My preacher started a sermon series entitled “Extras” last Sunday based on the truth that we’re really just grains of sand in the whole scheme of things.
We’re extras on the movie lot. Not the star.
Made me think of the time I was driving back home with some friends one Sunday night after a weekend trip. We drove through Archer City, a place made famous by Larry McMurtry’s novel, The Last Picture Show, made into an Academy Award winning movie in 1971.
But it was famous to me because my grandparents had lived there.
As I was driving through town I noticed a whole lot of commotion at the Dairy Queen.
I knew they were filming the sequel Texasvillethere because my high school drama teacher had been cast as the local Baptist preacher, the Reverend G.G.
About the time we drove up, everybody started leaving, so we followed them.
Straight to the rodeo grounds.
Where they were filming a scene with extras who were paid to be there and didn’t want three 20-somethings horning in on their chance at stardom.
But I found some old people who remembered my grandparents and they let us walk right on through.
We sat down in the stands and waited.
Just as we were starting to complain about being cold and hungry, they appeared.
Peter Bogdanovich, the director.
With actresses Cloris Leachman and Eileen Brennan.
And they headed right toward our section.
They were seated two rows in front of us. At this point I could hardly breathe. After all, these women had played in Young Frankenstein and The Sting.
Bogdanovich stood with his arms folded, one hand over his mouth, studying the crowd.
“You two,” he said, and motioned for the two women sitting in front of us to move to the side.
Then he stared straight at us and motioned for my friends and me to come down and sit on the row directly behind the two actresses.
When we sat down Eileen Brennan turned around – the same woman who had ordered Goldie Hawn to scrub a latrine with a toothbrush in Private Benjamin – and said “hi.”
The scene called for us to pretend we were watching a special ceremony at the rodeo.
They gave us boxes of popcorn and plenty of M&Ms and Coke, so we were happy, even though the late night air was chilly.
Before the night was over I’d been directed by Peter Bogdanovich and shared M&Ms with a woman whose lips had touched Paul Newman’s.
All you see of me in the movie is my torso, from my knees to my neck.
For just an instant.
But the Director was very much aware of me. He called me out. To be a backdrop for the Star.