The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

MY WIFE AND TIMES

[The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris, author of My Wife and Times. We continue this entertaining series with Daniel’s discovery of his own mortality. —Ed].

My 15 minutes

By Daniel Will Harris

Daniel Will-HarrisIt really was a dark and stormy night—the night I was in my first movie, a memory brought back by last week's Academy Awards.
The movie was Halloween II, and my wife and I were "extras." Extras are the people in the background who are kind of like props with legs. If they do their job right, you never notice them.

It was a "night-shoot," so we arrived at 8 p.m. It was already dark, cold and wet. Because extras are at the bottom of the movie making "caste system" (think "untouchables"), there weren't even chairs for us to sit on. They expected us to sit on the cold, wet curb for three or four hours *in the rain* until they were ready to shoot. My wife was appalled by this.

Since she's never afraid of authority figures, she soon spied a prop police car and she suggested we get in where it was dry. I thought this was a *very* bad idea. Before I knew it there were six of us huddled inside the car.

I was terrified that an AD (assistant director) would find us, send us all home without pay and yell, "You'll never work in this town again!" I only stopped worrying when I fell asleep, along with the everyone else in the car.

We woke when someone banged on the hood and pointed towards the catering tent, because dinner was being served at midnight. Since everyone else had eaten, we lowly ones could eat what was left. We clambered out of the car and had a surprisingly good dinner.

Around 3 a.m. the rain stopped, the lighting (which always takes hours, even when it's not raining) was done and they were ready for the first shot. We were an angry mob (shades of irate villagers with torches in Frankenstein) throwing rocks and stones at the infamous Halloween House. It sounded like great fun until we were cold and unable to feel our fingers which made it difficult to throw rocks well enough to break windows.

We stood in front of the scary-looking hovel which was just a badly maintained house in an otherwise nice South Pasadena neighborhood. The AD informed us that we were angry (duh), and we wanted the guy with the hockey mask out of the house! Of course I can't imagine that we wanted him coming out *at* us, but they never give extras much to go on.

The lights switched on, as bright as day, but made to look like night. The director and camera rose on a crane in the middle of the street. The AD yelled "Quiet, people, this is a TAKE!" and then we heard "action" and we started throwing rocks and stones at the windows.

The thing we weren't doing was yelling, because 1) it would upset the neighbors, and 2) they would add *professional* yelling in post-production.

They replaced the glass and shot the scene a few more times, then moved on to a scene with Donald Pleasance talking to police men (extras with moustaches) while we milled around directionless in the background.

At around 6 a.m. they paid us $20 in cash, and we went home. Months later the movie came out and we're on screen for about a second. You can see my wife because she's wearing a snow white coat. You might be able to see me because I'm overacting right behind Donald Pleasance.

We did extra work on a few more movies, including a big three day stint on a Dyan Cannon TV movie where she spent one entire day yelling the same line, "Dace, Jess!" until it was burned onto our brains (clearly it still is!), and we discovered our that new friend, "Chalet" a beautiful, tall African American woman who worked in the garment center location, was actually a man. Shades of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

My career as an extra skyrocketed to include such impressive non-speaking parts as a hot dog vendor on the TV show Cagney and Lacey (the crew said they were very impressed because my acting was "so big" it could be seen from across the street).

My last, and I mean last, extra job was a few years ago when John Carpenter was filming "Village of the Damned" in our small town. It starred Christopher Reeves (whose acting was brilliant in person—he was also extremely nice off the set), Kirstie Alley (the less said the better), and Mark Hamill, who said I could have read his wallet if he hadn't lost it.

After three long nights filming (at a big $40 per night), my appearance on screen consists of my left arm. My wife's role is bigger—her ear has a tantalizing brush with fame as the camera glides by.

My favorite review of this movie was, "Village Of The Damned is one of the worst movies I've ever seen—everything about it was bad." Well, surely not my wife's ear or my left arm.

Daniel Will-Harris

 

My Wife and Times by Daniel Will HarrisIf you would like to read more fabulous stories such as Moms Online, you need Daniel Will Harris’s My Wife and Times. The 148 page book contains stories that are conveniently short, perfect for bedtime reading, or between airport friskings. Price: $15 postpaid and is available for purchase online at www.SchmoozeLetter.com/book or on Amazon.com.

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