unicorn quest

Creative writing, bicycling, wild west living, volunteer work, crafts, literature, religion and philosophy, all delivered to you by a 40 year old aspiring writer with Rosanna-Rosannadanna hair and glasses!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Bicyclists Take Over the World!

I just couldn't resist bringing this little gem to everyone's attention:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thousands of cyclists snarled traffic in New York on Friday night and police said they arrested more than 250 people and confiscated their bicycles in the first significant protest against President Bush before the Republican convention.

Police said they arrested 264 people and seized their bicycles in the protest mounted by a group called Critical Mass, which wants to boost the rights of cyclists in traffic-clogged city streets. It stages rides in cities around the world on the last Friday of each month.

The New York Police Department said in a statement that about 5,000 cyclists gathered at Union Square in Manhattan for the ride and that officers warned cyclists about breaking traffic laws.

Oh boy, normally pacifist, "you take the highway, I'll take the road shoulder" cyclists are up in arms!

And seizing a person's bicycle is definitely a few cuts lower than stepping on their blue suede shoes.

I'm going to be looking for this on the tv news--the image of bicyclists happily weaving in and out of gridlocked traffic delights me.

As the pennyfarthing bicycling Prisoner used to say on the old tv series, "I am not a number. I'm a free man!"

And yes, stay tuned for the rest of the saga of My Day as a Movie Extra!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

My Day as a Movie Extra Part I

This posting was delayed because last week was so busy: I attended a wedding (my third this summer), an all-day picnic with volleyball, and then the day of the film shoot ended up being almost a 24 hour day for me. I got up at 6 am to write in this blog, worked my normal shift, came home for half an hour to change, and went straight to the film shoot, which didn’t wrap until 2am. It has taken me this long to recover!
For those who hadn’t heard, I auditioned in early July to be an extra in the movie Don’t Come Knocking, starring Sam Shepard and Jessica Lang, and directed by Wim Wenders, director of Paris, Texas, the Buena Vista Social Club, and one of my all time favorite movies, Wings of Desire.
So imagine how excited I was when they called me in for the last day of shooting in Butte! My Canadian friend Dwayne gets a special Oscar for driving me down to the location in the last minute. We pulled up in front of the Copper King Inn, the only swanky hotel that Butte, Mt possesses, located right across from the airport. Dwayne said, "hey, look at that cool car!" It was a sky blue classic car, one that had been spotted in the old Uptown district. "That’s the movie car," I told him. It was the one Sam Shepard’s character was driving. Dwayne exclaimed over all the equipment, cameras, metal stands in piles. "Well, at least we know this is the right place."
I ran into the lobby with my bags of clothes the casting person had asked me to bring. I stopped and looked around, laughing. They’d hinted we’d be playing beauticians at a convention. Well, there was a giant arch made of pink, orange and red balloons. A giant banner proclaiming "Welcome Manicurists." The stuffed bighorn sheep that always decorated the lobby was draped with orange, pink and red streamers. The stuffed bear had a bouquet of pink fake flowers coming out of his mouth.
I was directed to a meeting room that was labeled "Background/Holding." I walked in to see crowded chaos: forty or fifty women, mostly very young and pretty, some older, milling around, all carrying bags of clothes. At the front of the room were two young women with a big rack of clothes, wardrobing the extras who’d gotten a call time earlier than mine.
A young guy with a shock of black hair sat at a table at the front of the room and handed out forms and pens. He reminded me a bit of Speed Racer; young and handsome and slightly Italian looking. The forms marked CAPS were our pay forms. The young man, whose name was Yuri, told us he was in charge of us Extras or Background people, and this was our holding area. They needed to keep us together, out of the way of the current shooting, and ready to work.
We spent the next few hours talking amongst ourselves and trying on clothes. The wardrobe ladies didn’t like any that I had brought, and told me to sit back down while they found me something. All around me were the strong smells of nail polish, hairspray, and perfume, as all these young women primped with a vengeance. Some of them were from surrounding towns like Bozeman, some were acting students, and some were actually in real life manicurists or beauticians! Some had been called the day before, like me, and some had been called early that morning.
Sitting near me was an older woman with thick makeup, poufed up bleached blond hair, a low neckline, and a slow, drugged way of talking. She reminded me quite a bit of Anna Nicole Smith! Fortunately or unfortunately she got up and left after a couple of hours.
Yuri leaned back in his chair and sighed happily. "What a job! I get to sit around and watch pretty girls all day." We asked where he lived. "I'm not sure. My girlfriend threw me out right before we left California to begin filming."
Yuri brought in a whole trash barrel full of bottles of water and a Sharpie pen, and asked everyone to write their initials on the cap. I started getting to know a 36 year old lady named Roberta, who offered to lend me some of her orange and red tops to wear. After a few go-rounds, I ended up in red Capri pants that were patterned like a bandana, a red heart bracelet, and an orange shirt with red sweater over it. I felt like a hairdresser from Florida or Peg Bundy from Married With Children. Meanwhile, Roberta and I were surrounded by 20 year old girls in outrageous retro 60s fashions. One of the craziest was a girl in a low-cut red top with white fringes, tight pants, and cowboy boots. She was frustrated with her costume as the cloth pad in the bra area kept popping out. "This is so embarrassing. I never dress like this. I always wear sweat pants and a t-shirt." She looked like a rodeo queen from a porno film!
Meanwhile, a small film crew with a mike on a long pole was filming and recording our every move. We were told later they were doing a "making of" documentary that would be packaged in on the DVD and might even be released separately too.
Yuri and helpers brought in a load of snacks: chips, cookies, nuts, and crackers, boxes and boxes of them, like a convenience store. We munched and talked, as if we were at a giant girls-only slumber party, for hours.
I’d arrived at 3:30, and it took until 5:30 to get everyone wardrobed. We talked for another hour, and then Yuri announced it was dinner time. As at a grade school field trip, we all were to walk single-file and quietly out to the back parking lot to the catering truck. We filed out into the hall, greeted by pointing fingers and giggles from the crew, who were viewing us for the first time. And no wonder! We looked like a giant 1960s sherbet, all of us in pink, orange and red, floating down the hall in revealing outfits!
Once outside, we lined up for our food, which turned out to be lasagna, garlic bread, and a really delicious salad. After dinner we were paraded out into the hall and told to stand quietly while still photos were taken. Many, many photos. We were told these were for publicity, and also for continuity, in case things had to be touched up in the editing phase.
We were starting to feel like minor celebrities after all this attention from the documentary crew, and now the still photo people. "They like me, they really like me!" (Sorry Sally Fields, I couldn’t resist.)
We sat around in our holding room until 8 o’clock pm eating cookies and watermelon. Some girls complained they were bored and wanted to go home. I was thrilled to be getting paid for 5 hours of eating, chatting, and trying on clothes. A much easier way to make money than waiting tables!
At last the call came: they were ready to start filming our scenes!
Stay tuned for the next episode of My Day as a Movie Extra!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Hollywood Comes Knocking!

Well, it finally happened. I had just gotten home from work, and was sitting in the easy chair munching on franks and beans, watching Leave it to Beaver, when the phone rang. Markus talked to the caller for a moment and then excitedly shoved the phone in my face. It took me a moment to comprehend what was going on, as the lady had a thick British accent.

"Are you available to come to the film shoot tomorrow?" At first my heart sank. "I have to work tomorrow." "Well, it doesn't start until 3:30." I raced over to the calendar. Joy! I'd be getting off at 2:30!

(Truly the movie gods are smiling on me. Usually I don't get off work until 3:30 or 4.)

The lady went on to ask me to bring light colored pants, black pants, and black skirt, and also a red, an orange, and a fuscia pink top.

When I auditioned to be an extra in this movie they'd told us we'd be wearing our own clothes, and that we'd be asked to bring several changes of clothes. We were also told to bring a book to read, maybe a deck of cards. Movie making is apparently a slow process. Each day's shoot may last as long as 12 hours.

Here's the really funny and ironic part: I grew up in North Hollywood, went to school with kids whose fathers were directors and cinematographers, and have never been an extra before or been in a movie in any way shape or form! Yet now that I live in the small, old town of Butte, Montana, I'm about to participate in a film starring two of my favorite actors, Jessica Lang and Sam Shepard, and directed by one of my favorite directors, Wim Wenders.

In Hollywood, everyone wants to be an extra or bit player. "Cattle Calls" draw thousands. Yet when this major production, "Don't Come Knocking," put out ads for extras here in Butte, only about a hundred people showed up! The crew will have to draw from the neighboring college towns, Bozeman and Missoula, just to meet their needs.

This whole area, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, is like that. Low population, (Wyoming has only about 500,000 in the whole state, Montana less than a million), independent attitude, and tendency to not be impressed by money or flash. When Ted Turner moved to Montana and bought up a huge amount of ranch land, people here were not pleased.

But Butte is happy in a quiet, low-key way to be the main location for Wim Wenders' new film. And I am quite vocally ecstatic to have had my door knocked on!

Stay tuned for all the latest gossip from the movie set!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

More Evel Knievel Days

This is Geoff Aaron. . . Posted by Hello

This is. . .

This is Geoff Aaron jumping over giant cans. . .any questions? Posted by Hello

Giant cans were not the only things brave Geoff jumped over. He jumped on top of a truck. He jumped over several intrepid audience members, who obligingly lay down in a row on the ground.

He moved as if the motorcycle were an extension of his body. I wish! Even my own body often fails to perform as I command. I was clumsier as a kid, though. Ballet, a little fencing, and more recently a 4,000 mile bicycle trip acros the country helped some

But I doubt if I'll ever be bouncing up and down off of trucks, giant cans, and over people, as relaxed as a kid riding his Big Wheel. . .

http://www.gasgas.com/Pages/News-new/geoff-pr-3-01.html for more on Geoff's brilliant career.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Spanky Lands

A moment after the Jump: is Spanky ok? Posted by Hello

Spanky landed in the huge air mattress and everyone held their breath while assistants and paramedics frantically grabbed at the caved-in center of the landing pad. And then, there he was, smiling, standing on his feet, and everyone screamed in relief. It was the kind of jump where you'd expect a person to break his neck, but of course, this man knows how to fall. . . http://www.spankyspangler.com/

Butte, Montana is Evel Knievel's hometown, and on Evel days, he brings his old stuntman and stuntrider friends to town to celebrate. Some are old hands, like Spanky Spangler and Reckless Rex. Some are very young, like Matt Buyten and others, who are just stopping here to jump their motorcycles on their way to the X games.

This year they showed a tv movie about Evel's life on TNT during the weekend. I missed it, but have heard plenty of rumors around town, that Evel left huge bar tabs he never paid, that he beat his wife, etc. etc. People who grew up with him seem to either love him or hate him.

All I know is, many of my friends and relatives, girls and boys, worshipped him in the 70s when we were grade school kids. My cousin Oliver used to play with an Evel Knievel stunt bike action figure set.

For Butte, Mt, it's like having Santa Claus come to town riding a Harley. It's a real shot in the arm to the slow local economy, and a chance for people all over the west to see a real wild west town in action!

I'll be doing more entries on Evel Knievel days throughout the week.

Wavering in the Sky

Poised for the Jump Posted by Hello

What could he be thinking? What would cause a person to voluntarily jump many stories into a large air mattress? Myself, I'm so chicken that I've never been able to jump off the diving platform at the swimming pool. I climb the ladder, take one look down, think uh oh, bellyflop, feel a little sick, and sheepishly go back down the ladder.

On the other hand, sailing down an 8 percent grade at Lolo Pass, Montana, on my bicycle, gripping the brakes at times so hard my hand cramps, which is something most people would probably call crazy, to me feels like flying without a hang glider!

Spanky was dressed in a red, white, and blue silk jumpsuit, like a superhero. He stood on the edge of the platform for a moment, then flipped over into a big swan dive in the sky, and fell astonishingly quickly.

Spanky readies for his Jump

Stuntman Spanky Spangler lifted high in the air while crowd watches from rooftops Posted by Hello

In my town of Butte, Montana, Evel Knievel days is a big deal, and Spanky Spangler's Big Stunt is a really big deal. This year's Evel days were bigger than ever--it was downright crowded, which rarely happens in our laid back little town, but with this, the third annual Evel days, I think the word is starting to get out. http://www.knievelweek.com/

Not only was the town flooded with bikers from states like California and Arizona, many wearing Sturgis shirts, but families from all over came to enjoy the circus-like atmosphere. (For those who don't know, Sturgis in the Dakotas is one of the country's biggest biker gatherings. We ran into a lot of bikers who were Sturgis-bound on our cross country bicycle trip.)

Spanky Spangler is an experienced stuntman who's been in the movies, but even so, everyone was a bit nervous watching him ascend higher than our tallest old hotel, the Finlen, where presidents like JFK stayed once upon a time.