By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Down on the beach, a few hours later, Scott and Yuki toss red and pink carnations from Kali's altar into the waves. The festival is over. A young man in a Hawaiian shirt, Jimmy, walks down the shore carrying a Fender guitar. Yuki hands him a carnation, which he places between the frets. His crystal-blue eyes match his shirt and the orca whale and full moon painted on his guitar. He's a pot dealer from Vegas who is here on vacation and wishes he never had to go back.
"I'm getting sick of that Vegas money, it's evil," he says. He didn't know about the Kali festival, but last year he started doing yoga and lost 200 pounds. He knows that's hard to believe, but his parents are Mormon and they ate a lot of sugar. Recently he obtained a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita and would like to go away someday and live at an ashram. Jimmy disappears down the beach, strumming "Stairway to Heaven." A few yards behind him, four Italian gentlemen wearing matching navy Speedos pass. Each carries one of the red carnations, which have now washed up on the shore.
THE ACTING LIFE: Desert Storm
WE'RE AT 110TH STREET AND AVENUE G in Lancaster, and the hot August air is filled with snowflakes, folks are bundled up and shivering, and a busted-down heap is about to be towed out of this oddball, quasi winter wonderland.
Of course, the snow is a wheat byproduct, and the red faces and runny noses can be blamed more on wind-whipped desert dust than the temperature, which is in the 70s. We're on location for a Prestone antifreeze commercial that is supposed to take place in an arctic environment. Instead we're outside Fox Airport, just 75 miles from Hollywood, a homegrown shoot in a setting that would have been more apropos had it taken place in the hated confines of Canada, archenemy of union grips, gaffers and other assorted crew members.
I'm playing a "hick redneck" tow-truck driver who rescues a stranded motorist, only to have Prestone's superheroine spokesperson Jillian Barberie spirit off the sad-sack driver after a sassy admonition to him for the penny-pinching that just cost him his radiator. If he had only used Prestone, he wouldn't be shaking like a frosty leaf and having to deal with the likes of me. Barberie, the pert football commentator and local celeb (Good Morning L.A.), drives a sweet '69 convertible SS Camaro (painted in Prestone yellow and black, of course) and is dressed in a tight black top and yellow leather trousers as the driving blizzard swirls about her . . . why?
"Glad you noticed," says Tom Parr, the spot's creative director (which means general overseer and eventual editor). "Jillian has superpowers and doesn't get cold -- that's the bit!"
Parr sits with his assistants, as well as producer Lynn Sobol, product rep Jim Brown and the remote sound unit, in the "village," situated behind one of the few rows of trees within miles, and watches the action on a monitor. The entire village crew is outfitted with goggles and gauzy headgear to protect against the unusually high winds that are ripping skin and eyes to bits. It is a surreal sight -- from the head up, they look like al Qaeda operatives or special-ops troops. Meanwhile, just outside camera range, another section of the crew hurls "snow" into a wind machine; as they heave this mess upward, they resemble farmers in the Russian steppes chucking grain into the air.
As high-stakes as these things get, the atmosphere is jovial and relaxed. Parr holds court about his favorite spots of the last 30 years, marveling at past ad greats, from the hyperactive FedEx spots of the '80s all the way back to the famous "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" Alka Seltzer campaign of the '60s. "Total classics," he says wistfully. Eventually, the crew's conversation wends its way into the staple topic of all shoots, the craziness of the genre's grand master, Joe Pytka (famous for Britney Spears' Pepsi spots, as well as the Beatles' "Free as a Bird" video). Pytka's short temper is the stuff of legend, and the way the crew recounts his verbal assaults in awestruck tones is stunning -- you'd think they were talking about Fellini or Coppola or John Ford.
Now Barberie's shot is being set up, and all eyes are on the busty star. As the fake snow lands on her low-cut top, a wardrobe person scurries over with tape to remove the offending particles and the crew responds like a bunch of goggle-eyed frat boys. A slew of leering tit jokes cascades from the lads until Sobol, the lone female on the crew, has had enough. "Shit, you'd think you guys had never seen breasts before," she says, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the star adjusts her ample cleavage right into the camera, paying no attention to her admirers.
Finally, my particular genius is required. My bit is to glare angrily at the driver and Barberie as they peel off, then to leer at Barberie (she's already off camera) and wave as I slam down the tow winch, then leer and gape a little more. I appear onscreen for maybe two or three seconds tops, and I've been here five hours already. My goggleless eyes are shredded, and in my full winter regalia (not being a superhero, you see), sweat drips down my legs.
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