talking about SCREAM, something other than what they are immediately associated with. At least I imagine that's the deal.

He seemed very friendly, though, the kind of guy I hope to replace tyranist with as my new best pal.

Probably ain't gonna happen, though.

Bob Gunton, co-star of the best movie of the entire Nineties, was playing Rebecca's father. I wanted to talk to him (though what I would've said, I don't know. Probably I'd have asked him if anyone had ever asked him to sign "I will thrust you down to the Sodomites" on something**), but didn't get the chance. He did bump into me during one take, though. Would be nice if that's the one they used.

I spent the day outdoors, with a warm sky and light breeze, carrying a fake wedding present across the backyard of this mansion called the Chateau Bradbury. We extras stood and did crosses with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been attending the reception of one of our own weddings.

The show also stars the lovely Brooke Burns, though oddly, they've given her dark hair in this. Sad. Her I didn't talk to.

The day was long, but not a lot of work. Just walking around, pantomiming conversation, carrying presents, and pretending to drink. At one point, I struck up a conversation with an older lady with the most charming English accent. I asked her if she was married and she spent the next fifteen minutes (no lie) telling me about how her first husband was cheating on her so she divorced him and her second husband died at age thirty-two in 1968, leaving her pregnant with her third child (but the British government has a widows fund that helped her family out), and how she'd never found anyone after that, but had good children, one of whom had come to America to study when she was sixteen, and liked it so much the whole family moved over here and how she was a nanny to celebrities for several years and now did background work to keep her occupied. Her name was Jean and I imagine I'll see her again one of these days; you nearly always do.

There weren't a lot of young people on today's call. Nor much to make this little report interesting. I'll think of something in the next couple of days, some lie to make it all sound glamourous and oh so sexy. Perhaps I can involve the blonde bridesmaid in my invention.

We'll see.

Rish Outfield-Stamos

*Now that's a porn actor's name if I've ever heard one.

**And if not, would he do so on my poster?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

February 3rd, 2006

Weird. Much to my surprise, I found a check waiting for me today, paying me for the day's work I missed when Steve Carrell got the clap. That kind of thing is to be expected for union workers, but it's certainly the first time it happened to me. Very nice. It almost makes up for the waste that was last Wednesday. Almost.

I wrote in my magic notebook about my last couple of days, my work on "The Office" today, and my generous plunge into depression. But now I don't know if I want to post it here. Too honest a glimpse, I fear.

Ah well.

Right now, I'm at the Universal Sheritan Hotel lobby, supposedly working on "The Office." It's a giant call, with more people than they could ever want to use. Yesterday, I was watching a WWII documentary and Hitler was giving a speech to what looked like a million people. There was an undulating mass of cheering, screaming, saluting Germans, and I honestly had never seen anything like it. It was like a public restroom in Bejing or something.

I've never watched "The Office," only because my bastage friend tyranist hated the British version. I am trying to keep my excitement levels down, hoping I can plunge into a pit of self-hating despair so deep that it will take my life. Hormone imbalance, hereditary depression, or outright loserdom, each time these dark clouds gather, I wonder if it'll be the last time. But I always bounce back, eventually. Too bad, though, I'm really doing no one any good at all.

Blah, blah, blah (post edited for content).

The shoot was pretty easy (though most of them are). We were attending a sales conference, where one of the characters, Dwight Schrute, was getting a salesman of the year award. When it was time for him to give his speech, he freezes, and his boss gets up in his place. He vamps, very unsuccessfully, talking about Excellence and humor and customers. And then Schrute gets up and begins quoting a Mousellini speech, substituting "salesman" and "workplace" for "fascist" and "battlefield." It gets a tremendous reaction--we are cheering, thinking he's great, and are completely unaware that anything unusual is happening.

This guy Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute, had to work a lot harder than Steve Carrell, but I'm not sure if that's because Carrell is more talented/funnier, or if Wilson just had a more difficult role.

At first, the scene was funny. Then they changed it around--or the actor ad-libbed a lot--and it was the opposite of funny. Then we did it a few more times, the way it was scripted, and it actually got funny again. That doesn't often happen.

The man next to me was geekier than . . . well, my Uncle Dave who bit the heads of chickens, rats, and small children for the circus. He complained a lot about the scene and claimed the show was on cable and no one would ever see it. He told me he didn't recognise the actors and when I told him Carrell was the FORTY-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, he said, "THAT'S the 40 year old virgin?" with so much disdain, that I said, "What, did he steal your title?"

A moment later, the geeky guy laughed and said, "I just got that. That's pretty funny."

I had a test screening pass to see something that night, but we didn't get out in time. I went home and . . . I have no memories after that.

Rish "Mister Happy" Outfield