April 19, 2008

My Dinner with Uncle Stew (and Aunt Stacy)

Wednesday, my cell phone started buzzing; it was a text message from my Uncle Stew.

That's cool in and of itself; my mom will email, grudgingly. She doesn't like it much, but she'll do it. She prefers to call. At least she stopped calling in the early morning. My dad, on the other hand, is very comfortable with email. They both have cell phones, although I'm not sure that Mom's is ever on. She calls from it, but I don't think I've ever reached her on it.

Neither of them text.

Anywho, it turns out that he and his wife my Aunt Stacy* are in town, how about meeting for dinner?

We met at the Cardozo Hotel. Uncle Stew discovered it awhile back on another trip, and he and I dined there last year. I like the fact that there's a municipal parking garage right behind it; once I fight the ridiculous traffic coming over the McArthur Causeway, it's nice to know that I'm going to be able to park close the restaurant.

As I step out of the garage, I notice a truck full of lighting gear, and some people milling around wearing radios. Another film shoot, but it looks small, so I assume it's a commericial, or something related to the Cosmo Bikini shoot.

I join Uncle Stew and Aunt Stacy at their table on the sidewalk. Within moments, our server Lucy had a fresh mojito in front of me, and we poked through the menu as we caught up.

"She's inside," my uncle confides. I look at Aunt Stacy, who beams at me. I look back at Uncle Stew.

"Gloria. She's inside, " he expands. "I've told Lucy to have her stop by."

"Ah!" I say. "Of course." The Estefans own the Cardozo. "Was she with Emilio? He owes me money!" My aunt and uncle laugh, but it's true**. I put change in the meter when he parked out in front of my last theater. I'm not holding my breath; I couldn't have bought a soda with it.

So I tell my little story about the TV show he produced a few years back, and how they shot some footage at the Miracle Theater one afternoon.

Aunt Stacy orders the marinated skirt steak, and I can't pass up the Duck Ropa Vieja. Uncle Stew was going to order the Mongolian Steak, but re-thinks it when I place my order. "I'd like to try something more Cuban," he murmurs, "but I don't know if I can eat "old clothes!" He finally decides on the Cuban Rub Pork Chops.

Just after we placed our order, a parade of well-dressed people being herded by radio-ensconced handlers filed past us and up onto the porch. Almost immediately, a crew starts setting up lights and microphones.

"Hey," I say, "It looks like they're filming something here!" My aunt and uncle are intrigued. My uncle immediately flags down a production assistant. "I'm willing to work for scale," he offers. "Don't worry, " th P.A. says without missing a beat, "We'll just cut you out of the frame." My uncle comes back with a counter offer: "OK, no pay. But get my good side!"

They haven't mentioned what they're filming. I explain that we get a lot of action down here: BURN NOTICE tapes here, and a couple of movies. Commercials, lots of stuff.

Uncle Stew asks me if I've ever seen The Man. I look blankly at him.

"You know - " He pulls off his glass and intones "Drive by; (puts glasses on) MIAMI style!"

"Oh. David Caruso. Nah, they don't really film here."


"Oh, they do a few weeks of establishing scenes, but they don't spend a lot of time here. Apparently, some numb-nuts thought it would be cheaper to film most of it in LA," I tell him, "They were supposed to shoot here - Caruso even bought a house here - but they sold us out. It's not like Miami Vice."

"Huh, I did not know that, " he said.

"BURN NOTICE manages it: I have a lot of friends who have worked on it. Unlike CSI, it gives you a real feel for Miami." I'm looking around at the crew: I know a handful of local crew, and I'm hoping to see someone I know to ask them what's being shot.

A crowd starts to gather, and police men show up to keep pedestrian traffic moving. Another P.A. speaks into her radio: "She's here. No, she's right here, now!" An SUV stops at the curb, and not five feet from where I'm sitting, Jennifer Aniston steps out, and furtively makes her way into the Cardozo.

My aunt and uncle are still looking around, trying to see anyone famous.

"Uh, guys - that's Jennifer Aniston!" I tell them. Not too loud; I don't want to start a frenzy.

"Where?!?" my aunt asks.

"There - in the tan dress with the pony tail -whups! She's inside."

"Was that really Jennifer Aniston?" my uncle demands.

"Yes. This must be that movie she's filming. MARLEY AND ME. They've been filming for weeks. The co-star is, um,...."

"Owen Wilson," my uncle states.

"Yeah, that's it!" I say.

"No, that's Owen Wilson, right there!" And sure enough, Owen Wilson is walking down the porch, and takes a seat at a table by the corner of the porch. Two gaffers are perched on the railings, securing lights to the awning, and taping filters over them, and placing reflectors just so.

FYI, here's a picture showing 1. our table and 2. the table used in the movie:


The crowd is getting thicker, and photographers are trying to get some shots of the action. The cops start working the gawkers, with the help of some production assistants who keep repeating "please, just keep moving ahead, no flash, please, thank you!"

Watching the Stars

Dinner arrives. My ropa vieja is just what I needed, mildly spicy, and the duck gives it a creamy texture. Aunt Stacy seemed happy with her flank steak. Uncle Stew, however, didn't fare so well. "God. This is awful." We look at him. "no, really - this sauce - it's terrible!" Aunt Stacy dabs her fork into it and tastes it. "Eww!"

But Uncle Stew decides to tough it out. We each offered him a sampling of ours, but displaying our family stubborn streak he replied, "No, I ordered this. I'll make do."

"Uncle Stew?"


"She's right behind you."


"Gloria - she's right there."

By the time he turns, she's got her back to him. This goes on with mild comic effect for a minute or so, before she's finally in profile. I recognize Emilio sitting to her left, across from Owen Wilson.

An assistant director scurries around, telling the extras*** to "LOOK like you're talking - but DON'T talk. DON'T make noise. Look at each other, but DO NOT look at the camera, or their table!!" The production assistants make their way through the crowd, asking people to put down their cameras "until after," and urging pedestrians to keep moving. The assistant director apologizes to us for interrupting our meal. But we don't mind; the mix of mojitos and having diner on a movie set was actually quite pleasant.

The action starts, Jennifer walks down the porch, Owen introduces her. CUT! RESTORE!

She does it again, this time she sits. Our Mojitos are replaced. Did I mention that they are really, really good?

Suddenly, the four stars are working their way back along the porch, stopping and shaking hands with all the extras*** along the way. Aunt Stacy tries to get a shot with her Blackberry, and so does Uncle Stew. But people and extras*** keep getting in the way.

Production Assistants are scurrying around, trying to stop people from taking pictures; "Please, no cameras!"

"Did you get it?" asks Uncle Stew. "No... no... nothing came out!" she mutters. "No one is ever going to believe us!"

"I got it," I say.


"I got it. I got Jennifer and Gloria, anyway. It won't be great, but I got it on my phone camera."

And here they are. And it's not great.
Jennifer and Gloria
But it is them.

Within moments, the crowds were gone, the crew was gone, and our dinner plates were cleared away. We reflected on the evening over single malt (Dalmore) and good cigars (Habana Leon). Yes, even Aunt Stacy. It's the twenty-first century, don't ya know.

* it's still new to me; they've only been married a few months, and she's younger than me. I don't think I've dated anyone as young as she is, and now she's my aunt, and sometimes I slip. (BTW - way to go, Uncle Stew! Woo hoo!)
** no, it's not true. But it's a good story, isn't it?
***yes, 'extras'. not 'background artists." fuck you, you're extras. i've done plenty of extra work, it is what it is; deal with it.

1 comment:

  1. Background artists?! Wow, that's a whole new level of stupid. Nothing quite like dinner and a show, eh?