Friday, April 18, 2008

Getting the Call...*.

Last night I'm finishing up with my work when I get a call. I look at the Caller ID. It's a Blocked Call.

I freeze. Who could it be? A credit card company? Lifesource? The man I recently met for drinks who I'm not interested in? God letting me know it's time to go upstairs? I let the phonecall go to voicemail, but I can hear the recording as I put on my trenchcoat. I've got more important things to do, like seeing a matinee of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. (This is a far better book than movie).

Hi, this is Britney from Joan Philo Extras Casting. We're working on the film Public Enemy. We were wondering if you were available for action in our ballroom scene. Please call us back at 312-829-0140 and ask for Britney. Let us know you're calling about the ballroom scene.

(Public Enemy, not to be confused with this James Cagney movie, is a movie about famed gangster John Dillinger, as depicted by actor Johnny Depp. The movie has thus far been filmed in nearby Wisconsin, now apparently it's moving to Chicago.)

I'm flattered that I finally got the call I've been waiting for more than a month, but I am vaguely annoyed that the casting group feels so self-important that it feels a need to block the call. Are they afraid they're going I'm going to give out their number to all my friends? (I just did, sort of.) Don't they realize I'm less likely to answer the telephone when the call is blocked? That's certainly the case when I'm solicited to donate blood. If the call shows up up anonymous or blocked, I ignore it.

In any event, I'm not going to return the call. Simply because the pay for being an extra just isn't worth it. Besides, it's likely that this ballroom scene will be filmed at night so I wouldn't get my beauty sleep, which is far more important. I'd be recharging my brain cells so that I can earn more money than one or two days hovering on the set in the background at a minimum wage.

I'm betting my greenbacks that the "ballroom" scene will be filmed at the Aragon Ballroom, which dates back to the 1920s. Who knows if Dillinger himself hoofed it up there back in the day?

Now I've always, always wanted to go to the Aragon Ballroom for a dance. I've never even been there for a concert. Still the romantic in me relishes the idea of taking the L down to the Aragon, dressing up and lindy hopping with a man in a suit just like Chicagoans did in "the old days." The Aragon marquee, which still works, is something spectacular when it's all lit up. The pulsating neon white and red lights are so mesmerizing, it's almost hard to leave. I enjoy gazing at it from the nearby elevated train platform at Lawrence Avenue, where I can almost feel the heat from the light bulbs, it's that close. It's also neat to view this vertical sign from a distance, for example, the intersection of Clark and Lawrence about a half a mile away.

I don't think this would be my only opportunity to the inside of the Aragon for dancing. There are some private parties there if you can afford a $100+ ticket. But it would be fun to dress up as a flapper girl. I have this image in my mind of a camera scanning the crowds waiting in line to enter the the not-so-vintage looking glass doors.
It would be in black and white, filmed like an old newsreel. There I'd been waving enthusiastically with my Clara Bow Lips, fur-trimmed leather gloves, matching coat, cloche with the rouge on my cheeks making me appear warmer than I am. Inside, you'd have Dillinger sipping from an illegal flask or two (during the Prohibition the public consumption of alcohol was not allowed), having escaped the Feds via an underground tunnel from the nearby Green Mill Cocktail Lounge.

Even though I don't plan on participating in the shoot, it's still fun to discussing it. Many Chicagoans have parents and grandparents who met at the Aragon or went there to jitterbug back in the 1940s and 1950s.

Have any of you participated as an extra in a film? What was your experience like?
* The above photos are the Music Box Theatre, where I went last night to see the French movie The Flight of the Red Balloon and the Aragon Ballroom marquee from the Lawrence Avenue L platform. Unfortunately, it wasn't lit last night.

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