Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sing It, Gladys

"L.A. grew too much for the man;
(too much for the man, he couldn't make it)
So he's leaving the life he's come to know.
(he said he's goin')
He said he's goin' back to find;
(goin' back to find)
Oooh, what's left of his world,
The world he left behind . . . not so long ago."

This, of course, is from Gladys Knight and the Pips's hit song "Midnight Train To Georgia." Its lyrics are about as apt as you can get. But more on that in a moment.

A little out of it right now. I had my first all-night shoot with DREAMGIRLS last night/this morning, and got in around 8:30. Traffic was annoying, but not as bad as it was the last time I did this, coming home exhausted from shooting "The X-Files" and having to endure the 405 Freeway at its worst.

Seriously, there was no one I recognised on set. I knew the costuming women and the A.D.s, but as for the extras, I don't know what happened. It was like there was a two year gap from the last time I did this, and everybody I knew had moved on.

One guy, a very nice man in his forties with Reed Richards-style grey on his temples, recognised me, and rightly told me where we had worked together. I didn't remember him at all, though.

I hadn't worn a tuxedo in I don't know how long. I'm trying to remember if I wore one in a previous extras gig. None are coming to mind right now.

I have to admit that most of the night, I just sat and read. I'm not complaining, it was a very good book.

It was in the same stage where we shot the first couple days of DREAMGIRLS, doing something very similar . . . watching our three ladies do their thing. Or perhaps, more appropriately, their thang.

I apologise for using that word.

In the end, I got to see Beyonce one . . . last . . . time.

Okay, so "Midnight Train To Georgia." As Ms. Knight sang later in the song, "He's goin' back to a simpler place and time."

The song itself I was not familiar with--nor indeed many Motown songs (you see, I grew up in a village so hick and whitebread that when the miniseries "Roots" aired, they retitled it "The Good Old Days")--until I was on the set of "Boston Public" a few years ago. Loretta Divine taught it to us in a fake class and I never forgot it.

Only hearing it again a couple of days ago did the lyrics sink in. Except for the bit about selling my old car and having a Gladys Knight who'd rather live in my world than live without me in hers, that song could be about yours truly.

Yep, I'm packing it in.

All of us have enemies--or less dramatic, obstacles--that prevent us from doing what we want and being where we want. In my case*, chief of these enemies/obstacles is me myself. So, due to that pesky, nefarious character, my time as a professional extra in the great city of Los Angeles (well, great weatherwise, anyway) is drawing to a close.

I came here to be a screenwriter, not an actor. But I guess I should have specified PROFESSIONAL screenwriter, or PRODUCED screenwriter, 'cause I have written several photoplays, as they used to call them, but done little with them. I started out doing Extra work as a lark in between jobs, and last year sometime, that became my full-time job.

Even in extra-work, I had my dreams. I wanted enough SAG vouchers to join the union, I wanted to play a zombie or monster, and I wanted to work on "Star Trek." Alas, these three dreams will not come true.


I keep telling myself I will return, head held high, when I've saved up enough money (and dreams) to get back for a second go-round. Those around me, though, don't think that I will. They seem to think I'm giving up, putting away childish things, and slinking back like a whipped dog.

And maybe, in a way, that is true. But who knows what is around the bend, who knows where my destiny lies, and can I really afford to pay $3.19 a gallon for gasoline?

"He kept dreamin'
oooh, that someday he'd be a star;
(a superstar, but he didn't get far)
But he sure found out the hard way,
That dreams don't always come true."

Rish "The Enemy Within" Outfield

*Though there certainly have arisen some from the outside; perhaps more on that later.

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