Monday, March 20, 2017

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 7: THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL

When the call went out for a "Seedy 1950's Strip Club Patron," it didn't matter if it was the strip club or the patron that was supposed to be seedy. All I knew was that my ship had finally come in. Wearing tassels. 

I had been trying without success to get a gig on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for a few weeks. It wasn't that I was a fan of the show. Not only didn't I have a subscription to Amazon Streaming, this was just the work-in-progress pilot episode.

No, Maisel was set in 1950s New York, and would involve cool clothes and props. This meant, for a few hours anyway, I would escape several decades into the past and, if I tried, pretend that the 21st-century was the stuff of science-fiction novels. And if you watch the news for five minutes, it still seems that way. 

But how would I finally convince them that I was the guy they were looking for?

Ready to rip off Chuck Berry's publishing rights.
A few weeks earlier, my wife had taken several photos of me for consideration for the photo atop my blog page. While the intention was to have a 1940s vibe, I thought one in particular could definitely pass for the '50s. 

The flowers in the background, I hoped, wouldn't offset by too much the low-rent fellow -- talent agent? used car dealer? after hours gambler? -- undoubtedly enjoying his 12th cigar of the morning. This, I was sure, looked like the kind of guy who took in burlesque shows for relaxation.

The Maisel folks agreed. At long last, I would be putting my inherent seediness to good use.

The shoot was going to happen somewhere off Avenue A, an area I hadn't gone near in 30 years. The aura of junkies, winos, and other disreputables had given way to hipsters, NYU students, and yuppies looking for the next neighborhood to turn into a Starbucks/Chase Bank/Gap paradise. Still, there was enough of the old character to remind you of what used to be.

Sorry, girls, he's married.
It was a small group of extras at the holding area, no more than 15. Over the course of an hour, what had been a bunch of present-day New Yorkers were transformed into Eisenhower-era lowlifes and their flashy dates. What was left of my hair was slicked down to give me that On the Waterfront look -- even if no dockworker would've ever smoked the herbal cigarettes that I was given. (The smokes were optional, but I was eager to go all in.)

Picture yourself on the Lower East Side. What would you have made of the sight of over a dozen men and women wearing authentic 1950s clothing, casually walking through Tompkins Square Park on a sunny October afternoon on their way to work?

Whatever it is, it wouldn't have matched the shock of turning a corner to see a street where several 1950s autos were parked. I had always wondered what it was like to live in a Twilight Zone episode. Now I knew.

But the best was yet to come. As we waited outside the club while the crew set up the camera and lights, we were joined by the great Gilbert Gottfried (and his wife), whose weekly podcast is my version of attending church.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Oh my God, what's Gilbert Gottfried doing here? And how did he get such a beautiful wife? 

And then I took a second look. He, too, was dressed in vintage clothes. Holy cow! I'm going to be in the same scene with one of my all-time favorite comedians and a stripper! Where has this job been my whole life?

We were soon ushered into the club. I was given a "date", a "drink" and six or seven cigarettes. We were placed at an elevated table against the wall, and given instructions: applaud the stripper and laugh at the jokes told by the MC (Gottfried) and the actor playing an up-and-coming comedian named Lenny Bruce. 

I'm the guy on the right not wearing a hat.
Just to make sure I did my part when it came to seediness, I kept the cigarette dangling from my lips for most of the scene, which appeared about five minutes into the episode. Mrs. Maisel thoughtfully returns one of the stripper's tassels that had fallen to the floor, as the camera catches me applauding and taking a drag off a cigarette.

As usual, I'm onscreen a matter of seconds; you can't even get a look good at my clothes. Yet it took long enough to shoot that I went through all but one of the cigarettes. And I didn't even inhale.

While all the background jobs have been fun in one way or another, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was a real treat. It was my first period piece. I got to see Gilbert Gottfried up close. If I squinted just a little, that really was Lenny Bruce doing his classic "Airplane Glue" routine. (The bit went on longer during the shoot than the final cut.) And I learned first hand that burlesque shows really were as seedy as they're made out to be. Yes, I felt right at home.

                                                    **********************

If you're interested, the episode can currently be seen for free on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06X9579J1/ref=s9_acss_bw_cg_317GPD_1c1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-5&pf_rd_r=YHB0PQVM0XYAFEZPND5W&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=40d364f0-73cf-4ecf-90ca-8141a69c045c&pf_rd_i=9940930011

Thursday, March 16, 2017

MACARTHUR'S PIPE IS MELTING IN THE DARK

"Or, as the kids say, I'm outta here!"
General Douglas MacArthur hit the nail on the head in his 1951 farewell speech to Congress. "Old soldiers never die," he intoned, "they just fade away." I mean, do you remember him? 

So it's kind of surprising that, 53 years after fading away for good, MacArthur is once again in the news -- and, as usual with celebrities, for all the wrong reasons:

"Fat" Jack E. Leonard is delighted for any publicity.
The "Fat Leonard" in question is not to be confused with insult comic "Fat" Jack E. Leonard from the '50s and '60s, who complained to his dying day that Don Rickles ripped off his act. 
This "Fat Leonard" refers to Leonard Glenn Francis, a defense contractor from Singapore, who bribed U.S. Navy personnel, including an Admiral, with the usual stuff, including "lavish gifts, prostitutes and luxury hotel stays." 
You'd think a guy who could drop two
grand on cigars could afford a gym
membership and a better tailor.
Have you ever noticed that newspapers always use "lavish" in connection with bribes? Surely there must be some other way to describe "watches worth $25,000, $2,000 boxes of Cohiba cigars, $2,000 bottles of cognac and $600-per-night hotel rooms." I'm partial toward "munificent," but "profligate" will do in a pinch.
But wither the Medal of Honor-winning, five-star General, the legendary hero of the Philippines Campaign during World War II? 
Well, it's not so much Douglas MacArthur as it is his name. The "luxury hotel" mentioned in the indictment refers to the Philippines' Manila Hotel, which has a suite named for him. A travel guide refers to it as  "impeccably restored" with mahogany chaise lounge chairs and brass chandeliers, evoking a feel straight out of 1935If someone's going to bribe me, that's where I want things to go down.
But not quite the way Fat Leonard planned things. For Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless and his Navy buddies used “historical memorabilia” in the room during sex acts.
Not to my mouth, you're not.
The specific "memorabilia" isn't mentioned. However, the suite includes 10,000 books, a brass gilded chair, marble-topped desk, fountain pens, family photos... and a replica of MacArthur's corncob pipe. 
Ding ding ding! I think we have a winner!
No wonder why other guests of the MacArthur Suite include Bill Clinton and Michael Jackson. They can't exactly be described as history buffs. 
The longer you look at Adm. Loveless, the
more you think, Yeah, I can picture it.
And even though charges are only just being brought against Loveless and company in the Pipegate scandal, this happened ten years agoTo put this in perspective, it took Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower less than four years to defeat Germany, Italy, and Japan. Clearly, a bribery investigation is more difficult than winning a goddamn world war. 
If your head hurts from wrapping it around that fact, try this: Loveless has been prevented from accessing classified information since the investigation started in 2013, but was still allowed to keep his job. Boy, I thought the Teachers Union had a great tenure policy! 
I've always considered myself incredibly dull, and this bribery case clinches it. For in my five decades of sexual activity, I've never been so creative -- or perhaps bored with sex -- as to think that a corncob pipe, historic replica or otherwise, would do the job. Maybe I need to get out more, I dunno. Or maybe it's because I'm not -- ahem -- a Rear Admiral.
The worst of it? Thanks to to the (aptly-named?) Loveless, future generations of women will feel compelled to tell their sons, boyfriends and husbands, Get that pipe out of your mouth! You don't know where it's been! 
Thank you for service, Admiral. Now go use some Listerine.
                                                        *****************

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A NON-TAXING SITUATION

Days after Donald Trump's election to Distractor-in-Chief, a pundit sagely opined: "While
C'mon, do you blame him for being smug?
people admiringly compare Pres. Obama's presidential style to three-dimensional chess, Trump is playing three-dimensional Battleship at 120 frames a second with 4K resolution: it's so clear and clean that it doesn't look real."

OK, so that pundit was me. But it doesn't mean I wasn't right, right? I was referring to the way Trump deflected bad news by throwing the press something entirely different to chew on in order to throw them off the track -- and that they fell for it every dagnabit time.

Like Trump's 1040, not as scary as it's
hyped to be.
Last night was no different. But in a way it was so different that it became headline news for the wrong reasons. 

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC's highest-rated prime time host, announced that she had Donald Trump's near-mythical tax returns -- a prize "get" similar to a movie historian stumbling upon a print of Lon Chaney's long-lost London After Midnight -- a movie every film lover wants to see despite its mediocre reputation.

Maddow's "get", alas, proved its equal in quality. 

Actually, it wasn't even her scoop as much as it was that of her guest, investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who received photocopies of the first two pages of Trump's 2005 tax return in the mail. (By the way, how much investigating does it take to receive something that you didn't ask for?) 

And it wasn't even much of a scoop for him, either, because the White House Tweeted about it a full half-hour before Maddow's show, thus deflating what little air was left in that tire: Trump made $150-million in 2005, for which he paid $38-million in taxes.

Just put a little blond wig on it.
You would have thought that Maddow -- the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship from Oxford University -- would have been smart enough to know that while her fans would yell That's only 25% of his income!, Trump fans would think, Gee whiz, $38-million is a lotta dough! Especially when many reporters were speculating that he never paid a dime in taxes in his satsuma-faced life.

And the beauty part: Maddow and Johnston admitted that the 1040 might have come from Trump himself. You know, so that he could distract them from... oh, what is it now? The insurance reform debacle? Trump's belief that Obama wiretapped him? Investigations regarding Russian influence?

Maybe, just maybe, the stamp reading "Client Copy" might prove
the source of the 1040.
Hell,throw in Trump's penchant for ill-fitting suits and cheap neckties while you're at it. Take your pick folks -- it doesn't matter. What's important is: It worked! 

Because this morning, Rachel Maddow is waking up to bad reviews from the left -- for hyping an overdone, dried out nothingburger -- and the right -- for confirming their belief that the press is out to destroy President Trump by any means necessary.

And all that other negative news about Trump? It has, for the time being, been shoved aside so that reporters can talk about a 12 year-old tax return which shows that he paid more to the IRS in one year than they'll make in 10,000 lifetimes combined. Nice work!

To repeat: Donald Trump pulled the wool over the eyes of both an investigative reporter and a Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate from Oxford. I don't want to hear anyone say how stupid Trump is.

Oh, one more thing. The Wall Street Journal already did a piece on Trump's 2005 tax return a year ago. And they got the information from public records. Maybe David Cay Johnston should have turned his investigative skills toward a Google search.

                                                      ********************

Monday, March 13, 2017

UNHACKABLE

If it were up to me, we'd have this
in our kitchen.
The recent Wikileaks documents detailing how the CIA has been hacking into "smart" appliances willy-nilly makes me glad just how hopelessly out of date our home is. The HDTV is seven years old; our refrigerator lacks wi-fi; and a toaster oven sits in the place of our microwave, which broke a decade ago.  

Not that we're completely in the clear. We've got a smart Blu-ray player. Since I purchase Blu-rays maybe once or twice a year, it's used primarily for Netflix, which, last I checked, isn't a conduit for ISIS. 



What passed for cool graphics under
President Brezhnev.
Of course, we've got a laptop, and a couple of tablets. And while I've covered the camera lens on the PC and Kindle Fire with a piece of Scotch Tape smeared with correction fluid, I'm aware that someone in the government could be following my surfing habits -- and for good reason. 

Way back in my younger days, you see, I listened to Radio Moscow's English-language programming via shortwave. Not that I was a budding Commie; it was just funny listening to ham-handed propaganda interspersed with the dullest music (mostly MOR and the occasional military march) ever recorded. I never understood how this was supposed to convert me from rock & roll, the First Amendment, and Mad magazine.

I figured there was no way anyone in Washington knew I was listening at home. But the envelope containing Radio Moscow's monthly guide was always open by the time it got to me. Either the USSR was going through a glue shortage circa 1970, or the Feds were doing a pretty piss-poor job of spying on me.

I think we're actually doing Washington a favor by our appliance choices. If we had a smart TV (something of an oxymoron), the gumshoes would hear conversations along these lines:


Some people's idea of hell.
ME: Oh boy! There's a 24-hour Wheeler & Woolsey festival on TCM next week!

WIFE: Legally Blonde is on TBS again tonight. I can't wait to see it for the 15th time this year!


Ditto.
ME: Look at this! TCM is running Vitaphone shorts all day!

WIFE: Hooray! The Matrix is on this afternoon. This is only the 12th time I've ever seen it!

ME: Holy cow! TCM is running Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, restored to its original four-hour version for the first time since 1922!

WIFE: Quick, turn it to ABC. I want to watch The Sound of Music for the 37th time  -- and they pad it out to four hours with commercials!

Thank God the CIA never listened in to my wife and me. They'd have thrown us in Gitmo just to protect the rest of the country from us.

To sum up: by and large, we're unhackable. So you tell us whose appliances are really smart.

                                             ******************

Saturday, March 4, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: 3/4/17


Asked why she ordered the move, Minnelli said, "I hate to drink alone."







Informed of the tragedy, a local official reacted with shock. "Had we known she was alive, we would have raped and killed her first."



Reflecting on the cost, Ohh sighed, "Justin Beiber has no idea how easy he's had it."



As he looked in the mirror following the surgery, Alves said, "I've gotta thank Vinny Ohh for making me look normal."





Asked why the app is so popular, a user replied, "With guys like Vinnie Ohh and Rodrgio Alves around, do you blame us?"





Researchers also found that they'll live ten years longer if they don't.




"This study proves beyond any doubt," said their report, "that men have evolved very little over time."



Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump were then returned safely to the White House.

                                                                                                                                               ******************************

Thursday, March 2, 2017

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "THE PHANTOM PRESIDENT" (1932)

Depending on your view of the current White House resident, your first response to the title The Phantom President might be "If only!" You may even assume it's a horror movie. 

The Phantom President, instead, is a rather sophisticated musical that, 85 years after its original release, offers 21st-century viewers proof that corrupt, contemptuous politics is nothing new. A group of bureaucratic hacks, lead by Prof. Aikenhead, believes that the super-rich Theodore K. Blair would make a splendid president, despite him being a businessman with zero political experience and possessing the charm of lumpy mattress. Impossible!

On the verge of giving up, Aikenhead and his colleagues stumble upon Doc Varney, a charming, smooth-talking snake-oil salesman who is Blair's exact double. Varney is immediately enlisted into taking Blair's place on the campaign trail, with the understanding that he will disappear once Blair is elected. But fate -- and the scriptwriters -- have other plans in store for all involved.


Blair and his doppelganger -- or vice-versa.
The big attraction of The Phantom President in 1932 was its star, the legendary George M. Cohan. At age 54, Cohan was perhaps a decade past his prime as an entertainer -- yet anyone familiar with his biopic, Yankee Doodle Dandy, will immediately recognize where James Cagney got his dance moves. 


He's not a bad actor, either, playing Blair and Varney with two distinct personalities, right down to the way they talk and move. It's rather confounding that Broadway's most famous song-and-dance man made three silent movies but just two talkies -- only one of which was a musical. (Remember, this is an industry that put Enrico Caruso in five silent movies.)


Especially after she finds out he's a conman. 
A strikingly cynical vibe runs throughout The Phantom President. When Blair doubts the validity of running an entertainer in place of the real thing, Aikenhead assures him, "Voters want a musical-comedy campaign." A shot of a horse's ass dissolves to a close-up of a platitudinous senator speaking at the convention. Felicia Hammond (Claudette Colbert), the woman Blair is in love with, prefers the fast-talking Varney, even after she finds out he's a conman.

Despite George M. Cohan having written some of the most popular stage musicals of his time, there's no way he could have come up with anything as sophisticated as The Phantom President's score, written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart during their brief spell in Hollywood before returning to the more worldly Broadway.


"And I'll build a wall around Manhattan!"
While Cohan was best known for flagwavers, Rodgers & Hart's centerpiece number here, "Blair for President," performed at the presidential convention, is a hilarious expose of American politics' art of being everything to everybody. Varney's sidekick Curly (Jimmy Durante) addresses New Englanders in a Down East accent, gives polygamy a thumbs-up to Utah's Mormons, and informs Harlem's delegates that Lennox Avenue will be the new U.S. capital under a Blair administration. (Six decades later, then-Governor Bill Clinton's promised a group of rabbis that he'd keep a glatt kosher White House if elected president in 1992. Nothing changes.)


You want modern? There's even a Times Square
Jumbotron 60 years before it really happened.
Rodgers & Hart's takedown of patriotism doesn't end there. Blair's number, "Someone Ought to Wave the Flag," is really about getting suckers to fork over money for his phony patent medicine. (Analogy alert!) Even the one "straight" romantic song, the treacly "Give Her a Kiss," is obviously a parody of love songs, to the point of birds and frogs singing the lyrics. (Typical of Paramount Pictures' comedies of the time, there are more surreal touches in The Phantom President than 500 M-G-M movies combined.)

And as for the climax... well, if America and its politics were anything like it's portrayed here, it's astonishing that anyone was elected president in 1932. 

All things considered then, The Phantom President would make a fine half of a double-bill with another 1932 release, the acerbic Washington Merry-Go-Round. But they'd probably be too sharp for today's audiences. For them, Alec Baldwin wearing a blonde wig is the height of cutting satire.

                                                 *******************************

From The Phantom President: "Someone Ought to Wave the Flag". For reasons unknown, Cohan performs it in blackface. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1iWNdS1Kfg)


                                                     


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SWEDEN IS FOR LOVERS (AT AN AVERAGE OF 166 KRONAS AN HOUR)

It all translates to "Yeah, baby!"
While American politicians are arguing about whether workers should have affordable insurance and a salary that can cover gratuities like food, a council member in Sweden wants employees to have daily one-hour paid sex breaks. And you were grateful for two 15-minute coffee breaks!

Just to make it clear, Per-Erik Muskos, the council member who broached the idea, isn't suggesting that workers have sex with each other. That's a good thing for some of us. I mean, Playboy was never going to run a "Women of..." pictorial about my old job. 

No, Muskos wants people to go home to their partners for their recreational recess. Depending on how friendly your secretary is, his proposal might not be the largess it seems to be. 

On the other hand, people who say they wouldn't have sex with their spouse if you paid them will now have to put their money where their mouth is. But for jokers like me, we've got another sexy come-on to the little lady: Hey sweetie, why don't we punch the clock, heh heh!


"C'mon, babe, it'll be good for you."
While Muskos claims that he advocates sex breaks strictly for health reasons -- e.g., lower blood pressure, better memory -- his photos suggest that it's the only way he's ever getting laid. Ironically, most women's blood pressure would probably go through the roof if they had an easier time remembering they were intimate with this oaf. 

Muskos admits that this perk would operate strictly on the honor system:



There's nothing like the image of an assassinated
president to get you in the mood.
"Trust their employees" -- you can tell this guy lives in the fairytale kingdom of Sweden. Otherwise, if bosses were like their American counterparts, they'd be screaming, "Olaf, what do you mean by feeding the squirrels instead of sticking it to your wife like you're being paid to?"

As I think of it, Swedish cities must be pretty small that workers can go home, undress, have foreplay, do the deed, and get back to the desk within an hour. Most New Yorkers would consider it a win if they made it  back to their nearest subway stop in that amount of time. 

Otherwise, the only way I see this lagniappe working successfully is if couples telecommute. It'll give new meaning to the typical husband's demand, "C'mon, baby, gimme a break!"

                                                     ******************** 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 6: ELEMENTARY

My first extra work of 2017 was the second appearance on Elementary. I guess I did such a bang-up job the first time, they asked me to reprise my role as "pedestrian walking against the wind."

As with my very first extra job, I took the N train to Astoria, Queens. Only that time, it was a warm, sunny, summer day. Now it was a cold, dark, winter's morning (an hour before sunrise) with snow on the ground. This TV stuff isn't all glamour, you know. 


Riccardo's on a Kodachrome film-noir evening.
It was a 10  minute walk from the Astoria Boulevard station to the holding area, a catering facility called Riccardo's By the Bridge -- the bridge formerly called the Triborough, now officially renamed after the New York Senator whose older brother's sexual cast-offs included Marilyn Monroe. 

The crew and the p.a.'s, always the first on site, were huddled around the craft services truck. Most of the women on these early calls go for the oatmeal, granola or fruit with a cup of tea, while the guys dive headfirst into a bacon & egg on a roll with a coffee. What some people refer to as sexual stereotypes, I call human nature.

Having eaten a small bowl of cereal almost two hours earlier, I went for the aforementioned Guy's Special. Normally, I drink decaf, but try waking before dawn in early January -- see how far you make it without a jolt of the real thing.

It was still dark when I entered Riccardo's, so it was kind of a shock when we were brought outside an hour or so later. Now that the sun was up, the neighborhood appeared normal, rather than something out of a '50s suspense picture. 

The p.a.s went to work on us, putting us in our spots a block from Riccardo's. Some were placed on the sidewalk where Elementary star Jonny Lee Miller was walking. Some were on the corner, behind Miller, walking crosswise to the camera. 

Then there was me.
Jerry tries to prove he can
walk without Dean's help.

I was placed alone across the street and told to walk west, i.e., away from the camera, when time came. This was in every way the antithesis of my first 
Elementary appearance. They knew, beyond doubt, I was not only a muti-talented entertainer, but didn't need a sidekick, either. This explains the break-up of Martin & Lewis.   

Although the sun was up, the thermometer hadn't budged much past 30. (For you Californians, that's not a typo.) I dressed for the occasion, with thermals being the least of it. All of us were given hand warmers to put inside our gloves. If you live in a cold clime, pick up a carton of these at your local outdoor accouterments store -- your hands will thank you. It's like holding miniature campfires in your palms.

We were given orders to stand in place, facing west, making us resemble less like actors and more like human Easter Island statues. On the shout of "Background!", we walked, and kept going around the corner away from the camera, until we heard, "Reset!".  Rinse, lather, repeat, for the next couple of hours. 

While they set up another scene, we were ushered inside a parking garage to get warm. Jonny Lee Miller did likewise, scrolling through his iPhone just like you or me. (Well, you; I still use a flip phone.) But he somehow looked cool doing it. 

The second scene, shot in a traffic jam around the corner, took another couple of hours. This time, I walked east. Like I said, multi-talented.

Unlike my Elementary debut, you couldn't see anything of my face in the first scene.



For me, the bridge, looming in the background, is the real star. Being a professional, I made sure not to steal the scene from the gentleman on the right -- just a normal stroll down a snowy street on a typical January morning. And I did it all by myself.

As for the second scene? I'm afraid I didn't make the final cut. Too bad. You should have seen how I handled walking east. By myself. Genius.

                                                ********************

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 5: BLUE BLOODS

When I finally had my day in court, I had no idea it would be with a television legend.

Blue Bloods, which debuted in 2010, was one of the shows I had been trying to get on since starting background work. Extras talked about what a pleasant experience it was; the p.a.'s and a.d.'s were all easy to work with, and treated them well.

Fine, I thought. I just wanna see Tom Selleck in person. Yup, still the same starstruck kid I was when I saw Lorne Greene making a personal appearance at a Rhode Island Chevrolet dealership almost 50 years ago. Only then I wasn't paid for the experience.

But when I finally got the call, it didn't necessarily mean Selleck would be there. I've worked on The Americans twice and have yet to see Frank Langella. And it took my third time on Homeland before seeing Claire Danes.


Lights! Camera! Guilty!
Indeed, when I settled into the holding area -- a large room in the Brooklyn Borough Hall courthouse -- I chatted with an extra who had appeared in Blue Bloods three previous times, always Selleck-less. 

The fourth time would be the charm. 

There were at least 100 extras in the scene. As usual, I recognized many of them from previous jobs, including the guy I'd worked with in Elementary. This time, he was a lawyer, while I was a member of the courtroom gallery. We looked our parts (i.e., he was broad shouldered and had a nice head of salt & pepper hair; I'm not and I don't).
The courtroom without make-up.

The scene concerned a hearing, involving a cop accused of excessive force. Shooting on location with a genuine courtroom sketch artist amped up the realism. As the tech crew prepped the scene, I glanced around, taking in the history and its beautiful architecture. That's the thoughtful thing about the people who built New York's courts in the 19th century -- if you're on trial for your life, you might as well enjoy the view.

And then, almost involuntarily, I looked toward the front of the room, to the left. Tom Selleck had walked in, and was now chatting with the director. 

This. Was. Cool.

It had taken me a while not to stare at celebrities when I moved to New York in 1981 -- Johnny Rotten gave me a nasty look when I gaped at him walking with a beautiful blonde several inches taller than him. And I'm still surprised Greta Garbo didn't do the same when we stood side by side on Park Avenue waiting for the light to change.

So by 2017, I had long gotten the hang of at least appearing blase. But holy cow, there was Tom Selleck in front of me -- not as close I was to Johnny or Greta, but at least I wasn't going to make a fool of myself this time.

A few minutes after Selleck took his seat at the bench near the judge, the director called for a run-through. And when he spoke his first line in that low, rumbling voice, it was like watching Mt. Rushmore come to life. Selleck owned that scene -- hell, he owned the courtroom, Borough Hall, and the #4 subway line.

And you know what? He might be 72 years old, but all I could think was, Damn, this guy could kick my ass three ways from primetime and not break a sweat. Don't nobody mess with Tom Selleck.

Yes, yes, yes, I hear you say. But what about your contribution to the scene? 

Blue Bloods was my best show yet, as far as screen time was concerned. Doing a freeze frame blurs the images slightly, but I'm still recognizable. I could be glimpsed several times, as the camera followed the lawyer who was questioning Selleck. 

Initially, I was in a wide shot:

Fourth row from the front, near the left, in the jacket and tie, following the proceedings with much interest. At some point between takes, a wardrobe guy came around and straightened my tie, which made me feel like a professional. By the way, the actor in the front row on the left was who I worked with in Elementary. Obvious, right?

The camera moved closer. This time, I'm on the far right:



The guy playing the lawyer, by the way, had a lot snappier dialogue than anything I've ever heard while on jury duty. Lawyers could do worse than consult with the Blue Bloods writers before facing a judge.

A moment later, I got to prove my versatility by appearing once more on the left:


You know how the TV camera is supposed to put 10 pounds on you? It takes 40 hairs off me.

When we wrapped around 4:00, Selleck thanked us for our contribution, which was not only kind but very classy.

But he could still kick my ass.

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