My Brush with Greatness
In 1988, Glenn Savan
published "White Palace", a May-September love story set in St. Louis.
The older woman in the novel worked at White Castle, but that
puritanical Christian-oriented family
company refused to have its name sullied with a story of extra-marital
love, so Savan was forced to
make up a different name. He enjoyed a splash in the best-seller lists,
but more importantly, he caught
the eye of Hollywood. Universal Studios greenlit the movie version
In 1989 I worked at Duff's Restaurant in the Central West End of St.
Louis. The owners were offered
money to close down the restaurant so they could shoot scenes for the
movie, and they accepted.
All the workers, including waiters, would be paid what we would have
We were also offered parts as extras in the scenes. My career as an
actor was finally skyrocketing...
The first two days were "hurry-up-and-wait"--literally hours between
takes, twenty minutes during
the same take to re-locate the camera, adjust the lights, take care of
electrical buzz from the ancient
circuitry in the building, you name it. It was the most boring thing
I've ever 'done'--wait ten minutes
for "Action!", forty seconds of shooting, "Cut!" and wait all over
During the first day, director Luis Mandoki actually sat at our table
between takes, making small talk.
This was his first feature film, and he was a bit nervous and very
non-star-like...it was as if he was
just happy to be along for the ride. But when it came to analyzing
takes between shots, he was all
business with the cinematographer and cast.
One moight, when the filming went late, they sent out for pizza. I
remember a young assistant director
crabbing to Luis about the choice of company for pizza--it was
Domino's, the notorious anti-choice
Catholic company. She made sure everybody knew NOT to order Domino's
EVER AGAIN, and I never have.
By the third day, the cast and crew were really relaxed. No one was
bothering any of the stars
with small talk or staring at them. Two crazy things happened that I
Susan Sarandon had brought her and Tim Robbins' children to town for
the duration of the filming.
Famously, they have never married, and I say more power to them for
their personal choice. But:
James Spader and Susan Sarandon were standing at the end of the bar,
necking, between takes.
For, literally, an hour or more at a time. When I mentioned this to
that young assistant director I had
befriended by this time, she said "Oh, they're just keeping in
Yeah. Right. The scenes of their love
affair had already been filmed, in the can...but they still
needed to be kissing? In public? Deep French kissing, like they're in a
hotel room somewhere?
Whatever the reason, they really heated up the set. What made no sense
to me was this:
during the shots at the restaurant, they were FIGHTING.
Cool...but this one is cooler still.
I was sitting on a chair against the wall, watching Sarandon and Spader
stand together at the bar.
Above my head, behind me, high up on the wall, there was a shelf.
Purses and knapsacks were piled up on it.
As if in a dream, Susan Sarandon approached me. She reached for the
shelf above me.
I saw her coming and started to get up and out of her way, but she
said, "Don't bother,"
and reached up right above me to dig around in her purse.
Her breasts were dangling right in my face...I sat there, squirming.
Cool as a cucumber, she finished and said, "Thank you," her eyes
avoiding mine, yet smiling. She walked back to the bar with her hands
I'm sure she did it on purpose; I'd bet my house. I'll never forget
I also made it into the film as a driver. They shot outdoor scenes of
James Spader walking into
the restaurant through the light flakes of snow. I sped by him in my
1978 Toyota Corrolla hatchback,
too fast to see the rust spots.
After three days of filming, they decided to RE-SHOOT EVERY SCENE I WAS
IN, in New York.
Everything got cut except the exteriors. So much for my budding film
The film was released in 1990; as I said, compared with today, from
publication of the novel
in 1988 to release of the critically-acclaimed film in 1990, this movie
was made FAST.
I wonder about those "between
takes" kissing scenes.
I remember years ago, I
read in TV Guide that on the set of 24,
Keefer spent the first three
days shooting bedroom scenes with Kim Raver.
as the season unfolded, she was always at another location.
They only saw each other briefly - there were no loves scenes between
it - men are dogs. I'm sure Keefer has "actress approval" so he doesn't
have to get in bed
with Ann Coulter, but the part I don't get - why would 24's
production company pay the crew
to stand around for three days and watch Keefer get his mojo working?
Who knows these things?
Did Raver have to sign a contract that said Keffer got to grope her for
those three days?
They must have her bound contractually or she could, after 6 shows were
shot, walk away
because Keefer had his hands all over her - how does that work?
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