Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baywatch Hawaii

The politicians welcome TV shows and movies that want to film in and feature Hawaii. The shows spend a great deal of money - good for the economy and the people that they hire - and the shows focus attention on Hawaii - good publicity for the state that depends on tourism to a large degree for its survival. Baywatch began flirting with a spin-off called Baywatch Hawaii, and Governor Cayetano promised the producers a beautiful new life guard house on the North Shore, in Haleiwa. The house was built and the filming began.
We spoke to the PR person for Baywatch Hawaii, rented a red convertible, drove to Haleiwa, and thus began our introduction to the unglamorous side of television programming. Most of the time "on the set" is spent sitting or standing around and doing nothing while the camera is moved into position, the sand is raked, the make up is touched up, the hair is brushed, and the lines are rehearsed. And always, the water bottle man stands guard. He circles every hour and makes sure that the bottles are drained dry and replaced. "The sun is very very hot," he says. "You must drink and drink and drink." He is usually followed by the sun tan lotion man who sprays with sunblock. "The sun is very very hot," he says. "You must stay covered and covered and covered."
The paid extras sit around and read or play cards. As substitute teachers or self employed artists, they have plenty of time to stay in the sun and wait for the "background" call.
The caterers have the most difficult of all jobs. They have to provide three different hot choices and three different cold choices for all the people on the set - the actors, the extras, the union laborers, and the guests. In addition, they circle like hawks with bowls of cold fruit - to keep up your strength in the hot, hot sun.
When the actual filming took place, the same scene was shot five different times, from five different angles., all with the one and only camera. And each time, all the participants, including us, had to remember where we started, where we went, and where we finished. The director gave us the following instructions: "I shout background. All the extras walk clockwise. You'll walk counter." "What?" we asked. "You walk counter," he said and then demonstrated with an exaggerated Jerry Lewis drag your leg step.
Filming continued until one of the actors hurt her ankle while leaping a one foot wall on the last take. The on-scene medic rubbed some "tiger balm" on it as a temporary fix.
The teamsters played a major part in the production of the TV series. They had to transport all the lights, the camera, the tents, the boats, the food, the drinks, and the security barricades and personnel. The teamsters set up and took down all the necessary equipment. One of the young men who took his job very seriously wore many pins that identified him as "sheriff," "officer," and "security man." The teamsters took total responsibility for this mentally challenged young man. They phoned him every morning and told him where they would pick him up for the day's work. After the shoot, they took him back to the bus stop where he would take the Bus home. And every Friday, each one of the teamsters put five dollars in a hat to pay him for the week's work. He thought he was being paid by the TV show.
Everyone was taking a break from the work in the very hot sun; we walked over to Haleiwa Joe's. When we said that the cast of Baywatch Hawaii recommended the mud pie, the owner/manager made his way to our table. Turns out, he was a graduate of Philadelphia's Central High School - the same high school that Edgar graduated from. I have never yet run into anybody who graduated from Lower Merion. All the Lower Merion alums that I have met have been through phone calls to set up appointments for interviews.
The filming ended, and after a hard day's work, we drove back to Waikiki but not before we learned the working title of the episode. Back at home, we asked Channel 17 to let us know when the show was going to be shown. We watched it, along with a living room full of family and friends, and actually saw us in our small part as "realies." And we have the photos to prove it.

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