Back in 2009, right before I met my Wife (at a dive bar in Hermosa Beach… another story/another time), I was a single guy looking to make my mark as an actor in Hollywood. I was taking classes, going on auditions, trying to find creative ways to keep my daily schedule open and still pay the rent. I spent plenty of time on different sets at different studios doing background work. It’s a lot of sitting around… and the pay is nothing to write home about… but hey… you get fed…. and you sometimes meet interesting people….
So in May of 2009 Driving I got booked to work on the set of PLAYERS, a sit com pilot developed for SPIKE TV. I don’t think anything big ever happened with that show. “Players” was created by Matt Walsh, one of the founders of the improv group Upright Citizens Brigade.
Anyway, I worked on PLAYERS as a background actor… bar scene. I hung out in the extras holding area for many hours. I met quite a few interesting people… and I got yelled at by the nice old Craft services lady…. multiple times. I was making my MARK alright.
So my day started like any other. I got to set. I checked in and asked someone where “Crafty” is. That’s usually my first order of business when I get to any set… figure out where the FOOD is at. I spotted the spread…and immediately made my move to swoop in and snag what’s good. Then suddenly… STOP. This sweet old lady with a southern accent cut me off at the pass….
“Good morning young man. Is this your first time here?”
“Well my name is SHARY. I’m gonna give you the tour so you know where everything is and how everything works.”
I’m thinking “Wow.. A TOUR? That’s a first. It’s Crafty. Pretty self-explanatory. Most people can figure it out. But hey… whatever.”
She had her hand up in my face and obviously needed to make it very clear that SHE was Mother Hen…and THIS is her coop.
“Okay, follow me. We’ve got hot breakfast over here… sausage and scrambled eggs… that’s coffee right next to it… regular and decaf…”
Eggs, coffee, donuts…. ok.
“…and over here, you’ve got your bagels, smoked salmon, and a few other things to go with that…
A handful of other actors came strolling in.
“Oh…HELLO there… good morning! Is this your first time here? Better let me give you the tour…
That my chance to escape. While Shary was lining up her next tour I started grabbing stuff and made my plan to dash.
“Okay everybody, I’m just gonna say this once, okay, so try to pay attention… Hot breakfast over here… scrambled eggs and sausage… Oh hey, good morning sweety… I remember you from yesterday… you just go ahead and help yourself… you know where everything is… OK…coffee is heeere… and…”
At this point I had slipped away from the group and started toasting myself a bagel. If Shary did anything she got me all hot for the bagels and lox. I quietly composed my breakfast… spreading cream cheese, pulling a few strips of salmon and a couple of pieces of tomato and onion. I was in the zone…coasting to the finish line… going seemingly unnoticed.
There was a steady flow of people entering the space and she seriously addressed every single person that came through… and if I remember correctly… made sure they ALL got “The Tour.”
I was ready to make my exit.. but just before I slipped out…. the “premium tea” section caught my eye. I thought it would be nice to have a cup of high quality green tea. With one hand occupied by a full plate of bagels, lox and veggies, I used to my right hand to grab a paper cup, open a tea bag…and I even squeezed some honey into a cup. I was quite impressed by own dexterity. At that point all I needed was some hot water.
Hmmm… hot water….hot water… over by the coffee? No…coffee maker doesn’t have a special spout for hot water… uh… hot water… crap…where the hell is the hot water? I noticed a very pretty girl perusing the breakfast options.
That’s usually my SECOND task when I get to set: scope out the chicks (give me a break I was single at the time)
“Hey… hi… how’s it going? You don’t by any chance know where the hot water is, do you? Like…for tea?”
She looked at me with a slight smile…and before she could enlighten me… her eyes widened and she looked off into the background… freezing up.. saying nothing…
A loud voice invaded our moment…
“WHAT… can I do for you sweety?”Shary was hollerin at me from her chair in the corner over there.
“Uuuh… hot water… for tea?”
“Hot water is right there. Now if you had PAID ATTENTION to my TOUR, you might KNOW where the hot water is.”
“That’s probably true.”
“Yes it is…. NO… not there…. it’s right behind you in that silver little pot. (to everyone) Y’all please try to pay attention when I explain where everything is…okay? I really don’t want to have to keep repeating myself”
“Oh…I see it thanks.”
I looked towards the pretty girl. Under my breath I confessed.
“I thought that was coffee… didnt realize it was hot water.”
Shary interjected…. from like…. 15 feet away.
“I had explained that to everyone else. I guess you didn’t pick that up.”
“Sorry, I was toasting a bagel. Got distracted”
“HM… anything else I can do for you?”
“No.. I think I’m good… thanks.”
I went back to the holding area and sat down to eat… establishing my place at the table among my fellow actors. Speaking frankly with a few of my colleagues…
“I have a feeling the crafty lady doesn’t like me very much.”
“Yeah, she just kind of yelled at me.”
A voice from behind chimed in
“YEAH she did.”
I turned around and it was the pretty girl.
“You better let her do her thing. Don’t get cute in there. I’ve been on set with her before. She is not havin it.”
“Yeah, well now I know.”
“How’s your tea?” I asked.
“It’s very nice, thank you. My boyfriend drinks tea all the time. I don’t like it. I need my coffee.”
She went and sat at another table. So much for that. There I sat. Me and my tea. I interrupted a few conversations. I added my two cents where it was not required. I sipped. I quipped… we did all did what we do best as background players… we waited… and waited… and waited.
After a while, I was feeling unfulfilled. My breakfast was satisfying but pretty much gone. I peered across the room and noticed another pair of attractive young actresses wandering into craft servces. I popped up.
“You know what? I want some coffee! Anybody else want some coffee? I’m buying.”
Hardy har-har. No response. From anyone. No worries. I got up and hopscotched over to craft services. I was gonna have me some coffee. This was in no way an attempt to impress the pretty girl with the tea-drinking boyfriend. I had a craving… and of course I knew EXACTLY where the coffee was. Easy Peazy.
I entered the coop and gave SHARY… a bratty little smile.
You should have seen the look she gave me. She did NOT appreciate my entrance. She managed to purse her lips and force out a smile of disapproval, cross her legs and go back to reading her magazine. I stopped, sized up my surroundings.. noticed that one of the woman I had been scoping out was pouring herself a piping hot cup of coffee. I made my move. I sauntered over to stand next to her and give her the good ole “up-and-down,” which I disguised as an observation of the coffee situation.
“Hows the coffee situation?” I asked
“I don’t know. I haven’t tasted it yet”
“I already had some tea, but now I gotta try the coffee.”
I turned my chin to Shary, got her attention and shot the following statement off in her direction…
“Sure hope it’s good coffee.”
I turned back to take my turn at pouring a cup. The lovely young lady I was just talking to had moved on. I sort of noticed that she said something to me before she walked away but I dint quite catch it. I was too busy trying to antagonize the crafty lady, so I missed it. No biggie.
SO… the coffee… YUM. Actually I don’t even really LIKE coffee, but here I am, pouring myself some anyway. The things we do for our careers (to hit on chicks) right? I reach over for the pot that was resting in it’s usual spot… AS DEMONSTRATED in my morning TOUR. I pulled the put twoards me and right away I could tell something was wrong. My hands were wet…OUCH… my hands were HOT. REALLY REALLY HOT.
I had pulled out the coffee pot that was still brewing. Coffee started pouring out and splattering everywhere! I pushed the coffee pot back into its proper place and the brewing process continued. A steady stream of piping hot coffee regained its composure and continued filling the half empty pot.
“It’s all good. It’s all good.”
I said… to no one in particular… because I was the only one there.
Aside from SHARY. She was there… and she jumped to her feet. She hopped up and did a quick shuffle move to get where she could get better see my situation. I was over there trying to inconspicuously mop up my mess with some tiny coffee napkin. Then there was this SOUND.. a series of nightmarish grunts and hisses. I sheepishly opened up my stance and saw her barrelling down in my direction… a wad of paper towels in hand. She pushed me aside and feverishly reconciled my mess.
The crisis was contained. All good. Right? We both stood there…. in this awkward, semi-standoff position… engulfed in a cloud of smoke and molten ash. I held my breath. She showed me her teeth.
“Here… TAKE this… and THROW IT…in the trash.”
I said nothing. I took the handful of coffee soaked paper towels from here. I looked around… unfortunately I had trouble locating the garbage… I stepped this way… stopped and stepped that way-
Wow, this was getting scary. I threw the paper towels away. At this point I was out by the edge of the craft services area. I could see other actors all sitting around down having casual conversations. They looked so happy. I wanted to be there… with them. All I had to do was take a few more steps in that direction and I would be well on my way to safety… wait-wait….
I don’t always drink coffee… but when I DO…. I usually take a little milk.
“Um, sorry… do you by any chance have any milk?”
She just stood there, GLARING at me, her terrorizing eyes bearing a demonic red glow. It was at this moment that I realized that Shary and I would never be friends. Our relationship had suffered irreparable damage. I also noticed that I was standing with my back pressed against a large silver refrigerator. I spun around, opened the door and found myself face to face with a half gallon of whole milk.
Ok I usually drink SKIM… but I didn’t see any skim. I peeked from behind the big fridge door and she was still there… fuming.. and sort of “growling” under her breath… like some ornery old grizzly… so I went ahead and poured a little whole milk into my coffee, shut the door, looked back once just to make sure she wasn’t following me with a butcher knife or anything… and I hustled out of there.
I caught up with the girl who had avoided the entire event.. I sat down next to her at a different table… NOT my orginal spot. (If you’ve ever worked background before you’d know that drifitng from tabel to table is highly irregular.)
“Wow, good times in craft services. Did you see that?”
I told her what just happened between the coffee, the crafty lady and me. The girl stopped and stared at me for a good hard second.
“I told you.”
“You told me what?”
“I said use the one on the top.”
“What ONE on the top?”
“The FULL Coffee pot sitting on top?”
“Oh… is THAT what you said to me? I heard you say something… but I was making faces at Momma… being a smart ass… of course not really paying attention.”
“Just like my BOYFRIEND… he never listens to anything.”
She turned and started talking to someone to her left.
I stood there looking stupid.
Took a sip of my coffee. Burned my lip.