Wednesday, September 10, 2014

King Kong, your frapaccino is up!

When was the last time you went to your local ATM and stood in line behind a Klingon? Or you were in line at a sandwich shop and in front of you was a guy dressed as a giant celery stalk? Such is life on a movie studio.

Forget the fact that you may see stars. On any given day you may see a woman with a giant snake around her neck. Or five bloody zombies playing basketball. (THE DRIBBLING DEAD)

When it takes four hours to apply gorilla make up, the actor is not going to get shed his fur to grab a latte at the studio coffee bar. “Chloe, your coffee is ready. King Kong, your Frappuccino is up!”

When Jamie Farr was doing MASH he’d always go to lunch in a dress.

It’s not unusual to walk through a movie lot past twenty ancient Roman soldiers or three prisoners chained at the ankle and not even blink. I recently saw a guy in a giant bulbous Beefeaters’ uniform try to wedge into a booth at the commissary.

On any given day at lunch you might see four bloody ER patients at one table, three hookers at another, and five aliens at the counter. And the funniest part is that everyone else in the restaurants ignores them. Nothing to see here other than space creatures and hot women with their breasts hanging out.

I spent twenty years on the Paramount lot, which at the time was hopping. All of the various STAR TREK series were filmed there. Data once asked me where the credit union office was. Our bungalow was near the daycare center and we would routinely see all kinds of Romulans and Denobulans dropping their kids off for the day.

Of course it’s one thing for all of us to be blase about these outlandish costumes, it’s another for the actors themselves.
A few years ago they were making the Coneheads movie at Paramount. We were filming a pilot on the adjacent stage. I drove up in a golf cart and there were fifteen Coneheads outside their stage milling about and smoking. I slowed down the vehicle and called out to them as a goof: “Hey, could any of you tell me where the Coneheads stage is?” They all said “Right here” and never got the irony that duh, they were all dressed as Coneheads.

As fun as it is seeing all these elaborate get-ups, I bet in the golden age of films (back in the 30s and 40s) it must’ve REALLY been fun. Cowboys mingled with submarine crews and Frankenstein shared a smoke with Harem girls. Back in the 50s when Hollywood was making all those sword and sandal films I bet you had some extras going to lunch at the studio commissary dragging crosses.

For all the aggravation of show business, I must say there wasn’t a day I didn’t drive onto a studio lot and think, “How cool that THIS is where I work.” But I never took full advantage of it. I never wore my Princess Lea costume to work.

23 comments:

Jim said...

Some cast members of THE WIZARD OF OZ recalled being asked not to go to the commissary--their lunches were brought to them--because of complaints about their make-ups and costuming. Perhaps actors had more delicate sensitivities in those days.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Remember "The Loved One?" There's a scene where John Gielgud escorts Robert Morse through his part of Hollywood, passing, among other creatures, the butt-head aliens that would later show up on the "Star Trek" pilot. There's another scene where Jonathan Winters is in a phone booth and confronted by a giant gorilla: "You're just going to have to be patient!"

Stoney said...

I have a particular favorite; Angelina Jolie on the set of "Salt" wearing "accessories" for a scene.

http://cdn05.cdn.justjared.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/jolie-slice/angelina-jolie-salt-slice-04.jpg

Eric J said...

I worked as a Harley service manager for a few years. Every day was Halloween when they came in for service.

Gregg B said...

Reminds me of this scene from Blazing Saddles: http://youtu.be/_AOeSrLCD-U

emily said...

Ken Levine dressed as Princess Leia...unfortunately, a picture I may NEVER get out of my head!

James Van Hise said...

Forry Ackerman told the story of the first time he met Boris Karloff. Forry was visiting the Universal Studios lot (perhaps for the first time, probably around 1940) and he was looking for the men's room. The first person who happened by was Boris Karloff (who was apparently having a bad day at the studio), and when he asked him where the toilet was, Karloff replied, "This whole place is a toilet!"

Mike Barer said...

Fun post,since my movie lot experience is pretty much limited to the Unversal tour, it shows a new perspective.

jbryant said...

Armin Shimerman has a great anecdote about having to rush home in full Quark regalia after the Northridge earthquake hit.

DBenson said...

I read some if the Oz stories. Bert Lahr couldn't eat with his lion makeup. Tin Man Jack Haley couldn't sit, so they had a Frankensteinian reclining board in his dressing room to set him on a horizontal position for the occasional nap. Munchkins were far less wild than the legends, but accommodating the needs of that many little people -- many in costly and inconvenient costumes -- must have been a bear.

On a DVD extra there are silent shots of the stars showing off their makeups. Oddly charming to see Margaret Hamilton smiling and laughing in full witch getup.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Paramount in the 90's, in an office between STAR TREK's stage 5 and the commissary.
When Moose wasn't busy peeing in the flowerbed outside my window, I could watch extraterrestrials on their way to pick up a tostada.
I had the same feeling you did: damn, I work at a big-time Hollywood movie studio.

NMM

Cap'n Bob said...

I forget who said it but a neighbor of Boris Karloff's said he witnessed Boris mowing his lawn in full Frankenstein makeup.

Breadbaker said...

Gregg B, that was my first thought. They lose me after the bunker scene.

James said...

What do you do about wardrobe? If you come back from lunch with a stain on your clothes, how much grief do you get?

MikeN said...

Actually you were the one who didn't get it. The Coneheads were staying in character.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,
Friday question: How was Hanover, Indiana chosen as Woody's home town? Did it make a difference that Woody Harrelson went to college there?

Love the blog!
Thanks!

Buttermilk Sky said...

Friday question: I always thought you needed a minimum of one hundred episodes for a show to be syndicated, but I see "Mom" is in syndication after just one season. What is the rule?

Hanover Native said...

Hanover is a dirty little drug town and the levels of rape, sexual assaults and knifings at the college are corrupting the youth of the town. Wish Harrelson would take the college back to Hollywood with him.

KHoges said...

In a documentary about the filming of the Planet of the Apes, they told how the different types of apes hung out only with those in the same costume. The head ape played by an english man used a cigarrette holder otherwise his makeup could possibly catch on fire.

Dana Gabbard said...

Buttermily Sky, I found an explanation for the re-running of Mom.



Craig said...

friday question: did the folks at "frasier" ever get the note from nbc about niles' "likability" with regards to him being married while at the same time lusting after daphne? if so, do you think less established writers/showrunners would've been able to get away with it?

bdam said...

Ken,
It's funny you talk about the Paramount lot today. Wil Wheaton just posted his own reminiscing: http://wilwheaton.net/2014/09/star-trek-is-48-years-old-this-week

chuckcd said...

Just like the scenes in "Blazing Saddles"!