If you’ve read my past blogs you know I am a tremendous fan of the music of Artie Shaw. In my opinion, he was the finest clarinetist of the big band era, better than Benny Goodman (though I have friends who would debate me on that point). Unfortunately, he had a mercurial personality, and he was prone to quit when things were going well. If there is a better band than his 1938-1939 band, I am unaware of it. Yet Shaw walked out on this successful band, moving briefly to Mexico, only to return in less than a year to form yet another band, which provided music for the Burns and Allen Show on the radio. His inability to stick with a good thing cut into his income: he didn’t record and tour as frequently as he could have had he stuck with one band.
By the same token, he appeared to have trouble making commitments in his personal life. That is, I suppose, the kindest way to introduce the fact that he was married eight times. Two marriages were annulled, and six ended in divorce. Among his ex-wives are four movie stars (Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Doris Dowling, and Evelyn Keys), the daughter of a song writer (Betty Kern, daughter of the magnificent Jerome Kern), and an author (Kathleen Winsor, who wrote Forever Amber). Of course, my favorite of the ex-wives has to be Ava Gardner. She was born near Smithfield, NC, the town in which I was born, and is buried there. She was married only three times (Mickey Rooney, Shaw, and Frank Sinatra).
Between the demise of my first marriage and the beginning of my second is a stretch of time, approximately 12 years, in which I returned to the dark and dismal days of my youth, and found myself dating again. I have to say that dating was a good bit easier the second time around, if for no other reason than the fact that I didn’t have to worry about pimples. The women I met during that time were absolutely first rate. We were no longer teenagers, we had experienced a bit of life, most of us knew what not to look for in a relationship (and perhaps even a few knew what they wanted in a relationship), and best of all, we had more disposable income than we had during our teenage years. Generally speaking, we had a grand old time.
I dated women from a wide variety of occupations (including one world record holder in long distance running). The one occupation that eluded me was that of movie star. That is, it eluded me until just recently.
For some reason, Georgia has become a desired location for the movie industry, and our little town of Madison, along with neighboring towns of Rutledge, Covington, and Conyers, have had our share of movies filmed here. A retired friend of mine has, for several years now, been avoiding boredom by serving as an extra in movies. I have seen him in several movies, including Selma and the relatively recent Hidden Figures. We had lunch with him the other day, and our conversation turned to his “acting” career, for reasons that will soon become apparent. He has been in so many movies that he lost count. He has not seen all the movies he has been in, and in conversation admitted that he couldn’t remember the names of some of them. The pay isn’t great for an extra, but the food is fantastic. His worst experience, he noted, was a 17 hours work day in Covington, due to delays caused by a storm. There was only one meal provided, because the caterer hadn’t planned on that long a day.
Some years ago he put Kathy in touch with the people who provide extras for movies in the area, and soon enough Kathy was called to the big screen. Her first experience was in the movie Pitch Perfect 3. She spent her day on the set of the French market scene. She was mighty excited about the day, and of course, we had to go out and get Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, which, unfortunately, turned out to be musicals. I do not like musicals. A couple of years ago, when it finally reached the theaters, we had to go see it. It was, surprise surprise, a musical. At any rate, we gave the French market scene our full, undivided attention. I did not see Kathy, and Kathy did not see Kathy, on the big screen. A few months later I saw the DVD in Wal Mart, bought it, and scanned it frame by frame. No Kathy. She was left on the cutting room floor.
Two or three years ago a production company made a movie entitled St. Agatha. The filming was done in Madison and Rutledge, with some post-location filming in a studio in Los Angeles, or Hollywood, or somewhere on the left coast. Kathy was once again called to the big screen, and once again we made a mental note to look for the movie in the theater.
It never made it to a theater near us. I never saw the DVD in Wal Mart.
The other day it occurred to me that we had not seen this movie, so I searched the streaming services, and found it for rent on two of them. Unfortunately, the movie was a horror film, and Kathy ends up with sleepless nights after viewing horror films, so she didn’t watch the movie. (She has missed so many excellent Hitchcock movies!) I watched it, and sure enough, about 35 minutes into the movie, she is there, unmistakably, on the screen during the Funeral scene. About 10 minutes later in the film, our friend, the old hand at being an extra, occupied center stage.
I went to bed last night, and for the first time, found myself sleeping with a Movie Star!