Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I underestimated the power of satire. Evidently my latest blog about being a background extra as an oil clean up worker was taken seriously. I apologize to anyone who may have forwarded the posting as a true account of an actual event. It was not. I was drawing from my experience as a film background actor and recent reports from the Gulf Coast where staged news clean ups are taking place. It was not my intent to mislead anyone or any news agency into believing that the incident was real. It was written in a satirical vein.

In the future I will post disclaimers to prevent a humorous posting from being taken seriously.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"The Pony and Balloon Show"

Today I started at six in the morning on a background extra job. Several of us were in wardrobe being fitted into white Tyvek suits with brand new hard hats. The director held up a metal garden rake with the price tag still on it from Home Depot. "Who knows what this is?" After several seconds of silence I responded "A rake?" "You got the part." The other two background extras were issued a black trash bag and a roll of paper towels.

Loaded into a van and driven down to the gulf coast where we sat in the extras holding area until about 10:30. A production assistant barged in and announced the camera crew had arrived and the principal would be there shortly. We were ushered out onto an oil covered beach to take position behind a stand in. Carefully arranged by the director to our needed places. "Don't get any oil on the suites, we need to re-use them tomorrow." He pointed to me "Same thing for the rake, keep it clean so we can return it to the store."

Seeking direction I asked if he wanted me to actually rake the tar balls on the sand. "Hell no, that will leave a bare spot and show how bad the rest of the beach actually is." The director scanned the shore and went flew a fit of rage. "HOW THE HELL DID THAT GET INTO MY SHOT?" A dead water fowl was bobbing in the surf. A skittish grip replied it must have washed up in the past few minutes. "Well, get rid of it, it defeats the purpose of us being here."

Soon after the TV news cameras took position a shiny heavy SUV pulled up. Dozens of official looking men secured the area as President Obama took the place of where the stand in had stood. A half a dozen handlers milled around him. "Where is it?" Obama asked. "Too windy to use the teleprompter sir, just stick to the key words, you'll do fine." "Mannerisms?" "Thumbs up when you mention the Federal Government, angry fist when you speak of BP. Point to the beach to show concern and resolve."

Ten minutes later cut was yelled and the president and camera crews had left. The background extras crammed into the van. "Hurry up, Governor Jindal is holding a press conference in the next parish at three o'clock, we need you to stand behind him. Remember, don't get your suites dirty."

I should have clarified that was a satirical blog. Reports from the coast
are that oil clean up crews are only around when TV new teams are. As
soon as the cameras leave, so do the clean up crews. Many of the news reports have a "staged" look. Guys in pristine white suites with rolls of Bounty paper towels wiping down blades of oily grass. Numerous members of clean up crews have been sent to the hospital because BP refuses to allow them to wear respirators. If the workers wear the masks, then it would be an admission by BP that the oil slick is in fact toxic. So if an individual tries to wear any respiratory protection he is fired from the clean up work. Remember what happened to the 911 clean up crews?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hey Belmar NJ!

I would still rather be here in New Orleans with the oil spill, have a great summer!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Seeing RED

When you watch a film or TV show, anything you see in the background is there on purpose. Vehicles and pedestrians are payed for and placed. Nothing is random. In this photo from the new Bruce Willis film RED, the arrow is pointing to my friend's mini van. $35 a day to park his car in the background. The film makers don't rely on cars that are parked there while the owner is shopping around the corner. In one action scene a police car skids out of control near his van. Russell was praying the stunt driver would screw up so he could get a new car out of the deal.

Russell's Van

I spoke to one background extra who had worked on the film RED. The streets were closed off during the shoot and the extras took positions waiting for the assistant director to yell "BACKGROUND!" On cue, the background actors do what they are told, walk, stroll, run, whatever is needed. He mentioned how a random non hired pedestrian somehow managed to wander onto the street of the shoot. A Vietnamese woman on her way home from work who had no clue she had walked onto a movie set.

The group of background actors stopped her and tried to explain that there was a movie being shot and she wasn't supposed to be there. Do to the language issue, she didn't understand why a group of strangers stopped her from walking across the street. Before security could be called in, the A.D. yelled "BACKGROUND!" On that cue everyone ran screaming down the street as blank shots were being fired at racing police cars. A panicked crowd running and screaming including the woman on her way home from work. A half a block down the street the director yelled "CUT!" All of the background actors stopped dead in their tracks to resume positions.

Except for one Vietnamese woman who kept running screaming down the street to escape the gun battle. She probably went home and told the story of a crazy bald guy standing in the streets of New Orleans firing a gun at cops.

Bruce started out as a background actor.

Meet Alex




Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's a wrap...

At two AM this morning I left the set of the independent film BRAWLER. It was my fourth day on the shoot, that started at nine AM. Long and grueling day of a film that I am proud to have been a part of. Talented people that I enjoyed working with and learned a lot from watching. Over the four days I worked background actors came and went, either they didn't like the heat or the pay. After the twelfth hour I was resigned that anything after that was going to be for the love of the art. I think the performers and production people were there for art and not for big bucks.

The director Chris Sivertson is a very cool and mellow dude who never yelled or raised his voice. That's what the assistant director was for. She spent the better part of her time screaming at the less professional extras to be quiet on the set. Most of them were whiny and lazy amateurs who spent more time belly aching about the heat than doing their job. We probably would have been done hours earlier if they had listened and done what they were told when they were told. Time was wasted by the A.D. constantly having to tell background to shut up. Repeatedly she would have to tell the same extras to move six feet to the left and they would just stand there with blank looks. One background actor spent the entire day bragging to new extras how much experience he had in the industry. Even as the A.D. was screaming quiet on the set, he continued talking how much he knew. He knew everything except when to shut up.

There were some very good background performers there. Real professionals who didn't complain and were on the mark. I felt bad for one named Austin, he had a five AM report time the next day to work on the film Green Lantern. I hope he made the call time. In the past few months of doing this work, I have repeatedly run into many of the same extras again and again.

As we stumbled out of the warehouse sweaty, tired and aching the principles and production people thanked us for a job well done. I never played sports of any kind, but I think I know what it means to be part of a team. A group of people working together for success at a common goal. I hope the film does well and all of us move onto bigger projects and work together again someday.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I miss you Kiddo....

This is the first Father's Day in 13 years that I haven't spent with my daughter.

Our favorite film to watch together is Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. A few years ago I bought her the yellow suit for Halloween. I had been calling her "Kiddo" since she was a toddler. She's a real tomboy who loves action films and video games. When she was learning to walk she would take a bad spill, her eyes might water but she seldom cried.

We both balled like babies when I left New Jersey back in March. Tomorrow I am working as an extra on the set of the film Brawler again. The actor Michael Bowen is in it. He was also in Kill Bill. If I get the chance, I will break protocol of background extras by saying Hi to Mr. Bowen. Extras are not supposed to speak to principals.

Someday when I do get to talk to my Kiddo again, she'll get a big kick out of the fact I spoke to an actor from her all time favorite film. As long as my daughter considers me a success, that's the only opinion that truly matters.

"When will I see you again?"

"You know, that's the name of my favorite soul song from the '70s. "

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fear and Loathing on Bourbon Street

I am not a drinker. I stopped drinking after it got kicked out of my own art gallery opening back in 04. I am a smoker, a joker and a midnight toker. Tonight my new roomate from was looking for a wingman on Bourbon Street so I went. New Orleans is not a town for solo binges. It's too easy to end up in jail or the E.R. if no one is there to watch your back. He was footing the tab, so how could I say no. A good ol boy from Georgia named Lefty who needed to cut loose in his new town of New Orleans. I didn't really have much experience here other than applying for work on Bourbon. At best I'm a light weight drinker with nothing but war stories from the Jersey Shore.

We started out at the clubs I had applied for work at. Stiletto's for a couple of beers then onto Larry Flynt's Barely Legal club. It was cool, friendly staff with Lefty paying for beers and shots of Wild Turkey as he chatted up some dancers. When we were at Larry's, Lefty kept asking the bartender "Where can we find old Cougar dancers?" Which was cool with me since an old fart like me should be arrested for looking at any woman under forty. The bartender was a sweety and drew us a map to "Dixie Chicks" on Iberville. We should stayed at Barely Legal, things started to spiral downward as soon as we left there.

It's vague what our exact itinerary was after that, just that we ended up getting kicked out of the Penthouse Club. Apparently me puking my guts out in the men's room was reason enough to get us evicted. Wild Turkey, bad medicine if you haven't tied one on in several years and haven't eaten in 24 hours. I think I was cool, subtle and polite, just a little nauseous. Next thing we knew some bouncer was asking us to depart since I had vomited about $40 in drinks behind a closed door in the men's room stall. As a former cab driver on the Jersey Shore I respected that policy, no hard feelings. I had become one of the passengers I hated.

Lefty was making a good move on some redheaded dancer. Exiting the men's room I was in better shape than I had been in a couple of hours. Lefty, a burly construction worker was having a good time and didn't want to leave. The bouncer said for us to finish our $10 drinks and leave. I guess we didn't move fast enough, soon four guys in suits were standing behind us tapping their toes. Our exit got a little tense with four bouncers pushing my buddy through the door as I tugged on his arm pulling him out. A block down the street I looked down at my hand in the neon light to see blood smeared across it. Lefty looked at his to see a hand from a crime scene. We still aren't sure who's blood it was or where exactly it came from.

Using the contents of my pockets I was able to piece together events of last night.

Between my volcanic esophagus and a bloody altercation with strip club bouncers I suggested that we hail a cab and retreat to a safe position back across the river. Lefty was determined to find the club on Iberville with the mature ladies of poles. My limited knowledge of the French Quarter and dumb luck led us to a neon glow "DIXIE CHICKS." A dark street, dark entrance to a very dark bar presented a dark omen. Lefty entered the establishment with a zig zag walk that looked like he was dodging sniper fire. I stumbled in behind him with my motor skills slowly returning after my dry heaving. Anytime a strip club is this dark, there is a good reason. Either they don't offer the dancers a dental plan or something lascivious is taking place on the premises. We never got to find out. Placing a drink order of a shot of Wild Turkey and a ginger ale Lefty loudly questioned the price of $14. "Seven bucks a drink, take it or leave it" the bikeresque bartender said.

Lefty leaned as far as he could over the stage / bar to question the math involved in our tab. I was reaching for my beverage to hydrate my body. Sweating and vomiting for several hours had reduced my blood to a solid matter. A large powerful hand gripped the scruff of my neck and an stern voice in my ear spoke. "Get your buddy out of here." I don't know if it was a hand and voice of a bouncer or God himself, but it carried authority. I tugged at Lefty's tied died shirt sleeve as the hand on my neck steered me like a puppet out the door.

I was given the cliche' shove over the threshold with the intent of planting my face on the urine soaked cobble stones outside. I hooked my elbow around a cast iron lamp post. As I spun 180 degrees Lefty was backing out of the door yelling profanities and shaking a fist. Soon we were in a cab going back over the bridge. I was telling our driver how I drove cab on the Jersey Shore. Ali responded "Jersey Shore? Like the TV show? How can you stand those assholes?" I chuckled at the irony as I fell out of his cab in Algiers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bad Decisions

Bad decisions, nothing will make me laugh out loud when I'm by myself more than when I think about all of the bad decisions I have made. Bad decisions when it came to money. Bad decisions of who I associated myself with. Bad decisions of careers. Bad decisions.

I decided to change my life and reinvent myself to be one who makes the right choices when I moved. I moved from Jersey to ground zero of the world's worst ecological disaster a month before it happens. Good decision. Really, I love this city, love these people. I made the right decision. My friend in Seattle said. "Wow, you had to move front row center to the end of the world." "Yea, New Orleans has been chosen to be the host city of the Apocolypse, that's cooler than the Olympics."

In the past three months I have been homeless sleeping in a car, I've rubbed elbows with TV stars. I got to be a twelve foot high Jester leading a parade down Bourbon Street. I've gotten to be a street performer in the French Quarter. I've smoked up with Asian gang members. I had U.S. Marshals point weapons at me, handcuff me and run me down to Orleans Parish Prison. I've walked the same streets as pirates, artists and musicians have for hundreds of years. I've made great friends. Like Waffle and Dr Maad.

Moving to New Orleans, the best decision I ever made.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I finally got to see episode one of HBO's TREME. My friend was a background extra in a few scenes. He also was back in New Orleans soon after Katrina. He said that the show really nails the tragedy. What happened, what it looked like, and how residents felt. The shock, the depression and anger. The producer of the show has lived in the city for 20 years and has done justice in the show.

To hear the survivors speak of the months after Katrina is akin to listening to those who pulled themselves from the rubble of a war. In fact during the show my buddy commented on the helicopter sound effects in the background. Day in and day out. Choppers, diesel trucks and the National Guard gave New Orleans the feel of an occupied city. Stench of mold, rotting food, the corpses of pets and destruction remained long after the TV news cameras left.

This is my fourth month in New Orleans, I can't imagine ever leaving it. What you see in Treme is close to what you will find here. The music, the food the people. My friend's favorite line from the first episode "Don't know how not to Mardi Gras." It's the spirit of the city.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who Dat?

It's kind of cool being ignorant of pop culture. I watch very little TV, I haven't been in a movie theater in years. The last DVD I rented was at least a year ago with my daughter. I think we picked it because of an exploding car on the cover. When I get to a movie set, I'll find myself standing next to the lead thinking "I wish this guy with all of the hair would step away from the coffee maker so I can get a cup." He's who?

Director Chris Sivertson

So, I'll do a little research on line when I finish the shoot to see who it was I didn't know. Brawler stars Pell James, Marc Senter, Nathan Grubbs, Michael Bowen and Bryan Batt. One looked kind of familiar. I saw all of them over the course of two days, nothing really scandalous or even remotely interesting to report. All polite and courteous folks. Marc Senter who is both producing and starring in Brawler seemed very cool, funny and talented. After a long hot day's shoot he was still there making sure everyone got their checks and left content.

Brawler Boiler

DAY 2: Monday I returned to the set of the film BRAWLER. Very few background extras returned from the day before. Oppressive heat and gruelling conditions weeded out those with health problems and ones with better sense. After talking with the casting agent it seems a change in shooting schedule prevented a rented air conditioning unit from being there. Or so the story goes. I enjoy watching the filming of movies. The camera shots being set up, angles and lighting. We were in a windowless set with only a few large fans circulating the hot smoke filled air.

In this scene we were a cheering crowd at an illegal cage match aboard a ship. We stood by patiently as the fight director ran thru the final choreography of each fist swing and canvas fall. The actors fought heat exhaustion more than each other. I briefly conversed with the director and some crew, very cool and approachable people. The actors made it a point to slap the extras on our sweaty backs and say "Good job, thanks for coming out." I saw less than a quarter of the extras from the first day on the second day shoot. A few new ones who didn't know what fun was in store for them.

Look for the film BRAWLER, sweaty and gritty fun.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sound rolling, background sweat!

Oh sure, being a background extra sounds like the most glamorous job in the world... yea. My latest 'acting' gig is working background on the film Brawler. I'll just tell you me and my buddy are in it, and one of the hottest looking background actresses working in New Orleans. The extra herd was kept in a warehouse until it was time to shoot. We then were crammed into a closed in set with no ventilation and a smoke machine.
Did I mention it was mid 90's and extremely humid? To make matters worse they fed all of the extras beans for lunch. It was a horrible, hot and miserable day at work. My friend (The Bobby DeNiro of extras) refused to go back to the shoot today. I (The Joe Pesci of extras) am going back in today because I can use the money and like watching hot chicks sweat.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's Tropical

Beginning of the summer in New Orleans. Yep, hot, humid. That I can stand. Violent rain storms that come in off the Gulf seem pissed about something. Palm trees and banana trees. Insects. Big insects that ain't even scared of Black Flag. You step on an ant hill down here, the ants chase after you, knock you down and steal your wallet. Flying cockroaches that have to file flight plans with the FAA. My first cup of coffee and smoke in the morning is usually spent with lizards.

I haven't missed Jersey yet.

Vintage Bourbon Street

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hey Crablady

Someday, my now 13 year old daughter will be tearing up Bourbon Street with her rowdy college girlfriends. When they say how cool Bourbon Street is, Laura can turn and say "My Dad led a parade down Bourbon as a twelve foot tall Jester back in '10." I thought I would be bringing up the rear, nope. They put me on the point with a brass band behind me.

There was a large group of cardiologists in town for a convention. My employer was contacted for some revelers and a big head for a promotional event. I was given a big head job...wait, that doesn't sound right. Paid to do head... given money for head.

Anyway, I was a juggling reveler in the beginning at the convention at a sweet old downtown hotel. The Roosevelt. Classy and grand. When another reveler named Steve and myself walked in dressed like we were, people spun and looked at us in awe. It was like the Joker had just taken over the Gothem City Hilton.

On the way over to the job, I heard someone say the words "Yea, the crab lady will be there." I'm thinking, "Nice, she sounds like a keeper. Even though it's been a while, don't introduce me." Actually she was a crawfish. The hottest most drop dead gorgeous crawfish I have ever seen. Very sweet girl. I'm not sure, but I think I now have a fetish for women dressed as crustaceans. Pretty much rounds off my list of weird thoughts. The girl dressed as a gator was smoking hot too. I digress.

All of the convention attendees were treated to marching in a parade down Bourbon Street. Complete with brass band, permits and a police escort. I almost knocked a cop off of his scooter when he stopped short in front of me on Canal Street. I wasn't scared of the cop, I was at least six feet taller than him.

As soon as we started, people lined up, snapping pictures. Behind me the band wailed out some Jazz classics, Steve danced with some Doctor's drunk wife and Crablady flung beads. Strippers were coming out of the clubs to see what was going on. Down the middle of Bourbon with two police escorts, navigating by neon signs, sweating my ass off. It paid a week's rent and was a blast. I'll see if I can get hold of some pics from tonight's parade.

So, what did you guys up in Jersey do today at work?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jersey can help the Gulf Area

I believe New Jersey can help with the oil clean up in the Gulf. Every year New Jersey must clean it's beaches after the Guidoes leave an oil slick on the shore. It consists not of crude oil but a vile combination of baby oil, olive oil and hair gel. The tar balls that wash up in Belmar NJ are actually oily balls of hair from the underarms of girls named Maria. If Jersey can return it's beaches to a nearly pristine state after a summer of a hundred thousand guys named Antony lying on it, there is hope.

I'm working tomorrow

Yep. In New Orleans this is a job. I will be a twelve foot high Jester. Since I've been down here the majority of my income has come from background acting, street performing and now this.

Ironically, I'm working as an actor until I can find steady work waiting on tables.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why did I leave NJ?

One of the reasons I left NJ was because I could not make ends meet. Do to a sluggish economy finding other work was not possible. I was driving taxi for BELMAR CAR SERVICE. After child support payments were taken out, I averaged $80 to $90 a week in take home pay. Tips might have been $75 a week when I left. Our regular alcoholics who used our service several times a week started to get tighter with the buck. Sure, no problem dropping $40 at the bar. When they were paying the fair I'd get a sob story about how tight money is. If anyone in NJ can explain to me how I could survive on less than $175 a week for 60 hours work, I'll come back. The latest word I have heard through the grapevine is that business is even slower. This summer probably won't be anything to boast of on the shore.

EXHIBIT B: The cost of living in New Jersey. I had left a one bedroom garden apartment in Neptune City NJ. that I was paying $1,100 a month for. $1,100 a month to listen to neighbors play loud music and deal crack. I moved to the cheapest I could find. When I left the Garden State, I was trying to pay $700 a month to share a house with two others. That's a total of $2,100 a month for a three bedroom house. Winter rental, meaning when the summer came, the landlord intended to boot us out so he could try to rent it for about $10,000 a month in the summer. To top it off, the landlord would daily let himself in unannounced to use the bathroom and turn the thermostat down to his preference. Last fall he told one of us that a drinking buddy of the his would be in from out of town for a few days and would be crashing on our couch.

I mentioned the above to my current landlord and he was appalled and dumbfounded that anyone would pay that kind of money to rent a house, let alone put up with boorish landlord. I didn't even tell how the one roomate would come home at closing time and try to cook. A few nights I was woken up at 3 AM by smoke alarms. One morning when I came home the house was filled with gas from him not turning off the stove properly. A tiny spark would've launched the dwelling into the stratosphere. Here in New Orleans I am paying $75 a week for a room in a decent area without the bullshit.