Friday, June 17, 2005

What's the story, Morning Glory?

Here's one for ya:

Many years ago, I was employed as a production assistant on movies, music videos and commercials. It's shit work -- running around and getting lighting equipment or buying fried chicken dinners for the crew and cat food for the director's pets (or sometimes vice versa).

One job was on a McDonald's commercial. There's a fake restaurant out in Pomona where they film half the ads you see on TV. The weirdest part isn't being on a sterile non-working fast-food kitchen set, prepping the tastiest looking fries you've ever seen and never eaten... it's going into the men's room and having Ronald McDonald at the next urinal. When he's in costume and make-up, he's contractually obligated to stay in character -- upbeat and friendly -- even when he's pissing two feet away from you. I've said it before, folks, when the schvantz comes out, the mouth should stay shut... especially if the latter is covered in red makeup (and who knows, maybe the former, too). I don't remember the conversation he was trying to make, but thank goodness he didn't say, “Super-size me.”

The best thing about these jobs was the other production assistants. Fellow writers or actors trying to make some bucks while they try to make it. Usually we knew more about the biz than our bosses. Most PAs were hard-working, ambitious talented up-and-comers. Or at least they were good for a few laughs.

Like Lou. Pretty-boy actor -- he kinda resembled Peter Facinelli -- with more looks than brains.

We were at the production office for the Mickey D's gig. Lou asked me to help guide him as he maneuvered the tremendous camera truck out of the parking lot.

He needed to make a three-point turn. So I was waving him back to give him room to go forward. Using just hand signals: Back, back... yeah, keep coming... okay he was getting close to another car... I put up my hand in the “halt” gesture.

Lou kept going in reverse. I made the fist gesture -- was that the signal for stop? But he kept on coming... Giant ten-ton truck looming in on a fiberglass station wagon... closer, closer...

I had been silent up 'til then 'cause it was summertime, and the windows to the production office were open to stay cool. I figured the others in the office didn't need to hear me shouting directions over the truck's noisy motor. But by now, all the paper-shufflers heard the truck continuously backing up: Beep, beep, beep, and then: “Stop! Dammit, Lou, STOP!” and then: CRUNNNCH!

Lou finally stopped, with the truck pressed up against the back of the wagon. The rear window stayed intact, but the glass splintered into a panel of jagged criss-crossing lines.

The production team rushed out to see the commotion, especially with me and Lou going ballistic on each other:

“Lou! Didn't you see me telling you to stop?”


“You didn't see me going like this? Or like this?” I frantically re-made my open-palm halt and closed fist gestures. I dunno, maybe the international hand signals for ‘stop’ is your thumb up your ass...

Lou said, “As I started to turn, I couldn't see you in my side mirror. You gotta make sure I can see you, Mike.”

“Gee, I'm sorry, Lou. I was too busy keeping my eye on the ever-closing gap between you and the car. Guess I was hypnotized by your impending demolition derby here...”

And then the owner of the car rushed over. The director.

“What the fuck did you assholes do to my new Volvo?!”

KSSSSSSH! The glass panel finally disintegrated, cascading into a million shards.

Amazingly we didn't get fired. Maybe it was because while we apologized, we also pointed out that it wouldn't have happened if the lazy-ass self-important director hadn't left his vehicle parked illegally in the handicapped spot.

Lou and I just had to drive the busted up car to Beverly Hills Volvo, get the director a new loaner. Five minutes into the drive, I was still rattled by our recent fiasco, but Lou just started cracking up.

“You shoulda seen the look on your face, Mike. You were all, ‘Didn't you see me telling you to stop?!’” Lou imitated my anguished expression, contorting his mouth and furrowing his brow. “‘Didn't you see me going like this? Or like this?’”

I gotta say it was kinda funny, seeing the actor's impression of me. Then he stuck out his tongue and did an exaggerated version of my hand signals: open palm, closed fist, heavy metal horns, middle finger extended, jerk-off gesture...

“Hey, watch it!” I said, still chuckling. His hands were off the steering wheel and the car was swerving into another lane. Two accidents in one hour?

“Have it your way.” Lou grabbed the wheel and cut the Volvo onto a side street.

As he pulled into a parking lot, I glanced at my watch. Yeah, we had hours to kill, plenty of time for a little detour.

“‘Have it your way’ was Burger King's slogan,” I said, getting out of the car. “We're working for McDonald's.” I tried to think of their ad campaigns.

As we left the demolished Volvo and walked toward into the establishment -- “Crazy Girls Topless Gentleman's Club” -- I suddenly remembered an oldie but a goodie:

“You deserve a break today.”


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