Tales of Retirement in Paradise
|Chapter 8: They'll Make You A Star|
Polly G. Vicars
The call was out! They needed young beautiful girls to work as extras in a new TV series being shot right here in Puerto Vallarta. Since I qualified only in the girl category - and that in the broadest sense of the word - I didn't give it a second thought. But soon an episode came along that required attributes that were right up my alley. This new call was for "age enhanced" people to play retired CIA agents living in a safe house.
|Joe Baker and Amanda Hill Wood, British actors, who welcomed us to the cast as if we were veterans.|
|One of the "Hunks" and a super guy!|
|Brother, AKA Harry Greenberger, who despite his caustic remarks, is very dear to Husband and me.|
Why Friend Casting Director (Laura Cardenas, who now does all those fabulous weddings for folks who want to be married in Paradise) thought of Husband and me, I really don't understand, but she did. After intense contract negotiations we got what they paid to all extras - bathing beauties or worn out school teachers - a straight $25.00 a day, and we signed on for what turned out to be another adventure.
There were six of us ex-agents; some were already our friends, and some became friends on the set. We had to be on location at 7 o'clock each morning for costume checks and makeup. Since we were a part of the ongoing story and would be working three to four days, we felt and were treated quite special, not just as one of the crowd of extras. We had no lines, but we were in lots of scenes and strutted our stuff for posterity and any talent scouts who might be watching the show.
The star of the regular cast was Catherine Oxenberg, a beautiful English actress (you may remember when she portrayed Princess Di) who was surrounded and supported by a group of absolute hunks, including the fabulous Fabio.
Unfortunately, Fabio wasn't in this episode, so I missed out on that eye feast. But I couldn't complain! I was acting (?), eating lunch, chatting and flirting (just a little) with some of the best looking (and nicest) young guys you'd ever meet.
Don't think Husband was pouting in the background. The starlets thought he was, "s-o-ooo cute!" He also caught the eye of the director, and when they needed someone for a little larger part, he went directly to Husband. So Husband got to play in several long scenes with British guest stars, Joe Baker and Amanda Hill Wood.
Both were charming and welcomed us to the cast as if we were veteran actors. Joe was said to be "the funniest man on any London stage," and he kept us in stitches with his dry humor and subtle British jokes. Amanda's superb acting, along with her enthusiasm for our adopted home of Puerto Vallarta, earned her our stamp of approval.
We worked long hours, sometimes not hearing "That's a wrap," until well after dark, but we shared a camaraderie with the professionals and came to really appreciate all that goes into making those shows (even the bad ones) we so casually watch.
Most of the crew was from M้xico City and had previously worked together on "Tarzan," so they performed like the proverbial well-oiled machine. They took and anticipated directions with lightening speed - more lights - change that angle - get that chair out of there - where are the flowers? All directions were fulfilled as if a magic wand had been waved.
One scene was particularly hard for everyone. Famed English director Sidney Hayes was striving for high action with maximum realism. We, the over-the-hillers, were hiding out in a safe house in Puerto Vallarta because there were "hits" out on all of us from previous capers. A dangerous leak had developed which not only put us in jeopardy, but the current agents as well. The job of all those gorgeous lads, lead by Oxenburg, was to find that leak.
In this scene, shot on location at Vallarta's state-of-the-art marina, we were waiting to cross a busy street during our daily walk, when out of the bushes jumped an assassin who brutally pushed one of us (played by a professional stunt man) into the path of an oncoming car.
We rehearsed this over and over. On cue the assassin would give the push, the victim would stumble into the street, the car would come to a screeching halt. Hayes would call, "Cut!" and give more directions. Then we'd try it again. The Assassin was pushing too hard, too early, too late. We were not in the right positions, the car was coming too fast, too slow. After Take Fifteen, we went through it all again.
"Action!" In Amanda's charge, we old-timers, including Joe, started briskly down the sidewalk. At the cross street, we paused, looking each way, and like a shot out of hell the assassin pushed Stunt Man into the path of the speeding car.
WHAM! BAM! CRASH! The car hit Stunt Man, throwing him up on the hood, shattering the windshield into a million pieces, then tossing him to the pavement. We all screamed and jumped ten feet in the air. We rushed, with Husband in the lead, to Stunt Man to see if we could help. We were sure he was dead! Hayes called, "Cut! That's a wrap!" and the scene was done - with enough high action and realism for anyone, especially the extras!
Stunt Man rose, dusted himself off, removed the padding from his arms and body, and sauntered to his trailer. What a way to make a living! Amanda, who later turned out to be the villainess in the piece, herded us back to the safe house where we began rehearsing for the next scene.
From then on, whenever they needed "mature" actors, Casting Director called on us. In one episode, I was sent home early as they had no more need for a little old lady; they needed a dashing, debonair judge for an international chess tournament.
They chose Husband, who personified the part. They dressed him in a stylish tuxedo that, luckily, they furnished, as we have few black tie occasions here. In fact, we practically never have any kind of tie occasion. Husband thinks he is going formal when he wears socks and long pants. (That has not changed!)
Husband portrayed the chess judge like a pro. He did some real acting, obviously to the satisfaction of the Director, as he didn't end up on the cutting room floor. The show was in syndication and played in various cities around the world at different times and on different stations.
We alerted our friends to watch for us. Few did, however since in most cities it came on very late at night. One night, Brother, who had been so sympathetic about my travail with the cut finger, did witness our debuts.
He had fallen asleep watching his big screen TV. Something woke him; he looked up just as we were parading across the screen. He called the next day to tell us not to give up the day jobs! (He need not have given us those instructions, as when the next show was being filmed here in Vallarta, no calls came for us! But when people ask us what did, we can always say we were "in television!")
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
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