Archive for the ‘Acting’ category

How to go bald in 5 easy (Japanese) steps

March 15, 2013

Back in September of 2002, I started down the path of least humiliation regarding male baldness: shaving my head. Here’s how you can join in on the fun in your own backyard…

STEP 1: Get signed on to a Japanese television production depicting agony

Not that my part-time wanna-be acting life has ever been truly stellar, but gigs were a bit more sparse back then, and I hadn’t transitioned from my old representation to my current excellent agency. Plus, I still had amazing hair. Amazing in that I still had plenty of it.

A friend of mine, and former agent, asked me to venture back to Spokompton, WA (single, meth-head-mom capital of the world) after recently uprooting my entire life from there to move to North Carolina. While I was reluctant to return so soon after seeing that place compress to a singularity in my rear view mirrorthe opportunity to be on location for a shoot was too good to pass up. Plus, it wouldn’t really be shot in Spokane, but in a nearby small town that would turn out to have a significantly uninformed local newspaper (they said I was a stuntman from Universal Studios in Orlando, FL). Toss in free airfare and lodging, and I was sold.

STEP 2: Walk unknowingly into a situation where you’ll have stuff cemented to your head

The role I would be playing was that of erstwhile former pizza delivery man, Ezra Bias, who took a length of rebar through the skull in a freak accident on the way home from his last delivery. For reals. Apparently an oncoming car or truck kicked up the offending rod from where it lay, plotting just such an attack, and hurled it into the air, through Ezra’s windshield, into and through his noggin and lodging in the headrest of the car seat, effectively pinning him there. He would be found by another driver as he was still conscious and trying to remove the bar on his own. Imagine the crap you could talk if you yanked that sucker out yourself and survived! Paramedics would eventually convince Ezra that his temporary new horn would be best left in place until professionals could handle all the gooey grossness that would ensue once it was removed.

To simulate the presence of the bar on my own head, without adding to previous attempts to crack open my brainbox, the Japanese film crew would affix an old-school rebar-through-the-skull gag appliance to me and drizzle syrupy redness all over the place to indicate essential fluid loss. What they didn’t tell me was that the method of affixing would turn out to be how they keep automobiles from falling apart and buildings from crumbling back in Japan. Seriously, if they had used this stuff to stop Godzilla, there might have been only one movie about him: Godzilla, the Cementening. In other words, if you never want something glued permanently to all of your DNA, don’t use this stuff. Unfortunately, I don’t read kanji, so I wasn’t able to understand the warning label.

STEP 3: Finish filming and begin panic relieving meds when appliance refuses to detach

Between the stunt driving, the ambulance ride (where a real-life EMT contemplated flashing me while I was strapped securely to the teflon torture board in her ambulance) and the hospital scenes, it was certainly the most interesting and fun role I had in that era of my life, even though we were depicting a rather freaky tale of chaos & survival. Since we had shot the hospital recovery scenes before they molecularly bonded me to the appliance, the last of the shooting meant I could finally remove the fake rebar from the front and back of my head…with the help of Hercules, the Hulk and Doc Manhattan. That thing had put up a white picket fence and was contemplating the children it would raise on my face.

We tried scissors. My sliced scalp was unimpressed.

We tried rubbing alcohol and other potential solvents. My sliced scalp was filing divorce papers.

We tried giving up and searching the Internet for traveling carnivals looking for a rebar’d talking monkey. Nothing worked.

STEP 4: Give it the old high-school yank

Once it was determined that, barring some radical and rapid advances in teleportation-related fields of science, I would have to take matters into my own hands, I shooed away anyone who could talk me out of scalping myself and set about creating impromptu skin grafts.

It took three, vision scrambling, tries at each end, but I was finally able to remove copious amounts of skin and hair as the appliance reluctantly ripped free from its moorings. I went to the after party with the crew (at a small-town pub that must have thought we were crazy space a-leens, from the looks we got) with patches of skin and hair missing from both the front and back of my head. It looked like I had perhaps recently escaped from a cult and was starting my new life as that white guy with all the Japanese people. I may have worn a hat at some point, I don’t know. The pub had drinks and the production company was buying. We may even have re-enacted Dragon Ball Z scenes at some point in the night. I would only remember my newly acquired head wounds as part of the morning-after malaise.

STEP 5: Have Achebeyo tell you a full head of hair is wishful thinking now

I returned to NC and told Achebeyo everything about the shoot, including the uber-coolness of hanging out drinking with a crew that spoke almost no English , and how that doesn’t matter when you’re REALLY connecting with people. When Achebeyo’s eyes began to show signs of rolling from impatience, I lamely wrapped it all up with and now I’m back home. I always have trouble with my endings.

After taking some time to inspect my wounds, she speculated that I should start getting my hair trimmed down to decent lawn care standards. A few months into that plan and she recommended simply shaving it all entirely, as the newly developed helicopter landing pad on my scalp was showing signs of buying up the adjacent properties.

I gave up my hopes of growing the rest of my locks long enough to coil up into a hair turban on the top of my head and began the painful and messy process of learning how to shave just the hair from my head and not the anchoring skin as well. It took a while, but I finally incorporated this grooming process into my routine…mostly (you know, The Lazy).

So there you have it. Any time you want to experiment with pain thresholds and bonding agent strengths, just ask any Japanese person what they use to hold steel girders together, and I’m sure they’ll hand you a tube of Super-fun-crazy-molecule-bonding-salve in response. Just don’t get any on your crotch.

The Biltmore Punishment

October 29, 2012

***I always wanted to end a post with, “But the best part of this story is that I was naked.” Someday…***

As many people already know, there’s a huge eff-off house in the mountains of North Carolina called The Biltmore. It’s the kind of house that isn’t ashamed to let you know you’ll never be that wealthy. Even the garden is secretly mocking your comparative pauper status. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? I’d like to Tarantino this up and bit and start at the end of this travesty of a weekend.

Me: I can’t believe what a total waste of time that was.

Her: I’m not going to say “I told you so,” but…

I know, right? A woman who wasn’t impressed with the opulence and grandeur of such a stately (non-Wayne) manor. Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. Dragging me through 2-3 hours of fantasy-house land wasn’t at the core of our mutual discontent. No, that boiling cauldron of angst comes from the real reason we drove 4.5 hours each way on our limited time off: an entertainment industry “meet and greet”.

This whole thing started out with me pledging a lot of my relationship capital for “something different” for the weekend, my way of trying to make 270+ minutes of driving (one way) seem like a grand adventure. And she didn’t even have to drive. I would man the helm for this voyage and let her…well, sit bored out of her mind the entire time. Win-win, right? The deciding factor was The Biltmore. She’d go if I’d go, but she made it clear she expected the scheduled meeting to be a huge disappointment.

Since I like to start out every trip the same way, I opened with my standard say-or-do-something-utterly-infuriating move to ensure an uncomfortable silence until the first call of Nature. Oh, and a huge “thank you” to satellite radio for ensuring all the songs played during that freeze-out were of the “oh no he didn’t” variety. And yes, apparently he did.

We made it relatively unscathed to Asheville and found that we couldn’t check in to our hotel room for another three hours. Just the right amount of time to skip lunch and slog through a massive mansion and trek across the immediate grounds. Until the shuttle driver mentioned it on the way up, it never dawned on me that what took us 5 minutes by car would have taken the original owners 45 minutes by carriage. Imagine that bumpy ride after dining on your own shoe leather. At least you’d have the massive house to lose yourself in once you got there. Since we weren’t the only members of the unwashed masses who decided to punish ourselves for not having all the money, there was not only a line to get in the house, they were staging the entry times; like Disneyland if you took out the rides and attractions and didn’t tell anyone.

It turns out I was not immune to the charms of this insanely huge residence. While I managed to keep my disaffected half-scowl in place, I couldn’t help picturing myself in a smoking jacket sitting on one of the plush couches in the massive library, waving away the crowds of people with my brandy glass. Muffy, I thought the peasant parade wasn’t until next month. Everything about that place said, “Get your ass to Mars!” Wait, that was me daydreaming while stuck parading past the closed guest rooms. What it actually said was, “hands to yourself, slacker”.

There were so many twists and turns and nooks and crannies in this place that you could start a game of hide-and-seek as a kid back then and finish it as a Discovery Channel mystery corpse today. After many upstairs floors and rooms that reveled in excess, we followed the ever-babbling crowd down into the basement, where everything that made the house function properly was to be found, including a larder that modern grocery stores would be jealous of, a 3-part kitchen, a laundry, the servants’ quarters, the deepest indoor pool I think I’ve ever seen and a gym with old-school dumbbells. There was so much more to this monument to wealth, but I can’t do it justice, and not just because I didn’t want to go there in the first place. It simply is too exceptional to be adequately experienced second-hand. I won’t lie, though: $74 per person seems a bit steep until you get to the winery.

All the wine samples “your system can take” is included in the ticket, but you have to remember that there’s the long drive out of the estate and back home once you’ve toasted excessively large houses a few dozen times. Since my girl isn’t fond of alcohol (one sip and she’s beet-faced and nearly comatose; cheap date, right?), we kept it at a few samples and meandered out by way of the gift store. Dinner and a few Harry Potter flicks on HBO later and the day was done. The much anticipated (by me) next day’s event was near at hand.

Even though I didn’t sleep well, a combination of itchy bed syndrome, noisy people and a sleep-sound generator on my iPad that sounded like a running toilet all night, I was ready to meet and greet this industry professional and make some sort of positive impression. By the way, unless you have no other choice, think twice about staying with any hotel chain that makes you come to the front desk to get the TV remote (and an iron). I’m talking about YOU, Crimson House Cover. Thanks for the bug bites.

We got to the venue, another hotel, and set up car-camp. Since we were there several hours early, we got to watch as other aspiring talent pulled into the parking lot and either primped like they were meeting Brad Pitt, or mulled around trying not to look at us and the others to determine if we were who they were here to impress. For our part, we played “is it him?” for a good hour. When it looked like enough people had gathered to make seating inside the cramped hallways iffy, we made our move. Strutting in, like you do, we planted ourselves right at the door to the conference room and waited to be met and greeted. What ensued was more like a livestock round-up, in more ways than one.

When something is billed as a “meet-and-greet”, you get the idea that you’ll get the chance to do more than fill out paperwork, smile, nod and move on. Will you have to do some soft shoe and sing show tunes? Hopefully not, but you’d better be prepared to fake it if they ask. People came dressed…differently. Some seemed to show up ready to be cast as “less than virtuous”, while others could have rolled right out of the closet after a rough night at the pool hall. Regardless of how you looked, or what your expectations were, this is how it went: walk in, fill out the contact information sheet, get briefly judged and walk out.

I told you so.

That unspoken sentiment coming from the passenger seat made the first several hours of the ride back a bit tense. It’s not her fault that she was right…again. My hopes were so high that they couldn’t help but be dashed. I mean really, what did I expect? Mr. McDuck! We’ve been searching for someone JUST like you! When can you start accepting a huge salary from us for looking so perfect?? We don’t admit it, those of us who have chosen to ask others to judge us in pursuit of a career in front of a camera, but these are the dreams that keep us going in the face of rejection upon rejection, week after week. I mean, it’s happened before, right? It could happen to me. They could need a bald, goateed man of medium build to be the next big thing. And not just any of the thousands of bald, goateed men from this region alone, but me. You never know; only secretly, we do know.

After getting back and taking out my pent-up frustrations on innocent(?) digital aliens, I reflected in secret that if not for the visit to the big eff-off house, this trip would have been more frustrating than the time I “volunteered” to paint NO TRESPASSING signs for an area that didn’t previously have any (which is why I was there in the first place, your honor). As it was, the balm of imagining myself as lord of that massive manor was enough to soothe my irritation from the cattle-call…almost.


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