Flashback: SILK STALKINGS Set Visit

Feb 12, 2011 Posted by in Features, Set Visit | 3 comments

In February of 1997, I was the president of the Official Silk Stalkings Fan Club, and Stu Segall Productions invited me to the set for the last day of filming and season 6 wrap party. Here is a recap of my adventure.

This was originally posted almost 14 years ago on my now defunct The Stalker On-Line web site. I thought it would make an interesting feature for No(R), so I cleaned it up and added a lot of never-before-seen exclusive behind-the scenes footage I shot while on the set.

(Please excuse my lack of style in these photos–it was a long time ago! :))

10:24 PM

My plane from Syracuse arrived at the San Diego Airport. I got my bags and took a Could 9 shuttle to the Marriot Mission Valley hotel. Upon checking in, I received a package from Michelle Lillay—Silk’s production coordinator. Inside was a script for Episode 22: “Pretty in Black,” a call sheet for the next day’s filming, and some brochures for local attractions. The call sheet said that I was to be picked up at the hotel at 7:45 AM. It was getting late, so I called Michelle to let her know I had arrived, then I read over the script and went to bed.

7:45 AM

Lori, the driver, picked up guest-star Tracy Scoggins and myself at the hotel and headed to the location shoot in La Jolla. Her hair in curlers, Tracy pulled out the ET lunch box containing her makeup—and started preparing herself. Amidst the conversation of the car ride, I mentioned to Tracy that I hoped I might be able to get into a scene. She replied, “maybe they could throw you in as a pool boy.”

When we arrived at the location, Tracy was dropped off at her trailer, and I was brought to meet Stu Segall. Stu was a very nice, friendly man. We picked up breakfast from J.J. at the honey wagon and talked about Silk and the club. As we were walking, talking and eating, Stu introduced me to a lot of the crew members. When we arrived on the set, Stu presented me with my own personalized director’s chair—which had been signed by the cast and members of the crew. He said that the crew would move it wherever I wanted to sit.

Stu had to leave for a meeting in LA, so I quickly asked him if there was any way that I could get into a scene. He said, “maybe we can give you a rake and stick you in as a gardener.”

So Stu brought me to meet Todd Amateau (the line producer), Ernie Roebuck (the director of photography) and director John Paragon (whose claim-to-fame is that he starred as Jambi in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse). Stu asked if they would be able to work me into a scene. They said they would figure out something.

Today it was the cast and crew’s last “Music Day” of the season.  “Music Day” meant that while they were not filming, the cast and crew could play their favorite CDs and music on the boombox on the set.

When I had originally arrived, the crew had been preparing to film the first scene of the day. In this scene, Tracy’s character pulls up in her van, and runs frantically through a gate and into a house. After a few rehearsals, they were good-to-go. The crew laid out tracks for the camera, and the scene was shot.

The rest of the day’s scenes were to take place inside the living room. So everyone moved inside where director John Paragon went over a list of the day’s scenes.

Inside, John and Ernie Roebuck blocked out a scene with Tracy and guest stars Monika Schnarre and Kimberly Stevens.  Once they had decided on camera placement and how the action would take place, the actresses left and lighting was called in. This was the longest part of the filming process—getting the lighting just right. While the lighting crew was adjusting everything, stand-ins Johnny Miller and Rachel Shea, and Production Assistant Hunter Wilson took the places of the actresses. In the meantime, other members of the crew arranged the furniture and props in the living room, laid down boards to protect the floor from the wheels on camera dolly, and put tape marks on the ground so that the actresses knew where to stand.

Once the lighting was all set, the actresses were called back in. After a few rehearsals, the scene was filmed. Then “turn-around” was called. This meant that the scene needed to be filmed again—but from the opposite angle. So the actresses were given a break while the lighting and camera crew moved their equipment for the new angle. Overall, this particular scene was shot four times—in order to get it from all angles, and from each of the character’s point of view.

1:00 PM

Chris and Janet arrived on the set. Almost immediately Chris asked for his guitar and began singing “the blues.” Soon, director John Paragon joined in and they improvised “The Silk Stalkings Blues,” which went something like:

I’m in La Jolla
Oh what a Joy-a
to be in La Jolla
I gots the Silk Stalkings blues…

I asked Chris and Janet about their plans for Silk’s hiatus. Chris said that he would be spending a lot of time with his family—and probably do some golfing and surfing. Janet said that she will be working on another movie.

Soon after Chris and Janet were called to the set to film one of their scenes for the day, Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall arrived on the set. They didn’t have any scenes to film that day—but they had come down to meet me. We sat and talked for a while. I asked them about their plans for the break—they said that they are going to go to Italy. Charlie also told me that he and Mitzi would be interested in doing a column for the newsletter once they know that Silk has been renewed. While this was news to Mitzi, she liked the idea. However, Charlie and Mitzi debated on what the column should be about. Mitzi wanted to talk about the people behind the scenes while Charlie wanted to write about general behind-the-scenes things.

2:30 PM

It was time for lunch. It was back to J.J. who was now serving a great selection of lunch items. They ranged from tri-tips of beef with gravy, to meat or chicken lasagna, and even mac and cheese. I heard one crew member scream “How could they do that to Macaroni?!” (Macaroni is the name of Janet Gunn’s dog—who was on the set all day. Macaroni appeared in the episode “Three Weeks of the Condor”).

3:30 PM

After lunch, it was back to the set. It was time to block the longest scene of the day—a huge four-page homicide scene. In this scene, Tom and Cassy had a long dialog—so they needed to come up with some way to keep it from getting boring. Chris and Janet suggested that they take part of their conversation outside. The producers and directors liked the idea—so they blocked out the revised scene.

Carol, the wrangler—the guy who’s in charge of all the extras—told me that I could be an extra in this scene. So I went down to wardrobe to get my outfit. The ladies at wardrobe discussed whether I should be a cop or a detective. After they couldn’t find any of those wonderful pastel suits in my size, I was given a cop uniform.

After I changed, I headed over to props—where Peter gave me a badge, name tag and utility belt. I was now Officer Robertson. As I was walking back to the set, I stopped by the wardrobe trailer—where I met up with Chris once again. He gave me my “ceremonial wedgie”—he said that all the new extras get it.

When I arrived back on the set, I was given a gun and a notepad and pencil. I was ready to hit the crime scene!

4:45 PM

On the set, Jeff—or “Uncle Jeffy” as he was referred to—told the extras where to stand. While the scene was being filmed, he signaled to us when to “cross-over”—or walk by the camera. We did the scene from many angles.

Next came the part of the scene that was moved outside the house. So the extras were once again sent to walk across the camera behind Tom and Cassy. Then, for some fun, in a different angle of the same outside scene, the same officers were used in the far background—roaming around the swimming pool.

There was one final part of this scene—when Tom and Cassy are back inside the house. So Ernie (the director of photography) called me over for a close-up. I was to stand right in front of the camera, taking notes. When “action” was called, I had to walk to my left—revealing Tom and Cassy behind me. During one of the shoots, I walked off a little early—on “Background” instead of “Action”—so we had to start again.

6:30 PM

After my time of fame was over, Hunter arranged for “transpo” to drive me to the studio to see the stage. Carol (a driver) drove me to the studio, where I met Michelle Lillay. Michelle gave me a tour of the studio and brought me to see the bullpen. The set was almost completely struck down since filming had already been wrapped for the season on the stage.

Stu came down and gave me a tour of the rest of the set—including Captain Lipschitz’s office, Tom’s apartment, the hallways, interrogation room, coroner’s office and Marnie’s office—all of which had already been struck down. The sets are much more impressive on-camera! We also went outside to see the PBPD cars and Tom’s mustangs—there are two of them. One of the mustangs is a true convertible and the other is just a hard top made to look like a convertible. After this, we returned to Stu’s office where we talked for a short time. Then Carol drove me back to the hotel.

7:30 AM

I woke up early so I decided to write up the previous day’s adventures. Then I went to Horton Plaza—an architecturally interesting outdoor shopping plaza in San Diego.

5:30 PM

Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall came down to the hotel lobby, and we headed for the wrap party at Johnny M’s. Throughout the ride, Charlie and Mitzi were “on.” It was as though Harry and Frannie were the ones driving me to the party! At one point Mitzi even asked me if they were any different from their characters—I said that there’s no acting involved with their characters. Then Charlie began to act as though he was Captain Lipschitz. Meanwhile Mitzi tried to convince him that that is just a character he plays on TV.

After this routine, Charlie and Mitzi started singing together. Then Charlie moved on, to impersonations and funny voices. Overall, the car ride was quite amusing—it was as though Charlie and Mitzi were putting on a show for me!

Overall, the party was like what I imagine any other Hollywood shindig must be like—people drinking, and schmoozing with one another. While I was there I met some of the people who were interviewed in past issues of The Stalker—such as Fred Ives and Jack Vecchio. The highlight of the evening was when Chris Potter got up on stage and sang a medley of Mustang Sally and Low Rider. He played the harmonica, sang, and even threw money at the crowd—which he warned no one to touch. After the song was over, everyone clapped and cheered. Soon after, Chris left the party.

On his way out, Chris said “Thanks Kyle for all the work you guys have done.”—this is the first time Chris called me “Kyle” the entire weekend!  (He had been purposely referring to me as “Lyle”)

After the party, Jack Vecchio, Vivian (from wardrobe), Kim (the assistant production coordinator) and Eddie took me out to see some of the more interesting places in San Diego’s Gaslamp district.

12:35 PM

I left the warm 80-degree weather of San Diego, only to return to 30 and snowing in Syracuse at 11PM.

Overall it was a great trip and I would like to thank everyone at Silk Stalkings and Stu Segall Productions—especially Stu Segall himself—for showing me such a wonderful time for my first trip to the West Coast!