Friday, February 19, 2010

Atmosphere

Circa The Big Hair Years

During my early twenties I had some fabulous jobs. Most of them involved wearing an apron and the memorization of a nightly specials list. In between my waitress gigs, I worked as a TV and movie extra.

Extras are those folks you never watch who are behind the people you always watch. They are walking props, often referred to as “atmosphere.” I atmosphered my way through 103 movies and TV shows between 1984 and 1988.

My first job as an extra was in a 1985 George Kennedy/Karen Black/Lance Henriksen vehicle called Savage Dawn. As I recall, Karen Black was part of a biker gang that was trying to take over a small Arizona town. It was a cold, dusty, night shoot. There was a tank involved. George Kennedy was an Arizona recluse in a wheelchair who had a harem of Asian girls. I was an Asian girl. I wore a cheongsam. I’m not Asian but that’s the magic of Hollywood. Not every job was so glamorous.

A rare gem from my illustrious background actor resume is a movie called The In Crowd, later re-named Dance Party. This film was set in 1965 and starred Jennifer Runyon. Who? Exactly. Donovan Leitch (Ione Skye’s brother) played her boyfriend. In a special supporting role, a young Joe Pantoliano later known as Ralph Cifaretto on the Sopranos, played a Dick Clark-like American Bandstand-ish host. It was a spectacular piece of entertainment.

Through the miracle of YouTube, I present to you one of my more awesome In Crowd scenes. (Skip to 1:33.) I dance off of the bus with my gigantic 80’s hair, wearing a red and black plaid skirt and white bobby sox. I return moments later with a stunning display of my awesome dance skills. (She can really clap!) I’m pretty sure it was seeing my work that inspired the producers to change the name of the film. Watch through to 2:05 so as not to miss any of my moves. There are at least two moves. Maybe it's just one move. It happens fast.

Donovan, or as he was nicknamed on set, “Madonnavan,” and I would soon be re-united on the set of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo but that’s another story, for another time.

14 comments:

  1. You need to know that your incendiary performance in this particular period piece caused my computer to spontaneously combust (no lie, it just died on the spot) . I have since revisited 1:33 with my laptop. Howcome you didn't get to make out with Madonnavan? That woulda been sweet!

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  2. Not Breakin 2!!! Just when I thought I couldn't love this blog any more than I already do.

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  3. Man, did you have some hair.

    And I loved Ms. Runyon in "Ghostbusters."

    Eagerly awaiting your True Hollywood Story: Breakin' 2.

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  4. Wedni - Your rather advanced knowledge of the Runyon ouvre is disturbing.

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  5. ***Donovan Leitch (Ione Skye’s brother) played her boyfriend***

    This cracked me up. Us old timers just remember him as Donovan's son!

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  6. I bow to you. Even more now.

    That girl CAN really clap.

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  7. Absolutely adorable, Lisa. X

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  8. The hair! The hair! I would have sold my left kidney, my spleen, and probably at least one chamber of my heart for that hair!

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  9. Is my favorite part your "yay, I'm dancing!" vibe? Or the hair? Or the fact that this is supposed to be the 50s and you all look so 80s? I think my favorite part is actually that I was probably sitting in a kindergarten classroom in a small town in Indiana while you were doing this awesome and amazing bit of clap-work, and somehow, now, you are my friend. I really love the internet.

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  10. Breakin’ 2 is a movie near and dear to my husbands heart. If you really are in that movie he said that's all the background check he needs to let me come to dinner at your house.

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  11. SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS OF AWESOME IN THIS ONE. My fave move (aside from all of yours, of course) was the supermarket-basket-as-canoe, ingenue-as-paddler move. I'm bringing that out at the next dance party I attend. Which, apparently, is going to be in Dayton when your moves meet my moves in whichever hotel conference room has enough room to handle us dancing.
    And are you just teasing us about Electric Bugaloo 2? Because don't tease about the Bugaloo. I take that shit serious.

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