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I find myself in a continuous cycle of shooting Tweenager Cable TV Shows for the 8-12 year old set. These mega-hits for the kiddies feature “18 to Look Younger” Stars posing as Sweet Sixteen. Liars! News Flash…these Fresh Faced Youth are surrounded by Extras who are as old as the hills. I just worked with a gal still doing this and she’s 34. She pulls her blond hair back into a pony tail, no make-up, wears a hoodie and a backpack & carries an old-school 3-ring binder. Voilà she’s Younger than Springtime…and she gets away with it.

No I’m not in that age-range anymore, thanks for asking. Those days left me while I was dancing in the Malt Shop on WHAT’S HAPPENING around 1976 when someone tactlessly pointed out in a Dressing Room, my rapidly expanding Bald Spot. Like I didn’t already know I was long in the tooth at 21 (my speciality was “Best Friend”). Goodbye playing High Schoolers for Johnny Extra and Hello to being on Hold for 30 years waiting to get back to the glamorous life I lead now. And yes you heard me right… let the record show I danced in a Malt Shop on-camera 25 years after Annette Funicello did it as a Mouseketeer. Top that.

I was just shooting a Tween Show about young, cute Skater Boyz (aren’t they all?) This one revolved around Professional Wrestling. The Boyz make a bet they can do anything and end up in the Ring…uh oh high-jinks await. Picture me being paid to sit in an Arena with 150 of my closest Extra pals on benches watching highly choreographed comic Hulk Hoganish-like routines that begin and end with guys being hit with folding chairs and leaping off ropes onto ex-football players tummies. Everyone screaming “Banzai!” I thought it was funny and laughed all day. Many other Background Performers (we’ll call them The Negatives) never stopped complaining about the usual (“Gee I could do that” “Why don’t they upgrade me with a line” “Do we have to stay here all day?” “when do we eat?).   Repeat after me…boring. It’s like they wandered in off the street.  What part of being paid to follow instructions and get to be on TV and the Movies do these people not understand when they sign up for this stuff? Excuse me for loving it but there goes a guy dressed like Nacho Libre swinging someone from their legs and letting them fly into the audience where the stunt guys are sitting. Ooops! Tee hee! Fun. Take Two please…
Plus several of the guest stars are actual real life famous Wrestlers that I’ve never heard of but all the Younger Extras seem very impressed with. Oh, and love seeing the gents in those tighty costumes. Hello.

I’m also a regular Extra on another Tween Show where the Mom is played by an Ex-Brat Packer from the 80s (I’m still here & so is she). Guess what her 16-year-old fake son (he’s really 18) plays? A cute Skater Boy! Do I hear a theme? All the kids on the show are squeaky clean while film is rolling and have the mouths of sailors off-camera. We often shoot on a Back Lot Your-Small-Town-Street and they hire real Children as Extras for brief scenes (with Professional Teachers to watch over them).  I walked my dog Lucky in an episode of this show (Doggie Bump…more money) and a 10 year old Girl Extra made inappropriate loud fart noises every time “ACTION” was called. Charming. She was just imitating the leads. Her timing was perfect and she had everyone in our area breaking up during every shot. Luckily we were all at the end of the street scene and no one noticed. Can’t wait to see these kids when they are all grown up dressed in white gloves with dainty manners for Cotillion. What do you mean I am out-of-touch?

My latest Tween Show is about a High School Girls Sports Team fighting to remain #1.  None of the leads are under 25 and they all smoke like stacks the second someone yells “Cut!”  Several of them have babies that their unemployed Hubbies watch during production.  Nothing like seeing Mom smoking & grabbing Baby during breaks to inspire our young viewers.  The real laughs on this set happen when the Production Photographer walks by.  Hide the Baby and ditch that smoke!

5 Responses to “Tween Time”

  1. Kami says:

    HA HA! Another great read, John! Wish I could have been there with you to counteract some of those negatives. By the way, “What’s Happening” was one of my FAVORITE shows back in the day. I’m so jealous that you got to hang out at Rob’s Place! 🙂 Okay, I’m off to a make-believe island for some tween time of my own. Miss you! Big hugs!

  2. Babies! Smoking! Swearing like sailors! What’s happening to our Fake Youth?! Another wonderful blog by my hilarious bro’: Mr. John Starr. That’s two r’s people! Get it right!

  3. Dick Baldwin says:

    wonderful. you really capture what’s going on! hilarity! so much it hurts!

  4. Ben Estrella says:

    Very good, johnboy!

  5. Nancy says:

    So glad you are really making a living at this!

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