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In the twilight hours of an early-spring day, a gray Mitsubishi tears up the highway toward Baltimore, its trunk packed with ratty black tank tops, leather jackets, and assorted garments of the fishnet variety. The three women inside the car are in their early 30s—a platinum blonde at the wheel, a little redhead riding shotgun, and a Bettie Page look-alike coolly smoking in the back seat.
Are they group-rate call girls? The entertainment for a Towson bachelor party? Or maybe just aging scenesters who’ve lost their way to Jaxx? The answer is far more complex and absolutely fraught with glamour. For I am that redhead. And like my sister Kira—the blonde—and our raven-haired friend Kari, I am about to step into a world of magic! Mystery! Peeing in the woods! Ah, the silver screen, I muse to myself, inwardly practicing my world-weary tone. I am going to be in the new Blair Witch Project movie! I will be famous!
I am an extra!
Our odyssey began the week before when Kira got wind of the search
for extras through a friend at a local casting agency. She managed to secure three spots for us and was practically bursting when she called with the news.
“You are never going to believe this,” Kira began, her voice rising with barely suppressed glee. “We have to play goth kids!”
I collapsed with laughter, hooting until snot ran from my nose like that girl in the first movie. My mind drifted to the back of my closet, where the remains of my adolescence hung like studded leather prisoners. Well, at least we won’t have far to look for costumes, I thought.
A few days later, Kira, Kari, and I sat in my bedroom rooting through parts of our wardrobe that hadn’t seen the light of day since the ’80s.
“The trick is,” Kira began, pulling out a tattered pair of pointy three-buckle boots and peering at them thoughtfully, “to be more fabulous and more obvious than everyone else. Then you get to be in better shots.” She was an old showbiz pro by our neophyte standards, having maneuvered herself into the front of the herd on more than one occasion, including the Oscar-worthy “stage diving” scene in John Waters’ Serial Mom.
“Remember, ladies,” Kira trilled, holding a soiled leopard-print vest up to the light, “you are never overdressed—everyone else is underdressed!” We spent the afternoon detangling wads of rosary beads and chunky skull-motif rings from the amorphous mesh items that used to adorn our teenage limbs. I grunted as I tried to shoehorn my spreading thighs into a pair of red plaid bondage pants for the first time in a decade and a half.
“Jesus,” I moaned, “I can’t believe I was ever this small!” I remembered feeling very big and scary at the time of these pants’ debut, jangling down the street like some demented wind chime. Now I couldn’t even remember how the straps went. I twisted around, fumbling lamely at the buckles, then gave up in lieu of something more, well, comfortable. I picked up a shapeless black sack dress and tossed it on. I wiggled my butt and did that little ’80s-style shuffle-and-head-jerk dance. Yep. I’ve still got it. There are some skills you just don’t want to lose as an adult, no siree.
My sister was struggling into a ratty tulle skirt with big silver clasps down the side and singing snatches of old Marginal Man songs in a flat, nasal voice.
“Remember when they did that live cover of ‘Voices Carry’ with all the dialogue from the video and everything?” Kira asked, grinning.
Kari yelped from underneath the fishnet T-shirt she was tugging over her head. “Ow! My earring is caught! Christ! These are the ones my mother-in-law gave me!”
“That was a great show….” Kira finished dreamily, gazing down at her outfit. I lit a cigarette and smiled. This was going to be fun.
We booked a motel on the outskirts of Baltimore, near the shoot, to cut down on our prep and travel time, figuring it would take at least an hour just to get our hair big enough. When the day came, we neatly piled our wardrobes, makeup cases, and respective medications into the trunk of Kira’s car. A far cry from the day when packing meant hurling bottles of AquaNet and Wild Irish Rose into the back seat. As we sped north to our destination, we imagined the events of the following day.
“We better get close-ups!” Kira chattered as she steered us on toward stardom. She’d discovered that along with a slew of outdoorsy-type extras, there were 33 of us “goth kids” on the call, and she was determined to outshine—or rather, outgloom—them all.
“Maybe we’ll get to scream and fall down!” I was sure we’d be chosen for this task, because no one throws a fit like the Hoffmann sisters.
We were close to our motel, but we decided to make a dry run to the filming site to familiarize ourselves with the route. We didn’t want to be late for our 6 a.m. call the next morning; that would be so terribly unprofessional, don’t you know. We turned off a main drag and into a darker, seedier part of town. “The parking lot for the shuttle is supposed to be somewhere along here,” Kari said, peering alternately at the map and the creepy apartment complexes that flanked the road.
“They should call this the Blair Housing Project,” I muttered, sipping from a bottle of Diet Coke, still smarting from the bondage-pants incident.
We located the lot, then retraced our steps. After checking into our luxurious suite at the Comfort Inn, we settled in to sort out our final costume choices. We laid out our makeup and jewelry, sneered at the hard little cakes of gray soap in the bath, and changed into our matronly pajamas. We smoked and plotted, reminiscing about the days of matinee punk shows when the drinking age in D.C. was still 18 and bemoaning the fact that we just couldn’t squeeze ourselves into some of our absolutely adorable outfits. The somewhat pathetic subject of the spectacle created by three rapidly deteriorating scene queens decking themselves out in vinyl and black lace like the Powerpuff Girls’ older, sluttier sisters was carefully avoided. We watched a little cable, ordered oily cheesesteaks from a deli of questionable repute (bondage pants be damned!), and did our nails in the historically accurate deep red or black.
At one point, Kari’s husband called to make sure we’d arrived safely. “I can’t talk now—I am on location!” she shouted petulantly into the phone, slamming it down with a haughty sniff. Kira and I applauded her use of Official Industry Lingo, and we proceeded to smoke cigarettes in a superior manner until we fell asleep. The alarm was set for 3 a.m.—we wanted to have plenty of time to get the details just right.
When the clock radio sounded, a few hours later, I leapt up and whacked the off button before hurling myself onto the adjoining bed, where my sister and Kari lay in peaceful, open-mouthed slumber. They whined and covered their heads with pillows, momentarily forgetting where they were.
“BlairWitchProjectBlairWitchProjectBlairWitchProject!” I squealed, bouncing my butt on the edge of the bed and poking their inert forms with an insistent finger. They sprung into action, goggling blearily at the clock as they flung off the covers. Kira swung her feet heavily onto the floor and began stumbling around the room, searching for her glasses. Kari beat both of us to the bathroom, and my sister and I stood in the middle of the room for a minute, staring wildly around, unsure of what to do first. I ran to the bathroom door and pounded on it.
“Kari!” I rasped, “Let me pee before you shower!”
“Me, too!” Kira piped up from behind me, pushing me out of the way in typical older-sister fashion. Kari emerged stiffly from the dingy beige cubicle and held up one hand, eyes wide and offended. “Please do not talk to me before I’ve had my coffee.” She strode slowly to the dresser, where she donned a T-shirt and jeans before going down to the motel office to partake of their cruddy burnt java.
Ever the opportunist, Kira hustled into the shower while Kari re-caffeinated and I fussed distractedly with my outfit. Will these make me look fat? I mused, fingering the pleather shorts I’d settled on. Do I care? I allowed myself a philosophical moment in the artificial brightness of the Comfort Inn’s bedside lamps while my sister hummed in the shower. Funny how that stuff seems to matter less and less, I pondered, feeling ever so deep and thoughtful. There was a time when approval and acknowledgement were all that I craved. I remember carrying around defiant passion, the last shreds of my idealism in these shorts. I’m sure there was someone without whom I thought I would die, really and truly die, when I wore these shorts last. Now I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I would walk through fire for.
I shrugged off the thought, because at the moment, I had the gargantuan task of transforming my older and wiser visage into that of an eager, chomping-at-the-bit goth kid. So it is written, and so it shall be. So shall my not-so-firm flesh be wedged into ill-fitting spandex and leather at 3 a.m. in the middle of Bumfuck, Md., all for a shot at that elusive immortality. So I can tell my friends that I did it. For approval and acknowledgement. Maybe things haven’t changed so much after all.
My Zen-like contemplation was short-lived, as Kari returned, flinging open the door mid-glamour-fit.
“They are out of coffee!” she huffed, storming over to the bedside stand and snatching up her cigarettes. “I simply cannot work under these conditions! I need to talk to my agent!” She flipped aimlessly through the usual assortment of awkward late-night cable movies starring either Judith Light or Meredith Baxter-Birney, while I concentrated on coating my hair with layers of height-building spray. Kira emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam at the moment I began grimly teasing the roots of my encrusted red mane.
Kira draped the towel over her head, warbling snatches from “Bela Lugosi Is Dead!” while gyrating spookily over to the bureau. “You sound more like Katharine Hepburn than that Bauhaus guy,” I winced, scraping the comb back toward my scalp.
“All those years of Pantene, shot to shit in one day,” Kira sighed, frowning at my efforts. She fingered her own limp, bleached locks sadly. I tried not to think of the money and time I’d spent trying to repair the abuse I’d heaped on my forlorn follicles over the years. It would depress even the gloomiest little vampire-in-training.
“You know what they say,” Kari shot over her shoulder as she sauntered into the bathroom. “After 30, it’s just patch, patch, patch!”
Kira turned on the hair dryer and began fretting about the day to come. “I want my hair to be really big,” she shouted over the dryer’s whine, “but we’re supposed to be running around in the woods. What if I get a tick?”
“You’re not going to get a tick!” Kari yelled from the shower.
“Maybe chiggers,” I added helpfully. Kira grimaced and scratched her head with her free hand. “I’m going to wear a trash bag over my hair!”
“They’ll probably think it’s part of your costume,” I suggested, wandering over to the sink to take a sponge bath. I’d decided not to wash my hair in order to give it that authentic bramblelike consistency. I peered at my face in the mirror as I washed, planning my makeup design. None of those dippy crosses or spiderwebs on the face—that was so nouveau. We were going for the classic approach. I dried off and settled on the bed with the makeup kit. Do I want total whiteface or just ghastly pale? Black eyeshadow or red? What are the kids wearing these days? I decided on the time-tested Siouxsie Sioux cat eyes and sharply outlined lips I recalled from “back in the day.” (Author’s note: Please shove me in front of a bus should this phrase ever pass my lips in actual conversation.)
Ever so carefully, I swept the liquid eyeliner brush across my top lid, drawing the corner line out past the edge of my eyebrow. Now for the tricky part—getting the other eye to match. My first attempt left me looking like a Cirque du Soleil reject, and I fumbled for the bag of Q-Tips on the nightstand. After several rounds of wiping and swabbing, my eyes were red and raw, but finally symmetrical. I had a burst of self-doubt. What if the other extras look better? Maybe I should go for the doofy face painting after all! I settled on exaggerated red and gray eyeshadow and some big honking eyebrows. I stood back and took a gander at myself. Not bad. A few layers of white powder, some very scary blood-red lipstick, and hey, presto! It’s 1985! I was so lost in my makeup machinations that I hadn’t noticed Kira wriggling into her primary outfit.
“How do I look?” She spun dramatically behind me in the mirror, making wiggly creepy hands around her face and sucking in her cheeks. She widened her eyes and moaned, “I am sooo depresssed….”
“Depressed? What are you depressed about?” Kari asked as she stepped out of the bathroom, a towel twisted turbanlike around her head. “I’m just getting into character,” my sister replied haughtily, gliding over to the makeup station.
We spent the next hour coaxing wads of our doughy adult flesh into strappy teen-sized tank tops and leggings, weaving shreds of black cloth into our snarled hair, and sliding pounds of jangling silver jewelry onto every appendage.
At last the moment of our departure to the Land of Milk and Honey drew near. We lined up in front of the mirror and scrutinized the final products of our labor. We looked like half a six-pack from the floozy factory: one blonde, one redhead, and one black-haired tart gamely sporting underwear-as-outerwear, tattered stockings, and enough makeup to conceal the most grotesque industrial accident.
“We look fabulous,” Kari breathed reverently. She gently touched her mile-high rat’s nest.
“Yeah,” I agreed, fiddling with the angle of my chain-link choker. “They are sure to be impressed with our attention to detail.”
Kira applied one more coat of lipstick and bared her teeth to check for smudges.
“I better get a close-up for all this,” she muttered.
With that, we gathered our backpacks and swept out of the room, heads held high, praying that no other motel guests were prowling about. We were sure we’d be mistaken for hookers. Really reasonably priced ones.
Our trusty gray chariot delivered us with all speed and urgency to the parking lot we’d scoped out the night before, its entrance now helpfully adorned with cardboard signs proclaiming “BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.” We were to be shuttled to a nearby elementary school for check-in and processing. Kira swung into a spot by the rear of the lot, the better to make a grand entrance. Kari checked her watch, proclaiming us to be right on time, and we clambered out of the car for our promenade to the awaiting shuttle.
We clip-clopped past the other vehicles and joined the short line of extras and personnel waiting to board the bus. “Be polite!” Kira hissed as we edged forward, “You never know who will be important!” The three of us pasted on our winningest smiles, careful not to crinkle our Kabuki-strength cosmetics, and gave the bus driver a cheery “Good morning!”
We settled into a long bench-type seat with another extra, this one clad in a more understated khaki-shorts/flannel-shirt ensemble, and glanced around the interior of the vehicle. There were a few younger people in basic black, with a little dark eyeliner or maybe a pierced nose thrown in, but for the most part, the passengers wore hiking-type gear. We gave each other secret, smug little smiles and leaned back in our seat in unison. If the rest of the “goth-kid” extras were this tame, we were destined for glory!
Just a few short minutes later, we filed into the school’s cafeteria and, like any veteran club queens worth their salt, immediately began subtly scanning the crowd. Walking toward the front table to pick up our tax forms, we quickly swept the area for any standout competitors. We sorted out the paperwork, then crossed the length of the room to the back table. As anyone who’d spent her formative years in stinky underground clubs knew, there lay the best opportunities for furtive scoping.
We saw a couple of trench-coated dudes with slicked-back hair and big shiny boots, some younger girls with raccoon eyes smeared above nervous, cherubic faces, and a shaggy-haired guy in partial leather who looked as if he couldn’t decide if he was hiker or biker. There were a few pretty girls in form-fitting fringy black gowns with dramatic hair and makeup, and maybe a tattoo or two, but for the most part, they all looked, well, kind of clean. Kind of classy. Kira had more ink on one bicep than the whole room combined. Kari raised her eyebrow and gave me a perfect Traci Lords pucker. We might be twice the age of some of our costumed compatriots, but by gum, we’d packed a lot of scene-stealing into those years.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, gentle Washington City Paper reader. We sound like a bunch of stuck-up, self-important has-beens. Well, you know what they say: If the pointy three-buckle shoe fits….
After being assigned to a production assistant (ours was the cutest, of course, and seemed very important), we were trundled off to the bus again. On the way, we chatted with our new main man. He was agreeably sassy, and we ladies promptly developed Giant Inappropriate Crushes, which we discussed at length while he mumbled importantly into his walkie-talkie.
We were delivered to the end of a winding road to a gigantic but secluded park for further instructions. Kira, Kari, and I declared this task “our next assignment” and folded our hands primly in our laps. Peering out the bus windows at the upcoming clearing, we spied the film crew and crowds of other extras congregating near the refreshment trailer.
“I bet they aren’t out of coffee!” Kari sneered. We disembarked and drifted snootily to the perimeter of the crowd, finally hoisting ourselves up onto the low concrete wall that ringed the small parking area. Kari offered her lighter all around as Kira scanned the crowd. You could almost hear her radar blipping as she singled out the optimum place to stand and the Very Important People we should linger near.
“Come here,” she said, jerking her head to the side as she slipped off the wall. We followed her to the mouth of a little side road by the edge of the circular clearing. Following her stare, we fixed our sights on the pleasant (and official-looking!) fellow in the middle of the action. He was loudly informing groups of extras how far to walk through the woods to reach the starting point for the day’s shooting. He estimated 10 or 15 minutes of hiking, and our ebony-enshrouded shoulders slumped in dismay. Kira glanced down at her shoes and sighed.
We’d been briefed on the fact that we would probably have a ways to trek, but, true to form, all three of us had worn less-than-sensible shoes in order to preserve the purity of our authentic outfits. Plus we had thought we’d be singled out from the herd by now. Just when our dreams of close-ups and cameos had started to fade like a crappy jailhouse tattoo, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Important pointed a finger in our direction.
“You three!” he barked. “You three are with me! Whoever you were with before, you’re with me now!” We shook our little fists in the air with triumph. Our former leader, hovering nearby with the rest of the production assistants, placed his hands on his hips in mock dismay.
“Oh, man!” he whined, kicking at the ground good-naturedly. “You took my best people!” He shot us a grin and a dismissive wave.
“I’ll miss you!” Kari purred, giving him a pout and a fingertip wiggle. “We’ll send you a fruit basket!” I shouted.
Our new commander in chief pointed to a small blue car parked to the side of all the hubbub. “Go stand over there,” he said, and strode off, leaving us to hop around and fidget with our accessories.
“I wonder what we’ll get to do?” I whispered.
“Maybe we’ll get to be killed or something!” Kari said brightly. Kira was busy practicing looking aloof and blasé. She pulled her oversized pink sunglasses out of her bag and slid them on ever so slowly, tilting her head down a bit to peer over the lenses. Sighing in triumph, she leaned against the car and smiled a secret little smile. Once a scene queen, always a scene queen.
“OK!” The man who’d snatched us from the jaws of obscurity walked briskly back to where we stood and introduced himself as the assistant director. We pandered briefly, squealing and simpering in a fetching manner. He told us that we would be in a separate shot from the rest of the herd of extras, involving getting out of a car and traipsing across a road. This delighted us no end; it meant that we would be spared any unglamorous trudging through tick-infested wilderness. Not to mention the implicit celebrity of having our very own shot! We were well on the way to stardom. We could practically taste it. The only foreseeable problem now would be deciding which Baldwin to bed first.
“You’re going to need a fourth,” the assistant director said, peering at the crowds of extras who were gathered around their respective production assistants, also receiving their location assignments. “It should be a guy.” His radio crackled, and he spoke into it briefly. The three of us strained to pick out any useful bits of secret movie jargon to assimilate into our vocabulary. He re-clipped the walkie-talkie onto his belt and gestured at the hordes. “Why don’t you ladies pick yourselves out a man?” he said with a saucy grin. He waggled his Very Important eyebrows at us as he backed off into the crowd.
We were beside ourselves. We had been given an actual assignment! By the A.D.! Oh, the power! The prestige! The fate of some lucky goth guy was in our grubby little hands! With Kira leading the way, we took a few steps away from the car, careful not to wander too far in case our new colleague the assistant director needed to consult us about, say, plot changes or union payroll issues.
The pickings were slim. No one really tickled our fancy. Most of the guys were a tad too understated. Then suddenly our frantic scrutiny picked out a tall blond fellow in big black boots with dark-ringed eyes and dangling silver jewelry. Let’s just call him Bob. We were drawn to him like thieving jackdaws looking to decorate our nests. The three of us clattered over and surrounded him, ignoring the startled apprehension creeping into his eyes as we clutched at his biceps and made appreciative little noises.
“Well, hello there,” Kari purred. Kira and I beamed charmingly.
“Uh, hi…?” he began hesitantly, a bemused smile starting across his face.
We filled him in and spent the next few minutes shooting the shit while we anxiously tracked the A.D.’s movements through the melee of bustling movie personnel and other, less fabulous extras. Finally, just as the four of us had chewed off almost all of our Wet ‘n Wild nail polish (so much more economical than Urban Decay), the A.D. motioned us over to where he stood at the end of a paved service road.
“Start walking in this direction,” he told us, guiding us past the Porta-Johns that stood sentinel by the refreshment trailer.
“Are those our dressing rooms?” Kari asked innocently, pointing at the light-blue booths. “I specifically requested a deli tray in mine.”
The A.D. smiled indulgently. “Maybe we can deliver you a sandwich in there later,” he soothed. We tittered girlishly, except for our male counterpart, who strode stoically ahead, already growing weary of us. Mere minutes later, as the other extras were just beginning their arduous treks into the woods, our little group arrived at its destination.
“Well!” Kira sighed as we dropped our backpacks next to a vintage jalopy that sat gleaming on the shoulder. “That wasn’t bad at all!”
“It’ll be a while before the others reach their places,” the A.D. said, “So I’ll fill you in now on what you have to do.” The girls and I took this opportunity to touch up our makeup. Our job was to climb out of the parked car, cross the service road, and walk up into the forest.
Sounded easy enough, but I was a little confused. Where was all the equipment? The cameras, the technicians? Was this just some kind of rehearsal? What about our close-ups? The A.D. pointed down the trail, his arm raised skyward.
“The helicopter will be coming in from about there,” he began.
Wait a minute! Helicopter? Kira, Kari, and I gaped at each other, open-mouthed. A helicopter shot? We let it sink in. After all the hours we’d spent getting the details of our glad rags zoom-worthy, we were going to be in a helicopter shot? We listened quietly to the rest of the instructions, turning this new information over in our minds. After our briefing, we fumed for a while. Well, it’s still pretty cool to be in a movie, I decided. This is still an excellent adventure!… My, my. We are terribly spoiled.
“…So you folks can just relax for now.” The A.D. finished and turned away to chatter into his radio. We turned our attention to the mail-order goth guy we’d abducted. We figured, when all else fails, stick with what you know—prying! In the space of a few short minutes, we had triple-teamed our new friend into relating the events leading up to his fortuitous encounter with us, the Blair Witch Bitches. After he gave us the rundown on his familial ancestry and other fascinating tidbits of personal information, he dropped the bombshell: The final addition to our foursome had actually gone out and bought his outfit especially to wear to the shoot.
“I hope none of my friends see me dressed like this,” he snickered, unclipping his fake nose ring and waving it around with a grimace. “They would give me so much shit!” We were aghast. He’d spent hard-earned wages on his gear, while we’d excavated ours from the bottom of our closets, for godssake! He must have dropped a couple of hundred on those boots alone!
Well, I sniffed to myself, at least we used to really wear this stuff! Wait a minute—does that make us cool—or total losers? I looked over at Kira and Kari, who were edging suspiciously away. We slouched on the edge of the road, smoking scornfully and eyeing him with disdain.
The A.D. reappeared and ushered us toward the car. “OK, who wants to—”
“I’ll drive!” Kira chirped. She pranced over to the driver’s side door.
“Shotgun!” Kari shrieked triumphantly, giving me a shove toward the rear of the car.
“You have to sit in the back with her,” she stage-whispered to our crestfallen new chum as she pulled up on the shiny chrome door handle. We all slid into our positions and spent a few minutes inspecting details of the car’s very cool interior. The A.D. knocked on Kira’s window and motioned for her to roll it down. He tossed a walkie-talkie in through the crack and told us to listen for the call of “Action!” before we opened the doors and started across the road.
After a few last-minute instructions from the A.D. about the pacing of the shot, we were ready to roll. The crew backed away down the hill and gave us a thumbs-up, and suddenly, we were on our own. Our fate—our careers—lay in our own hands! This could make or break us in the high-profile, competitive, and exclusive world of the movie-extra community. I fidgeted impatiently, my fishnet-encased thighs sticking to the warm vinyl seat.
Finally, we heard the faint sound of a chopper approaching and gripped our door handles in anticipation. After a few unintelligible squawks from the radio, at last we heard a voice uttering the magic word.
“Action!” This was it! We clambered from the car and tried to look natural as we trotted across the road, careful not to look up. It was so hard! I was dying to have a gander at the camera-outfitted, high-tech whirlybird but managed to retain my professionalism and instead plodded doggedly up the small incline into the woods.
We traveled a few hundred feet, catching sight of another group of extras entering from a different angle up ahead. Kira and our gentleman friend led the way, crashing through the underbrush and pushing aside broken tree branches while Kari and I stumbled in their wake. Bob whirled around as we heard someone yell “Cut!” and began tromping back down the hill, leaving Kira to pick her way to where Kari and I stood. The three of us teetered down the uneven terrain, leaning on each other for balance.
“We were fabulous!” Kari whispered furtively.
“Yes,” I agreed. “I think we were very convincing!”
We returned to the car, where the A.D. stood staring up at the sky, his ever-present radio pressed against his ear.
“OK, guys, back in the car,” he said. “Let’s do it again.”
“Take 2!” Kira hissed as we clambered back into the car. We girls fussed with our hair for a few minutes, clucking and squealing about our first take, while Bob stared out the window in quiet exasperation. Several more minutes went by, and we began craning our necks to sneak surreptitious glances at the horizon.
“Where’s the dang helicopter?” Kari whined. “My hair is going to fall!” She fluffed her black mane with one hand as she leaned over to peer in the rearview mirror. More time passed. I drooped against the window, leaning my head against the glass and staring down at my legs. I picked at my fishnets. I shifted in my seat with a sigh and wondered what time it was.
After what seemed like an eternity, or at least like an episode of Big Brother, the whickering of the helicopter reached our eager ears, and we snapped to attention.
“Take 2! Take 2! Take 2!” Kira shrieked. Bob stared stonily out the window as the rest of us frantically arranged ourselves, patting and poking at our outfits. Excitement was high! Would they get it this time?
Right on cue, we burst from the vehicle and repeated our premier performance. It was even more fabulous than the first take! We were really getting the hang of this stuff! Our natural talent and skill were sure to be the talk of the set! We returned eagerly to our starting point and were immediately hustled back into the car. Well, I thought, maybe this will be the last take.
But it wasn’t the last take. Not even close. We trudged up that hill over and over, makeup clotting on our perspiring faces. And we didn’t bother to touch up because, after all, it was a helicopter shot. No one would be able to see our faces, anyway. At one point, the chopper had to refuel, and during the ensuing break, Kira began shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.
“Jesus!” she hissed, glancing around. “I have to pee! Bad!”
“Do you think there’s time to go back down to the Porta-Johns?” I whispered.
“Ask him!” Kari suggested, pointing at the A.D. We tried to catch his eye, but he was deep in conversation with some of his colleagues, and we decided not to bother him.
“Just go pee behind the car!” I told Kira. We could hear the helicopter returning, about to fly over us to its starting point. “Hurry up! It’s on its way back!” She sneaked over and squatted while Kari and I kept an eye out for wandering movie guys. The copter whizzed over our heads as she re-emerged, a relieved little grin on her face.
After several more takes, the thrill was starting to wear off. We were hot, tired, and hungry, and Bob was growing increasingly less tolerant of our escapades. At one point, Kari flung herself face-down on the ground and had an old-fashioned temper tantrum, pounding her fists on the pavement and wailing, while the good-natured movie crew stood around her and applauded. They seemed to find our delusional egotism endearing and even encouraged us to pitch glamour fits for their amusement.
Six hours later, we finally took our last walk up the now-dreaded hill, and, after hearty congratulations all round, we packed up to return to the main site. Because our position was closer than those of the rest of the hapless hikers, we reached the food trailer with little difficulty and proceeded to strap on the proverbial feed bag. We leaned against the trailer and munched on the exotic movie fare, which included intriguingly flavored ball-shaped pretzels of unknown origin.
“Is that it?” I asked through a mouthful of bagel chips.
“I guess so,” Kira said wearily. “Too bad we didn’t get close-ups.”
“Yeah,” Kari sighed. “At least we got a SAG point!” she brightened.
“And we’ll be on file in case they need us for anything else!” Kira declared hopefully. I looked at my sister and friend, their makeup clumped and running, and knew that my face must be similarly disheveled. We lurked around the lot for a bit, eyeing the other groups of extras as they trooped slowly back to the main area. Bob had drifted away. We said our goodbyes to the A.D., and he promised to let us know if our services were ever required in the future.
“Maybe next time we’ll get a close-up!” Kira chided as she shook his hand goodbye.
“Oh, we got some good shots of you guys,” he smirked, turning around with a wink. “You’d be surprised how close those helicopters can get.” We stared, open-mouthed, at his back as he disappeared into the crowd.
“Auuuggghhh!” Kari screeched, her hands flying to her makeup-smeared face.
“Oh my god!” I screamed. “They got close-ups of us looking like this!”
Kira stood in quiet shock, her hand rising slowly to her mouth. “What are you guys complaining about?” she finally moaned. “The helicopter was flying over when I was peeing behind that car!”
We all shrieked in horrified glee and jumped around flapping our hands for a bit, envisioning Kira’s little white heinie waving in the wind for all of the moviegoing public to see. Consolation cigarettes were smoked until the shuttle arrived to ferry us back to our car.
The Comfort Inn looked like an oasis to us now, in all its orange-and-brown glory. We showered, scrubbed the flaking Max Factor off our faces, and deep-conditioned our matted hair. After a long glamour nap, we emerged reborn into the cool spring night. In the car, we dissected the day’s events for a while, then settled into thoughts of the life we’d tried to leave behind. But Hollywood wouldn’t have us, so it was back to the grind.
“I hope my rotten husband hasn’t wrecked the house,” Kari mused distractedly. “I swear, I can’t leave him alone for one second!”
“I just know the litter box is full of poop,” Kira griped, pushing in the car’s cigarette lighter.
We were on our way back. Back to our homes, back to our little lives, back to our actual ages. Some of the clothing we’d worn to the shoot had been soiled or torn beyond salvageability, and we’d decided to leave it in the motel room. I felt a pang of regret thinking about the items I’d crammed reluctantly into the Comfort Inn trash can. Not that I would have ever worn that stuff again, but it was a reminder of days gone by.
A different time of life, but also a different place in time, when a really good LP collection could get a guy laid and the Fourth of July on the Mall really meant Rock Against Reagan. I lay down in the back seat of my sister’s car and closed my eyes. Somewhere on the way back to D.C., I drifted off to sleep.
Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows is scheduled to be released in theaters on Oct. 27. We’ve been told that our Palme d’Or-winning scene might be used behind the closing credits—if it doesn’t end up on the cutting-room floor. We’re keeping everything we have two of crossed.
So at the end of the movie, sit through the credits this time, instead of trying to beat the rush to the restroom. Clap a little if you see us up there. We’ll be in the back row, ready to sign autographs. Ciao!
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustrations by Robert Meganck.