Many years ago, when I first moved to Charleston, South Carolina, there were try-outs for extras in a mini-series being filmed there. I was new to the area but decided to go down and see if I could get a part. I was not expecting to be picked but thought it would be fun to see what was going on and if I could spot some of the stars. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was picked for two days of filming.
If you have never been to Charleston, it is a beautiful city with lots of interesting history. Most of the downtown area is filled with beautiful old homes and churches. Many of the streets are brick and cobble stone. It is really worth the trip to visit and sight-see.
The mini-series was North and South. It is very well done and I hope you will watch it if you have not seen it. There are many stars in the movie including: Patrick Swayze, James Read, Morgan Fairchild, Kirstie Alley, Morgan Fairchild, Lesley-Anne Down, Terri Garber and many others. It was so exciting to be walking around the area and Patrick Swayze walk by and say hello. This was before his Dirty Dancing fame, but he was still something to catch your eye!
One of the people who really impressed me was Lee Horsley. If you don’t know him, he was a big star on TV with several series and many made-for-TV movies. He was not only handsome (and smelled so good!) but very nice and friendly. We were always fed lunch and supper (dinner to those not from the South!) and he would sit on the ground cross-legged and eat with all of us extras. He would join the conversation and seemed to fit in with anyone around.
The scenes I was a part of were supposed to be wintertime in Richmond. It was actually 95 degrees in Charleston. We were outfitted with petticoats, wool dresses, shawls, gloves and a hairpiece. It was terribly hot and we had a hard time keeping the sweat from pouring down our faces. The attendants were always coming by and swatting us in the face with some kind of powder that was supposed to keep the sweat from showing up on camera. I was totally miserable in the heat but loved being part of the filming process.
There were about 35 other ladies in my group who reported to the dressing area each morning to be dressed and our hair fixed as they wanted it to look. As some of us arrived one morning, the door to one of the trailers opened and Elizabeth Taylor stepped out onto the little porch in front of it. We froze and just stared at her. She was so beautiful and really does have violet eyes. She turned towards us, waved and smiled. It was one of the few times we saw her unless she was in a scene. She could hardly stand the heat and was advised to stay inside as much as possible.
As I think back on it, it was the beginning of when I really realized I had a terrible time with heat. After filming each day, I would come home and be sick, throwing up everything I had eaten during the day. Usually, I could barely move because my legs would hurt so badly. It was all I could do to drag out of bed and make it to the set each day. I was determined to be there as long as they would let me, so I suffered through it. Looking back on it, I would not take anything for the experience of going through it even with the heat sickness.
As I try each day to do as much as I can no matter how I feel, I think about that time and the determination I had then. Of course, I was 28 years younger then and not in as bad shape as I am now. Like most of you, there are days that I just cannot do the things I need to. Other days I can push and get some of my to-do list done. I am very proud when I do.
I still have my W-2 from Warner Brothers. It is in an album with other things I cherish. Even though I thought I did a really good job in that movie, Warner Brothers never called me to do another project. I guess they just don’t recognize real talent when they see it!!