Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another Sunday With The Vanity Press Crowd

Oh, how I love my Sunday papers.  I cannot live without the Daily News funnies, the Post's lurid headlines, and of course, my  beloved NYTimes crossword puzzle.

And then there's the Book Review.  Today's vanity press ad has some nice things in it, such as Living the Life I Always Wanted, by a gentleman named John F. Willey, who wishes to tell us about being born in 1930, and how "Tough times awaited him and his family as the Great Depression got underway."  But, "Despite some bumps, John has lived an amazing life of adventure, loving relationships, and friends."

Oh, yawn.  I can just see a little tiny playlet at the Willey house on Thanksgiving:

Ed:  Mom, I'm sitting at the children's table this year.

Mom:  Ed, you're 43 years old.  Whyever would you do that?

Ed:  Because if I have to listen to Uncle John talking about his amazing life one more time, I'm going to vomit all over the turkey.

Then there's "Now I Can Call Myself A Biker," by David Royle.  "This is the story of David's exploits and adventures to gain experience he so desperately wanted.  It has shown that even at his age, in his mid-life crisis, it wasn't too late to learn how to ride a motorbike."  A MOTORBIKE?  Not even a Harley?  You might as well write a book about how at the age of 45, you finally learned to ride that tricycle.  I can just see him, that badass David, wearing his leathers...on his Vespa.

However, my favorite is this one.  ". . .talks about Sorala Nakib's adventures during her long flying career as a cabin crew (a cabin crew?  must have been a REALLY small plane if she was the entire cabin crew...) and her musings as a spiritual guru and peace seeker.  It's a biography that will blow your mind!"  How we got from being a cabin crew to a spiritual guru I'm not quite sure, although I must say that in these days of air rage, it probably came in handy.  However, what this gal really needed was an editor to come up with a better title...this little epic is called "Underneath A Flight Attendant."  Really.  Good GOD.

Other than that, I was all set to go and see friends for a Saturday night drink last night, but it didn't quite work out.  My friend Lee called last week to tell me to come over to our friend Jeremy's bar last night, so I called Caesar to get him to come along.  He poohed out on me at the last minute, so I went over to the bar (on the Lower East Side)...only to find no Lee and no Jeremy.  So I had a beer (feeling distinctly out of place among the 20-something hipsters) and came home.  Never trust half-drunk martial arts crazies.  Oh, well. 

On the far brighter side, Katie from Grant Wilfley called earlier this week to confirm me for another Boardwalk Empire shoot this coming Wednesday!  Yay!  I really need it to get the taste of that lousy Iceman shoot out of my mouth.  God only knows what they want me to do this time...after my toothless scene, I'm quite prepared for them to tell me I'm going to be an aging madam in the whorehouse set (yes, there is one) wearing period underwear.  Who knows?  But then, who cares?  Like everyone else who works on that show, I love it to pieces and don't much care what I do...

So tomorrow I will go and get my furry face waxed (too few people talk about the billygoat effects of menopause...damn nuisance), and I already took care of my hair, since I don't want them putting that awful dark spray on it again at Boardwalk...took me three applications of shampoo to get that junk out.  And I'll go to the library so I'll have something to read on set...and hope for a nice long shooting day.

Love, Wendy

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Iceman Freezeth

Well, that was a hideous day.  I got a call from Grant Wilfley Monday to go do something called The Iceman yesterday.  It's about a serial killer or something, with Michael Shannon, who played the insane FBI guy in a few words with him yesterday and he's a pleasant guy.

It was a pretty scary few hours before they told me what time to report, because they were going to be out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and my entire funds consisted of $12.  The reason this was scary was because in order to get to the train out there, I had to go to the stop at Essex and Delancey.  Under most circumstances this is no problem at all, because the M9 bus stops around the corner from my house and drops me at the subway.  However, if it had been a 6 am call, I would have had to walk from my place to the subway...about ten darkness, which didn't appeal to me at ALL (the bus doesn't start running until 6 am).  However, all was well...the call was for 8:30, so no problem.

But sheesh.  I should have known it wasn't going to be one of the better days when I saw breakfast, which was just barely adequate.  A thing of scrambled eggs, some potatoes, and some bacon was it for hot food, and then energy bars and doughnuts and a little fruit for the rest.  I realize this sounds picky, but even Law & Order (which is notoriously cheap) does better than that.  Usually you get a manned omelet station, and quite often lots of bagels and smoked salmon, and a MUCH better selection of fruit and hot stuff.

We then got into 60s outfits and tromped over to the first set, which was right on the edge of the East River.  Did I mention that the temperature was in the 40s and there was a 22 mile an hour wind?  We were MISERABLE.  Luckily, I  met a nurse who was on set (because there was going to be a stunt at some point during the day and the union says you have to have medical personnel on hand for that sort of thing) who was somewhat disturbed by the fact that I was shivering uncontrollably, and she had her car right there...her lovely, HEATED car.  God bless Deborah.  Without her I would have been standing in that damn wind without a coat for two hours.

We then went back to holding, which was also unheated.  We sat around there for a couple of hours or so, and they announced lunch.  WALKAWAY LUNCH.  All background people hate, hate, hate this. (It means you leave the set and go find a deli or restaurant and pay for your own food.) It's particularly annoying when you're in period costume, because of ill-fitting shoes and things...aside from the fact that your feet hurt, you look peculiar as hell.  This was a real problem for me, because having bought my papers and a Diet Coke, I was now down to 7 dollars.  I found a deli with a 5 dollar ham and cheese and brought that back to holding (still icy cold).

On to the next set!  This was almost 8 friggin' blocks vans, no nothing.  And I was wearing 3 inch heels.  And of course, no warming truck or anything like that.  So we froze out there for another couple of hours.

They finally called Background to Holding, and at this point Letty (a nice gal about ten years my senior who was another background person)  and I stood up on our hind legs and announced that they were going to get us some transport back to holding, because we weren't walking it.  Eventually they did, but we had to wait another half hour in the cold for it.

Back to holding, they wrapped us, and then said goodnight.  No vans, no cars, no nothing.  By this time it was dark, and the subway was six blocks away.  Luckily me and Letty and another couple of gals found a nice background guy with a car and got him to drive us...but for God's sake.  If they call me back for this one, the answer is going to be a resounding NO.  I finally got home via subway and bus and got into bed with every single quilt and blanket in the house on top of me.  BRRRR.

Meanwhile, my check from The Bitter Pill was in the mailbox when I got home, and my social security was in the bank this morning, so I occupied a good chunk of the day buying three thousand tons of groceries and various other necessities of life.  What a relief after this last couple of weeks.  Naturally, I was so excited about going to the grocery store that I forgot my shopping list, but what the hell.  I can shop without one...after all, I know what I eat.  So now I've got chicken and pork chops and some sirloin steak and lettuce and baby carrots to snack on and the kind of cat food the cats prefer (so they'll quit gnawing on me) and toilet paper and hair dye (I really, REALLY need it) and deodorant and cigarettes without having to charge them at the deli (God bless my deli) and I am going to go to bed early.  Then I'll get up, read the papers, and do the damned laundry, since I also bought laundry soap.   The laundry hamper has taken on a life of its own, and I'm completely out of socks and bras and the only pair of underpants I have is a pair Sarah left here and they're one size too big for me (she's got a bottom, while I'm flat as a pancake).

Meanwhile I'm tired and still slightly chilled.  And of course, without my list, I forgot to buy Tylenol and now I have a headache.  I'm going to live with it because I just can't face going out again...I'm going to sleep anyhow.

To add insult to injury, after all that running around on subways and buses yesterday, when I went out for groceries and the drugstore, Law & Order had set up shop and was filming a block and a half from my house.  Why the hell can't they ever call me for these shoots?  Oh, no, it's always Brighton Beach or Harlem.  Growl.

Love, Wendy

Friday, April 20, 2012

Long (and Lucrative) Day

Oh, boy, am I tired.

We had a mercifully late call out to Boardwalk Empire yesterday...mercifully, because they decided we should self-report; i.e., get there on our own instead of providing a van.  In my case, for an 8:45 am report time, this meant leaving the house at 6:30 and taking the M14  bus to 1st Avenue and 14th Street followed by the L train to Lorimer, followed by the G train to Green Point Avenue.  God bless them, they did provide a van at the subway stop, because we were in holding/wardrobe/makeup/hair at our basic set, the actual Boardwalk set, which isn't anywhere you can get to easily.  I was actually early at the subway station, even though I originally got on the wrong G train - going in the wrong direction - and had to backtrack a few stations.  Luckily I noticed this (always look up your subway stations) before it got too crazy.  This sort of thing (not to mention the occasional and often bizarre problems that occur on NYC public transportation - you know, body on the track, police activity, fleeing suspect, dog never know) is why I tend to leave early.

Anyway, into holding, wardrobe (my God, they really do hate me with that damned costume...I couldn't look worse...oh, wait, yes, I could - see below), hair, which they proceeded to destroy by deciding to spray my gray streaks (well, I've been so flying broke I couldn't afford to dye it before the shoot, and anyway I figured that if I was a toothless old broad in a dive bar, the gray streaks were appropriate) with some kind of color spray to hide them.  The resllt of this is that my hair was not only teased and hairsprayed, but covered in this gook that made the whole thing feel like cement.  And Lisa, the head of costumes, was annoyed because she agreed with me that the gray would have been totally appropriate.  So nice to be vindicated.

Then breakfast and a van to the set, which was a dive bar a few blocks away.  I don't think it was purpose-built for the show, because if they were going to do that, they simply would have built it at Steiner Studios, where most of the interiors are shot.  But it was appropriately disheveled and smoky(causing me a good bit of nostalgia for the old days when you didn't have to get up and go outside to have a damn cigarette in a bar).

They seated me right in front of the camera, out came the teeth, and there I will be, ladies and gentlemen, in Episode 4, laughing uproariously with my head thrown back, my mouth wide open...and no teeth.  I can't WAIT to see this one.

It was an odd day in one respect.  While I know a lot of the regular crew on the set (well, after three years I damn well should, and besides that, you meet them on other sets, too), and they always greet me when I turn up, yesterday I was flavor of the month.  Everybody knew my name, everybody was very busy trying to accommodate me in one way or was fascinating.  Of course, this was because you see, it turned out that I was the only person on the set minus teeth.  Therefore I was just as visible as hell (gumming my way through the day and doing that great big horselaugh) and I think that people were completely fascinated that I would do the thing at all.  And boy, were they determined that I'd be visible...Ingrid the makeup gal came by about every five minutes to smear more red lipstick on me to make SURE people could see my mouth.  Um...thanks, I think.  Of course, on any period set, you get used to people wandering around and suddenly darting at you with powder or lipstick or coming out of nowhere to readjust your hat or stick another bobby pin in your get so that you really barely notice the fact that people are picking at the hair on your neck or twitching at your hat or whatever.

And it went on and on and on.  Lately I've been doing quite short shoots on 6 hours or something...but this was an old-fashioned in it for the duration at 8:45 am on the clock, signed out at 11:30 pm.  Plus three meal penalties (we ate lunch at 5:30 pm), smoke pay, some night differential, for a glorious total of 13.8 hours.  This means that my paycheck will be a fairly hefty one...over 300 bucks.

And boy, can I use the money.  I am so broke.  The problem, of course, is that you have to wait for your checks from movie companies.  The prison shoot for Bitter Pill hasn't paid me yet, but that check should, please God, be arriving within the next couple of days.  I was hoping for it today, but no such luck.  Tomorrow, please God.  I've got just enough money (if I ration cigarettes) to get through tomorrow and get the Sunday papers (on Sunday...duh), but Monday will be interesting to say the least.  This sort of thing is terribly annoying because I've got all this money in the pipeline...the Bitter Pill check and my tax refunds (and Boardwalk, of course, but that'll be a week and a half).  Oh, well.  I always manage to survive.  If worst comes to worst, since I sensibly bought a new Metrocard yesterday, I'll go see Sarah on Sunday and beg a pack of cigarettes from her. 

It was a pleasure...if an exhausting be out on a good old fashioned long Boardwalk day.  It's by far my favorite show to work, and the usual players were there, so there was lots of good talk with us old hands showing off for the newbies and goofing around and the odd conversations you tend to have in holding.  There was one conversation about men's underwear, for some reason or other that I forget, for one yesterday.

And when I was changing to finally come home (yes, of course we had a van was after 9 pm, and them's the rules), one of the costume gals told me that she had just loved my laughing turn..."There was such pure joy on your face!"  I may marry that child.

Now I'm going to submit for a Law & Order that just turned up in my inbox and seems to be filming right here in the neighborhood.  Wish me luck!

Love, Wendy (otherwise known as Tessie the Toothless)

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Prison Stay

Well, actually, it turns out that for some of us, prison is quite restful.

Apart from getting to the van pickup point, that is.  The only problem with living over here on what is essentially the edge of civilization is that it's damned hard to get in and out without a taxi.  Or at least it is early in the morning or on weekends.  On Wednesday, I had to be at the northwest corner of 96th and Broadway at 5:42 am (oddly specific that, isn't it?).  Well, the logical way to get there is to grab the M21 bus over to Varick and hop the subway...reasonably quick, and quite efficient.  Unfortunately, the M21 bus doesn't start running until somewhere around 6 am...and I would have had to catch it at 4:30 am.  Scratch that.  OK, the next option is taking the M14D bus over to 14th, which would have ended me up at the subway just as easily.  Except that the M14D bus stop is directly in front of a large housing project.  Well, I yield to no one in my espousal of good liberal principles and the essential goodness of the common man...but I'm also equipped with a fair amount of street smarts, all of which sat up and yelled at the notion of a more than middle aged lady with a purse standing completely alone in front of a large housing project at 4:30 am.  That's not liberal...that's friggin' stupid.  And as it turned out, none of the above methods would have done me a goddamn bit of good anyway, since they were doing track work on the subways, and the train I needed wouldn't start running until 5.  You'll be glad to know that I spent $24 on a cab.

So we had a lovely drive out to Bedford Hills, NY...I do like to get out in the country on occasion, as long as I know I'm not going to be, you know, STUCK there.  We were decanted into a nice, sort of heated, dirt floored tent and fed.  My boots may never recover from that dirt (and mud, here and was spitting rain every now and then).  And there we sat.

We had breakfast.  Then we had lunch.  Then finally we were taken over to the actual prison and put through an airport type screening, complete with shoe removal, and given a hand stamp, and let into the visitor's room.  This was an open space, not one of those things you see in movies with the glass between the prisoners and visitors, because it's a minimum security prison.   And then we interacted with our fellow background actors playing prisoners (I was a visitor) for an hour or so and were done by 3:30.  I got about an hour and a half of overtime pay, but then again, it was still light when I got back in town.  At our table, it was me and another gal, and a guy of about my own age who seems to have led a very sheltered existence, by the way.  We were given a deck of cards and started playing a form of rummy, and I swear this guy had never seen a deck of cards in his life.  Then the crew came and took half the deck away because they evidently hadn't brought enough decks, which really screwed up the card game.  Ah, well.

Also, if this thrills anyone, I wass standing right next to Steven Soderbergh, whose movie this is, when I checked in at the prison.  And Rooney Mara is quite a pretty girl, shorn of all those piercings.  Channing Tatum looks like a small town garage mechanic...I don't see the allure AT ALL.

But this Tuesday!  YAY!  Back to my beloved Boardwalk!  And this is going to be a REAL first for me...I am actually going to appear on camera without my teeth.

Yes, I wear a full set of dentures, and have for many years.  I had perfectly lovely white teeth, but unfortunately they were of the same consistency as the chalk they resembled.  I went through years of caps, and root canals, and damned expensive dentistry, until I finally found a dentist who said "This is ridiculous."  So I had the whole mouth done, and it was the first time I'd been completely pain free in forever and a day.  I've never regretted it. 

So last week a call went out for Boardwalk for people with missing teeth.  I jumped on it, of course, and Melissa from Grant Wilfley Casting called yesterday, seemingly quite confused about why I would agree to do which my reaction was, "Um, I'm getting paid, right?  You want people with missing teeth, right?  Missing teeth I've got!"  She was still confused.  However, I'm going to be doing what sounds like a terrific scene...a VERY low class/dive bar in Chicago with a lot of toothless drunks hanging out in it.  I can't wait.  It sounds like so much fun.

I'm presuming we'll be out at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, that being where most of the interior scenes are shot.  I really am excited about this one.  I can just see it...a whole career built on, "Get that great toothless broad!"

Love, Wendy

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Productive Is My Middle Name

Well, I am DAMN pleased with myself.  I decided that I had to do four things today, and I actually got myself together and did ALL of them.  Aren't I great?

I needed to do laundry (check), get my bills paid (check), sort out an appointment book (check), and get my taxes done (check!), and every single thing got done.

Sorting out the appointment book is because I waited too long to be able to find the kind I wanted (mainly because I wasn't doing much of anything that I needed to write down), and therefore nobody had any when I finally went to look for one.  Thing is, I need the book for purposes of unemployment and employment.  Unemployment always wants to know the last date you worked for somebody, and movie/TV stuff always has info I need to have with times, what I'm wearing, emergency number for the agency in case I get stuck in traffic, and that sort of thing.  So I really need a page a day type of book, but most of them are too big.  Usually I can find them on the street at the beginning of the year, but as I say, this year I was too late.  So I bought a small fat noteboook, which will do fine.

And as to taxes, I'm getting back every cent I paid out, to the tune of $671.87!  This, of course, says absolutely nothing about my ability to earn money other than that it was pretty terrible last year.  But then again, if I'd earned pots of money I would have had to pay pots of taxes.  So there.

Meanwhile, for want of anything more intelligent to do, I wandered my way through the back of one of my old cookbooks, the part that has to do with desserts and stuff like that.  I usually ignore this, because I'm not a dessert chef at ALL, and New York has about a million wonderful bakeries if I want to get all fancy for the end of a meal.  So I was idly paging through the fruit section of my old Good Housekeeping cookbook (circa the early, people used a lot of canned soup back then, didn't they?), and came across the following, which I'm putting here in its entirety because it's too wonderful to miss.

"Look around your house for anything that might hold dessert fruits.  Let your imagination run wild!  For instance, select a:

French horn
Basket, on its side
Huge brandy snifter
Old fashioned knife box
Punch bowl
Old brass coal scuttle
Wicker cornucopia
Lazy Susan
Cake stand
Gigantic wooden chopping or salad bowl
Brass tray
Mirror plateau
Brass log holder

Go shopping, and select the prettiest fruits in the market, not forgetting more unusual ones, like kumquats, persimmons, pomegranates, fresh cranberries.  Include in your market basket a few of the out-of-season items you may be lucky enough to chance upon - strawberries, grapes, cherries.  Now look over the selection of extras - dates, nuts, table raisins, dried apricots and prunes, etc.  Stop at the florist's, too, and pick up some choice pine, hemlock, etc.

Then, when you have an hour or so, assemble scissors, knife, clay, etc., and fashion the fruit centerpiece which is to double as your dessert!"

OK, people, I have a lot of problems with this breezy little article.  First of all, how many of us have a French horn lying around?  Or an old brass coal scuttle or a brass log holder?  And what the hell is a mirror plateau?  And are you SURE you cleaned all the coal out of that coal scuttle?  And the spit out of the French horn?  And about those out-of-season fruits...they taste fairly lousy, usually.  And what on earth are people supposed to do with fresh cranberries?  You can't eat them'd never get your mouth unpuckered.  And then you go and pick up your nice hemlock for decorative purposes.  Um, hemlock is poisonous...if you dislike your guests THAT much, why are you having them to dinner?  And THEN you're going to stick this stuff in clay?  Tasty!  "Why, yes, I'd love another of those clay-covered kumquats...and a little more hemlock!"

God bless all the wonderful New York bakeries, I say.  None of which are going to feed me clay or hemlock with my dessert.

Love, Wendy

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Gotcha!'s only in the movies, gang.  I got a call from Grant Wilfley to spend April 11th in Bedford Hills, New York at the prison there for a movie called The Bitter Pill.  I'm going to be a prison visitor, as far as I would be more fun to be an inmate (only in the movies!), but frankly, an orange jumpsuit isn't my best look.  On the other hand, it might open up a whole new range of jobs for me.  I noticed when I went back to the email they sent me that nobody had mentioned what I was supposed to be wearing, and when I emailed back to ask, Melanie told me that they'd let me know when I called in the night before.  This is the way you do this background get a heads up to keep the date open and then you call them the night before to get your actual call times and directions to the set or the location of the van pickup.  Which can get annoying as hell, because sometimes they don't know until quite late when you'll be needed the next has to do with how many shots they were able to get in the day before, and if the shoot runs late, they just don't know.  I've had calls for Boardwalk when you didn't get the info until 2 in the morning. 

However, not knowing what I'm supposed to wear until the day before is annoying, since I'm supposed to call in after 8:30 pm.  This makes things a bit impossible if they want something I don't have in my closet.  Luckily, all movie sets have at least a small selection of costumes in case they decide they don't like what you're wearing, so I don't think there'll be a problem.  I'll just make sure I've got a representative selection of clothes clean and ready to go.  Jeans and a top, and nice slacks and a nicer top should do it, if they want me to be a visitor...I've noticed in the occasional news pictures you see of families arriving for prison visits, they tend to dress up just a bit.  Makes sense...if you only get to see your incarcerated husband once a month, you'd want to look decent, wouldn't you?

My birthday was fun, in a low key sort of way.  I met up with my friend Philippe at the Bistro, and he bought me a couple of beers, and then he left and Caesar appeared with our friends Dee-El and Mary about five minutes later and bought me drinks and gave me a lift home.  So that was nice, and I didn't end up sitting at home being depressed.  Eventually I'll get my big blowout birthday dinner at my favorite shabby little French joint...I can wait.

Meanwhile, I'm excited about the prison gig, not least because it's a fairly longish ride out into the country.  I so rarely go somewhere that doesn't involve an airplane that I think long rides in the country are great fun, and such a novelty.  Also, an hour's ride out and an hour's ride back go into my paycheck, which shouldn't be sneezed at.

Oh, and on a professional note, SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Radio and Television Artists) have FINALLY merged!  This means more work for everybody...yay!

Love, Wendy