“Rainy Day Clown awaits croissant”
File Under: ‘Dry Spell Over’. Unexpected call Friday afternoon … “Hi is this John Starr? This is so-and-so from so-and-so casting.” “Yes, I’m John.” “Are you free Sunday to shoot a National Commercial as a Principal Clown?” I wanted to say “Let me check my schedule” instead I gulp out loud when he mentions how much my daily rate will be & wisely respond “Why yes, thank you.” I had applied on-line 10 months ago & had been put on “hold” to possibly work & then weeks later was told that the ad campaign was pushed back. Way back. Evidently I was still on hold. We hang up & it hits me I have just booked my first National Commercial in over 30 years as an Principal Actor (not an Extra folks). In 1977 I was cast in a McDonalds spot where I introduced their Hash Browns in their “Guess the weight of the 50 pound Hash Brown” contest. I got to say “You know, like who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” Also in the late 70’s I had 3 call-backs to play Ronald McDonald (yep). I’ve waited quite a while to get another Commercial & now to book as a Clown to boot. Would you like some Hash Browns with that?
4am wake-up/8am call-time arriving in full make-up, wig & costume (did I mention it is pouring rain?). Picture blowing-up, & packing my bag with, 50 balloons (& yes drawing the usual smiley cartoon faces on each one… & doing it at 4:45am while your eyebrows & goatee are air-drying after being Ivory “soaped out”. It helps the clown-white stay on. Duh). What a difference the cool weather makes. My face melted 3 times this past mid-summer on sweltering valley outdoor film locations. Then it was hot-mess-clown calling. But today it is cold & I have triple corn starch powdered down using a sock instead of puff (an old Ringling Bros trick taught me by a 40 year retired Circus Clown). So much cheaper & better than store-bought face powders. Such a deal for Clowny. Say it with me “Johnny uses cheap powder. Johnny uses cheap powder.” Okay now stop.
Get this, the TV male star of this ad is married to a star who I work with regularly as an Extra on her show. But her husband star knows me today only as “Johnny the Clown”. I want to maturely taunt him. I know your wifey. I know your wifey. Instead I keep my little secret. Hee hee. We’re at yet another converted warehouse studio with standing sets for 2 jails, 2 courthouses & a large futuristic fake corporate office. I once died here (17 takes) on a TV drama & was also on a fake jury for another series. Your Honor I shouldn’t mix in! Usually the Extras working here park miles away at a Korean tented Church (really) & get people-moved by vans. Not today for Mister arrives 50 minutes early in the rain for his Sunday 8am call-time. That would be the guy eating the delicious sausage egg cheese croissant under the catering tent. The same guy not dressed like the crew pretending not to notice the Clown in their midst. Then someone starts taking a cell phone picture & everyone joins in. No one asks me to make a pink poodle for their daughter until after 9am (appreciate the warm-up time gents, you’re very kind). I start working early with a professional still photographer before my scene is up. This might be in a magazine too. Flash. Flash. It feels like I am a model (okay a clown model true, never-the-less it is like a Vogue Cover shoot. Is too). I make him a doggy on-camera who I pantomime biting me on the neck. The photog laughs too loud & the Director yells far away from the set to pipe down. Whoops I am too delightful. Sorry, Director. Wardrobe tells me how grateful they are I came with my own costume. My new red satin stripper gloves I bought on Hollywood Blvd at a drag shop are a hit for some reason & people keep mentioning them. I cut the fingers out to help twist balloons. I am treated all day like a Professional TV Clown & all the other Actors talk to me. I never have a chance to talk to the Extras until I sign out. They have no idea I am really an Extra too. I don’t tell them. I decide to live with the guilt. I am the only Actor to talk to the Extras today. Just saying…
On “Action!” I walk into an office & hand the star a manila envelope after he mentions working with a bunch of clowns. It gets a bigger laugh when an Executive Producer suggests a close-shot with just my arm quickly handing over the package. Bam. Someone behind camera comments that my red gloves look amazing. Oh, I get it. Only my arm may be seen in the final cut. Waah. But I will be paid no matter what & who knows about residuals if it airs for a while. Great potential & a wonderful credit. This is a big deal. Johnny Actor strikes again. And because it is cold, my make-up looks great all day until I get home and scrub-a-dub-dub. Corn starch. You’re welcome.
You’re asking who the star is and why can’t I tell you the product? That’s fair. Hey have you heard about the ‘confidentiality agreement’ every one’s being forced to sign these days? Know why? Here’s the scoop. Over the summer some non-union 18 to-look-younger bumpkin tweeted the episode finale plot point about a high school show that the teens adore. Spoiler Alert: oh wait I don’t care. What? Because that rube stupidly tweet tweets, everyone now has to sign these non-disclosure statements repeatedly including big-shot Actors such as myself today. Oh really? Fine. You can’t know that my colorful clown arm delivers a sight gag for a very big famous product that you guys with money all have. Fine. Lips sealed. Happy now?
Monday morning I call the head of my Agency & request not to have to wait another 30 years. Please. Hold this.