Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From Cheesy to Sleazy Part 1

This has to be one of the most outrageous sets ever done on Magnum.  Well, thank you--it was all my idea!  My neck was on the line, but unlike today, I had the trust and encouragement from those above me.  Sadly, those days seem to be gone.  Even more amazing, we had ONE day to dress this empty store on a Friday, we shot it Saturday when we were allowed greater control over traffic on this otherwise busy street (Nuuanu Ave.) and then we struck it (removed) on Sunday.  By Monday it was like it was never there.

Because it was a long day (and ultimately Friday night), I had to call for extra security since every hooker in downtown Honolulu was trying to come in and shop!  Also, anyone who was leaving work on Friday afternoon and saw this "new shop" going in on Friday must have been surprised when they went to work on Monday morning and no trace of it existed.

The location was amazing - an old 50's (maybe even older) store interior that had hardly been touched.  There were 3 bays on one side of the store and 3 bays on the other with a center area.  Given that the name of the store was "Never on  Sunday" (in reference to the movie of the same name where the girls took Sunday off and the fact that it was a front for other activity), it gave me the idea to do a different theme for each of the 6 bays using lingerie.  This presented another problem.  Where were we going to get all of this lingerie and who was going to know how to put it all together?  I joked that my crew only knew how to take it off--not put it on!  I had seen an ad in the paper that a new lingerie shop had opened in a small shopping area.  Dealing with an independent owner is always much easier than dealing with a corporate entity like, say, a Victoria's Secret chain store.  We obviously couldn't afford to buy all of the clothing and it's a little strange to rent underwear!  Well, set decorating is not all carpeting and drapes as you might have learned by now.  So I went into this shop, explained myself to the new owner, and she agreed to not only supply the outfits, but also "install" (so to speak) the merchandise. I probably should have been a used car dealer with this sales ability.   Luckily she came through since we only had the one day to set up (it costs money each day you rent a location), had there been a problem with her not showing, we would have had a huge problem.

Something I have recognized over the years that I seem to be able to do well is to look at a pile of STUFF and organize and make sense out of it (with the exception of  my own desk, of course).  So I walk into this shop with my crew, this woman, a pile of our stuff and her stuff, try not to trip over the carpenters who are also installing their walls and get to work.  I think they call it total chaos?  I sort of picture in my mind what I want to do, but I'm flexible enough to go with what we have.  I've worked for decorators who belong to the "Let's try it over, let's trying if over here" school of decorating.  It's fine when you have days to move and try and change things, but it's a pain when you have only 1 day.  The fact that decorators work on a flat rate (and not hourly) might have something to do with it!

It helped that Bernie Kowalski (standing in white out in front of the "before" picture) was one our best directors. Creative, understanding and fun, I felt that I could be a little more creative and have some fun.  Sometimes we work a little harder for the "good" directors.  Everything came together on this one.  Bernie walked in Saturday morning and loved it all.  It's amazing how the director, assistant director and director of photography can walk onto a set for the  first time, look at the set, figure out their moves (blocking) and be able to convey it all in pieces to the actors (they digest little bits at a time better between visits to their motor homes).  When it all works within the time and budget constraints and everything comes together (miracles do happen regularly), it's a great feeling.  You even get 6 weeks to pretend they saw all of our hard work on the screen before watching the episode and seeing somewhat less.  Sometimes by then a couple more episodes have passed and it's hard to remember all that was done earlier.  

I hope you are all getting a little more insight into what went into all those episodes--and still goes on with most shows today.

Aloha,  Rick


Marco said...

WHY BE NORMAL ! LOL! I just love it. The bikini top Mona Lisa paiting was also shown in "Squeeze Play" actually. I never noticed that it was used here again. Too cool!

Magnum Decorator said...

Thanks a lot for all your positive comments--it does inspire to to post more! It's funny about the memories that do come back--like having to call for more security because all the girls (well some of them were) wanted to buy all our merchandise. Also, we used to use a ton of Polaroid film for location scouting. These were not only the days of film, these were the days before 1 hour developing, too. We didn't even use pagers!

James J. Walters said...

Yeah, this is from "A Pretty Good Dancing Chicken", the last episode of Season Five.

Amazing that you guys put this set together in one day, and then it was completely removed two days later! Great job! Love the pictures on the walls, too! ;)

Here's a pic of Rick/Larry with the mannequin:

SelleckLover said...

I love the display window with the animal print bedspread, and cherub, complete with the Visa/Mastercard logo! I thought you kind of out-did yourself with this one, until I saw the post after this!
Reading your blog, Rick, is great fun for me, so thank you for posting. Your descriptions are very entertaining, and you should probably have your own reality TV show!!! (JMHO!)=)

Magnum Decorator said...

Yes, nowadays we can't show either the Visa or MC logo--or any others. Sometimes things really clicked and I was able to "knock 'em dead" even if the set only lasted for a day! Then again, sometimes the sets about knocked me dead trying to come up with anything. The challenge!

I'm glad this blog is being enjoyed. It's also nice to think that some of my experiences and memories of the show are being documented for what has become a TV classic. Thanks for all your encouraging comments!

Aloha, Rick

Anonymous said...

This is nice stuff. I was too busy working to see much of the show when it was first running but now, thanks to tivo and cable, I really enjoy it. Thanks. Steve