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Saturday, August 07, 2004

Big Brother is Watching...

We pre-empt the Florida Debauchery yet again to bring you this very fun moment in the lives of a background actress daughter and her mom.

Thursday night, while Charlie and I were having an early date night (it's usually on Friday) at our favorite place (even though to some particularly snobby Newport Beach residents, it has "no style" and "smells of stale beer", and for the record, he's particularly full of crap and full of himself as well...so there.) my phone began to signal that I had a text message.

Now, only three people text message me; Averie, Wayne, and Caris's agent. I knew it wasn't Ave, because she wasn't at work and in that case, she would call. It could be Wayne, but it was kinda late on the East Coast, so I didn't think it was likely. Yep, it was Caris's agent. And it was a "911" call.

I'm not particularly fond of these calls. Being that we live in Orange County, and all of the work is in LA, sometimes it can be grueling to get her to her set calls. Usually, they give us a good 24 to 36 hour notice. When it's a "911" extension call, I know that it's gonna be one of those "can you be there first thing in the morning? PLEEEEZEEE?" Of course, we always do it, because, hey, it's work. Not to mention that even though at times it's very stressful, it's always very exciting for Caris, and yeah, its fun for me too. So sure enough, when I called the office, they asked me if Caris was available tomorrow (Friday) to be a photo double for a young actress on a CBS sitcom. I got the information, called Caris at home, asked her if she wanted the job, and then, upon Caris's approval, I called her agent back and said it was a go.

On Friday, mid-morning, we got ourselves together and headed out to the Big Bad City; 52 miles away, according to handy-dandy MapQuest AND our Thomas Guide "Bible". With Friday traffic, it took two hours. It's NEVER taken us that long to get to Los Angeles. Love that congested LA freeway system! Caris had a 1:30 call time and we were pulling into the CBS gate at exactly 1:18. I thought we were cool. Unfortunately, when the gate guard gave us a MAP of the studio lot and showed us where we had to park and then HIKE back to the studio, I wasn't real sure we were going to be on time. Now we're stressing.

The parking structure is behind Studio 1. We had to get to Studio 20. Yep, they're lined up numerically. We basically RAN down Gunsmoke Lane (by the "Passions" studio), crossed over Mary Tyler Moore Blvd. (by "That 70's Show"), through some Beaver Cleaver looking backlot neighborhood. Now out of breath and sweating in the hot So Cal sun, we found, between "Yes Dear" and "CSI:NY" (yes, that's right CSI NEW YORK), Studio 20, where they tape "Still Standing". It was 1:31. We made it. We stood in the doorway and a young woman approached us and said "checking in?". We nodded. She pointed to another young woman in the audience bleachers who waved us over.

It's always fun to go on these set calls. Though my only purpose is to get Caris to where she needs to be and be available to her because she's a minor (labor laws are very strict for minors in the industry), I enjoy these days so much. I love watching her do what she loves to do and because I grew up such a star-struck little island girl, I feel like I'm living a dream just having the opportunity to see these things happen right before my eyes. By the same token, I loved the time that I spent with Averie when she was on the Ellen show last year. What a great opportunity for her and the doors that it opened up in her comedy world have been immeasureable.

The time we spend together really is concentrated time for me and Caris. We have these long drives, and we talk a lot. We listen to music and laugh. She's independent and knows what she wants, but she's still looking to me for guidance. She depends on me to make sure all of her permits are in order, that she has what she needs, that her paperwork is completed on set, to keep her audition calendar in check, BUT, she also looks to me for encouragement in stressful situations. I leave her completely alone when she's working, I stay as behind the scenes as behind the scenes can be. I'm not a stage-mom and more often than not, she has to come looking for me on breaks, because I try to give her her autonomy. I'm her ride and her cheerleader, nothing more. She has WAY more talent in her little finger hangnail than I could ever hope to have. She doesn't need me to tell her what to do.

So, we get to the set, watch the actors run through their rehearsal, and after about an hour, they come and get Caris and the four other girls that have come to be "sized up" as photo doubles for "Lauren Miller." She's the character played by Renee Olmstead in the show; the daughter of the characters played by Jami Gertz and Mark Addy. For this particular "pool party" shoot, they don't want Lauren to get wet because it would take too long to dry off and re-do makeup. Thus, the need for a body double. The director asks each of the four girls to stand next to the actresses with their backs facing them. They pick two of the girls. Caris is not one of those chosen for the photo double. BUT, they ask her to come back on Monday to be one of the pool party guests. Cool! So, she got rejected, but got paid for showing up, AND she got a tape job on Monday. After an hour and a half, we collected her pink pay slip, and walked out of the studio...this time walking, so that we could enjoy our surroundings. After all, how often can you say that you were on the studio lot, walking around unescorted? (Not talking about YOU, MaryFairy; Studio Brat Extraordinaire!)

As we got to the parking structure, we hopped on the elevator for the ride up to the 5th floor and on the way, the elevator stopped at the 4th. Two well-dressed men got on and asked if we were going down. We told them that we were going up one flight, but they were welcome to get on for the ride. They smiled and stepped in. We made smalltalk about rude people on cell phones, and then the doors opened on our floor. Caris and I got out. On the walk to the car, she said, "Hey Mommy, let's go to the top and see the view!" I smiled. Why not?

I parked the car next to the edge of the parking structure on the side overlooking the studio lot and Caris and I got out. We both laughed because it really didn't look like much. She said, "So much for this idea." But we stayed and looked around for a bit. Then, just below us on the left, I saw something familiar. A set, yes, but it was completely surrounded by ten foot chain link fence and it had a manned guard gate. Then I recognized the "front door". It was the Big Brother 5 compound. A heavily guarded area within the backlot. Trailer upon trailer forming somewhat of a triangular space. I said to Caris, who is a HUGE Big Brother fan, "Sweetie, that's Big Brother over there." She gasped, "WHAT??? WHERE??? WHERE!!??" and I pointed it out to her.

Now, you would think that a girl that has brushed elbows with the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley and Annette Bening on movie sets, would be excited over something like that. And the fact that we just walked out of a studio where she would be working on a sitcom next week, you'd think that would be exilherating. It was to me. However, she calmly and discreetly asked me, "Mommy, who is Ben Kingsley?" and "Where do I know Annette Bening from?" Oh my gosh, I felt so old as I explained to her that she was having the great honor to be working with Academy Award winning artists. She smiled and quietly said.."Oh, that's nice!" and "She's even more beautiful in person." And now, here we were, overlooking the Big Brother compound and she's coming out of her tree with excitement. Go figure.

Just then, we noticed that the two men that were in the elevator with us were approaching the Big Brother guard gate and having their credentials looked over. They looked our way, and I waved at one of them. He pulled his sunglasses down and looked up at us. I said to Caris, "Hmmm, I thought he might wave back." Then she said, "He's looking at us like we're spies." It then occurred to me that they might be producers for the show and that maybe the DO think we're spies. One of them pointed. The other turned. Caris said.."Ummm, Mommy, I think we better go!" I laughed, and we both ran for the car, giggling. All the way down the structure and out the studio gate, we were still giddy. "Big Brother!" Caris said. "Can you believe it?"

I shook my head. "No Honey, I can't believe it."


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