Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lights, camera -- inaction

November 5, 1981

I expected a dark room filled with angry men and cold ruthless women more befitting the name blue movies than the glass sided house in Hollywood Hills with a view of Los Angeles so spectacular I thought I had arrived in heaven. True, the rooms had beds and cameras, but the sunlight blinded me to nearly everything, even the dread I had carried up the hill in the car from the modeling studio.
The women attracted me in the same way that pretty science teacher in junior high school had and one of them kept saying, “Hold on, boy, you’ll poke your eye out with that thing,” and I only laughed.
But brightness could not hid the hardness in the men and women, especially the guy named Dayko, who gripped a cigarette holder and let smoke come out both sides of his mouth, telling me or no one how we couldn’t waste time and how the place was costing him a bundle to use, and urging everybody to get “in the mood” quick to shoot.
“The view is better at night,” he said. “But then we have to use lights and I like things natural – if you know what I mean. Besides, we don’t want neighbors seeing what we’re doing up here. They might call the cops.”
This shoot was for all the dirty old men in all the dirty 42nd Street theaters to gawk at, the camera man said to me, then went to shoot the first set in which I was only to play a prop.
“You’ll come into this later,” one of the other women said. “So put your gun down, boy, and watch.”
The other woman, with bright brown hair and large breasts, kept complaining about the lack of heat.
“No heat is good,” Dayko told her, and pinched her nipple. “Besides, don’t you know this is LA, it’s never cold here.”
My girlfriend looked nervously around, under dressed, but not like the other women were, looking at, but not complaining about the costume she was expected to put on.
One of the other girls did complain.
“When’s the last time you washed any of this shit, Dayko?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Dayko said around another puff of smoke. “You won’t have it on long.”
“You scared, honey?” a blonde woman asked, her lipstick so red I mistook it for blood.
I nodded. She touched my shoulder.
“You’re new?”
I nodded again.
“Well, don’t you worry about a thing, I’ll walk you through it. We have the next scene after she is through,” she said, nodding in the direction of my girlfriend, who Dayko was already telling to get dressed, and positioning her, and calling in the two men who were supposed to do the scene with her.
“Let’s go, let’s go,” Dayko shouted. “We’re losing light.”
And so it started, and I wanted to be remote, pretending like it wasn’t my girlfriend I was watching, and that she wasn’t doing it with two strange men, but the pain started the minute the filming did, rising up from somewhere deep inside of me.
I thought it would be easier to be on the set to somehow manage to stop this, but seeing it was worse than hearing about it, and I knew I could not stop it, trying to turn away, the woman beside me, squeezing my thigh telling me not to be nervous – and time ground on as they shot and reshot, and were finally done, and it came my time to take center stage, by which time, the girl’s had something else to complain about.
“Hey Dayko,” one complained. “He can’t do this like this.”
“Well,” Dayko said amid more smoke. “Encourage him. You know how to do that, don’t you.”
“Give me a kiss,” the blonde woman said.
I shook my head.
“Why not?”
I could not explain it, since I loved kissing almost as much as making love, and that sometimes that’s the only thing I had on my mind, even back in the theater as an usher when we all ached to go all the way with any girl who we could get into the balcony.
“Dayko!” the women yelled. “He’s not cooperating.”
I couldn’t get the previous scene out of my head, my girlfriend with the other men. It felt wrong, and though I thought I might shocked my girlfriend into quitting, if I did it, too, I just couldn’t do it, could not bring myself to take that step even when everything inside of me ached to do something.
Dayko replaced me with one of the other men, who was not too tired from his shoot with my girlfriend to earn a little extra.
Although I would try again on a number other shoots, the pain never left me, and though I managed to fake my way through some of the scenes, it was inconsistent. It all needed to mean something to me, and none of this meant anything to anybody, least of all my girlfriend, who laughed too much between sets, each making the pain worse, even if I never let on.
Years later, this pain would linger in me long after my girlfriend and I merely became friends, a twinge of regret, of sadness, of something lost each time I looked at her wall calendar and saw times inked in on some appointment I knew no longer involved a camera.

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