Sunday, September 02, 2007

Clutching the coattails—er, shoestraps—of stardom

One neat thing ("nice" or "cool" would be too strong..."neat" seems right) about living in Nashville is that celebrity is always just around the corner. I don’t mean “celebrities are just around the corner” in “I ran into Donna Summer at the end of the cookie aisle at Kroger"...or “hey, turn left on Belcourt, I think that’s Leann Rimes”…which, come to think of it, would represent an equally valid interpretation of my statement. I mean there are so many things going on that the odds are pretty good that you could get at least a toe into the outer edge of that small “holy ground” illuminated by the spotlight of national—nay, international—exposure. As long as this meets your criteria for “celebrity,” you can find plenty of opportunities with very little effort, and often not even an admission charge.

Case in point: I ended up looking at the myspace site of country artist Lauren Lucas (through some series of connections I can’t remember, but she & I have mutual friends so it wasn’t even a six-degree separation; more like one or two). She had a major label deal and is now an indie (common story; label people often treat artists like fish: “catch and release”). I’d heard of her but not heard her. I found out she was shooting a video at a local club on Friday afternoon, and needed extras. I put it on my calendar as a tentative, and when the time came on Friday I decided not to go. Then, I decided, what the heck, I’ll go; I could use some music networking, or at least some time outside the apartment (the site of my ongoing cabinet painting project—more on that later), interacting with real people. I knew I’d see my friend and fellow music fan John there; his dedication to the singer/songwriters in this town (especially the attractive female ones) is admirable.

So as a result of that decision, my visage is a semi-prominent feature of some footage of the video for her song “If I Was Your Girl.” Guess not as many people were available as she and her crew had counted on (read those myspace blogs, people!) and when I arrived there were just a few of us standing around watching her and her band lip-synch (and drum-synch, and steel-guitar-synch, etc.) the song while the cameraman captured the scene. He shot several playbacks (that’s a production term, y’all) while being pulled back and forth in front of the 12th & Porter stage on a cart by a petite but apparently sturdy young woman (yes, that’s a compliment).

Then it was our turn. They asked us to bunch up in front of the stage, and shot footage over our shoulders, then shot the whole thing from our left side, then down over her shoulder. This picture, taken by Cari Parker, photog-turned-extra, was pretty much my view during the takes, only there was less smiling and more intense earnestness. Tough work. I got the feeling Lauren was a tad self-conscious about the whole thing (as pretending to sing a song in a club in the afternoon to a handful of people you’re pretending are part of a crowd tends to be), especially with all the close-up eye contact that was going on. She was doing the sweep-the-crowd technique. I hadn’t met her before but cracked a few jokes between takes to ease the tension, as we were all doing, telling her she had my permission to sing directly to me, etc. “Acting!” I started to offer the suggestion that she sing a whole line before moving her eyes to look at the next person for better dramatic effect, but I thought it would be better if I stuck to my role as “fan swaying and nodding slightly to the music.”

I introduced myself to Lauren during a break, and she couldn’t have been nicer. Even gave me a hug when they cut us loose. (I know what you’re thinking, but she’s taken—by a musician who’s originally from South Africa, as I discovered, coincidentally enough. God bless ‘em both-—He clearly has already).

If my face makes the final cut, and the video makes it to the public in any form whatsoever (no guarantees of either), I’ll naturally deny credit for its success, and won’t be hurt if she doesn’t mention me personally at the CMT video awards; just knowing I helped…will be enough.

All right, Mr. De Mille. I'm ready for my close-up!

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