I read this the other night at HIJINX. Thought I'd share here.....
In 1991, an enormous movie crew arrived in Rome, Georgia to film a made for TV Disney movie called "Perfect Harmony". It was a US Civil Rights era film about two southern boys, one white and one black. While set at an all boys private school in South Carolina.... the film used Rome, Georgia's beautiful Berry College campus for the backdrop of the movie.
For the poor black kid's house the film crew picked an old disheveled two bedroom shack across the street from my grandparents. The place was picturesque for the movie's needs. Beat up trash cans, broken old cars in the front yard, a front porch on the verge of collapse. They even borrowed my Grandfather's old lawn mower to sit rusting in the establishing front yard shot.
Movie mania was abuzz up and down the streets of Rome in a way that can only happen in a small town. The Rome News-Tribune printed daily stories about the progress of the movie, locals were cast as extras, Peter Scallari was spotted in the local bookstore buying a Tigerbeat. Hollywood had come to town!
On the big day of the shoot across the street from my grandparents, we lined up folding chairs in their driveway and our entire family plopped down and watched it happen. The enormous cameras the size of horses, the lights, the cranes, the craft service table full of colorful food, the trailers lined up down West 10th Street..... we sat and watched the shooting, for hours upon hours.... taking breaks to drink Tabs and eat popsicles.... all afternoon. It was like nothing any one of us had ever seen. I was transfixed with the stars of Hollywood in my eyes.
The local film shoot lasted for three or four weeks, by the end of it all, a good portion of local Romans had gotten a chance to stand in the background at many a racially charged scene. I was far too young to be an extra but a lot of the teenagers in town got to play students at the all boys school. Teenagers I knew from school, church, and community theater were getting to experience the film first hand, right there on set. I was terribly jealous.
Even nowadays, I consistently ask myself.... had "Perfect Harmony" been filmed four years later.... would my life have been drastically different?
Surely I would've been cast as at least an extra at the school. With my blond bowl cut and round glasses, I'd have been a shoe in for a Lower Classmen student.
I'd simply sit in the classroom scene but midway into our first day of filming, the director would have given me a child bigot line.
"Problem with South Carolina is all them colored folks my Daddy says."
I would have poisonly delivered from my old fashioned school desk. The wolf in lamb's clothing. Everyone would be impressed, most of all the Walt Disney company and it is there that I would have been snatched up right off the set. Thrown into a private jet and taken to Hollywood.
"Shouldn't I call my parents first?" I'd innocently ask Carl, the producer and my new savior taking me far far away to fame and fortune..... he'd hand me his car phone, one of those twenty pound bag phones rich people had in the early nineties that connected to your cigarette lighter. "This is what its like to be rich." I'd think as I punched the green buttons on the enormous phone and watched my hometown fade away on the road behind me.
I'd arrive in Hollywood and immediately be cast as a bratty showtune singing kid in "Life with Mikey" starring Michael J. Fox as a children's agent. While a small part, I'm consistently noticed and everyone is calling Carl.... he's started working as my manager now too.
Shortly after "Life with Mikey", I co-star as a kid brother in an unspecified Holiday Blockbuster featuring me and a talking Giraffe who's "just trying to get home for Christmas" The movie does gang busters at the box office. It's THE movie of the holiday season, and everyone is talking about one thing.... and it ain't the Giraffe. Variety calls me "The new Makulie Culkin". Immediately Carl hires a fancy fashion photographer to do a series of press shots of me doing the classic Machaly "Home Alone" face that are then run in Highlights Magazine and on a pull out page in that week's Entertainment Weekly.
On the tails of all my new publicity I land the one thing I've ever wanted: my own television series. I play a kid detective. "Detective Kid Champeroo". Very "Harriet, the Spy" meets "Murder She Wrote". Cybill Shepherd plays my mom and as much as we try, we really don't get along off set. Debbie Allen guest stars in one episode as our sassy next door neighbor.... she and I hit off right away and spend every day gossiping about how weird Cybill's trailer smells. "I'm not saying it smells like Chicken of the Sea in there.... I'm just saying.... it don't smell natural." Debbie would offer one day in the make-up room.
The show lasts a good seven seasons, the first five being critically lauded and never out of the top ten in ratings. The last two seasons devolve into cheap gimmicks and desperate attempts to stay afloat. For sweeps Cybill's character births a set of triplets but nobody can honestly believe Cybill Shepherd is young enough to have babies.... let alone three of them, so by the end of the year, the show is cancelled.
Unemployed for the first time since they'd plucked me out of Rome, Georgia, only sixteen years old... I turn to drugs, because.... well.... thats what my best friends Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are doing. The tabloids are after us at all the parties and clubs we're far too young to be in. We don't care. We're kids of the Hollywood machine! Fuck you America!
One paper will report a rumor that Ashley and I are a romantic item. We'd get a huge kick out of it. Seeing as Ashley was the first person I ever told I was gay.... to which she replied "No shit Sherlock. You have a trail of gizz that follows you like a tail."
Always the performers, we drunkenly make out in front of the paporrazi just to start shit. We laugh all the way back to Ashley's malibu place and ignore angry messages from our publicists and managers. We stay up the rest of the night snorting lines off a National Enquirer featuring us on the cover and prank call the straight laced "goodie two shoe" kids at "Boy Meets World".
"I sucked Ben Savage's dick at the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards last year and his cum tasted like bloody maynoese." Ashley shouts then pushes the button on the blender full of tequila and frozen margarita mix we'd just picked up at Raulph's on the way home.
God. Ashley GETS me.
We spend months partying hardcore and taking Ashley's private jet all over the place. Drugs, booze, men. We're having it all. After a combination of an overdose and crashing Ashley's Ferrari into a Coffee Bean on Hollywood and Le Brea.... I hit rock bottom. Fast. It wouldn't be the first time I'd crashed a car, and not even the first time I'd crashed a car into a Coffee Bean.
My parents would finally intervene and take me back to Georgia to a rehabilitation clinic. The Olsens would turn their backs on me to save their own asses in the press, especially Ashley, who apparently I never should have shared so many personal secrets with, let take those photographs of me and Javier; or even trusted in the first place. Cybil Shepherd releases a statement about her concern and well wishes for me "to get better Champeroo" but in her true character, never contacts me personally or even sends me flowers.
I go into rehab, and I put on a lot of weight. I get clean, well.... as clean as I can..... and I come out of rehab. I try to make a splashy comeback but the only people that are willing to hire me are producers of a new Off Broadway play. The role is a gay hustler; edgy, dirty shit. I say "fuck" fifty six times before intermission and I stimulate giving an old black guy a blow job in the middle of a church. The show gets terrible reviews and I begin another downward spiral. This one is super fast. I lose the weight but with it, more addictions and tabloid sensations. I'm living in New York so there are less cars to crash into Coffee Beans but I do manage to set a long standing Russian Bakery on fire.
The failure is killing me. Utterly killing me. No one will hire me, no one will talk to me, I couldn't get a job at a Rooms-To-Go in Illinois if I wanted to. I wake up every day and smoke a bowl, pop two Ativan, drink some gin, and pass out. My family disowns me, my friends stop calling, and I've started to wither away.
I sit around and think about the better times, the old days, the moments that were some of the best moments of my life. Somedays I try to write a book that will never be published, at least not in my lifetime, to tell the whole story.... the truth..... all of it. I think of the whole ride, bumps and all.... and I look backward in the limosene whisking me off the movie set, out of Rome, Georgia. Fame, fortune... soaring around in the head of that eight year old boy watching the movies get made in his grandparents' driveway.....
And on the last page I write four words: IT WAS WORTH IT.