Wednesday, December 4, 2019

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 38: "MADAM SECRETARY"

I've alluded to the fact that one of the perks of background work is the chance to visit places that I wouldn't otherwise see -- or, more likely, be allowed in. 

For example, the New York Bar Association on West 44th Street. According to its website, the Bar's mission "is to equip and mobilize the legal profession with excellence, promote reform of the law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world." 

I, too, have walked these hallowed halls... mainly in search of the
craft services table.
Noble stuff. Oh, and it's also available to rent for "corporate events, business meetings, AND FILM SHOOTS" (emphasis mine). I'd make a wisecrack, but I'm afraid they'd sue me. 

The Bar Association was where I would make my final appearance on Madam Secretary. My role was that of a spectator at the impeachment hearing of Elizabeth McCord, the Secretary of State-turned-President. Man, what's with all the presidential impeachments lately?


OK, so it's not the greatest shot, but I had to put
something here.
The area that we used appeared to be a permanent mock-up of the kind of Congressional hearing room we were filming. A search of the Bar's website turned up only a tiny photo, and nothing about its name (all the Bar's rooms have names) or what it's usually used for. 

In fact, it's so small that, upon blowing it up for a better look, I can't swear it's even the same room. I'd make a great witness at a life-or-death trial, wouldn't I?

Due to the gravity of impeachment, a suit was required. But because I was merely a spectator and not a senator, liberties could be taken. Thus, a pink shirt and dark brown tie. Consider it a minor theory of gravity.

As usual with a scene this big, we were brought to the set in different groups -- reporters, photographers and senators first, followed by the rest of us. We spectators initially waited by a wall before the a.d. told us to sit where wanted. And for me, that meant the first row, nearest to the principal actors as possible. The better to get into character, of course.


We shot two scenes, fairly quickly as I recall. As it aired, it began with a wide shot as Pres. McCord made her entrance. You can see me on the screenshot (left) even if you think you can't. 

See Tea Leonie sitting at the desk? OK, if she's the middle of a clock, I'm sitting at 10:00.




If that's not clear enough, try this shot taken at a closer angle. The guy with the folded hands, fourth from the left in the first row. 

Now, as I've admitted in the past, part of the fun -- maybe the part of the fun -- of this job (for me, anyway) is being close to the action. To put it another way, I have no objection being close to the camera. The better to get into character, remember?!

Initially, I was disappointed that the guy second from the left in that row was not only that much closer to Leonie, but was also sitting directly to the left of one of Madam Secretary's regular characters. 


But then when the episode aired, I discovered that sitting where I was worked in my favor. Each time the camera cut to Leonie's right side, I was onscreen. Not in focus, mind you, but clear enough to make out. 

And the guy I was jealous of, sitting that much closer? Completely hidden. Thank you, Tea, for doing me one last solid.

I appeared on and off throughout the entire scene, looking intently at the historic incident unfolding before me (the impeachment, not the penultimate episode of Madam Secretary's final season). We were all switched around for the second scene, but that time I was out of camera range. 

And so ended my three year occasional "career" on Madam Secretary, one of my top 5 background experiences. Classy series, classy star, and the chance to be, among other things, a reporter, NATO aide, State Department worker, and Pentagon official. All on TV, of course -- making me fully qualified to work for the current president. Come to think of it, more qualified than the current president.

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

My swan song on Madam Secretary:




















Thursday, November 14, 2019

NO ASSISTANCE REQUIRED

Why couldn't I have a choice of homes
when I was alive?
One of the ceaselessly wonderful things about aging is receiving lots of mail -- regarding life insurance, Medicare, Social Security, and, my favorite, funeral homes. I never knew how many strangers cared about my health and wellbeing, particularly when there's money involved.

A few days back, I received a card from a New York-based "personal assistant" service. They offer, to quote their postcard, "Personal assistant for seniors who live independently, but want a little help (or don't feel like) carrying groceries, arranging transportation or dealing with errands."

Do I look like I need help,
you little bastard?
To quote Jack Benny, now wait a minute! Technically, I'm one and a half years away from seniorhood. Allow me to enjoy my remaining months of being a regular adult before I'm picked up and dropped headfirst into a new life (or near-death) category. 

Second, I actually enjoy shopping and running errands. After all, not every movie on TCM is a winner, and I need some excuse to get out of the house when I'm not working. And as for arranging transportation -- well, I once booked a round-trip flight for my mother-in-law, which proves I could open my own travel agency. 

In other words, I'm a guy, OK? I like having little projects. It helps me forget how mundane my life really is.

Tell that to my wife.
So I've got all that covered. Now, if you want to really help me, I'd be happy to give you some jobs. Like, when I've done the laundry, help me fold fitted sheets. Not that I particularly care, but whenever I find myself in the laundry room with my wife, I've got to help her do it. Otherwise, when I'm on my own, I just kind of bundle it up in a ball and hope she doesn't notice. 

You know what else I don't go for? Dusting. Don't ask me why. I tolerate cleaning the bathroom. Can put up with vacuuming. I get satisfaction from cleaning out the fridge. And for some ungodly reason, I love straightening out the kitchen cabinet. 

I knew I should've dusted this week.
But dusting? I put it off 'til the very last second of housecleaning, and then rush through it like there's a flock of wild turkeys trying to peck me to death. And it's not like we live in a mansion. If I really concentrated on it, I could knock off the whole place in 15 minutes. 

For some reason, that seems like a lifetime, and I wind up doing the living room in the time it takes to listen to whatever pop song is playing, and then skip the bedroom entirely. It's only when I sneeze from the dust build-up that I reluctantly Pledge in there. 

Then there's the TV. The good news is, now that we have a smart TV, there's no more of that damn HDMI nonsense to worry about. Just one plug into the set, and I'm good to go. Too, my wife thinks I'm a genius because I can cast a show from my Android to the TV. 

But the problem -- and it's a recent one -- is that it no longer works with HBO. Every other network is jake. But we try to watch John Oliver and suddenly it's, Sorry dear, I can't do it.

On the other hand, 65 year-old
Dennis Quaid has no problem with his
26 year-old finance adjusting his dongle.
Do you realize how embarrassing that is for a man of my stature -- that is, the electronics genius of the house? I've searched online for a solution, but all I can get has something to do with my Chromecast dongle. 

Well listen, bub. Not only do I not have Chromecast, there's no way an assistant is going to get near my dongle -- at least not if my wife has anything to say about it, and the assistant is a young, good-looking woman. No dongle, no HBO.

No of these jobs -- sheet folding, house dusting, dongle adjusting -- appear to be in this service's bailiwick. So they're out of luck as far as my needs are concerned. 

That's really not a problem. I'll struggle on with these duties for the same reason why I walk quickly with long strides when I don't have to: I won't be able to do it forever, and I might as well do it while I can. Especially where my dongle is concerned.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 37: "MADAM SECRETARY"

My last appearance on Madam Secretary, as you don't remember, was a fluke. The real actor who was supposed to have played the NATO diplomat's assistant never showed up, forcing the production to throw me on set in his place. (You can refresh your memory here.) 

It was one of those exceedingly rare moments that puts an extra front and semi-center in a scene -- and guarantees they don't work again on the show for the rest of the season.

So it was no surprise almost a year passed before the next time I worked on the series, this time in its sixth and final season. Learning that we would be working in Ossining, NY, I was hoping we'd be shooting at Sing-Sing Prison because, well, have you been to Sing-Sing?

No such luck. We were taken to a school (closed, since it was August), where its gym would double as a the locale of a Q&A session in Vermont with Tea Leonie's title character (now running for president). I, on the other hand, was going from diplomatic aide to small-town voter -- a comedown, perhaps, but the pay was the same.


Something like giving a lollipop to a petulant child.
Our holding areas were the empty classrooms -- and, lucky me, I wound up in the kindergarten area. If you ever want to feel small, both literally and figuratively, you couldn't do better than to sit in a chair made for a five year-old. But perhaps to placate us, we were given props to familiarize ourselves with; in my case, a VOTE MCCORD placard. As you can see, it worked like a charm.


When we were brought to the gym later on, the A.D. placed us in the kind of metal folding chairs you'd see in meetings like this. Tea Leonie appeared soon afterwards, complete in campaign shirt and jeans -- the first time I'd ever seen her dressed casually, although her dry sense of humor was the same. There's something about her I've always found classy, and often a lot of fun. 


Sitting in the back row -- the only guy wearing a tie.
As usual, several takes were required. During the final take, some of us were moved to other side of the audience, where we would be noticed but not seen, if that makes any sense. 

I wore a blue blazer, tie and khakis, a combo that has been pretty much my standard background uniform lately. It works for anything other than "upscale businessman/lawyer", "non-descript pedestrian", and "homeless" (which I never get because I don't have the right clothes. Yes, some people shop for too-large clothes at Goodwill, before apparently beating the crap out of them.)


If I had craned my neck any further, my head
would have fallen off.
The camera seemed closer than how it looked when the episode finally aired, although I was onscreen for a little while. I became more prominent as the camera tracked nearer (and I stretched my neck to be that much easier to see).

Not one of my more stellar appearances -- you never saw me wave that VOTE MCCORD placard -- but one to remind me that for every close-up, there are a thousand "where the hell am I?" scenes. You know, just to keep my ego in place. As if sitting in a kindergarten chair wasn't enough.

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



Saturday, October 19, 2019

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 36: "LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT"

I wouldn't take part in a protest outside a Brooklyn courthouse on a drizzly, humid August afternoon if you paid me. Well, actually I would. Which is how I found myself holding an anti-abortion placard for an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 

It was my first time working on SVU since February -- a fast shoot on a cold February morning as a Fordham alum watching a faculty football game on a West Side athletic field. When it aired, we were all so far in the background -- and the scene so short -- that I wondered why they even bothered with such character detail. On the other hand, when you're paid a full day's wage for two hours work, you're not going to complain. Or at least I'm not.

On the far left, looking either worn out from the humidity or
getting into character as an idiot.
This summer day would be different. Sure, there were a lot more extras. But now we were actually important to the scene. Likely due to my age, I was chosen to be an anti-abortion protester (most of the extras on the pro-choice side were younger and skewed female). 

Now, even extras need to get into character, and I'm no different. So I wore a nice blue blazer, pressed button-down shirt, tie, khakis, and sensible shoes. I literally topped it off with a cap I had bought (on sale!) at the JJ Hat Center on 5th Avenue some months earlier. Being a fedora guy in real life, I bought the cap more for work usage. Finally it would come in handy. 

If nothing else, this angle showed me how stupid my wallet looks
bulging from my pocket.
We worked in Brooklyn's Borough Hall section, where the courthouses stand. Often when shooting on location, productions close off the area to pedestrians. Not this time. So while many of the people walking by were extras, just as many were real people. Note to real pedestrians: you want to get paid to do what you do for free? Join Central Casting.

Unlike other shoots, not many pedestrians paid attention to us. Being busy locals, few noticed the cameras and other equipment. As far as they were concerned, this was just another group of goofy New Yorkers with nothing better to do than block foot traffic.

Mariska Hargitay doesn't recognize me because I wore a baseball
cap the last time we worked together.
However, one woman pushing a baby stroller paused long enough to berate us for being anti-abortion. No matter how clearly one of my colleagues tried to make it clear that it was only a TV show, this meddlesome dame kept on yelling at us until she made her point ad nauseum before walking away in triumph. 

I hope she's an SVU fan, just so she can appreciate what terrific actors we are -- or how blind to the obvious she was.



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




Monday, October 14, 2019

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND. PT. 35: "SUCCESSION"

My first time working on the HBO series Succession occurred on December 19, 2017. So brilliant was my performance as "Upper East Side Pedestrian", it would take another year and a half before a return appearance. And this time, I would be facing the camera. It was worth the wait (for me, anyway).

Filming at Silvercup Studios East in Queens on June 26 and 27, the setting was a Senate hearing room, where my role was "GOP Political Type". (Some of my colleagues were playing "Democratic Political Type", which should explain something about my looks, age, and hairline.) Being unfamiliar with Succession, the only actor I recognized was Eric Bogosian as a no-nonsense Senator questioning the witnesses.

Bogosian, like Paul Giamatti on Billions, was an actor I found mesmerizing from the time he spoke his first line -- commanding voice, great delivery, presence. After Bogosian, what caught my eye was the cameramen -- or, rather, their equipment. Unlike all the other series and movies I've worked on, Succession wasn't shot digitally but on 35mm film. It was fascinating to see what today is probably considered old-school movie cameras in use, especially since there were, as I recall, three running at all times. 

So entertaining was the job that it almost -- almost -- didn't matter my first day afforded me zero camera time, seeing that I was placed near the back of the spectators. I think I saw the back of my head on episode 9, but there were so many older guys that it could have been any of us. 




The second day (episode 10) proved to be the winner. Just like it says in the Bible, people who were in the back were now in front, and vice-versa. As the witness enters, I'm second from the right in the front row. 








When the camera was pointed at the witness, I could be seen again in rapt attention. I think my tie clip might have been too high, but who expects fashionable attire from a GOP Political Type?

Bogosian and the actor playing the witness did several takes, often improvising their lines -- they were hilarious -- while the rest of us tried really hard not to laugh. 

It's too bad that very little of this scene made it to the final cut, because it was some of the most entertaining stuff I've ever seen onset. You shoulda been there.

Also, I would have been on screen that much more. There might be some correlation there, but I'd rather not think about it. 

                                               ******************************
The fine 35mm look of my scene is completely wasted on this jittery, washed-out clip shot with my Android:

https://photos.app.goo.gl./i7X3SeKJYLnTFsZy7


Friday, September 27, 2019

UN-BELIEVABLE

The police boat is all that's protecting us from a
terrorist attack.
For many Americans, the arrival of autumn is signaled by the changing colors of the leaves. For Upper East Siders like me, it's the replacement of commercial and personal boat traffic on the East River by those from the NYPD, Coast Guard, and Homeland Security. 

That means the United Nations General Assembly is in session, and woe to New Yorkers who depend on ferries during daylight hours. And don't even think of driving through Midtown, when the police will close off streets if a delegate wants to step outside for a smoke. You want security? If Princess Diana and her creepy boyfriend had been in New York instead of Paris, they'd be alive & well while watching Prince William and Meghan Markle continue the family tradition of being tabloid fodder. 

I weep to realize this is the best we can do.
This year, the General Assembly was also the time of the rare times Our Idiot Mayor and Our Gangster President were in town at the same time, the former ending his summer-long vacation in Iowa with nothing to show for it other than continuing to be New York's #1 laughingstock. As for the latter -- well, he's proving to be right at home with the world's despots. The nations are united, it seems, in being run by criminals, crazies, and corrupt theologians.

Earlier this week, I walked to Midtown in order to get a gander at the scene, mainly with
This is as close as I could get, but I could
still smell the mendacity.
the desire of running into one of the major anti-Trump protests that have been occurring. But it was when I got near the UN that I realized I'd be disappointed. It was early afternoon, and the major marches are timed for their liveshot on the 6:00 news. Protesters might not accomplish a thing, but give them credit for being media savvy. 

I would have to depend, then, on whatever crossed my path, like the representative of the LarouchePAC. You remember Lyndon Larouche, don't you? Usually described as a "perennial presidential candidate", he was also the most dangerous of creatures: a paranoid nut who was occasionally lucid, as was his acolyte before me. 

He started off appearing rational, before going off on wild tangents, like flying to Mars and confiding that Alexander Hamilton was assassinated by proponents of the Federal Reserve. After speaking for three minutes without taking a breath, he asked me to "sign up" -- for what, it wasn't clear. I explained that I don't do signings, and got the hell away from him. 

From that point on, I made sure not to engage anyone else in conversation. I would never learn what the Falun Dafa was or why they were persecuted, but at least I could admire how they color-coordinated so well with the Subway restaurant. By the way, did these folks really think that China's reps would see them and say, "You know, we're on the wrong side of this Falun Dafa business. Once we're home, I'm taking this up with President Xi pronto!"




Some protesters could afford to tool around in a truck with electric signs flashing messages and pictures. Somewhere there, however, they could have explained just what the hell Ambazonia is. To me, it sounds like the movie where the Three Stooges go on safari.


Um, you're about five years too late. But thanks for the suggestion!




These deluded folks appear to have a grudge against man in the moon. Come back when you're serious!



Genuine sentiment or subtle sarcasm? And why did they make it look like a kidnapping ransom?





The only encounter that could have topped any of these for sheer weirdness would have been something like -- oh, I don't know... Maybe Groucho Marx reincarnated as a police horse. So that's exactly what happened. The joke's on him if he informed God that he wanted to return to film a remake of Horse Feathers.

And so I returned home, reminding myself I was supposed to be in awe of the world's leaders temporarily setting up shop in my city. "Awe" is correct, I suppose, when one considers of the mess they've made of things, where rational thinking is considered the enemy, science a conspiracy theory, and beauty is smashed to bits wherever possible. It's appropriate that the land where the UN now sits was once the location of the city's slaughterhouses. Nothing changes, it seems, but the architecture. 




                                                     ************************
You can click this link and watch the presidential caravan leaving the UN to drop Trump off at whatever hotel would have him. In the 38 years I've lived in New York, this is the closest I've ever gotten to him -- and hope never to again:

https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipPZjDUFj0WXYOM1rD_76ig1D_-2U56dGwR7MnApJOR78dz-TIbDe7u9HlGUbPAMfA?key=cElGX0RJMzJWOE41ZVBFREduVUlMQldRcGRjaFFn


Friday, September 13, 2019

UNLISTENABLE




At some point in their lives, every woman will say to a guy, "Will you listen to yourself?" --
"I have it tougher than you!"
and not because he's suddenly stumbled into a profound thought. No, it tends be in response to a statement that is either indefensible or, more likely, just wacky. 


The usual suspect for such behavior is Alec Baldwin -- who, when he isn't arguing with cops, punching out strangers, or engaging in homophobic speech, is intent on reminding us how hard it is to be Alec Baldwin. In his latest self-pitying rant, Baldwin confesses that, like many people, he hates his job. But unlike your average nine-to-fiver, he has to work Saturday nights. For five minutes. At $1400 a pop.

His nightmare of a life is better known as doing a so-so impersonation of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live every week. As Baldwin told former SNL star Kevin Nealon, he is "so done" with his job, adding "I can't imagine doing it again" -- just like he promised last year. 

Hey all you coalminers, toilet-scrubbers, and garbagemen, you don't know how easy you've got it. Alec Baldwin goes through real hell for 300 seconds a week. 

You might be wondering if Lorne Michaels forcing this guy at gunpoint to appear on SNL week after week. Nope, it's the fault of his fans. According to Baldwin, the only reason he keeps returning is that whenever he goes to a restaurant, "50 people say something positive" about his Trump routine -- which makes him sound exactly like Trump. Alec, would you listen to yourself, if only so we don't have to?

No thanks, too much floor to wax.
Women aren't immune to this behavior, as is the case with Bette Midler. Midler, like me, lives on the Upper East Side with her family. Unlike us, however, when her home is for sale, the New York Times considers it newsworthy. 

Perhaps it's the classic American success story: girl goes from singing Andrews Sisters covers in gay bathhouses to living in a 7,000-square foot, 14-room penthouse on 5th Avenue (with, as noted in the official listing, "a six burner Garland stove with grill, Sub Zero refrigerator and Miele dishwasher". Naturally.

But wait, there's more! Like 3,000 square feet of "landscaped terraces" (as opposed to our fire escape where we put two plants when it rains), a rooftop garden, views of Central Park, and a private elevator. You know, the kind of joint featured in every Nancy Meyers movie where we're supposed to feel sorry for Meryl Streep when she sighs, "If only I had more room!"

If I lived there, I'd never leave. For Midler and her hubby, though, it's the usual story -- their kid has grown up and moved out, so what are they going to do with all that room? Make a big fat profit, that's what, as the asking price is $50-million. Or as she told the Times, "It's time for another family to enjoy it.


I don't know how I was accepted into
 college without owning this.
Hey, Bette, how 'bout my family? My kid's moved out, but in a place like that, if she came back, we'd go for weeks without seeing her -- except when she asks us to pick up some more tumeric for her home-brewed kambucha tea. Sure it's a little out of our price range, but think of it as payback for all the times I heard your first album blaring out of every other room in the dorm back in the day. 

Or you know who else would really enjoy it? Any family who lives in New York's crappy public housing with the mold, broken pipes, iffy electricity, and lively rodent population. Or a homeless family currently living in their car. Man, would they love a Sub Zero fridge stocked with food! And a place with four bathrooms, rather than the toilet at the McDonald's down the block that they're currently used to.

It's time for another family to enjoy it. Good Lord, Bette, would you listen to yourself? You're not selling your home (one of many you doubtlessly own) to do some deserving family a favor. In fact, if Donald Trump came to you with 50 million one-dollar bills, you'd take it faster than you can you sing Oh you gotta have frieeeeeeeeeends -- even if he is the guy who called you a "washed up psycho." Just come out and say it: We're looking for one of our fellow one-percenters to take this off our hands so we can buy a castle in the South of France.

And what will my wife's response be when she reads my brilliant observations? "Will you listen to yourself?!" 

No way. That's her job.

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY -- SOMEPLACE ELSE

Maybe the greasepaint
moustache would have
helped.
The most over-referenced Groucho Marx quote is "I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member." Even if the better, more obscure, remark came when he tried to join a country club shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 1931. Told that the club didn't allow Jews, Groucho asked, "Since my son's only half-Jewish, can he go into the pool up to his knees?"
 
But it's the first quote that comes into play right now. Recently, the New York Post ran a piece about the Upper East Side restaurant called Le Bilboquet. Now, just from the name, you figure that this must be a pretty ritzy joint, even if the name translates to "The Cup and Ball", which sounds like the title of a porn movie. 


Le Bilboquet.
Ritzy restaurants are nothing unusual in New York. I've managed to get into a few myself (although it helps if it's on someone else's dime). Le Bilboquet, however, takes it one very rich step further. Unless you're one of the regulars, you need to email a reservation request, not because they're telephonically-challenged (they can be reached at 212-751-3036), but so they can Google your name. As one waiter said, "We want to keep the restaurant for special people only.

That sparked my interest. Not only am I not difficult to Google, I come up as a writer who has been published by, among others, the Weekly Standard, Forbes, CBS News, and MarketWatch. Scroll a bit more, and there's my Next Avenue piece entitled "An Older Actor Adapts to a New Life". Considering that Robert de Niro can make it past the bouncer at Le Bilboquet --  and he's an older actor -- I figured I had a pretty good shot. (In his favor, de Niro isn't a background actor.)


Are these actors allowed?
But you know what comes up more than anything else? My recent interview with an AP reporter about age discrimination in the workplace -- how I was laid off at age 58 and subsequently received the stink-eye from prospective employers. 

Well, that's unfortunate, especially since by "special", the waiter meant "rich." Just how rich was something of a mystery, since Le Bilboquet's website is emptier than Wayne Lapierre's heart. All it offers is a photo and a way to make a reservation. For the menu, I had to go to Yelp, which is probably not a site "special" people use when wanting to tie on the feedbag. 


Take the skirt, leave the tomahawk.
While the prices aren't comparable to, say, your typical corner bistro, neither are they outlandish, with the entrees starting at $32 and going to $58. The Waldorf Astoria Restaurant in Los Angeles, on the other hand, charges $230 for something called a Tomahawk Steak. For 230 bucks, I expect the teepee and a squaw for the night. 

Still hungry? The King Crab at another L.A. joint, Angler, will set you back 880 smackers. Let me spell that out: Eight hundred-eighty. I'd rather spend it on four Tomahawk Steaks, with or without the squaw.


How creepy would this be staring at you from the
next table over?
Le Bilboquet, then, would be a mere bag of shells. And what really sealed the deal was that they counted Ivanka Trump as a regular. 

Not that I wanted to see her or her slumlord husband. But because when the inevitable rejection appeared in my inbox, I would write back a huffy note. Something like, I see. You allow the daughter of our racist, Russian-loving, idiot president, but my law-abiding wife and I are diner-non-grata. Thanks for the heads up. Now I know where to send Antifa the next time they're itching to break some windows.

That would show 'em, eh? Well, not really, because if they don't want you, they don't bother replying. 

Big deal. I would never go to restaurant I couldn't pronounce anyway.

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

Thursday, August 8, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: 8/8/2019

Adrian Hill, the former head of the HFC Bank, drowned himself in his swimming pool after being caught up in the subprime mortgage scandal.

Financial experts said it was the first time a banker rather than a homeowner wound up underwater.





Actress Rosanna Arquette raised eyebrows when writing on her Twitter account, "I'm sorry I was born white and privileged. It disgusts me. And I feel so much shame."

When asked what Arquette would do to make amends, her spokesman said that she was currently on vacation in Aruba and couldn't be reached.



Brooke Mueller, the ex-wife of Charlie Sheen, can be seen in a video smoking crystal meth in a filthy van while her son was alone in a hotel room.

Cornered by reporters later, Mueller explained, "Well, at least I'm doing something about being white and privileged."





US State Department official Matthew Gebert has been outed as a white nationalist leader who spread Nazi propaganda online and attended the 2017 Charlottesville rally

A State Department spokesman said that Gebert was let go when they found he took that day off without permission.




Cable network FX has announced that American Crime Story: Impeachment, chronicling the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, will air starting Sept. 27, 2020, just weeks before the presidential election.

Reached for a comment, a DNC spokesman said, "The timing of this blows," while another admitted, "It really sucks."

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 34: "THE LOUDEST VOICE"

Seeing that The Loudest Voice was a limited-run series, I figured that my episode as a press conference attendee would be my debut and finale. But it didn't stop me from submitting again four weeks later.  After all, Roger Ailes didn't rise to the top by being shy, did he?

It was that kind of gutsy, Marines-style move that got me one more chance to do my background stuff for the series. My new role was "Friend of Mayor". Now that was a thrill, because by "Mayor" I thought they meant Rudy Giuliani (whom I liked at the time) or Mike Bloomberg (whom I still like). 

Wrong! Because this was the Mayor of Warren, Ohio -- Roger Ailes' hometown -- where he was returning to make a speech at the request of the local VFW -- and, oh yeah, gin up his audience in order to boost the Fox News ratings further. And don't tell me you wouldn't have done the same.

Note Heaven's light shining down on me.
This was how I found myself outside on a cold, windy February day in a park in Yonkers, New York (subbing for Warren) where Ailes was giving his speech. Why he didn't do it inside the local VFW hall is something even more unfathomable than the hiring of Steve Doocy for Fox and Friends.

Russell Crowe, as Ailes, gave his rabble-rousing speech -- which featured the wonderfully tautological phrase "foreign immigrants taking your jobs" (just so the yahoos in his audience understood what he was getting at) from an elevated stage. Sienna Miller (as Mrs. Ailes) stood nearby, as did the actor playing their son. 

Crowe was chatty and funny between takes, even when the hairdresser came by to tweak his hairpiece. "This gentleman is from Canada," Crowe informed us. "He's one of those foreign immigrants taking your jobs...like me.

A friend of any mayor has to look good, especially when an esteemed speaker is present, so I wore my trench coat and scarf, which were beautifully set off by the new fedora my wife had gifted me for Christmas. It didn't go unnoticed by Crowe, who gave a thumb's up and said, with an appreciative smile, "Nice hat!" At that moment, the wind subsided, cold gave way to warmth, and bluebirds appeared overhead. Or so it seemed. 

My get-up wasn't unappreciated by the A.D., either, who  gave me a prime spot in the second scene we shot. Crowe and Miller were under a tent near the stage, while a few of us were directly outside behind them, deep in conversation -- if you can call it conversation. As they were setting up the scene, I was chatting with the woman I had been placed with about the old-school "dialogue" extras used to engage in. What the hell -- it worked on Perry Mason in the '50s, why not now?

Which was why, for take after take, I responded to her whispered "peas and carrots, peas and carrots, peas and carrots" with my "cheese and crackers, cheese and crackers, cheese and crackers". If you think this sounds ridiculous, hear it in your head speeded up with each take. There was a reason why, by the final take, I was laughing on-camera. Always the professional! 

When the episode aired recently, I expected to be seen at least a little. A little?! This was the first time I actually heard from friends the next day, saying, Hey, I saw you and Russell Crowe last night! And it was easy to recognize me... unless you're my wife, to whom I've been married for only 27 years. "Well, there's someone who looks like you," she observed with Sherlock Holmesian skill. "He's got your hat, your glasses..."

"That's because it's ME!!!" I replied, hitting the ceiling so it hard my skull left an imprint.

Stunned by my sagacity, she cooed, "Ohhh, it is!" Say goodnight, Gracie.


I was on camera for most of the scene, mostly in the slightly blurry background in profile. But there was a nice full frontal, in-focus moment as "Ailes" was returning from taking a call. I feel kind of bad for the actress I appear to be upstaging... well, no, not really. This is how the A.D. placed us, OK? 

Now that I think of it, she's also hard to see in our conversation. Maybe if she'd been six feet tall like me it would have helped a little. Take note, ladies!

To show you how accidents can be a blessing, I didn't need to worry about laughing during the final rapid-fire "peas and carrots, cheese and crackers" exchange. The director used what appeared to be that take, as Crowe and Miller are smiling in the foreground. 

No doubt the director thought it a genius move on my part to emphasize the Ailes' happiness. I will never look at cheese and crackers the same way again.

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A video of the scene in its entirety: