Almost Famous


I grew up in a John Hughes movie.  In fact, our name is Hughes. So… you know. We were all midwestern, sleepy, sub-urban lawns, teen eyes rolling like melonballs at church potlucks and fourth of july parades.  And rainbow legwarmers. Lots of legwarmers.  Some times I still feel like I’m in a movie. Like that time I WAS almost in a movie.  Well, almost…

In 1996, I dove back into the Hughes-haze after my first year at college on the west coast.  Barefoot, fringe-skirted, my head bloated with polemics, I lofted home.  Ha.  Who needs frequent flyer miles when you’ve got big ideas?  My parents owned a duplex in downtown Milwaukee.  Their house had been a beer mansion, in the city’s heyday, but got chopped up to make the mortgage possible by renting part out.  Still, it was nice.  So, when a big baseball movie came to town, my parents’ lake-front spot was appealing.  They netted the producer in the other half of their house; their neighbors got actors, grips, and so on.  And the city went all Hollywood nuts. 

O.K.  Admit it.  Everyone is shit talking if they won’t admit how exciting the making of a Hollywood movie is.  But Hollywood.  In Milwaukee. Fully cerebral-fluid poisoned, I was not amused.  I was reading Neitsche.  I took classes in Freudian interpretation of folklore.  I’d become a feminist.  I was very busy. 

All around me my parents, my brother, my friends swirled and buzzed about the Hollywood sets, the night time bar scenes, and their positions as extras in the stadium audience.  The biggest social scene that summer was just hanging outside the production.  My highly persuasive brother landed an internship as assistant back stage.  My mother prattled about the producer’s guests and how late they stayed.  My dear friend Katie would arrive at all hours, but never seemed to leave her pumps and lipstick at home.  In fact every quaint, sincere thing about my upbringing, that I bragged about at college was called into question that summer.  I rolled my eyes a lot and went about my business.  

Until… one night when the whole city seemed to have gone to sleep except for the set for Major League.  Katie came by, all cleavage and legs and this time she would not take “no.”  Being the producers landlord, I had a sliver of influence.  So, fine.  We drove to the set.  The producer was just passing by and gave us backstage passes. 

And it was like being in a movie of a movie.  Recursiveness tickled my mind.  I remember laughing a lot when the guy with the boa constrictor hustled by(snake in a baseball movie?!).  Racks of clothing wheeled by us almost knocking us over. 

Katie shot out a hand, “There’s Corbin Bernson!”

Large pieces of sets carried by three big men, nearly decapitated Katie.  Everyone was all business, moving at a New York clip.  Except Katie and me.  We were big eyes and suddenly I felt it.  We were walking slowly but fabulousness was raining all around us.  Just then a woman with a clipboard stopped her quick steps and stared at me.  She cocked her head and introduced herself.  Head of costume and something or other.  “Your hair!”


“Can you swim?”  She walked around me, looked especially hard at my ass. 

“I was on the diving team in high school.” I turned.  It looked like we were chasing my tail.

“Come with me.”

Soon we were in a trailer full of costumes.  We could barely get through.  She dug deep in a drawer and pulled out a speedo one-piece swim suit.  “Put this on.”

I don’t know what you would do if your brain were filled with ideas of how things SHOULD be, but me… I dropped trou. and put on the suit.  Ten photos of my butt later, my new friend had informed me that the movie’s ingenue Rene Russo had unruly hair like mine and the premise in the movie of an Olympic swimmer only to find that she didn’t really like the water so much.  Body double.  That’s what I was trying out for.  And I could taste it.  My name buried deep below the musical score and the grips’ nephews, I was so sold on fame through butt double, that I didn’t sleep that night. 

After they cut the swimming scenes and reduced the importance of Rousseau’s role as swimmer, I had to ask myself if it was the ridiculous complexity of it or simply my butt.  I'd like to say that question doesn't haunt me.  But, you know.  Still, somehow, being nearly famous salved any wound there.  I almost was in a Hollywood movie.