Today I worked as an extra on a new TV series which will appear on AMC starting June 4. As usual, when doing background work, I have no idea when this episode will air. The series is about some MADison Avenue advertising executives in 1959-60. The particular scene shot today in which I might be seen, was set in a New York "Tea Room" in 1959. I was simply a patron.
One of the things that I always marvel at is the detail productions take in dressing the extras. Since the stories take place nearly 50 years ago, we were not asked to wear our own clothing. Last week, I went to a costume warehouse in North Hollywood. As it turned out, they could not fit my body and simply took measurements. However, they did give me a haircut; one that was shorter than any I have had in a very long time. And, they are paying me for that haircut although the AD who was handling the paperwork wasn't sure how much the "hair bump" would be. I'll find out when the check arrived. When I arrived at LA Center Studios today, they did have 2 suits for me. The one that had a jacket that fit had pants that were about 4 inches too large in the waist. It's amazing what a good costumer can do with a pair of suspenders and a few tucks and folds here and there. Once garbed, we had to go for make-up and a hair check. Much to my chagrin, more was trimmed on the sides and both gel and hairspray was used to give me a 1959 look. The final product is pictured below:
I'm not sure where the "funny tooth" look came from but a colleague did snap the picture for me on my cell phone. Oh well, I was supposed to look "period," not handsome and appealing. Actually, the work on my hair brought back some long buried memories. In the mid-'50s, I would slather my hair with Wild Root Cream Oil (hear one of their old commercials here). The true test of whether you used enough was to run a comb through your hair. If it came away with a layer of white oil, you were okay. And, Wild Root really was much better than Brylcreme. There were other hair memories too. During the '50s I had a number of hair "styles." There was the DA, the DT, the New Yorker. (I'll let readers guess if they want too and perhaps reveal the correct answers in response to a comment.)
Other thoughts from that time, especially 1960. I was active in local Democratic Party politics. My oldest brother, Jerry had run (and lost) a state legislative race but ended up as head of the Criminal Division of the Michigan Attorney General's Office. The summer of 1960 I was a field organizer for Dick VanderVeen, from Grand Rapids, who ended up losing the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. Later he ended up in Congress, winning the seat Gerald Ford vacated when he became Vice-President. During the presidential primary season that year, I attended rallies and lined up to shake the hands of John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Estes Kefauver. My Congressman in 1960, representing the 15th District of Michigan, was a young man named John Dingell. He's still in the House of Representatives. My father used to tell people that he was a Republican although it was hard to tell when he ever voted for a republican candidate. Dingell, who knew dad, commented to me one day at a campaign meeting, "For a guy who claims to be a Republican, I wish we had more people like Bill Cohen in the Democratic Party." Then, a couple of years later, after the decennial redistricting, Dingell's chief legislative aide ran and was elected from the neighboring district. John Conyers also is still a member of Congress.
It sure is strange what memories can be dredged up just by working one day as an extra on a new TV series.