Flippin' out, part three
We used an elaborate tag-team system to cut our morning check-in time by half. We brought books and games to fill the downtime. We packed sandwiches to tide us over until lunch (which was typically served around three o’clock).
And, we said “on set” a lot.
As in, “Well, we have to be on set at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
And, “I have to go, Mom. They need me on set.”
It was awesome.
This was during the early weeks of summer vacation—a heady time. School was out, the world around us was warm and green, and—bonus!—we had sideline seats at a Hollywood extravaganza. Between takes, in extras holding, I watched my normally shy daughter talk animatedly with new friends. And, I enjoyed the fact that she would occasionally talk to me as well, or consent to a quick game of slapjack.
One thing that started to get on her nerves, though, was the way I quizzed her when she’d get back from filming a scene.
“Did you see Rob Reiner?” I’d ask every time.
She’d stifle a sigh and say, “Of course,” or, “I stood right next to him,” or, “He talked to me about our favorite cookies.”
After a while, we worked out a system that didn’t embarrass her. I’d raise my eyebrows (translation: “Did you see Rob Reiner?”), and she would give a quick nod (i.e., “Yes, Mother. For the twenty-seventh time, yes.”)
In that way, we passed many peaceful hours.
One day, we were standing in the hair and makeup line when a girl with glossy braids bounced into the gym and began chatting with the extras. The girl was dressed in a hot pink tracksuit, and she had ten or more stretchy bracelets wrapped around each arm. Close behind her was a man holding a two-way radio and wearing a suspicious expression.
“I’ve got Madeline,” he said into the radio, glaring at no one in particular.
The girl—Madeline—was working her way up the hair and makeup line, cheerfully introducing herself over and over. When she made it to my daughter and me, she smiled and extended a tiny fist.
“Hey!” she chirped. “I’m Madeline!”
I smiled back at her, unsure of what to do next.
She stepped a bit closer and said, “Fist bump!”
Fist bump. Seriously? What was I, nine? I looked over at my daughter, who nodded encouragingly. Then, I bumped Madeline’s fist with mine.
A moment later, the bodyguard guy began pulling her away, toward the far side of the gymnasium. She waved and frowned regretfully. “I’m sure I’ll see you soon!” she called out to everyone.
“Mom,” my daughter said sternly. “She’s the star of the movie.”
“Really?” I said. “Has she been in anything else I’d know?”
“Well, I heard she played an elf in The Santa Clause 3,” my daughter explained, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I was watching the star of the movie disappear through a doorway I hadn’t noticed before. (Later, I got a chance to peer through that doorway. And do you know what I saw? An omelet station! It turned out that the cast and crew’s craft services table was way better than ours.)
Not long after that, two tall, handsome boys tumbled into the gym together like puppies, arms and legs everywhere. “We’re bored!” they announced, and a wave of interest rolled through the crowd of extras. These were the two male stars of the movie, whom my daughter had already seen and deemed “cute.” A group of kids soon gathered around them. The boys signed autographs and joked amiably with everyone. It was interesting to watch them. Aside from the fact that they had the clearest skin of any teenagers I’d ever seen, they reminded me of the boys at my daughter’s school: gangly, silly, adorable, awkward. Like every other boy in the gym, they looked funny in those Sixties-era clothes. Like Madeline—like any teen—they were looking for a little attention.
It was just as my favorite trash mag had always claimed: Stars. They’re just like us.
Except surprisingly acne free.
And an omelet station.
But just people, apparently, and not as mysterious as I’d always suspected.
I made this point to my daughter on day three as we walked back from the prop room. “So,” I concluded, “if those boys ever become really famous, you can tell everyone that you’ve met them, and that they’re just as dorky as any other boys.”
She munched a donut and nodded placatingly, having figured all of this out for herself on day one. I reached over to wipe some powdered sugar from her lip, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall man with a snowy beard.
Acclaimed director. Star of television and movies. Hollywood insider who had at that instant placed me within two degrees of Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks, and the entire original cast of Saturday Night Live.
He had walked past me and smiled.
I turned, raised one finger, and pointed at his back. And then, I said the only word I could think of.
My daughter, who had been so patient with me up to that point, buried her face in her hands.
Epilogue: Later that day, they shot a scene in the cafeteria directly across the hall from extras holding. If I craned my neck just right, I could look through the cafeteria windows and watch everything that was going on. I felt like I was watching Rob Reiner on television, which, clearly, was the only way I could handle it.
I used my phone to take the picture above, surreptitiously. I’m pretty sure that Rob Reiner is the tall figure in the back, on the left.