Thursday, June 2, 2011

Steve Buscemi and Me

Celebrity sighting: I was totally walking right behind Steve Buscemi on my way home from the subway just now! I suspected it was him (something about his furtive movements and incognito-style attire tipped me off), then had to walk REALLY fast to catch up and see if I was right. I was tempted to tell him about how I auditioned for the naked ukulele player part on that one episode of Boardwalk Empire, but I figured he gets that all the time. For posterity's sake, however, here is the tale...

Last year while I was at work one day the following posting appeared on a ukulele-related blog I sometimes read:

HBO Seeking Nude Female Ukulele Player
18-30, Beautiful, young girl, naked except for a ukulele.
Strumming and singing "The Japanese Sandman." No breast augmentation.
Nudity is required for this role.
I considered for a minute whether I thought this was intriguing, then got back to work. Later that afternoon I got an e-mail. The sender said a mutual friend from the circus had suggested getting in touch with me because HBO was looking for a female ukulele player for the show "Boardwalk Empire"...yes, the naked ukulele girl role. He was a friend of the assistant casting director, could he give her my contact info? Sure, I said. I figured if they were going to come find me, I might as well check it out. The casting director called the next day and by the end of the week I had an audition (clothed). I had to sit in a chair and sing an old 20s song on the uke. No sweat. They asked me to come to the callback. The callback audition, they said, would be nude. They advised me to bring a bathrobe.

The callback was at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which might as well be the moon, it's so huge and remote and surreal. I followed signs through hallway upon hallway of the Stage 3 building until I finally found myself in a sort of holding pen filled with young women in 1920s-ish hairdos (many bobby pins at work), all holding ukuleles: my people.

Imagine us all changing into our various bathrobes in the toilet stalls of the studio bathroom; disembodied voices say things like "wow, my legs are covered in bruises," and "I have spray-on concealer if anyone wants some," and "my bathrobe has static cling!" On exiting the stalls the variety of bathrobes is fully evident: a yellow flowered kimono, a turquoise satin number (that of the static cling), a powder blue terrycloth robe, a very sheer one, a short white one that keeps getting tugged down. Mine is long black polyester with a dragon on the back. Back in the holding pen we discuss ukulele positioning (over the boob? under? one girl confesses she borrowed the biggest ukulele she could find) and the single chair on which we will all be sitting, nude. "I'm going to leave my robe on the chair," says Turquoise Static Cling. "No offense to any of you."

I am picked to go first. The room holds a chair facing a table with 4 people seated in a row, like when you see an audition on TV. I sit in the chair. They ask me some normal questions about playing the uke and where I'm from and so on, and then it's go time. I cross my legs in a ladylike manner, open the robe, and play the song. After I am finished one of the four says, "That was the most interesting thing that's happened all day." This seems plausible, as prior to casting Ukulele Girl, they were casting young girl twins, so that while we were all waiting to get called in we saw a couple of pairs of scary blond children straight out of The Shining running around in fancy party dresses; one pair had left glitter all over the chairs. When they tried to come back into the room while we were in it the parents quickly ushered them away: we were clearly Bad Ladies.

Afterwards Powder Blue offers to drive Short White and Yellow Kimono and me to the subway. We are all a little punchy. I suggest starting a band of naked girl ukulele players in faux 1920s hairdos called the Fake Naked Flappers. Short White says "It's the golden audition – if you get it, great. And if you don't get it, great!" Someone suggests that maybe the presence of a naked ukulele girl will become an iconic part of the show and we'll all get cast for it in rotation. It is generally agreed that whoever gets it, we'll all have to watch the episode.

I got an e-mail when I got home saying I was on the short list. After a few days of not being sure whether I was hopeful or apprehensive, the update came. The bad news: I would not be appearing naked on TV. The good news: I would not be appearing naked on TV.

It's for the best, really. I don't work blue.

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