Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wheelman - Part VIII - "You can take the boy out of the province..."

Hey, how's it goin' eh?

Some of the nicest folks I shuttled around for the Atlantic Film Festival were Andrea Thomas and her husband Danny.  Andrea is the Director of Operations for the Festival, so needless to say mobility around the city was imperative for her.  She was always promptly available for pick up and consistently gracious.

Her husband Danny turned out to be the tour manager for our very own local heroes The Trailer Park Boys.  While bipping around the city he gave me some insight into their new show  The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Fun Time Hour.

The show features our three amigos: Robb Wells, Mike Smith and John Paul Tremblay playing alternate reality versions of themselves.  After ending the show that made them famous they decide to segue into a new comedy variety program for kids.  Things go horribly amiss, however, when a crazed scientist named Dr. Funtime (?) forces our three heroes to ingest some experimental hallucinogenic berries (??) that cause their skits to veer off into the surreal.

Danny said the show was going to be "W-A-A-A-A-Y out there" with the guys taking on multiple roles, creating off-the-wall characters and even employing complicated prosthetic effects to really test the boundaries of their acting chops.  He said that the The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Fun Time Hour would likely make The Kids in the Hall look like Mr. Dressup.   

It's kind of odd an co-incidence that I was just speaking about the death of celebrated Canadian character actor Maury Chaykin (  The character of Dr. Funtime was originally going to be played by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson (???) but he was forced to bow out.  Maury Chaykin stepped in to fill the vacated role but he passed away in July.  No-one knows what effect this will have on the production.

The show's tentative premiere on Showcase seems to be January 2011.  If anything I pretty sure it's not going to be boring.

Later that same evening I got a request to drive Danny out to the airport.  He was tapped to escort Mike, John Paul and Robb in character as The Trailer Park Boys across the pond for a live performance at the HMV Forum in London.

Along for the ride was Maike Hank, who's worked as a production assistant for the 2008 German film Long Shadows about a former terrorist who's budding relationship with a recent divorcee is hampered by his past and 2009's Unter Strom a comedy about a man accused of a crime he didn't commit who tries to clear his name by taking hostages!  Maike was super-sweet and seemed to have had a good time at the Festival. She was also super-happy to have gotten a free lift to the airport. 

En route Danny spoke at length about being born in the small coastal town of Penzance (as in Pirates of...) on the Southwest tip of Cornwall England.  As a very young boy he moved to St. John's Newfoundland, which accounted for his pronounced and very familiar accent.  Of particular interest was a story he told about a distant relative of his who invented the struts for aircraft wings to allow them to deal with the rigors of flight.

"Have you ever seen old footage of biplanes in World War One, where the wings just fall off the plane?  Well, he invented a mechanism that allows the wings a bit of give, sort of how tall buildings are designed to sway under heavy wind instead of falling down.  His invention is in every modern aircraft flying today."

It's interesting people and stories like this that made driving for the Festival so much fun.   

Speaking of connections to Newfoundland perhaps the funniest (not to mention most embarrassing) thing that happened while doing transportation for the Atlantic Film Festival occurred late Wednesday night.  It all started when Jim asked me to go to the Oxford theater Wednesday night to pick up the box office staff.

This usually involved parking by the theater and waiting for the gals to facilitate the "Late Shift" midnight screening, do all the accounting and then extricate themselves from the premises.  This usually took anywhere from thirty to forty minutes.

Eventually box office overseers Meagan Hancock and Tina Prinsenburg emerged from the theater after a long night wrangling the hordes of semi-intoxicated lunatics that showed up for the premiere of Fubar II.  As a side note, I really wanted to be one of those lunatics, but driving duties were paramount in my thoughts that night.   

Plus, I wouldn't have had this story to tell.

Some background info first.  Tina is a model and actress who's appeared in two short films (Serious Miracles in 2005 and Eastern Shore in 2007), the television movie Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys in 2008 and most recently graced an episode of Haven as Susanna Donnelly.  Here's a link to her IMDB page:

Tina asked me to take them back to the hotel so they could make an appearance at the Festival's Hospitality Suite and within minutes I'm arriving at the front of the hotel.  Just as I roll up, I notice two wingnuts hanging out in front of the lobby, standing next to a baggage cart laden down with what appears to be hockey equipment.       

Well, when those van doors popped open and these two strikingly beautiful, well-appointed ladies walked out and sashayed into the lobby, I thought those two clowns were going to have an aneurysm.  There were absolutely no pretensions to civility as they stared slack-jawed at these girls as if they were angels incarnate.

I parked the van and decided to go up to the Transportation office just to see if anything was cooking.  Just before I passed through the sliding doors, these two clowns recognized me as the guy who just hand-delivered the two most beautiful girls they'd ever seen in their lives.  

"Jesus Christ, bucky!" one yelled, completely oblivious to the concept of prudent volume in a public place.  "Was' yer secret?"

Completely taken unawares, I mouthed a clever but mute comeback.  It gave him just enough time to blurt:


All of a sudden I felt a half-dozen set of eyes on me in reaction to the loud and lewd comment.  I muttered an understated "Yeah, guilty as charged" and fled the scene before it could get any more humiliating.

I got back to the office and checked in with Jim briefly.  On the way out three more gals with the Festival recognized me as they emerged from the Hospitality Suite just across the hall.  I can't recall who it might have been that time but I think it may have been Keelin, Sarah and/or Andria looking for a lift back downtown.

Well, who should witness this than none other than the same two hockey-tournament hayseeds I'd encountered earlier?   Confounded by the hotel's "more than one floor" structure they were pushing their encumbered baggage cart aimlessly around in an effort to either find their rooms or troll for more "pieces of gear".

Well, upon seeing me with three other attractive girls any shred of decorum was instantly gone.  Their eyes widened to the size of saucers and they started pushing the cart down the hall like a f$#@%%& bobsled.

"Jesus Christ!" the moron shouted.  "Look at 'dat, Bill!  'Ee got tree more on da go!"

I avoided eye contact and started mashing the elevator down button hoping to God that I could get on it, close the doors and be off before they got to us.  No such luck.  In my haste to escape, I jumped through the first set of open doors, oblivious to the fact that the elevator was going up.  Seconds later, the two yahoos intent on giving my home province a bad name crammed their baggage cart in between the closing doors in a desperate bid to share the close confines with a few more exotic Haligonian hotties.

During the uncomfortable (and inadvertent) trip up, these chuckleheads keep exchanging pervy glances, muttering inappropriate comments and flashing leering smiles.  Unable to stay quiet for more than thirty seconds, the spokesman of the group yells at me:


When we arrived at their appointed level, I hit the "Open" button like the "Fire" controls on a Galaxian arcade console, pried the doors wide and pulled their luggage cart off the elevator like a corpse slab in a morgue.

"ALRIGHT, T'ANKS BUCKY!  'AVE A GOOD NIGHT, 'DERE, MOOSE!" blares the ball cap and mistachioed mutant, winking at me and attempting to nudge me in the ribs while narrowly skipping back from the crush of the elevator doors.  

I sigh in reaction to the sudden welcome calm. That is until one of the girls asked me:

"Why was he calling you 'Moose'?   Is it a nickname?  Do you know him?"

"No," I replied.  "But I know his type."

It's likely that most of the women he's seen in his sad, sheltered, outport-confined existence either resemble Rhea Perlman, Tori Spelling or Ernest Borgnine.

One last epilogue to tell you about.  In addition to bumping into the considerably more respectable fellow Islander Gordon Pinsent in the lobby of the hotel (he was there for a screening of Away From Her that same night) there was one final meeting to tell you about.  That afternoon, when I was hanging out in the Transportation office, a fellow volunteer came up to tell us that Hollywood living legend Mickey Rooney was downstairs!

Unable to resist the pull of curiosity, I ventured down to the lobby and lo and behold, the man himself was sitting alone in an Adirondack chair amidst the beach-themed display set up for the Festival in front of the hotel's pub.  I went back to the office and we collectively pored over the Wikipedia details of his long and storied career.

"What the heck is Mickey Rooney doing sitting alone in the lobby of a Halifax hotel?" I asked.

"He's doing a live performance with his wife Jan here at the Casino!" my fellow volunteer replied.  "It's called 'Let's Put On A Show'.   It's an autobiographical musical with anecdotes, film clips and a tribute to Judy Garland."

Amazing.  Here was a guy who started his vaudeville career at the age of seventeen and appeared in his first film in 1927.  He did no less than two film as recently as 2008, making him one of the longest active actors in Hollywood.  Two days prior to our encounter he'd just celebrated his ninetieth birthday and was still going strong with live performances.  Little wonder his motto is "Don't retire, inspire!"

"Are you going to talk to him?" Jim asked.

"Hells no!" I replied.  "I'm familiar with his career a bit but I don't want to go up to him and act like I know everything."

"I think it would be cool to meet him," Jim lamented.  "But I don't have the guts."

Moments later I was sent out to do a pick up.  Half way across the lobby I spied Mr. Rooney still sititng there and though 'F#@$% it, no guts no glory.  I'm gonna say 'hello' to him.'

I sat down in the chair next to him.  My action was so impromptu I didn't even give my heart an opportunity to start beating like a jackhammer. 

"Mr. Rooney?"

He turned to me and smiled.

"Yes?  What can I do for you?" he replied.

"Mr. Rooney, I couldn't walk by without introducing myself and saying 'Hello'." 

I extended my hand but he winced.  Not the reaction I was hoping for.

"I'm sorry," he said.  "I can't.  I broke my hand recently..."

I felt a wave of regret wash over me.  Oh, God, this was a mistake.  It was time to extricate myself from the scene in case he had a panic button in his pocket with a direct line to security...

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.  I..I just wanted to welcome you to Nova Scotia, say thanks for all the movie memories and wish you a great show tonight.  Take care!"

His already bright demeanor flared and I suddenly found myself in the charismatic aura of a true Hollywood legend.  I could only imagine what stories he could tell.  He smiled warmly and said with some suprise:

"Why thank you!  Thank you very much!"

And with that I was on my way.  Always leave 'em wanting more, I always say. 

Speaking of wanting more, I wish I could have parlayed this volunteer gig into a real job.  Everyone around me keeps insisting that a career in the local film industry is just a pipe dream but in the two weeks spent driving for the Festival I literally met hundreds of people who defied this warning.  The only painful thing is feeling like R2-D2 peeking into Yoda's hut.

So close yet so far away.

I'd like to publicly thank those responsible for such an unforgettable experience.  Specifically Jim, Krista, Gregor, Andrea, Lia, Sarah, Keelin, Tina, Andria, Jodi, Lars, Ann, Meagan, and many more.  I met a lot of cool folks and worked alongside a slew of people that I wouldn't mind having as permanent co-workers. 

I also got a chance to see places in this city I always wanted to see, like the inside of the fabled Halifax Club.  For some reason I went in there expecting to meet Emma Frost and Sabastian Shaw, but I guess this is what happens when you read too many comic books.

I don't know what my personal circumstances will be this time next year, but I'd love to come back in some capacity.  Hopefully I won't be forced to take a step back into employment imprisonment and never be available to do this again.   


Late on my final night I had a surprise re-union with my old "Hobo With A Shotgun" set buddies Andrew and Lauren ("Link provided here for your perusing convenience," Yer Humble Narrator

Turns out Andrew had volunteered with the Festival Box Office along side Tina and Meagan so I drove him home when he needed a lift.  It was pretty slow that evening so I offered to take him and Lauren down to the Closing Night Gala Party which they'd secured tickets for.

During the trip down I asked them what they'd been up to since I'd seen them last.

"Well, we're gonna be doing Picnicface's first feature film 'Rollertown' this weekend..."

"Yeah, I've seen signs for it all around town," I said.  "I went into 'Faces for Film' but I didn't see any posting for it, though."

"That's because 'Hennessey Casting' is doing background for them instead," Lauren piped up.  "I think they're still pretty desperate for people so you may want to check it out."

I dropped them off at the party, wished them goodbye (until next time) and then made a vow to check out that website as soon as I could.

I'm glad I did because mere days later I would find myself on my third film set in six months.

But that is a tale for another time.

EPIC: Man, my past conference calls were never quite like this:

WICKED EPIC:   "Aaaa-oooooo! The Trailer Park Boys in London..."

BEYOND EPIC:  Mickey Rooney...not on "The Twitter". 

FAIL: Donatella Versace...*Shudder


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