Just Offstage

This blonde actress and I were on a sound stage, sitting in the front seat of long ’63 Chevy hard top. We were shooting a scene for a movie. The stage hands kept running about, switching the plywood backdrops that were arranged around the car, reflecting different backgrounds and locales. They switched from desert scenes to city streets to dense tropical jungles. There was the Eiffel Tower on my left, and then the Aztec Pyramids on my right. Confetti showered on us as we made our way through a parade of extras inflated by stagecraft and camera trickery to look five times their number.

Wardrobe continually changed our costumes in a flurry of colored fabric to match these backdrops. They tossed an Hawaiian shirt on me, and then a cowboy hat, then a fedora, then some other hat besides. They wrapped a scarf around the blonde’s head and put her in sunglasses as she dragged on a long black cigarette holder, so blasé as everyone fussed with her. I pretended to drive the car and wave to the crowds and gawk at all the sights. We traveled the world in minutes and never moved an inch. It was all arranged and rearranged around us.

When the scene was done, I got out of the car to go make a phone call. The backdrops were pulled away, and the car was left sitting in a dingy grey concrete warehouse. The blonde stayed in the passenger seat, powdering her cheeks and checking her makeup in a pocket mirror, still in character, still in the illusion of the scene. I went through a door that opened onto someone’s apartment with plush orange carpet and darkly papered walls. I spotted a rotary phone on a table across the room, but as I crossed over to it, the stage hands pulled away the walls and took the phone and the table, revealing them to be fake flimsy props. I went through another door and passed into the bedroom of the apartment, but again the walls were pulled away, and then again through another door, and then another, and every time the walls were pulled away. I just wanted to get to a phone and call someone out there in real life.

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4 thoughts on “Just Offstage

  1. Your dreams deserve a place in the Hollywood Hall of Fame, if there is such a thing—well there is in dreams anyhow. Your filming-in-a-car scene reminds me of the famous one inwhere Marlon Brando says “I coulda been a contender” but the scenery setup was considered amateurish even for 1954, and yet nobody notices that.

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  2. Now you've got me thinking of some sort of dream museum. Exhibits ranging from Nebuchadnezzar's clay-footed statue to Freud's dream of Irma's injection to the stately pleasure domes of Xanadu.

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