There it was: a small notice that Netflix series "House of Cards," being made in Harford County, MD, was seeking extras.
An open casting call was for Sunday, June 10 at the Bel Air Armory. I didn’t even consider auditioning. I wasn’t the type of person they were seeking. They were looking for young (let’s just say I’m beyond middle age) and professionally dressed (retirement doesn’t require too much of a “wow” wardrobe). My daughter, however, urged me to try out, ”just for fun.” And wasn’t it John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans?”
I don’t do well at “tryouts," not since being rejected from junior high cheerleading. What was I thinking then? After all, I barely got accepted into the high school chorus. Turns out they took anyone who showed up carrying themselves, never mind if you couldn’t carry a note.
So when the movie casting call was very specific regarding maximum age allowed, I knew that all the Oil of Olay and makeup in the world wouldn’t help. I couldn’t lie about my age. Lying about my weight is a whole other issue but age, no. In reality, I really didn’t want to be picked. I already had enough drama in my “real” life without adding more by being an “extra” in a “reel” drama. Add to this the fact that one of my greatest fears has been answering a knock on the door one day to discover I had been selected to receive a makeover for a new reality show trying to upgrade me to a twenty-first century look.
I don’t mind if people read my crazy blogs, but cameras intimidate me. This includes Skype. It’s wonderful, but who invented a device where you have to think about what you look like when you just want to talk to someone on the phone? I can get into enough trouble just from what comes out of my mouth. No doubt some of my weight gain has come from having to “eat my own words.” I sure don’t want to have to worry about what I look like. It’s bad enough knowing that all the phones out there have camera and video just waiting for someone to do or say stupid and, wham! You’re on a viral YouTube video forever frozen in time. I personally use these devices mostly just for talking. So what was I thinking by even considering going to this audition?
Rationalizing that it would be a new experience and might provide some good blog material, I decided to go ahead and go to the casting call. First I had to locate my “business casual” clothes, which I hadn’t seen since my retirement. They were packed away with cedar blocks (a distinct odor) and needed ironing.
”Don’t worry Mom, they aren’t going to sniff you,” was the response I got from my daughter. I didn’t even take time to throw the clothes in the dryer to “get the wrinkles out.” Does anyone iron these days? Skipping the makeup, since I haven’t worn any since the last high school reunion several years ago, and with no time to even call a friend to join me in this adventure, I drove to the Bel Air Armory thinking this would at least be a change in my routine.
When I arrived at the armory there was no mob or long line of people waiting, just a steady stream of hopefuls. They pretty much all looked alike: young, very young, most probably in their twenties and many of them very attractive. They were dressed like applicants at a job fair. Oddly enough I heard no one inquire about the obvious: pay, hours or duration of the job. No one mentioned that they were employed either.
They looked strangely similar, conservatively attired in black pants or skirt and top. They could have all been actors from a "Men in Black" movie, or pharmaceutical sales representatives. Then it hit me. They wore the same attire as federal government representatives at the local job fair. Funny how all these groups seemed to look alike.
I guess this is what “business casual” looks like, but I don’t quite understand the term. I mean if you work at a night club in Ocean City, your business casual is going to be completely different than if you are employed at a law firm. In contrast, the representatives working for the casting company were very casually dressed and most of them were extremely nice and congenial. Some had shirts with “Central Casting” printed on them.
We were given a form to complete which asked very detailed questions. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions: Do you own an evening gown? Cocktail dress? What is your shirt size? Pants size? Dress size? Shoe size? Hair color? Height and weight? Do you own a dog? What is your “age range?”
Age range gave me pause. What does that mean? Do I just pick a minimum and a maximum age and let them try to figure it out? Let’s see, “I’m thinking of a number between 25 and 65. Am I thirty or sixty? You decide.” I chose to be completely accurate regarding my age but did skim a few pounds off my weight. Actually I just kind of rounded the number downwards a bit, I wish dieting was as easy. I hate to be less than honest but if the Department of Motor Vehicles lets me “scale down” my weight then it must be OK.
I was however "less than truthful" (that sounds better than the word “lied” doesn’t it?) about my dress size, but I do have an excuse. The last time I wore a dress was some time in 1979, so I really had no way of knowing what the size was. As for my skirt size, I listed a size range because as any woman can tell you, the answer to that particular question is, “it depends.”
It depends on whether the skirt has an elastic waist or full skirt or what the skirt costs. Everyone knows that the more a garment costs, the larger its size although I’m not sure why. Anyway, my biggest concern in getting selected was that they would call me to come in and I would have to attempt to wear clothes that I couldn’t squeeze into because of my dishonest answers on the application.
I have a pair of Spanx somewhere in the house but they can only help so much. Funny how years ago Spanx were called “girdles.” After many years of “sucking it all in,” women got liberated and those horrible contraptions disappeared only to resurface years later with a new look and a new name. You can call them “girdles”or “body shapers," the purpose and discomfort remains the same. In my opinion, they are meant to “keep you aligned” but I wonder if symbolically it’s really all about keeping women “in line.” Whatever happened to the days of “Let it all hang out?” On second thought, I guess that wasn’t so great either.
But back to the point, there were other questions such as Did I own any “international clothes.” Most of my stuff is made somewhere else like China or Vietnam. Is that what they meant by “international clothes?” I know I should shop for the “Made in USA” label but it’s hard to find clothes that fit and even harder to find clothes made here. Besides, like it or not we are a global economy.
Did I own a bicycle? Well, does an exercise bike count?
The application also asked if I owned an automobile and if so, what make, model, color, and year. This brought up the age old question, “Is it really me or my car that interests you?”
When I got to the desk where people were taking the applications, I expected two lines: one for possible hopefuls and the other for “cast offs.” I spoke with a lady who was quite nice and asked if I had written my actual age. When I replied that I had written my true age, I figured I was a “castaway,” but she was gracious enough to go through the motion of asking if I was available to work and told me to get in the line to have my picture taken with the others.
I was kind of hoping that by this time I would have been told “Thanks, but no thanks” because the last thing I wanted to do was have my picture taken. I do not photograph well at all and this time was no exception. I was given a card to hold that was printed with my name and the number 3107. I jokingly asked if my picture would appear at the post office. Those pictures reminded me of celebrity police mug shots. The photographer must have felt sorry for me because after taking my picture and viewing the result he said, “I’m going to take another one. This one isn’t very good” and took another shot. Then he took a full body shot. I’m normally hiding behind a person or sofa or something when it comes to this type of picture, so I wasn’t too thrilled with this. Finally I was finished, and left thinking that the experience alone was worth the forty five minutes of time that it took.
Who would have thought that living in Bel Air, MD would allow me the opportunity to participate in a Hollywood casting call? It was in this spirit that I decided to keep my cell phone turned on and fully charged over the next few days, “ just in case.”
The following day, as luck would have it, I discovered a “missed call” on my phone. There was no voice mail left and the number calling was a strange five digit number. The prospect of being an extra in a movie didn’t interest me enough to cancel my scheduled dental appointment that day. However I do think my dentist thought I was a little delusional when I explained why I wanted to keep my cell phone on vibrate during the exam. I figure that darn drill makes a lot more noise than my little cell phone. Looking back, I don’t know why I left the phone on during that appointment. I certainly couldn’t have answered it anyway, but it didn’t matter because no one called.
Today, Wednesday, it’s now 5pm and still no call yet. Not that I care. Who wants to be in a stupid movie anyway? All you do is stand around all day. Probably wouldn’t see any of the stars either. But even if I did see Kevin Spacey, it wouldn’t be so great. I mean what would I say? “You were great as Bobby Darin in that 'Beyond the Sea' movie and you know I have a personal handwritten note that Sandra Dee wrote to me when she was a teenager if you want to see it (I really do have that note) and oh by the way, can I have my picture taken with you?” No, somehow I don’t think that scenario would ever play out so what’s the difference anyway? Click on the link to see a YouTube scene from "Beyond the Sea" with Kevin Spacey singing.
They say they will be filming here in Harford County for quite a while, possibly for a good part of the summer. I have a family reunion coming up soon but if they did happen to call me, I could always leave early and get back to Bel Air in about three hours if I had to. And that summer vacation we planned, I could always postpone it because everyone knows how hot it gets in the summer. September is such a cooler, nicer month.
Uh oh, I think I hear the phone ringing. Why isn’t that Caller ID working? Darn phone company. Not that I would say “yes” if they did call me anyway. I mean, do they really think I’m just sitting around here waiting around for them to call? After all, I do have a life not to mention my pride. But just in case, where did I put those Spanx?