Some pictures really are worth a thousand words…
When the first scene of shooting a pilot features a monkey wearing a dress, you know you're in for a long day. Actually, it was a chimpanzee -- three of them, all told -- each of which was outfitted in human garb, then paraded before the cameras one at a time.
The scene was designed to be a hilarious laugh-riot for the young children of the target audience for this show, but I've never seen much humor in chimps dressed as people. It seems more pathetic than anything else... but we do what we must to get through each work day.
Veteran readers of this blog know that I'm not particularly fond of our hairy primate cousins. They're fine romping about in the wild, where they belong -- with a wide, deep ocean between them and me -- or behind the unbendable bars of a zoo, but absent some impregnable intervening barrier, being in close proximity to monkeys or apes holds no appeal whatsoever. I've worked with them on set before, and didn't much like it.
Perhaps I'm in the minority, but the phrase "more fun than a barrel of monkeys" has never made any sense, and I strongly suspect whoever coined it never actually had to deal with these beasts up close and personal.*
Then, of course, there's the matter of Monkey Butt -- which has nothing to do with this post other than the word "monkey" -- but maybe that's the point: I don't like much of anything about monkeys.
Each successive chimp was older and larger than the last, with the final one bearing a disturbing resemblance to King Kong. Even the wranglers were nervous about handling that big ape, as was made abundantly clear when the camera assistant -- unable to get a head slate before the shot -- darted in front of the cameras to grab a tail slate once the director yelled "cut!"
"No!" hissed the head wrangler, frantically waving the assistant away. "Not with this one!"
His voice carried an urgency we hadn't heard all morning. I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise as the assistant retreated, eyes wide.
So what's the big deal, you might wonder. Why be so skittish about a playful chimp?
Adult chimps may appear playful, but they're extremely dangerous, and if for whatever reason one should take a dislike to you, you're in Big Trouble. Take a good look at the hairless, heavily muscled chimp at the top of this page, and if that picture doesn't speak loud enough, check out this, and this, and this -- and if you still want to work around uncaged chimps, good luck.
Just make sure your health and life insurance policies are all paid up. The phrase "better safe than sorry" comes to mind, but anyone unfortunate enough to be in the path of an angry chimp certainly won't be safe -- they will, however, be very sorry for the rest of their blighted lives.
I have no idea what the person who scheduled this scene was thinking, but maybe he or she will think again the next time a scene calls for three chimpanzees... because we were two full hours behind by the time those chimps were back in their cages. And that's why -- despite plowing through the rest of the shooting schedule at a brisk pace -- it took fourteen hours to "make our day."
So it goes. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it, then take the fatter paycheck bought by all that overtime. At this point, I'm just trying to get through these last few months of my working life without falling off a twelve step ladder -- or having my face ripped off by some deranged Hollywood ape.
That's not too much to ask… I hope.
* Then again, who knows? After all, it was a long time ago…
Next -- Part Seven