I HEARD THAT Salt Lake's very own hit TV show, "Touched by an Angel," needed extras. So I called Take One Casting - and Take One Casting called back. I was to report the next day at 5.
"Just see me when you get there, I'm Liz," the woman from Take One said, giving me directions to the "shoot" at the vacant hospital on 2500 South and State."What's your last name?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't give that out."
All right! I was in show business.
I was cast as a newspaper delivery man. Do these people know their business or what? My job was to load a stack of newspapers - the "New York Examiner" - into a paper-box outside the hospital entrance. The box was rigged to not close properly, so that as I walked away the star of the episode, an actor named Maury Sterling, could come on the scene and, realizing he could get a paper for free, reach in and grab one.
Then the angel, Roma Downey, appears out of nowhere and says, "That'll be 50 cents."
I could tell you what happens next, but the code of the crew prevents it. Just tune into the Sunday, Oct. 18, episode, "I Do," starring Roma, Maury, Della Reese, and special guest stars Patty Duke, who plays a control freak mother, and, ahem, me.
We took about 10 takes to get the paper-box scene right. Victor, the director, kept yelling "action," followed quickly by "cut!"
Then all of us would strike the star pose and get this exasperated "You jerk, what was wrong with that!" expression, looking a lot like John Stockton after being called for a foul.
Actually, I just stood there, hoping it wasn't me who screwed up. Granted, there was almost no conceivable way to screw up, but I knew I had it in me.
My co-stars did make it easier. Just before our first rehearsal, Roma came up to me, stuck out her hand, and said very warmly, "Hi."
Yes, I was touched by an angel.
The life of an extra is not all hanging out with big stars, however. Mostly it's just hanging out.
Sure, you've got to have your hopes, your goals of grandeur, your dreams, and that "certain something" to make it. You also have to have patience and a good appetite.
Most of the time is spent in the big "extras" waiting room - where you meet all sorts of interesting people, such as Gillian the energy healer who told me my mind isn't connected to my heart, and Jerry and Elaine Bettridge, who work shifts at The Poppin' Stop, their popcorn store in the Layton Mall, by day, and turn into movie extras by night.
And where you have access to the well-stocked food cart.
Film people take pride in providing first-class catering, so they're always loading up the food cart and encouraging you to enjoy, although the lady in charge of the food did come in once and chew us extras out, no pun intended, for partaking off the crew's cart. "Eat off your own cart," she said.
To do the actual scene, wardrobe gave me a jacket to wear that looked a lot like the one David Janssen used to wear in "The Fugitive." Judging by the background check and proof of citizenship required before they gave me the jacket, it very well could have been the same one. Imagining that helped me get into the part; and give it a certain furtiveness.
I thought it went well.
As soon as it was a "wrap," in came a huge spread of Chinese food. "Have an egg roll," said one of the crew. I looked around. The cart lady was gone. So I did.
Afterward, my new TV friends, the Bettridges, who had posed as hospital visitors during the paper-box scene, congratulated me on my fine performance, and I them.
"What I thought was neat," said Elaine, "was that the newspaper man was the newspaper man."
Well, for starters.