Standing Around the Movies

Standing Around the Movies

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February 1982, Irvine

A Hollywood film crew set up on campus to shoot a scene for a movie titled Creator whose cast includes Mariel Hemingway and Peter O’Toole. The scene was a touch football game. Fine Arts Department students made up the two teams. A few of my students signed up as extras. They made a crowd and walked around looking like students. The shoot lasted all day with plenty of standing around for the stars. I saw MH up close, tall and long-legged, hair cut short, looking scruffy, dressed in sweatshirt, blue track shorts, socks, and sneakers. She stayed off to the side, chatting with the crew. After a while she put on yellow sweatpants. She signed autographs, ate an orange, drank coffee.

I was a little embarrassed, seeing her right there behind the Humanities Building, remembering pictures of her undressed in a slick magazine on a convenience store rack and also thinking of her revealed in the film Personal Best. People stared all day. I stared. She knew it. Felt it. Despite her invisible shield of privacy. Anything said to her by a stranger would probably glance off into space. Until today, for me, she was more art than real, an image, not alive. She was too young for Woody Allen’s interest in Manhattan. She must have been old for her age. Here, she was a casual undergraduate except for the famous face. It’s none of my business to want to know her, and I don’t really want to know her. When I watch the new movie, I’ll look for myself in the background.

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May 1991, San Diego

Star Wagon. Catering. Making a film called Writer’s Block in the Sculpture Garden of Balboa Park in San Diego. Spanish Renaissance buildings. 1970s-era sculpture court. Movies have been filmed in Balboa Park since the 1920s. The crew and technicians wear shorts, T-shirts, and baseball caps. Their utility belts sag from the overload of tools.

Two guys in the crowd talking:

“I was in two L.A. Law’s and never thought that show would last so long.”

“I was in one Simon and Simon, with all my scenes done on Point Loma.”

“I made $102 in two hours as an extra and got a big plate of pineapple and shrimp. These productions are catered to the max.”

The scene in progress: Actress Morgan Fairchild in a short black skirt and matching jacket sits on a bench. Two kids chase a ball near her. She picks up the ball, looks at it, emoting a bit, then throws the ball to the kids, laughing, and walks away.

In the Sculpture Garden are works by Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore (the classic mid-size Hank), and others on the preferred short list of artists to have in your public collection.

A derelict approaches me and slurs, “Can I have your autograph?”

“Please move on,” says a guard in a green uniform.

In front of a line of trailers and vans, three guys play hacky sack in a tight circle. They’re good at this minor skill.

Rosemary and I watch the action and the standing around through the posts of a black iron fence.

A blonde stand-in for MF sits for a lighting check.