The Lowest Rung On the Hollywood Ladder, Part 1
The Responsible Goth
When I was a small child, I'd been given a choice: Improve my grades and continue working, or let them slide and be yanked unceremoniously out of The Biz.
I was a lazy harlot, even at the age of 9. Fourth grade was just so full of ennui and bullshit, what with all the adding and subtracting and the cutting up of paper and the eating of the paste. So when I ended my 4th grade year with a report card full of U's, (ah, for the days of Unsatisfactory again...) my family moved to Lower Butt Fuck Nowhere, New Mexico, taking me with them. I stopped working for nearly 10 years.
Fast forward to the summer of 1996. I'd moved back to California the year before, but I'd just turned 18, and was full of piss and vinegar and beans and cuss words like are all teenagers. I was attending the local community college. (Hey Pierce College Goons sup is Gene still running the theater department?) I'd made a few friends, but none so close, nor as slutty and dangerously stupid, as Tara. Tara was an older woman of 25! I was so cool, hanging out with upper classmen! (I found out later that Tara was the oldest freshmen there.) Tara was living in squalor in Canoga Park, in a studio apartment (which was about the size of a sports car's trunk) with 4 other people. When I asked her, all innocent and sweet, what she did for a living, she told me she was a background actor.
And thereby convinced me to join her on the set of Sliders, under the name of her room mate, who was sick, had already booked the job, and needed somebody to go in for her.
I jumped at the chance. I could use an additional $46. Why the hell not? (Not to mention the fact that I had a raging girl boner for Jerry O'Connell at the time.)
I was told it was a Goth Call. Meaning that all the Goths on the Central Casting database were invited. I was so far from Goth as to come round the other side. I was so preppy and Valley Girl that you could use my accent to cut bread. The closest thing I had to "Goth Wear" was a pair of black vinyl gogo boots and a "vampire" cape from 3 Halloweens before. Desperate, I ran to the local Hot Topic the night before the shoot, and grabbed the Gothiest thing I could find: A black mini dress with little skulls embroidered on it. It cost me $50. DUMB. Tara told me I'd already broken a cardinal rule: No black clothes on set. How in the hell they expected to do a Goth call with no black clothing was a bit beyond me, but whatever.
The call was for 6:00 AM the next morning, so I got plenty of sleep; a whole 5 hours! My dad drove me out to the Mayan Theater in downtown LA where the shoot was. (Yeah, I didn't have my driver's license yet. At 18. I was a tool.) I wore the skull dress anyway, with the boots and the cape, just because I had NOTHING ELSE. But, fortunately, my skin was already so naturally white and pale that I needed no makeup.
Then, I did the stupidest thing ever.
I took my long, really blonde hair, teased it up high, and swept it off to the side. I looked like some skanky 80's housewife wearing her teenager's clothing. I was told later that the only reason I didn't get sent home was that I was one of the only extras who behaved myself that day. They needed all the "responsible" people they could get for the close shots and the special work. The reason they deemed me "responsible?"
I was only one of the few extras who weren’t sneaking out of extra's holding every few minutes to smoke some weed.
Of course, the episode I was doing was also guest starring Tommy Chong. So I guess that's all right.
The order of the day was one that I would soon learn was the norm on all sets: hurry up and wait. Rush thru makeup! Hurry thru wardrobe! (They actually liked my dress. The makeup people, though, were at a loss as to how to deal with my skank ass hairdo. The consensus was: Screw it, they'll place her deep background and won't see her. Which is exactly what happened.) Get your ass into Extra's Holding! NOW, SOLDIER!
Using my childhood experience on set as a kind of a guide, I was shocked. When I was a kid, I was on set and we started shooting immediately. (Granted, the law is that child actors can only be on set for a restricted amount of time. But I didn't realize this till much later.) This, however...
I sat in the back room of that stinky old theater for 8 hours straight before I realized that everybody was outside. Not on set. Just outside. Hitting up craft services, smoking (tobacco and weed, as I've mentioned) talking voluminously on cell phones to their "agents" (which were really their Aunt Martha’s, but we don't discuss that ok?) and just generally slacking the hell off.
Why was it taking so damn long?
They were waiting for night to fall, of course. This was a GOTH episode. So we did most of our shooting at night. Remember, we'd been there since 6 AM.
I hadn't even brought a book with me.
I'd never experienced such boredom.