|* Whew! Just got in from a VERY difficult but fun day of shooting HBO’s Deadwood series. Sorry the pix are so blurry, my little digital camera is giving out on us!
* “Deadwood” is a show on HBO set in the dirty, hardscrabble frontier of Montana in 1876. It was a rather long drive out to the set, on Melody Ranch. I actually had to cross a creek bed and I passed several horses along the way. Because of the attention to detail on this show, this was probably the most immersed I’ve ever been in a production. The set was amazing… an actual frontier town, down to the last small detail. The omnipresent dirt and stink of a time before washing machines and cleaning products, the rough hewn wood of a time before electric and gas powertools. And the costumes! There were no zippers, no elastic, no plastic, no synthetics. I wore billowy cotton bloomers (real bloomersâ€šÃ„Ã®not just the loose granny undies we jokingly call “bloomers” today), no brassiere, a light cotton undershirt (with no overshirt, since I was playing a hook), non-elastic stockings held up by non-elastic garters, a petticoat (more like a slip since it had no frills), and then a beautiful, full, billowy ankle-length skirt with black-trimmed white ruffles. Holding it all together was a black corset two inches too small for me, laced tight as heck by the wardrobe girls. For makeup, the boys got liberally dirtied up with oil, grease and filth on their faces, hands and hair. I got the no-makeup treatment, and to my horror they added billions of little pencil strokes to my eyebrows to make them look bushy and natural. Some vaseline on my lips and I was done. My hair was fairly elaborate compared to my usual ponytail, consisting of curls, ringlets and an updo portion on my crown.
* I played one of the Bella Union ‘aloon girls’, who are the “higher class” prostitutes in town. I’ve told CAA and Elite that I am not interested in prostitute roles a million times, but since I am a client of neither agency, these protests fell on deaf ears. (seriously, I have said a million times that I’m sick of transgendered prosty roles on TV and in films, but I wasn’t playing a transgendered person) The lower class girls worked at the “Gem”. According to notes, the Bella Union girls are actually treated pretty well for frontier hooksâ€šÃ„Ã®we get three doctor visits a week and are provided with “lubricants” as part of our pay. I didn’t enquire any further into the perks of working at the Bella, as the idea of what “frontier lubricants” might be was kinda off-putting.
|* So, first of all, I was in my tight authentic corset and hobnail boots for sixteen hours straight. Walking around in an authentic wild west town in the rain, which means narrow dirt streets chopped into lakes of mud by horses and big bearded dudes in cowboy boots. Trying to keep gallons of ankle-length white petticoat/skirts from dragging in the muck while shielding my elaborate hairdo. Oh, and did I mention I was playing a whore, so after picking my way through the town to get to the Bella Union saloon, I was molested take after take by various filthy miners and assorted frontier rabble? I thought I looked a little too much like Harriet Oleson for comfort, but the men playing Deadwood citizens had a great deal of difficulty understanding that the Bella girls were actresses playing hooks, not actual hooks. The patrons of Bella Union, and for that matter most every man in Deadwood other than the few attractive male leads, were old, grizzled, rough, dirty bears with bushy unkempt beards and stringy long hair. Most everyone had been sweating all day due to the lights and general work, so most everyone smelled pretty bad in addition to their appearances. And did I mention that most of them had a hard time understanding the difference between actresses and whores? Well, actually a lot of people have a hard time telling the difference there, but nonetheless I was unhappy at the super-aggressive groping that took place each time they yelled “action”, and at one point a kind AD who noticed my attempts to steer rough hands away from my delicate satin skin gave the aggressor a talkin’ to.
* I made several friends and all the Bella girls ended up having fun, laughing and huddling up for warmth between takes in the Bella Union Saloon as the night deepened and the air cooled. There were actually about two cute guys working with us, too, which gave us something to toy with during the looooong periods between each shot as cameras and lights were reset to new positions. Once night had fallen, I began to recognize a feeling that I had had beforeâ€šÃ„Ã®being around human activity in an otherwise dark, outdoorsy place without electricity, I felt the same sensation of primal sensitivity that came when I went camping and watched everyone bustling out cooking gear and supplies to gather round the campfire in an otherwise wild environment. In the streets of Deadwood, the lined and dirty faces of the miners were weirdly outlined in the tallowy light from the hand lanterns and torches they carried. The jingling of the horses bridles tinked away into a deep forest silence just outside the single rows of buildings that lined the simple street. The only light at all came from sources of fire, reflecting in the perilous mud puddles and darkened, quiet windows. It was easy for me to ignore the cameras and electric lights inside the Bella Union and get lost in the very realistic scenery outside. It was magical to imagine what life would have been like, and what kind of person I would have been, if I lived in that time.
|* Overall, it was a fun but intensely exhausting day, and as my discomfort increased, I could not wait to get out of my corset and back home into a warm, soft bed surrounded by electricity, running water and modern conveniences. At almost exactly the sixteen-hour mark I was wrapped and rushed away into the night to zip the accoutrements of 19th Century Me into a garment bag in the wardrobe house and begin the long drive home. Ahh, time travel! Chalk it up to another day in the life of Calpernia…|
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