That’s me in the middle with two green goblins who never made it to the screen. It’s not the movie I met my husband on, that was another movie a few months earlier. My mother was tired of me lurking around the house post-college and the next thing I knew I was learning all sorts of things about low budget non-union movie making — oh, and I met the love of my life one day when we were shooting a practical location, or, as I like to say; I met my husband in the men’s locker room.
On that fateful first film I remember, as a production assistant, being tasked with finding our actors, and hearing one of the other PAs over the walkie, triumphant and disdainful, “They’re over at catering licking the makeup off each others faces.” I was easily scandalized. It didn’t help that the favorite form of recreation for the higher-ups on the “off” hours was sniffing coke and during the “on” hours the director took great delight in telling all us young’uns about a store on Santa Monica Blvd. that sold bondage gear and edible novelties. What kind of movie were we working on? A strictly PG spring break story cast with one actor from Broadway, an actress from a soap, and lots of young and upcoming talent… Except only one ever made it mainstream.
I also remember the on-set medic giving vitamin B shots and one day being sent on a run by the makeup department to get some acetone (otherwise known as paint thinner) to burn off an actor’s cold sore so she could be camera ready. It must have hurt like hell.
I’ll tell you something else, it’s a testament to youth that my husband and I actually fell in love at all. The norm during that low budget era was a fourteen hour work day, and then some. I remember on several occasions at, say, twenty hours getting up with the rest of the wee minions and jumping back and forth on our tennis shoes and dancing as dawn struck – to “get our blood circulating.”
Another picture from the second movie I worked on. Hm, I guess I liked the color red. Here we are on a butte or a mesa (I don’t know what the difference is) in Arizona preparing to blow up a bus. As I recall the special effects coordinator described a fireball that would erupt out of the pre-cut rooftop and blaze and bellow into the horizon. Funny, I have no recollection of the explosion at all. Let us hope it smoked a bit, at least. These were very low budget days. The rumor on set was that the director’s real estate developer father (not from Manhattan, thank god) had funded the project to the tune of one million dollars.
It was cold on the mesa, and as you can see by my inadequate but vivid outerwear, the likelihood was I hadn’t brought a jacket. I do remember my friend the set decorator, Don Diers, teaching me a chant, “I do not feel the cold, for I am the cold!” Now, you see, I remember that, so, it must have worked. Thank you, Mr. Diers.
What has this rambling little memoir of low budget filmmaking in the 1980s have to do with my beloved? I’m getting to that. I’m almost positive the reason I was hired for a film that shot entirely on location in Arizona was the fact I volunteered to share a hotel room with my boyfriend and save the production the price of putting me up. Did I tell my parents? No. Did I end up marrying him? Yes, it will be 31 years on November 28th.
When readers reacted to my first novel…
A lot of them assumed I’d grown up a movie mogul’s daughter. I didn’t.
The second novel revolves around the world of Hollywood just as the first did. It starts with someone babysitting a movie star’s kids. In later years that someone ends up running a movie studio. Have I ever been in either of those positions? No. I was a PA, a script supervisor, and for a few years I wrote screenplays.
There’s a very famous disclaimer to a novel by Evelyn Waugh, wait, just check this out and follow the link if you want to know more:
I am not I: thou art not he or she: they are not they. Few epigraphs to fiction have been so widely disregarded as the disclaimer with which Evelyn Waugh presaged Brideshead Revisited.
The gist of the article, which is a review of a fascinating book by Paula Byrne, is that the epigraph to Brideshead is complicated because the author based the novel very closely on the lives of friends; a fellow classmate, and the classmate’s two sisters whose parents’ divorce was scandalous.
The Beauchamp divorce petition — a lively catalogue of sodomy, fellatio and intercrural sex with several named servants — was supposed to have been sealed until 2032, but ‘the closure has been cancelled and the document has been released to me for the first time by the National Archives at Kew’.
I’m no Evelyn Waugh, but I will say this, every novelist writes what they know…tailored by imagination.