Monday, December 17, 2018

STANDARD TIME

They all fall down.
It is wasn't a real surprise to hear of the shuttering this week of the Weekly Standard. As an anti-Trump conservative magazine in a pro-Trump conservative world, the Standard was preaching to an increasingly smaller crowd -- at last look, 89% of Republicans were solidly behind their Mafioso-in-Chief. Pres. Eisenhower's highest Gallup number was 65%, and he won World War II.

I feel a bit of personal regret, though -- not that I had picked up an issue in the last decade or so. No, it reminds me of my brief sojourn with the Standard, when for the first half of 2008 -- arguably its most influential period -- I was a regular contributor to its cyber edition, both in long form essays and, perhaps more creatively rewarding, its daily update column.

(Before going further, I would be remiss in not mentioning that I owed this good fortune to one of its columnists, the late Dean Barnett. Dean liked the blog I was writing at the time, and thought I would be a good fit at the Standard.)

Mike Goldfarb -- no William F.
Buckley, he (thank God).
Under editor Mike Goldfarb, the daily update column had a funny, snarky (in a good way) attitude that separated it from the more sedate conservative magazines. Whereas you pictured, say, the National Review editors cradling brandy snifters and puffing pipes in their $2500 suits, Goldfarb gave you the idea that his writers were beer-swilling, cheap-cigar smoking guys in jeans and Led Zeppelin t-shirts. 

Perfect! Even if my concert t-shirts consisted of Devo, the Clash, and Elvis Costello. 



It wasn't long before readers and other writers at the Standard took note of me. What could have been better than an email from Jon Podhoretz reading "you're very funny"? Perhaps it was when Goldfarb let me know that editor-in-chief Bill Kristol wanted to know "who this Kusinitz person was". 

Bill Kristol was asking about me? It wasn't long, I was certain, that my little caricature would join those of the other Standard writers in its print and web editions.


Bill Kristol in his younger,
more vulnerable (to bad
decisions) years.
That was before Goldfarb joined the McCain presidential campaign as its online p.r. guy. His two replacements quickly informed me the daily column was getting serious, and that they wanted straight reporting, not the wiseguy routine that gotten me hired in the first place. 

What?! I was just shooting spitballs at the passing parade. The only things I could report were my smartass opinions. 

Unsurprisingly, none of my subsequent contributions were accepted; Dean Barnett advised me that other people were pulling the strings. (Bill Kristol, is that you I see behind the curtain?). It wasn't long before I gave up contributing to the Weekly Standard, and turned my attention to the occasional op-ed for the New York Daily News -- another publication that's now one page from the graveyard. 

Goldfarb's irascible influence was sorely missed, at least by me. Too, as the GOP decided to make Barack Obama public enemy #1 in the worst possible way, I became disenchanted with its increasing ugliness. At times, I would briefly tune into Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity just to remind myself that parting ways with the Standard might have been a good thing after all.


Erase that smirk off
your face, Fred.
As if doubling down on their obliviousness, the Standard's Fred Barnes -- who always seemed to pride himself as the smartest guy in the room -- applauded Sarah Palin's decision to quit her job as Governor of Alaska midway through her first term for a sweet TV gig. This, Barnes assured us, would give her time to bone up on the issues before running for president in 2012. 

Forget about drinking the Kool Aid. Barnes was brewing it up by the gallon and, man, was it stinking up the joint. That was the final issue of the Standard I ever read.

Over time, my politics drifted back to left of center, and have remained ever since. By the time Donald Trump announced his candidacy, the Republican base had already been undergoing its eight-year journey to Crazy Town. It was only a matter of time, then, that the Weekly Standard would expire. When close to 100% of your party not merely disagrees with you but actively hates what you stand for, where else is there to go but bankruptcy court?




Trump asks Palin if she knows how to spell "A".
I wonder if the Standard editors realize they had a hand in their own demise. Because it was they who introduced the world to Gov. Palin as the future of the GOP: not just a woman, but a good looking woman who wore lipstick and high heels -- that is, when she wasn't hunting and making moose stew for her family. More than anyone else, the Standard editors were responsible for Palin getting on the McCain ticket. 

The Republican party hasn't been the same since. For while Palin gradually faded from the limelight, she ignited something horrific in the GOP base that led straight to Donald Trump, white nationalism, the rise of anti-Semitism, and a proud racism unseen since the 1950s. Thanks, guys. Now look in the mirror and decide if you like what you see.


The new standard of the Republican Party.
Unlike other prominent conservatives who have left the GOP in disgust, Standard editors Bill Kristol and Steve Hayes are hanging in there, determined to regain ownership from the crazies who run the show now. Good luck with that.

My advice? Considering the GOP is damaged goods, why don't you and your fellow-disaffected Republicans form a new party? One that combines the pro-immigrant, pro-free press vibe of Reagan with the infrastructure gung-ho of Eisenhower? Something called... oh, I don't know... maybe the Standard Party.


Keeping Podhoretz
entertained.
And if you two guys don't remember me, take a look at the page your team set up that provides links to everything I wrote for the Standard.  Your colleague Jon Podhoretz can vouch for my talent. 

I may be voting the straight Democrat ticket for the foreseeable future -- like, forever -- but I really want you to make a comeback. And not just to provide a safe haven for decent conservatives. See, I still want that caricature of me. 



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

Friday, December 14, 2018

POLITICAL COWARDS ANNIVERSARY SONG

Merry Christmas, folks -- it's the sixth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings which left 26 people, some as young as six years old, dead!

I can hear you say it: Six years? How time flies -- why, it almost seems like yesterday! Maybe that's because there have been 62 more school shootings in the U.S. since then


But nothing can compare with the original, amirite? In fact, there ought to be a song to commemorate the event we're (supposed to be) remembering now, but Congress would rather we all forget. 

So, to the tune of Al Jolson's classic "Anniversary Song", let's raise a glass in tribute and sing "Political Cowards Anniversary Song".

How did we vote when the children lay dead?
With NRA, 'cause we're in the same bed.
Kids shot in school with a gun meant for wars --
We don't really care 'cause we're nothing but whores.

"Vote as we tell you," that's what they yell,
"If you don't do it, we'll make your lives hell".
We do all their bidding, as they say so,
Because we get their dough.

We'll never change -- we all love our jobs,
And we're afraid of the gun-toting mobs.
But still if you think that we don't really care
We offer you this: our thoughts and our prayers.

                                                  ********************
Feel free to pass this along to your congressman.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

HOSTLY DUTIES

Brando and Hope fight it out. The loser
has to host the show.
It says something about the times we live in that what used to be two of the nation's most desired positions -- Chief of Staff and Academy Awards Host -- now fall in the category of "Jobs Americans Won't Do."

Describing those gigs as "thankless" is like referring to Mohammed Bin Salman as "touchy". And while the jobs seem to be completely different, they're more similar than you might think. First, as the l'affaire Kevin Hart proved once again, the Oscars are more politics than show biz, while Donald Trump is nothing but the Host-in-Chief of a particularly gruesome reality show. 






Eisenhower's Chief of Staff
performing his most important duty.
Second, the jobs were afterthoughts. The first Oscar ceremony (lasting 15 minutes) was held in 1929, over 40 years after the first motion picture was made, while the designation "White House Chief of Staff" came into being under Pres. Eisenhower in 1953

So somehow Abe Lincoln could run the Civil War without a maƮtre d' outside the Oval Office, yet the job has now become as important as Secretary of State or Executive Chef. Hell, give it to a competent receptionist. And isn't that all the job really is?

As for the Oscars -- they were created not to honor quality in motion pictures, but as a publicity gimmick to stave off unionization in the industry. That worked out real well. 




So when you come right down to it, neither position can be considered salient to the overall running of either the movie business or the government. And if you don't believe me -- can you name the last three people who held the jobs? (For that matter, can you name any of last year's Oscar winners?)
"And in his role as Gotham Gazette Photographer..."

But the elimination of either position is as likely as the creation of a "Best Performance by an Extra" category. However, if it did happen, I think we know the name of one certain nominee. 

Therefore, a little out of box thinking is necessary. Considering that the main functions of host and Chief of Staff are essentially the same -- pleasing the boss and knowing when to get people on and off the stage (or in and out of the Oval Office) -- why don't the guys just switch jobs?

While I've never seen Kevin Hart's stand-up or his movies, I do know that he's got almost 35 million followers on Twitter. So combine Hart's numbers with Donald Trump's 56 million, you've got an audience unparalleled in White House and show biz history. 



Kevin Hart realizes what homophobic
comments often mean about the person
saying them.
Too, both men have made a career out of being politically incorrect -- or, in Hart's case, homophobic. One of his 2009 Tweets -- "How many 'gay' men sweat when they wear dress shirts because real men don't lmao p.s. fag" -- would definitely resonate with many Trump fans, both philosophically and grammatically. 

Or take this one from 2011: "Yo if my son comes home & tries 2 play with my daughters' dollhouse I'm going 2 break it over his head & say in my voice 'stop that's gay'. Yo, you can picture Trump doing the same thing to Barron, right? 

Also, both men have anathema to offering apologies, believing it's always somebody else's fault. Really, Hart and Trump are two sides of the same coin. Hart would know exactly who Trump should and shouldn't see, and would kick asses accordingly. Then they'd make gay jokes.



As for John Kelly hosting the Oscars... just his reactions to the winners' ceaseless blathering would be worth the three hour running time. Finally, an honest m.c.! 

But why stop there? Let Mike Pence switch places with Keanu Reeves -- they operate at the same excitement level. Or New York Mayor Bill de Blasio with Matt LeBlanc -- he knows how to play a doofus. Or Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with Jennifer Lawrence -- having dropped out of school at age 14, she's equally unqualified. 

Not only will all this be far more entertaining, at least we'd have better looking people in government. And their replacements in show biz would do far less damage to the country. Which is why Donald Trump and Cheeta should switch jobs. Even if they're both overqualified.

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




Monday, December 10, 2018

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 29: "MADAM SECRETARY"

Often if you're noticed as an extra, it's due to little more than right time, right place. Oh sure, maybe a cool fedora helps. But more often than not, it really does come down to dumb luck. In the case of my most recent work on Madam Secretary, it couldn't have been any dumber. Or luckier.

Madam Secretary has been second only to Gotham as my favorite show to work on. (And now that the latter has filmed its final season, Madam Secretary takes first place). It's both classy and a hit, with a great cast and crew, from the director on down. They've given me plenty of work in the last two years, which is even more of a plus than the food.

So when I got the heads up in October that I was getting two days work for one episode, that made it doubly pleasant. Adding to the fun was that, upon arriving on set, I discovered I'd be working with a guy named Sasha, whose daughter was friends with mine during their early school years.

This would be one of my few Madam Secretary non-journalist roles. Instead, I had gotten the decidedly cool bump to Kosovo NATO aide. Seeing that I was wearing my usual pinstriped suit, the only thing that differentiated me from looking like a reporter was a slightly more conservative tie, government-issued ID, and a scowl.


Consider the Sheraton Times Square Hotel for your
next NATO peace conference! Free wi-fi and USA Today provided.
The first day (October 16), we were shooting at the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue & 53rd Street, which was standing in for a federal building in Maryland. 

Each of us "aides" were provided a little flag pin representing our home country. By the time they got to me, the Kosovo pins were all gone; thus, I was gifted one of Serbia. What the hell, I'm easy. 


Sitting in the back, over the shoulder of the woman in the black suit
and red blouse. Sasha is second to the left of the guy standing up.
We were ushered into one of the Sheraton's conference rooms. The actors playing the official representatives were already at the tables; we aides were told to take a seat in the chairs against the wall. 

I quickly scoped out the joint, and chose the chair that the camera was pointed towards. When you can't be front and center, settle for center. 

My friend Sasha, meanwhile, was immediately promoted from aide to representative, and placed at the the table. Two reasons: 1) There was an empty chair, and 2) He's Russian by birth, and thus looked the part. Again, dumb luck, not just due to the empty chair, but Sasha's birthplace.

That afternoon, I was almost placed in another scene with the Kosovo rep who was talking to the Under Secretary of State -- until someone noticed my Serbian flag pin. An extra with the correct flag was used instead. Watching the shoot on a monitor, I was crushed -- the guy who took my place was in the entire scene, observing the discussion between his boss and the American lackey. This nearly was mine...


The view from the entrance of Broadway Stages -- or, as I like to
 think of it, Hollywood on the East River.
The following Monday, I reported to Broadway Stages which, despite its name, is a TV and movie studio in Brooklyn. Initially, I was disappointed. The call sheet indicated that there was another Madam Secretary shoot going on at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City  involving the President -- that is, Keith Carradine, not the real current White House occupant. Have you noticed that movies and TV shows always feature a guy you wish were president?


The slick, stylish Serb on a break.


I figured the scene with President Carradine would also involve Madam Secretary Tea Leonie, and that my fellow aides and I would be relegated here to a relatively minor bit featuring NATO reps speaking in foreign languages. 

So it was surprising, as I worked on the New York Post crossword puzzle, that the p.a. called out my name, and told to follow him downstairs to the set.

This was unusual. Why wasn't anyone else going? Did they need just one more body to fill out the background? And why me? Well, why not me?

After retiring from show business, the late great character actor Sid Melton (who you older folks will remember as Danny Thomas' agent on Make Room for Daddy) said he missed the smell of soundstages. I understand exactly what he was talking about. As the p.a. and I walked along the rear of the set, the smell of plywood enveloped me like a forest -- Ahh, it's good to be home! 

In this case, home was the set where I shook Tea Leonie's hand for an episode last year. I took this to be a good luck charm, and figured I'd be placed at a desk outside the Secretary's office. Instead, I was led into her official conference room, and placed next to the actor playing the Kosovo rep. 


Staring down our Kosovan counterparts.
Looking around, I made a startling discovery. I was the only extra in the room. Everyone else was a principal actor, including many of the regular Madam Secretary castmates. 

And when Tea Leonie and director Eric Stoltz entered moments later, ready to work, I realized I was a real character in an important scene, and not just Background Guy #97 padding out the crowd. To everyone in that room, I was an actor. Yikes! Don't tell them any different!





We worked on the scene from 9:15 to 6:15, minus lunch and other breaks. This was the
We Serbs take shit from nobody, no how.
first time I had gotten an idea of what it was like to shoot, for lack of a better phrase, an intimate scene -- that is, just the principal actors, minus the flotsam and jetsam I'm usually part of. 


It was a heady experience. The NATO rep actors, both Eastern European, talked to me. Eric Stoltz talked to me. Tea Leonie talked to me. I was accepted. As far as they were concerned, I was supposed to be there.

And yet the whole time, one question swam through my head: How the hell did I wind up here?

As another extra later explained, the guy who was supposed to play my role didn't show up. One of the a.d.'s said, "Get Kevin down here." Had I been wearing the Kosovo pin as originally planned, I wouldn't have been considered for the part. Dumb luck doesn't get any better.

You've heard me rave about working on Gotham, but nothing compared to this day on Madam Secretary. But the flipside is that there was no way I would be asked back on the show as an ordinary extra before the end of the year -- or, perhaps, until next season. Where they're going, I can't follow. What they're doing, I can't be any part of -- but we'll always have Brooklyn Stages.

                                                                *****************
As the airdate approached, I was afraid that I would be replaced by a CGI character. No worries, as the kids say. Click on the video and be amazed (or amused):














Sunday, December 9, 2018

THE REYKING CREW

Mars or Iceland? I let you decide.
The biggest difference between the trip my wife and I made to Iceland last June and the one we returned from last week was that we brought our daughter along this time. Also, the sun rose (a little) at 10:45 a.m. and set five hours later. Quite a difference from the summer, when the sun sticks around like a guest who'll just have one more for the road for 22 hours.

Another difference was that it was absolutely the coldest weather I'd ever experienced, with snowfall upon arrival in Reykjavik, accompanied by a howling wind that would have drowned out an entire Air Force squadron. I managed to stay in the Blue Lagoon, an outdoor geothermal pool, for all of seven minutes before returning inside and wondering why I ever agreed to this madness. Especially when it was 8:30 in the morning and still pitch black. 

It all came back to me as I thawed out under a hot shower: we had come to see Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights -- which is the only reason anyone would visit Iceland at this time of year. Well, that and the Arctic char. And you can get that anytime.

Our daughter asks what the secret is to luxurious
hair like that.
Iceland, in case you haven't visited, is pretty much bereft of greenery, as the settlers had to chop down all the trees for houses and warmth. The country itself is essentially the remnants of volcano activity over the past millennia or two. (I'm not sure how long a millennia is, but I imagine it's very long). 

If it wasn't for the waterfalls, sheep, and long-haired horses, you'd think you were on another planet. In fact, Elon Musk should forget about this flying-to-Mars nonsense and just go to Iceland. If nothing else, the food's much better. 



After a day in Reykjavik, we started our driving trip to Hotel Ranga. But first, we would visit three waterfalls along the way: Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss, and Gullfoss. Judging by their names, it probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that the language is exactly the same as it was when Iceland was settled by the Vikings in 874 A.D. Everybody speaks English as well -- otherwise we'd have swallowed our tongues trying to communicate with them.
Somewhere under the rainbow, Skogafoss falls.

We went to the top of the mountain to have a bird's eye view of Skogafoss -- and all it required was climbing roughly a million or so stairsteps. I strongly recommend the activity for a year's worth of cardiovascular workout. 


We had also made a pit stop at Geysir, one of the few Icelandic words that didn't require a translation. The last two tourist spots reminded me of Highlights magazine's Goofus and Gallant. Gullfoss sprays visitors incessantly with freezing water. Geysir sprouts straight up, keeping them dry. I'd have posted a photo of Geysir in action, but there was no countdown clock to cue me. All I can tell you is that looked and sounded like a whale belching after a hearty Hungarian dinner. 
                                                                                                                                       
Hotel Ranga is also the
place to go to recreate the

tricycle scene from 
The Shining.
Just before they hoisted us
outside by crane.
My wife and I had last stayed at the Hotel Ranga during our last visit. It's located in the village of Hella -- and believe me it's hella good. Ranga staff provides not only a phone call to your room alerting you when the Northern Lights appear, but also the finest in Arcticwear to keep you from freezing to death outside. Because how else are you going to pay the bill at checkout time?

But as with Geysir, there was no way I could a decent photo of the Northern Lights, so you'll have to visit Hotel Ranga's website. What do you think I am, a professional photographer or something? Android photos are the best you're going to get from me.


Reynisfjara Beach was also featured in Game of Thrones, where it
made even better with gratuitous sex and violence. 
Iceland is famous for its black sand beaches, particularly Reynisfjara Beach with its  "sneaker waves", named for their notorious ability to sneak up on unsuspecting visitors and dragging them out to sea -- the ultimate Icelandic tourist experience.

See those huge formations in the water? We're told that those were trolls who, while trying to dock their ship, turned to stone when the sun rose one morning. That'll teach 'em! 


For all its beauty and history, the most exciting part of our Icelandic adventure came at the very end at Keflavik Airport. After going through Customs, a woman told us we were chosen to be "randomly" pulled aside -- as if it were some kind of "thank you" for flying Icelandair -- and taken to separate rooms, where our bags and pockets were searched, and our hands and socks tested for any residue from explosives. 
Word to the wise: get rid of these
before returning from  Iceland.

I was asked to remove my footwear. "New sneakers," one of the security guys noted almost threateningly, as if they were a hallmark of terrorism. He then pointed out that I had something suspicious stuck to the bottom of my socks. 

These were my Yaktrax toe warmers -- which, like hand warmers for gloves are necessary in Iceland at this time of year. I hastily removed them and dumped them in the trash can. 

It could have been worse. You know, like turning to stone in the sunlight.



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

A video of Skogafoss in action. Look carefully and you can see the staircase on the right side going up to the top.








Monday, November 26, 2018

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 28: "GOD FRIENDED ME"


Although I don't work as much as many other background actors, it doesn't mean it's always easy to keep these gigs straight. Upon getting out of the Q train near Washington Square Park at around 5:30 on the morning of October 9, I was walking to the holding area when a question suddenly lodged itself firmly in the front of my brain.

What show am I working on today?

I knew where was I walking to (Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square South); I knew that the next day I'd be working on Bull. But I had no idea what my gig was now. If you don't think that's disconcerting, imagine the same thing suddenly happening to you when you're going to work. Now imagine it before dawn, when the moon was still shining brightly in the sky, and you're in a neighborhood you're not often in.

It came to me a moment later -- God Friended Me -- but I was still feeling unsettled even after arriving at holding.  I asked a colleague if he ever had a similar experience. "Yeah," he replied, "right now, after I got off the subway coming here. I had to stop in my tracks and ask myself, What am I working on today? Sometimes these things just blend into one another.


From Casual Businessman to Chess Fan, a transformation
rivaled only by that of Clark Kent into Superman.
This day I was playing two roles: a Casual Businessman in one scene, and a Chess Fan in two others, both shot in Washington Square Park. In the former, I was instructed to walk like a typical New Yorker: "fast, like you need your Starbucks fix." The a.d. liked my swift style, which I repeated for several more takes.

For the chess fan, I brought along my cap, which I acquired over the summer -- not so much for real life, but for gigs like this. It was on sale, and paid for itself within minutes of the director shouting, "Background! Action!"


Another extra and I were supposed to be chatting while waiting impatiently for the arrival of a legendary chess player who hadn't been seen in public for 10 years. We were initially placed almost directly in front of the camera, near the principal actors, before doing a wide shot. Upon hearing our cue from one of the principals, all of us  were to split up and go to our new places given by the a.d.

Later in the afternoon, we shot the third scene. The a.d. took one look at me and said something like, "I've seen enough of you". Unlike other times I've heard this in real life, he merely meant I'd gotten plenty of camera time, and put me on a bench further from the action. It was one of those exceedingly rare gigs where it was OK to scroll through my phone while shooting, because what else do people do these days when they're sitting on  park benches?

When my episode of God Friended Me finally aired this week, my turn as the Casual Businessman didn't make the final cut. I was too fast for 'em, anyway.

However, the a.d. was right about seeing enough of me as the Chess Fan. At first, I was in the middle of the wide shot, where my cap, plaid shirt, and sneakers made me the nerd I was supposed to be.



By and large, I'm pretty relaxed when working, but nervous when these shows finally air, and God Friended Me was no exception. As usual, I had nothing but complaints, especially when the camera got closer. 

Why aren't I standing straighter? Why isn't my head squarely above my shoulders? Why is my chin so saggy?  As I've noted before, the camera puts 10 pounds on you. It just so happens all of it goes to my chin.



At least when I go more full face, it disappears (to a certain extent). The problem here, however, is that as I age, my lips are getting thinner, making me look less like a chess fan and more like an elderly criminal. I totally get why people get collagen injections. 

Hey, maybe if God wants to friend me, he could do me a real solid by making me look 20 years younger. Otherwise, one of these days my chin is going to have its own role.

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

You can watch my scene at https://www.cbs.com/shows/god-friended-me/video/BIedF2kIc6N8tQdjsHb68vhQ2enIQtOx/god-friended-me-king-s-gambit/ 
Fast-forward to the 6:30 mark. See how, through the magic of editing, I appear in several places at once after the crowd splits up. It's something you wouldn't notice if you were focusing on the principal actors like you're supposed to, dammit!



Wednesday, November 14, 2018

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 27: "BULL"

My most recent Bull gig proved how vitally important illusion is to television, and volunteering is to appearing on television. 

But first, a little background on the background. This was my second visit to the Bronx County Courthouse. My first, late last winter, was for an episode of Quantico, where, in my stereotypical role as "Reporter", I dropped to the floor when a witness jazzed up his testimony by shooting the defendant in the courtroom. 

The editor, however, had other ideas, to the point where 99% of the extras in that scene were invisible in the final cut. Perhaps this time, playing a lawyer on Bull, my luck would change. 






The Bronx County Court House shortly after its 1934
construction, when crime was more civilized.

It was a 6:00 a.m. call. As I waited, suit bag in hand, on the subway platform for the express to 161st Street, a well-dressed woman roughly my age approached me and asked, "Are you working on Bull?"

It was an easy call, since no one else looking remotely like us were there at that hour. And when we arrived at the subway stop, I noticed a young woman with a clear plastic make-up kit furtively looking around. "Working on Bull?" I asked. Like criminals, extras can spot their associates a mile away.


It was written in the stars that
he'd make the Walk of Fame.
Before going further, let me play tourist guide. The Bronx County Courthouse, for those of you on the right side of the law, is a five minute walk from Yankee Stadium -- rather appropriate, considering that, in the playoffs this year, the team was guilty of choking in the first degree. 

Across the street is Joyce Kilmer Park, where, outside its walls, runs the Bronx Walk of Fame, featuring the names of important figures who were smart enough to get out when they could. It might not be as famous as the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- scratch that, it isn't as famous -- but, unlike Trump's star, the markers can't be destroyed with a pickaxe. 




Just call me "Slick".
Usually, I don't have to sit in the make-up chair, unless it's for a little powder to "take away the shine". Too, the hair people tend to take one look at me and say, "You're fine" -- which is a nice way of saying, "I can't do a damn thing for you." This time, however, they put a little gel in my hair so it didn't stick up like Sylvester the cat's fur when he pokes his tail into a light socket.

We would be shooting three scenes -- one inside a courtroom, and two exteriors. In the former, I was a lawyer with a client. When it aired, my shot was so fast -- and I was so deep in the background -- that I couldn't even get a decent freezeframe. You'll have to trust me that my manner was quite lawyerly. 

Although it was October 10, the exterior scenes took place in early winter. In pre-climate change days, this wouldn't have been a problem. But it was a balmy 75 degrees when we had to work in heavy coats and, for many of us, scarves and gloves. Remember what I said about illusion? 


On my way to defend Harvey Weinstein.
Our first exterior shot featured us walking on the sidewalk along the side entrance of the courthouse before going up the stairs. Very little remained in the final cut, but I made it at the beginning of the shot, behind Bull stars Michael Weatherly and Freddy Rodriguez.

And then it was an hour or so of downtime. As we sat around doing nothing (other than taking selfies), an a.d. came around and said, "OK, I need five volunteers for the next scene."

My hand immediately shot up. They appreciate volunteers, because it lets them know you've come to work and not just eat the free food. We were lead to the corner of the block on Grand Concourse, where Weatherly and Rodriguez were going to be.


The a.d. gave me my direction: "When they start walking to the corner, you time it so you arrive there with them, and stand right next to them so you're in the shot."

Volunteering -- it's a beautiful thing.



It's freezing out here! Why the hell didn't I wear my fedora?
As the p.a. put bright masking tape on my landing spot, the a.d. reminded us this was supposed to be winter, "so act cold!" 

I took him at his word. When I wasn't wrapping my arms around myself, I was blowing into my hands. I hunched my shoulders. I stamped my feet. I grimaced as if the wind was blowing on my face. I did everything except turn blue. 

After a couple of takes, the a.d., who had been watching a monitor, returned and said, "I love what you're doing! Keep it up!" Happy to oblige!

My routine paid off. Not only did I get comparatively massive screentime, there is no way you'd mistake me for anything but an old guy silently damning the New York winter. In other words, I did my job. My wife positively marveled at the performance I gave.

When Bull aired this past Monday -- coinciding with the cold air that finally arrived here -- many viewers doubtlessly wondered how that codger withstood the New York winter... while never realizing it really felt like early July. 

Or, more likely, they were paying attention to Weatherly and Rodriguez. Looking at the extras? That's what spouses are for.

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

Watch me shiver and grimace: