The hours are long. The pay is next to nil. So, why did hundreds of Lehigh Valley extrastoil on the set of the movie, "Hairspray" recently at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom?
Fame and fortune, you say, with a snicker. Well, don't laugh too quickly or loudly. Some of them may have found it.
While some of the extras did walk-throughs, run-bys, crowd scenes and took rides in the park for shots which may or may not be used, Kiss and Golley landed a few lines. There's a good chance they'll be noticeable when the John Waters-directed movie is released nationally in January.
Miriam Kiss of Whitehall Township said, "What happened was the minute I walked in the door of the George Washington Lodge, (casting director) Betsy Gearon said, 'I want a picture of the lady in the yellow hat.'
"The first day I was on the set, I was an extra," said Kiss, an area actress who has appeared in "Oliver!" at Pennsylvania Playhouse, "Charlotte's Webb" at Cedar Crest College, "Phantom of the Opera" at Civic Little Theatre and "Revenge of the Space Pandas" at the former Allentown Arts Center.
"During the day, they came up to me and another woman extra. Between the two of us, they said they wanted me for the part. I was to report at 6 a.m. Tuesday."
Her role? "A slob, redneck woman," she said. Soon, Kiss was swinging a purse in a teen dance show scene. "I don't have anything in it but a foam rubber pillow, so I don't hurt anyone. Everyone wanted to be photographed with me hitting them with my purse."
She had no lines. That changed, too.
"When they yelled at me and called me a witch, I asked the director if I could answer her, and he said, 'Yes.' So I said, 'You swine!' "
Kiss said she was paid $130 a day forthree days. She hopes she'll now be eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Extras on the film received free lunch, snacks and refreshments, free admission to Dorney Park and a "Hairspray" T-shirt.
Christopher Golley of Allentown was working at Knoll International in East Greenville when, on the advice of family and friends, he enrolled in modeling classes at John Casablancas. Now he has a budding career doing department store print ads (for Hess's) and modeling in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. "I go on every local audition. Betsy liked me and I got a small part as a day player, as an amusement park thug. I have four to five lines and a couple of closeups. I got to eat a few hot dogs." Golley, 28, also wants to join SAG.
Golley and his daughter Lisa, 10, who was an extra, began modeling two years ago. Golley, a single parent, says, "It's something we could do together, to bring us closer.
"It all just came about real fast. A Cinderella story, if you will. It seems like a dream. From Allentown's South Side to the big screen," said Golley, who lives near the Good Shepherd Home, a half- block away from his mother's home.
Wiggley Fred (he declines to use another name) of Bethlehem was pulled from the ranks of extras to become a TV newscaster interviewing Sonny Bono and Deborah Harry. "You rock 'n' roll and DJ and you never know. The next thing you're holding the mike for Sonny Bono and Deborah Harry." Fred is lead singer for an area rock band, Cabbage A Go Go.
"Hairspray" provided opportunities for up-and-coming actor Clayton Prince of New York. Prince appeared on the TV soap, "Ryan's Hope," and "The Bill Cosby Show" (as a "reggae guy" boyfriend of Lisa Bonet). "The 'Cosby' role turned my life around," he says.
Danny Ellis, also of New York, is re-starting his career. A jazz singer whowent into semi-retirment to raise a family, Ellis hopes for a comeback. He works as an extra in Los Angeles. "It's just a way to fill up a day when you're not working."
For those with no aspirations to become actors, being an extra in "Hairspray" was a lark - something to tell the grandchildren. It was a family outing for Chris Scotto, 39, of Wescosville. His family isn't unfamiliar with acting. For the last three years, Scotto and his family appeared in the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley's production of "Nutcracker."
Scotto, his wife Kathy, and their children, Chris Jr., 16; Colleen, 14, and Justin, 8, were extras. Daughter Kristin, 5, was disappointed that she wasn't. "It was her birthday last Friday, so John Waters said that being an extra would be her present. He hugged her and wished her a happy birthday."