The Crush – the Reel story
If I liked puns - I could say I was a crushed success.
I was a stuntman. Okay, I was small but I was ferlexxxibble – I could bend and bounce and do work while pretending to be a teenager or young child which meant I saved the studio LOTS of money. I was young, only just twenty – and I liked the money as well as the excitement.
But that was yesterday. That was before they began to use fake-work, blue-screens, post-production editing, computer-generated images. Yeah – it’s all fake. And don’t get me on whether the ‘true’ stories in the films are ‘not based on any real person or situation’. That’s a lie too.
Hollywood is a fake. It’s a pretence. It’s a sham – but I love it. I loved it then. I love it now.
And then I had to do something I’d never done before. One of my regular jobs for the last few years had been as a stunt double in the television series ‘Mother, watch me’. This was an update of an old series where the mother was always worried what was happening to the kids as soon as they got out of her sight. And were those stories a bunch of hokum and balderdash.
I had been acting as the back-up for three of the kids, Jeff – the rough tough teenager, and for the twins Zack and Judy. They were allegedly 12 years old – even if their actors were both actually fifteen – and as I said, I was just twenty.
But in the last six months since the series closed for the winter break, Judy had become a girl. I mean, she was kinda pretty before but now she was beginning to curve in and out, her hair had suddenly got shiny and glossy. She was real pretty.
And I hadn’t been listening.
The script-writer was talking. “We can all see that Judy’s growing up real quick. Well, the producer thinks that this will be a real opportunity to prove to modern girls that being outdoorsy and suchlike is a great thing to do. Our program does well at giving new ideas to teenagers – and this is kinda big. We’ve been organising tie-ins for advertising links with camping equipment, riding, huntin-shootin-fishin, and all kindsa neat stuff. Wat’yer think about that, Jude-girl.”
“It’s not really what I’m keen on – but on the other hand – it’s new, I know you’ll have some good teachers, there’s a good payroll to go with it, I know you’re all keen to run with this – and if I really get stuck, then my backup pretty-Jerry can do it for me.”
That’s what she called me when I was doing her stunt-work. There was teen-Jerry for Jeff, boy-Jerry for Zach and pretty-Jerry for her. This way we always knew what I was supposed to be doing and we made sure there were no errors on set.
“Gonna be sorta difficult, Miss Judy. You’re not exactly the skinny girl of six months ago. We might have to look a bit harder for a replacement.” - I can’t remember who said that.
And someone else said “No, we can’t do that. Jerry’s part of the team. We know how each other works, how we walk, all of our gestures. It’d take far too long. There’s only 10 episodes for this series anyway. And the wind is saying that if our ratings drop in the slightest – then we’ll be losing our paycheck.”
I won’t say everyone was happy – but we got on with the show. The lines, the rehearsals, the shoots, the re-shoots, the ad-libbing, the fluffs and all the rest of it. We did the main stage shots, the indoor scenes, the on-site otdoor scenes and when we had a good half of the show done except for the actual outdoorsy stuff – we went outdoors.
It was great. We had a block of five weeks to do all the scenes. Tracking dogs, catching fish, falling in rivers, up trees, out of trees, then the riding.
Yep – disaster. Judy did not like horses. Jude-the-tomboy couldn’t even pretend to sit a horse properly. Horses did not like Judy. I was going to have to take her place. And for quite long scenes – and ……. It looked like I was going to have to make a decision.
Then she fell out of the tree, broke her wrist and that was it.
So actually, I was going to have to go along with the decision that had been made – or lose the job – and get a big black mark on my reputation.
Archie, the scriptwriter, made it plain as plain could be. “We’ve shot too much of this to make big changes. Judy has done as much as she can and you’re the stunt back-up and well it means you’re now also the stunt body-double and the outdoor scene body-double and come to think of it, for the next few weeks you’ve got to be Judy. We can’t chop and change everything I every scene so that it’s sometimes her and sometimes you. And as for the advertising - well, that's going to have to be you as Jude can't work with hew wrist in a sling. And we've got this extra tight deadline to get the adverts shot and out. It’d take too long, cost too much in time and money and – the only way it works is for you to do the job properly.”
He paused. “You okay with that, Jerry.”
“Do I have much of a choice?”
“Come to think of it – well of course you d….on’t.” He smirked as he dragged out the last word so that I could hope for a moment he was going to say ‘Of course you DO’.
“Get to the costume girls and see what they can come up with.”
I went. The three girls giggled, sniggered, went into a corner like the three witches and jabbered. Then they came back.
“We can do some of it. You are the one who will make it work. If you’re relaxed and easy-going then it’ll be fine – and you might even enjoy some of it. If you fight – then it’ll show on set and we’ll all be looking foolish.
Annie, the tall blonde smirked. “You do know the tricky bit don’t you …. Judy’s got those cute teenage curves you’ve been admiring.”
“Aw, come on pretty-Jerry. You mean you hoped that nobody had noticed. That’s so neat. But it means we’ve got to give you more or less the same shape too.”
Penny joined in. “We’ve had to think about this for a day or so now – once the rumours started up that you might be, er, encouraged to volunteer. There’s some fantastic shapewear available so we should be able to keep you out of corsets and such except when really necessary.”
If I had blushed before – I was scarlet and beyond by now. I mean, I knew quite a lot about life backstage and what trickeries and manoeuvres went on to make things look real – but this was not for someone else – this was for me.
But I was a paid professional doing a job I loved. I wasn’t paid much. And I didn’t love all of the job. But I had been around actors for a while now. If I couldn’t act enough to make them give me quite a lot of money to get them out of a hole – then I didn’t deserve to be near a camera.
And if I couldn’t bend a little to fit the role – then that was my fault again.
I have to say I did a pretty good job. In fact, being me with the words and all - I'd say I did a great job of being pretty. And that has had its downsides. Like today.
Today was less than comfortable. I was squeezed into my role. I was crushed with this appointment. I was wearing a viciously tight corset, tied to slinky stockings all fitted around a gorgeous multi-layered chiffon and satin prom dress, with a hair-do drifting soft tendrils around my neck and ears and the delicate waft of perfume. Well I was only acting wasn’t I.
But that corset – I could feel it crush all my insides when I sat down in the limousine to take me to the film premiere.
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