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Jim Loftus: Journal

JIM PLAYS NYC BUSINESSMAN AT POSH "BULL & BEAR" AT WALDORF-ASTORIA IN TV DRAMA "DAMAGES"(on "FX") - September 17, 2008

I had received recent calls from Ronan at Sylvia Fay Casting to do background work on the FX show called "Damages"(starring Glenn Close, Ted Danson and William Hurt), but scheduling conflicts arose. "Damages" begins it's second season this January 2009 on the FX channel and has received critical raves; new episodes have been taping since July 2008. Ronan called me back late Monday afternoon Sept. 15th asking if I could play an upscale NYC businessman having drinks/dinner at a posh NYC steakhouse scene, and I said yes! (this show can sometimes also shoot in Brooklyn at Steiner Studios or at other Brooklyn locales, but I learned it would be shot in Manhattan which is more conducive for me getting to the set on time). The holding area was St. Bartholomew's Church at 109 E. 50th Street between Park and Lexington, and my call time was 6:00AM. I was familiar with "St. Bart's" as I had walked past it many times on my way to a piano restaurant gig I did for almost 2 years at "DESTINO", which was also on E. 50th at 1st Avenue. My problem was trying to get my clothes pressed and ready while catching the Monday Night Football contest between the Eagles and Cowboys--and TRYING to get to sleep--knowing I'd have a 2:15AM alarm for the 4:20 AM bus leaving Wescosville PA for Manhattan. Since the Eagles-Cowboys game turned out to be a barnburner scoring frenzy with no obvious winner--I resigned myself that "sleep" was not going to happen tonite! At 11:45 PM I crashed after the Eagles blew a 37-34 lead and succumbed to the Cowboys 41-37. Before I knew it I was on my way to NYC and cursing that Jerry Jones team!
I got to the set around 6:15AM(I had let them know that the bus gets in around 6AM and I'd get to set ASAP after that)...wardrobe supplied me with a cool blue striped power tie to go with my new suit I had brought, and they OK'd my second change for a later scene with my purple shirt and tie, and Navy blue sport coat and black slacks. Scarfed down some breakfast at the catered buffet outside of St. Bart's, and an hour or so later several of us were led to the set--I had wondered what "upscale steakhouse" had been secured by the "Locations Crew"--and was pleasantly surprised that it was the "Bull & Bear Steakhouse" located in the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, adjacent to St. Bart's. ( http://bullandbearsteakhouse.com/ ) I had a wonderful history with the Waldorf--having played grand piano for a tribute gala dinner for Milton Berle in a banquet room there back in October 1996(with a cavalcade of stars in attendance including then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani). I also played a wedding reception for a lovely couple from London in a suite at the Waldorf Towers a few summers ago, so being back at this NYC landmark was a sentimental treat! As we entered the Bull and Bear, I was eventually placed at the bar with a nice lady named Christine; others were seated at tables adjacent to the main dining table where the star actors would be in dialogue. We were given "prop drinks" to "drink"(appropriately mine looked like a scotch on the rocks--lol)..in another scene Christine and I were placed at a table near the bar; it seems the entire restaurant would be involved in a sweeping camera shot to capture the idea of a full restaurant that the stars were dining in. One star jumped out at me--yet none of us that I spoke to were able to pinpoint her name...I kept thinking she had a middle name that she also used in her "stage name"--and it wasn't until the next day after doing some googlng that it came to me--MARCIA GAY HARDEN--check her out at http://faceof.net/marcia/news.htm ...as that site mentions, Harden joins the cast in it's new second season as a high-powered attorney who locks horns with Glenn Close's character. While we were shooting these initial scenes, I noticed another actor who had been at the "main table" come into the bar area on a break. I recognized him as an actor from a soap opera(or two), yet something else about him tugged at me. It wasn't until I was tapped to move into the dining area for some later scenes, sitting at a row of 2 seat tables along the wall that this actors identity became clearer. He was addressed as "Mark" by one of the directors--and then it "clicked"--Mark LaMura, who had played Erica Kane's(Susan Lucci's)brother on "ALL MY CHILDREN" back in the 1980's. What I also knew was that Mark was also an alumnus of Allentown College of St. Francis DeSales(now DeSales University), and I saw him do various Shakespeare Festival roles at the college several seasons ago--yet we had not met. I was a Theatre & Speech major there from 1979-1981(left to do radio at WAEB and then WZZO in the Lehigh Valley)--Mark was there during the inception of the Theatre Department, taught by it's founder Rev. Jerry Schubert and Bill Callahan(as I had been). On a break, Mark happened to be walking by me and I introduced myself. He was happy to learn of our similar backgrounds, and asked me what alums I might have known that he also knew. Hopefully we'll be in touch in the coming weeks as there are some Alumni functions going on. Small world, huh? Learn more about Mark's years on "AMC" at http://pinevalleybulletin.com/Quick%20Guide/BiographiesWeb/DaltonMark.html On breaks in the action we would return to our holding area, on the 3rd floor at St. Bart's Church, and by around 2PM many of the actors on set were "wrapped" for the day--they were Non-Union. The remaining 15 to 20 or so AFTRA actors including myself were told to change into our "2nd change", and not long after we returned to the "Bull & Bear". I was seated again in the dining room at the same table by the wall as previously, with an actress named Vivian. They were shooting some bar scenes with Marcia Gay Harden and we would be in the background of that-- with a waiter coming to our table refreshing our wine glasses. Vivian and I were able to converse in whispers as were away from the basic action, and we talked about the recent upheavals with Lehman Brothers and the weather in Texas, which affected some of her friends. Before we knew it the scene was over and we returned to St. Bart's for a 3PM buffet lunch that was to be savored(I always look forward to the meals on set--first class!) Since the "Bull & Bear" had to get ready for their regular hours of business--our time there today was over--and so we were wrapped at 3:30PM--I and many of the actors were relieved that it wasn't a 12 hour day or more as we were all pretty exhausted(even NYC area actors can't seem to sleep much when there is a 6AM calltime). I caught a 4:30 bus back to the Lehigh Valley, closed my eyes and reviewed this great day in my mind...THIS EPISODE ENTITLED "A PRETTY GIRL IN A LEOTARD" will debut Wednesday, February 11th,2009 on FX(and will air a few times that week until the following Wednesday)... visit their Official Site at http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/damages/ .

JIM DOES HIS 7th EPISODE OF LAW & ORDER:SVU("SWING")--rehearses scenes with Mariska & Co.!! - September 12, 2008

Back on April 24th, 2008 I did my 6th episode of "SVU" on location in Harlem(scroll down this JOURNAL to read)--it was the only time I was "on location" rather than being at the North Bergen NJ studios. On September 8th I got a call from Dave at Grant Wilfley Casting in NYC to return to the set of SVU the next day. Call time was 8:00AM on September 9th, this time I was to portray a "Paralegal"--my first time back in "the courtroom" at the studios since my first episode "STRAIN"(where I was a featured jury member). It was to be two scenes of arraignment hearings. I got to the set by 7:15AM and after checking in with the Production Assistant(PA) and helping myself to the plentiful breakfast buffet, the PA asked me how tall I was. When I told him 5' 10" , he handed me the "Sides"(small script for the day)and told me to report to set for the 8AM rehearsal--I was to be the stand-in for the Judge in todays scenes--Judge Alan Ridenaur played by veteran actor Harvey Atkin (www.harveyatkin.com --of "Cagney & Lacey" fame). I, along with about 6 or so other actors who were also plucked from the courtroom "cast" to be stand-ins, headed for set to watch the rehearsal. I circled my lines on the script and watched the first scene unfold. The episode was entitled "SWING" and involved some drama close to home to the character Elliot Stabler(Played by Chris Meloni). His daughter Kathleen(played by Allison Siko)is in trouble with the law, and Stabler's estranged wife Kathy(Isabel Gillies) is seated adjacent to her daughter. Tempers flare in this scene and the Judge has to restrain Kathleen; Kathy storms out of the courtroom after strong words to Stabler. The stand-ins are referred to as "THE 2nd TEAM" and so not long after several rehearsals we took the places of the "1st TEAM"(the stars)...how cool was it to sit in that big Judge chair with the gavel to my right ready to pound away! Our job is to help the crew set up camera angles/lighting and so forth, sometimes running lines to cue each actor and keep the scene flowing. Later we would report back to set as our actual "characters"(seated in the gallery of the courtroom simply watching the arraignment proceedings). The crew runs the scene several times on camera, changing the focus so as to get closeups of various actors and their lines. Originally the right side of the courtroom where the defendant was not standing was not in camera view; but after the crew got what they needed on that side of the room, they reversed angles to catch our reactions on our side of the courtroom.
The defense attorney for "Kathleen" was ironically played by C.C.H Pounder--a recurring role she has as "Carolyn Maddox"--it was this actress who asks me the hypothetical question in my first SVU episode "STRAIN"--"You've got a gun--would you shoot him(Osama Bin Laden)to save the city?" The camera then zooms in on me and my pensive closeup. Well later in the day during rehearsals for the second arraignment scene, the "1st team" returned to set, but Harvey Atkin(the judge)was nowhere to be seen...I stayed put in the chair and was asked by the Assistant Director if I minded saying his lines. I certainly needed no prodding and jumped in with glee. The scene actually "belonged to the judge" in that it was his verdict rendering of Kathleen. I was told to pick up the scene at the very end where the judge says to Kathleen "See you back in six months for a status check"--he then pounds the gavel and bellows "Call the next case!"...I can't tell you how cool it was to see C.C.H Pounder and Mariska Hargitay(Olivia Benson--the show's co-star)along with Meloni in the back of the courtroom watching me and avidly listening to my decision. Mariska(as Benson)stares at me(as the judge)with a look of agitated disbelief and makes a quip to Stabler(Meloni)as she exits the courtroom unpleased with the verdict. We reheased this for at least 20 minutes and then broke for a late afternoon lunch.
After lunch we returned to the courtroom to finish this second scene--I and a few other actors were selected to walk past the courtroom doors as Mariska is exiting the courtroom(as described above), so look for me when she exits(if you catch the episode). Being a stand-in has perks of a higher pay rate--and I would also learn at the days end(we had what would be considered a short day today--wrapped at 5:18PM)--I learned that my "offstage lines" during the rehearsal also counted for a few more bucks. We have vouchers we complete with all this info recorded, and the the PA signs it and gives us our copy. I went outside the studio as there had been showers forecast for today, checking to see if it was raining. I noticed the SVU director *David Platt having a cigarette--he saw me and said "Nice job today." I took this opportunity to introduce myself, saying I'd worked on a few "SVU's" that he directed, and said I do TV and film as an actor AND a musician(I cited two recent on-air roles as an organist and pianist in "Confessions of a Shopaholic" and "Unorthodox" respectively). I gave him my card and he put it in his shirt pocket saying "Thank you--I'll keep this." And so I gathered my things and headed back to Pennsylvania very proud of another great day on SVU--and the chance to technically "audition" for David Platt and his directing crew...one never knows when those little moments arise--if they will yield bigger things...
***THE AIRDATE FOR "SWING" WILL BE TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14th AT 10:00PM E.S.T. ON NBC--it is the 4th episode of the new season of "SVU".

*more about David Platt at http://www.film.com/celebrities/david-platt/14624960

JIM IS TUXEDOED PIANIST FOR UPSCALE COCKTAIL PARTY SCENE In Hallmark Hall of Fame film "LOVING LEAH!! - September 12, 2008

After leaving the set of the FOX TV show "FRINGE" at 66th Street after 9PM Wednesday night September 3rd, I found myself drifting downtown past the Pierre Hotel at E.61st Street--I chatted with the doorman and was happy to learn that their Piano Room was due to resume after it had been closed last year indefinitely. Continuing on 5th Avenue under a full moon, the wondrous Plaza Hotel rose like a Phoenix in the NYC night sky. It had been under reconstruction for several years and has been opening gradually for business. This venue brought back sentimental memories for me, as I had played two galas there in April 1996 for actress Rosetta LeNoire and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I entered the historic venue and a manager updated me on their progress there...later I met up with my actor friend(who is in the upcoming Broadway musical "A Tale of Two Cities".) We hit a few bars in Hell's Kitchen and retired for the night--as I had a 9AM call for the film "Unorthodox" in the Central Park West area of 76th Street--160 CPW at the Fourth Universalist Society Church (http://www.thecityreview.com/uws/cpw/cpw160.html ) This would be the holding area for all of the upscale folks in tuxedoes and nightgowns for this upscale cocktail party(perhaps even a wedding--not sure at this writing)..I arrived at holding via taxi around 9AM; we helped ourselves to some breakfast just outside the doors of the church, and wardrobe checked our tuxes and gowns afterward. I could not find my black bow tie and had brought along a red paisley bow tie and cumberbund and royal blue tie and cumberbund as options. The black bow tie they supplied for me they later changed their minds about, and they fetched a regular scarlet long tie. I showed them the red paisley--and after a few meetings with the director, the wardrobe dude returned with the decision that MY red tie and cumberbund "won out"(funny--that had been given to me by a waitress who worked an Allentown PA bar then called "H.A. Winston's" in the 1980's--has been a "Rookies Sports Bar" ever since--I'll have to let her know that her tie got into a Hallmark Hall of Fame film--LOL!!)...Prior to going to set we all had makeup and hair done by professionals. I was also given a CD of the music I would be "mimicing" to--that is, I would be pretending to play the piano keys, as the background tracks on the CD would be the actual music aired. (This would be similar to my stint back in March 2008 on the film "Confessions of a Shopaholic" where I am mimicing playing the church organ to background organ music). The songs were very familiar to me--old standards from Gershwin, Porter and Kern("Someone to Watch Over Me", "Night and Day", "The Way You Look Tonight" and "I've Got You Under My Skin"). In the late morning hours we headed around the block to the set; the grand piano lid was actually "taped down" so it could not be lifted, and a flourescent light was attached to it perhaps to illuminate me behind the piano. The shots of me would be of me "behind the piano" so my hands would actually not be seen, as the emphasis would be on the actors dancing in the foreground. A few of them would be the lead actors and they had dialogue occuring during the dancing, so we were the "backdrop" for their scenes(one of the stars is Lauren Ambrose of "Six Feet Under" ( http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0024404/ )
I was given an earpiece so I could hear the music piped in--there would be times where the music was shut off for the dancers but I would still hear it in my head--they would not, and would have to keep dancing as if the music was playing...this would be where dialogue lines were being spoken between actors-- and so no music could be heard there. My first "piano playing" however involved the "mingling of the guests", and the camera was further away from me--it was only 12 hours later that we would finally get to the scenes of me actually playing for "the dancers". Yes folks--this was to be the LONGEST I ever was on set for a film or TV show--15 hours! We wrapped at 1:00AM--and I had called my NYC friend to alert him that I needed to "crash again" at his place--as I was going to miss the last bus back to Allentown(12:15AM bus). On the set I had met the director Jeff Bleckner (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0088121/ )and he asked if the CD had helped me to become familiar with the songs--I said I knew them all--and could have sung and played them live. But I know that they need the background tracks for continuity and exact timing, and of course "sound quality"--but he said he'd try to get a shot of my hands playing...that never happened, as perhaps the day got away from them a bit with the long shoot..."LOVING LEAH" follows the story of three Jewish families and the unorthodox decisions they are faced with--airing Sunday, January 25th on CBS as the 235th presentation of the legendary Hallmark Hall of Fame.

JIM WORKS ON BRAND NEW FOX SERIES "FRINGE" AS UPSCALE NYC BUSINESSMAN!! - September 12, 2008

Tiffany at Central Casting in NYC called me Labor Day weekend wanting to cast me as a NYC businessman for an episode of the new FOX sci-fi series "FRINGE" on Wednesday, Sept.3rd. I was unsure because I had also received a call from Amerifilm Casting in NYC to be the piano player for an upscale party scene for the film "Unorthodox" shooting Thursday, Sept. 4th. I wanted to make sure I was "rested" for that role as it was more of a feature, and I knew if I had to return to Pennsylvania late Wednesday I'd get virtually no sleep for the next day..so I called an old NYC actor friend and asked if I could crash Wednesday into Thursday--he gave me the thumbs up. So I called Tiffany back and locked it in--what a two-day ride I was in for!! Call time was 7:00AM at 16 E. 10th Street in Manhattan(between 5th and University)...I took the earliest Bieber bus leaving Wescosville PA that morning(4:20AM)--the ride was smooth and fast and we pulled into the Port Authority at about 6:10AM...I taxied it downtown, got some breakfast at the outdoor craft service area on set, and I and the other actors headed to our "holding area" around 7AM. We had to walk up 2 flights of winding stairs to a warm apartment room with only two small fans to keep us cool. Our Production Assistant(PA) Lisa was very nice and accomodating..but we were to wait hours before being called to the streets below...the first scene I was to play a pedestrian along with other actors, criss crossing 10th St. and University--the star of "FRINGE" Anna Torv ( http://www.anna-torv.com/ ) would be "jogging" in one scene, and I walk right past her as she jogs by me. Prior to this however, while waiting to go to set, one of the AD's came up and asked me to come with him--my "hands" were being beckoned. I was being considered as a "photo double" for one of the main actors--but only my "hands"--when they discovered that the hair on my hands could probably help me land a role as a caveman in the Geico commercials--they sent me back to "holding"(lol)--apparently the star actor was very fair skinned and had little-to-no body hair.(There also would have been a "Pay bump" in my paycheck had it worked out). Once we finished the pedestrian work, (which was troublesome as the NYC commuters and residents did not like being told by the crew that they could not walk down 10th street), many of us were huddled into a van and transported to 646 Park Avenue at 66th Street--the old 7th Regiment Armory Building--now simply called The Park Avenue Armory (http://artobserved.com/nyc-seventh-regiment-armory-to-become-contemporary-art-space/ )Ah--alas this would be a fully air-conditioned building that would be the venue for an upscale business seminar featuring many of us in upscale business formal wear. Again Anna Torv and a few other main actors were at this "seminar"--and we were to mingle around them--waiters attending to us. An entourage of main actors descend a long staircase--and I and a pretty lady named Madeline are sent up the staircase passing them. Later in some scenes I was paired with another pretty actress named Colleen, and we would stroll past the many other actors likewise playing business people, greeting them. Our day lasted until 9PM at the Armory where we wrapped...This episode will air most likely in October, probably about the 4th one of the new season--this blog will be updated with the airdate so check back! Visit the main site for this show at http://www.fox.com/fringe/ , and for a fun You Tube video of a "Behind the Scenes look at FRINGE" go to http://www.fringetelevision.com/2008/09/video-behind-scenes-at-fringe.html

JIM PLAYS WALL STREET GUY ON "UGLY BETTY EPISODE!! - July 22, 2008

I was contacted by Grant Wilfley Casting in NYC to do some background work on Season 3 of "UGLY BETTY". Calltime was a cruel 6:15AM in lower Manhattan on July 21st-- though I napped for 3 hours(didn't fall asleep), I had to get up at 12:30AM to start the process of getting to the Battery Park area of NYC by 6:15AM; left home around 2:00AM, got to Hamilton Station in NJ at 3:15, boarded 3:54 train to Penn Station then grabbed cab to 7 State Street for the holding area at Our Lady of the Rosary Church across from the Staten Island Ferry(ironically several weeks ago I shot a scene w/Katherine Zeta Jones on that Ferry for her film "The Rebound"--just "background extra"--but hey--got a free Ferry ride around the Statue of Liberty!)...so it was deja vu to be back in that neighborhood where we remained for all the various scenes--played Wall Street guy just walking back and forth in front of action; other actors played the same or tourists or whatever; even by 10AM sun was scorching so plenty of bottles of water were provided--I bought two new suits(got a great deal--and I can use them for similar shows that need that business look)- the other scene was also business man(summer suit)at the U.S. Custom House at Bowling Green--we played business men gawking at models stripping off their bras(it was "indicated as such"--we had to improvise like we were seeing that)...during that shoot is when we first got out glimpse of "Ugly Betty" in some action--and then later indoors at the Museum of Native American Culture we did a more casual scene--LOOOONG day--wrapped at 8:15PM(supposedly the longest ever spent shooting her episode--she actually left at 8PM because contractually she is allowed to--and they had to continue shooting a scene just with the other actresses lines/reactions being done--and she had to imagine "Betty" was there..had nice feast mid-afternoon...stay tuned on my website for airdate of this episode!!

JIM'S PERSONAL MEMORIES OF FILM DIRECTOR/ACTOR SYDNEY POLLACK - May 27, 2008

I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great film director/actor SYDNEY POLLACK this past Memorial Day 2008(May 26th) in his home at Pacific Palisades CA. Mr. Pollack fought a courageous battle with stomach cancer which was diagnosed 9 months prior. He was 73.
When I had first started playing piano at DESTINO RESTAURANT(851 First Ave, NYC) in April 2006, not long after Mr. Pollack visited us for dinner a few times. On one particular Thursday evening, I spotted Sydney at the Destino bar dining solo--enjoying a simple marinara pasta dish and I introduced myself as the pianist at this venue. He was instantly gregarious and we began chatting. I told him I was also an actor and that "I came at a much cheaper price tag than Tom Cruise"(as I gave him my business card)--my memory was that Sydney was sipping his glass of red wine as I said this and almost spewed it across the bar as he chuckled. It struck me that this giant of Hollywood was so accessible and friendly. He said that he'd be back to Destino as he had a NYC residence right around the block from the restaurant. When I asked him what his current projects were, he spoke with avid interest of his foray into the documentary film world, and began describing in detail one of his then-current films. After his story we shook hands and I went to the piano and he stayed for my first set. He waved goodbye an hour later...but this would not be the last time I would see him...
On another Thursday evening(August 17,2006), once again I noticed Sydney at the intimate Destino bar about to have dinner. I greeted him again and he instantly remembered me and was once again gracious. After a brief chat, I told him "I had forgotten to do something the last time we met"--and said I'd make up for it now. He looked at me quizzically and I then headed for the piano.
I then played and sang "The Way We Were", the theme song of the film which he directed, and followed that with the theme of his Academy-award winning film "Tootsie", the Stephen Bishop song "Maybe It's You". He smiled several times as he looked over and at one point lifted his wine glass in the air, "toasting" my renditions. What a great honor it was to tribute him in that manner, and as I look back on the memory I realized that I never saw him again after that evening. But those moments with the great Sydney Pollack will forever stay with me--rest in peace Sydney and thank you for your great work in the film industry--and the gift that you were to all of us. For more about the man, check out these links:
http://news.aol.com/entertainment/movies/movie-news-story/ar/_a/famed-director-sydney-pollack-dies/20080526212209990001 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Pollack http://www.emulsioncompulsion.com/tag/sydney-pollack

JIM PLAYS 'DEPUTY INSPECTOR" on "Law & ORDER:SVU" episode "COLD"(airing May 13 on NBC)!! - April 30, 2008

Thursday afternoon April 24th I received a call once again from Dave at Grant Wilfley Casting asking me to work on "Law & Order:SVU" the following day. I agreed--this would be the 6th time I worked on the show--but the first time I was being asked to report to a Manhattan location rather than their North Bergen NJ studios. I always drove to North Bergen--but usually take a bus into NYC from Allentown. This would be the first time I was playing a policeman on the show--and more specifically--an NYPD Deputy Inspector(full "Brass" regalia!) My call time was 1:00PM at St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church at 125th St. and Morningside Avenue in Harlem. This would be the "holding area" for the actors.

Friday morning, April 25th I took a 9:15AM bus from Allentown and got to the Port Authority in NYC by 11:15AM. I then took the "C" train uptown to 125th Street at Nicholas Avenue and walked a block over to Morningside and entered the church "holding area". It was a few minutes before noon, and only two other actors were there. Soon the Production Assistant(PA)arrived and told us if we wanted breakfast it was a few blocks away at 128th street, so a few of us walked down Nicholas Avenue and found the breakfast truck(interestingly, there is a You Tube video of the area we walked at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLNMZFen2rA&feature=related ). When we returned, the wardrobe ladies arrived with various NYPD uniforms for myself and the other police "brass"; there were probably 75 actors called today playing various background roles from detectives to regular cops to photographers and press people. Our check in numbers were called(I was #2)and our uniforms distributed. According to the casting director, myself and others were to be "passerbys" and "neighborhood people" in the first scenes and then CHANGE into the police uniforms for later scenes. Around 2PM however we were told by the PA that our holding area was moving to another building closer to the set--it was at this time that a wardrobe girl told me "I should be changed into my police uni"...obviously the original sequence had been scratched or moved and now I only had a few minutes to make the change. I elected to do it at the new location, and just as I was putting my socks and black patent shoes on--we were called to "set"--just in time! The shoot location was a small junkyard around 127th street and Nicholas where a crime scene was being addressed. Cop cars with lights aflashing were parked strategically around the junkyard which was located on a corner. The real drama of today however was much greater than I'd ever had imagined. Today was the day that the ruling on the Sean Bell murder case came down--ACQUITTING the police officers involved. A link about this can be found at:
http://www.blackvoices.com/newsarticle/_a/sean-bell-case/20080425093009990001?icid=templatized_template_test.M The opening lines read like this:

"Three New York City police officers were found innocent of all charges Friday in the shooting death of an unarmed black man killed in a hail of 50 bullets on his wedding day. Justice Arthur Cooperman cleared two officers of manslaughter and other charges and a third of reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell , 23, who was shot, along with two friends, after a bachelor party at a strip club in November 2006. The case has generated outrage in New York's black community."

As we prepped for the scene, being put in place by the assistant directors, the tensesness in the Harlem neighborhood was palpable. Those of us with NYPD uniforms were advised to either turn our jackets inside out or have other jackets on as we walked to and from the set--to conceal our connection to "NYPD". As we began shooting some scenes with most of the SVU star on hand(Chris Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T, Richard Belzer and more to arrive to the set later)--a black woman in her mid-50's began taunting us from the fence that enclosed the junkyard. She screamed and carried on, cursing the NYPD that we represented as actors. Her tirade went on for a good half hour, until she was somehow removed from the area. Later in the afternoon, others would likewise bellow their resentment--and at one point I turned to see who was yelling--and a black man screamed at me--"Yeah that's right--I'm talking to you!" I was one of maybe five actors dressed head to toe in the impressive suit and tie and hats with gold brass medals and decorations. Later that day when actors Diane Neal(A.D.A Casey Novak) and Dann Florek(Lt. Cragen) joined the set--Diane looked straight at me and said "you guys look great!"--Dann then came over and chatted with us "in character" beginning by saying "you guys are my best--my brass!" We huddled together and talked about the derision we experienced earlier by the black community, and how hostile it was. Dann brought up the Rodney King LA riots of April 1992 and hoped that NYC did not follow that same path. It was interesting to talk to Dann and be intimately involved with the star cast of "Special Victims Unit"--and feeling like we were not just "acting"--but were--ourselves--in the midst of potential real danger. Fortunately, the powder keg did not ignite this day in Harlem, though it had been tense.
We broke for dinner at 7:00PM--and were back on set by 7:45PM as we still had many more scenes to shoot. Tamara Tunie(medical examiner Dr.Melinda Warner)was on the set with her little dog when I arrived--it was a sweeter moment in a hectic Harlem day. As we began shooting, actor Chris Meloni(Det.Elliot Stabler)scolds one of our 'brass' for tainting the crime scene by standing in the blood on the ground of the junkyard. I and another inspector are standing behind him, and we look over and then move away from the area--various scenes like this would be shot tonight, with the 'brass' crossing behind or being "panned" by the cameras to acknowledge our presence at this crime scene. We were sent back to "holding" in the 11:00 hour, with still a few hours of shooting remaining. The PA told those of us who were "passerbys" to change out of our current look and into our "second change". This allowed for me to put the NYPD uni away and prepare it to give back to wardrobe; my second change would be my own clothers and so I could depart Harlem dressed that way.
The hours went by and we were not called to set--I had prepared to stay with a friend in NYC in case the shoot went beyond 12:15AM--the time of the last bus out of NYC back to Allentown. Around 2AM we were told to return our wardrobe and prop items and so several of us walked to those trucks and did so. At 2:30AM we were finally called to set--but alas when we arrived director David Platt was thanking Diane Neal and others on set for a job well done--and that it was a wrap! We returned to holding, filled out our SAG vouchers and turned them into the PA who signed them and gave us our copy. It would be a good $$$ day for SAG members as we worked 13.5 hours; also various other items 'kick in' such as two 'night premium' payments and three meal penalties(not serving us a sit down meal at least 6 hours after 7:30PM)--a few of us took the A train from the 125th St. subway station to our respective destinations downtown--I had met several new friends on the set today and look forward to seeing them in the future(some others I actually worked with on the last SVU "Authority" episode)...this one we did today is entitled "COLD" and will air May 13th, 2008 on NBC-TV--look for me "IN THE BRASS"!!!

JIM WILL BE "CHURCH ORGANIST" IN WEDDING SCENE OF DISNEY FILM "CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC"!! - April 4, 2008

On February 4th while on the set of "ALL MY CHILDREN" in New Hope PA at the New Hope-Ivyland Train Station, an actress I worked with that day gave me a valuable lead. We had conversed throughout the day, and at one point she asked, "You said you play piano--do you also play Church Pipe Organ?" I said that I did--in fact that I've played the Church organ from age 13 to my late '20's in my parish Catholic Church--and have played various Church wedding ceremonies ever since. She told me she read an ad online at NYcastings.com seeking an actor who played Church Pipe Organ for a wedding scene in the Disney film "Confessions Of a Shopaholic". It's not often that roles are so "dead on" for me, and I was excited about the opportunity.
The next day I joined NYcastings.com so I could retrieve the information--it was Comer & Gallucci(C & G Casting)in NYC that had posted the ad seeking the Church Organist. Once I sent my info to them and called them as well--they said they would get back to me as the date of the shooting of that scene was still a few weeks away. And so I waited patiently...and sent follow-up emails..it finally paid off...
I received a call from C & G Casting March 8th(on the 11th anniversary of my father's passing)--saying that the director wanted to go with me for the role of the Church Organist! (I'm thinking Dad had something to do with this as he used to be the cantor at some of the Masses I played on Sundays!)...I was told that I had to learn/know two traditional wedding songs--Trumpet Tune and Air by Henry Purcell and Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke. I knew both of them--but did not know the "Air" part of the Trumpet Tune(the middle part)and so I was to spend most of Saturday and Sunday listening to mp3s of the songs on my computer. Another conflict is that the call time for the film shoot was 5:00 AM on Monday March 10th in NYC--the holding area was the Central Presbyterian Church at 593 Park Avenue at 64th Street. Over the years my method of transport to NYC was the Bieber Bus leaving Wescosville--but even their new early bus schedule was not early enough to get me to Manhattan by 5AM--so I chose to book a cheap hotel the night before so I could awaken in NYC that Monday morning.
I was told to wear a dark suit as the organist and so I brought that along and an overnight bag and Sunday night I took the 6PM bus to Manhattan. A few hours later I was checking in to the Best Western President Hotel on 48th Street(a hotel I've stayed at previously that was very reasonable). Though I tried to sleep, getting to bed a bit after 10PM--it seemed like 3AM came much too quickly as a drowsy Jim showered, got dressed and hailed a cab for 64th Street. When I arrived at the the holding area(Central Presbyterian)--dozens of actors were gradually filing in--looking as groggy as myself. Most of them would simply be "the wedding guests" at this church--and as many as 200 were called in. As we all checked in and were given our vouchers to fill out so that we can be paid correctly(I was check in #136), one of the Production Assistants on "Confessions" told me I would be receiving extra paperwork to fill out since I would be paid under a AFM Contract rather than by Screen Actors Guild. "AFM" meaning American Federation of Musicians--since I was playing an instrument on camera, it was not under the jurisdiction of SAG but the AFM--this would prove to be a more lucrative situation for me as well. I was also told that I would be wearing actual "Choirmaster" garments as the Church Organist rather than my dark suit--and eventually the actor playing the minister and myself were directed to the wardrobe truck. There we were given our appropriate robe and surplice--I must say I looked "smashing"(a British term--appropriate as the lead actor in this film-- Hugh Dancy-- is a Brit). Though the holding area was a Church--it was not where the filming would take place--eventually the production staff walked us all over to St. James Episcopal Church on the corner of 71st St. and Madison Avenue ( http://www.stjames.org/). As I arrived I noticed that the organ was on the altar(on the right side if you are viewing it from the pews). I was concerned about trying to get time to rehearse my songs and adjust the organ settings--but was told by one of the assistants that I WOULD BE 'MIMICING" or pretending that I was playing the songs. The reason for having an authentic organist however is that it had to look believable that my hands and arms were moving in a convincing manner--in sync with a taped version of the wedding marches I would be "playing".
As the morning progressed, it took some time to get the couple hundred actors situated in the pews and start rehearsals for the wedding processional. I had opened the organ, pulled out various organ "stops" and pressed some buttons so that in case there was a closeup shot--it looked like the organ had been "set to play". Once the music began for the bridal party's entrance, I noticed the melody was not familiar to me--and was more "violins and stringed instruments". Due to having numerous takes, I was able to memorize the tune and play the notes/chords convincingly(I still don't know what the melody was!)...At some point the tape switches to the "Trumpet Tune" that I was familiar with--and this is when the actress Krysten Ritter playing "Suze" comes down the aisle as the bride to meet her groom "Luke" played by Hugh Dancy(Australian actress Isla Fisher is the "Shopaholic" Rebecca Bloomwood and matron of honor). There is no actual ceremony that is filmed so I'm not sure how this wedding scene fits into the plot of "Shopaholic"(fans of the book series by Sophie Kinsella can email me here to fill me in). Much of the filming was actually from the back of the church looking into the church, with some disturbance occurring prior to the wedding in the Church vestibule. The hours went on as I watched the actors in their pews looking restless--welcome to showbiz!(a lot of 'hurry up and wait")...An area was set up downstairs in the church basement for a craft service table--and so actors were excused periodically to eat and use the restrooms. I noticed a few lady friends from back in the Lehigh Valley were on set today, so that was a fun discovery. They and others I met on the set told me they actually "thought I was playing the organ"--so that is the best compliment I could receive.
As we kept shooting even into the evening hours, around 8:00PM most of the actors were dismissed except for a few in the front pews. Close up shots of the wedding party and couple near the altar, along with the minister and myself at the organ were filmed. It was only at this time that I felt I may have been getting "my closeup"--as the cameras were now at the front of the altar--and why should they not get the "choirmaster" organist costume into the film?(lol)--we'll see--when the film comes out in February 2009. Around 8:30PM it was finally a "wrap"--whoooh--15 and a half hours later!!
In the coming days I contacted the AFM in NYC, Green Scarf Productions(the film's producers)and tried to get a sense of how I was to be paid. A representative from the Philly SAG office was on the set that day as an actress--and she advised me to be vigilant about this as I could be "credited" for my role as the organist in the closing credits of the film. After a week or so of explaining my situations to various people at the AFM on both coasts--Green Scarf was in touch telling me they spoke with Disney people in CA and they had granted me the AFM contract for the film--and almost a month later I received a sizable check for my time. I was also told by AFM in NYC that once the film is released and then goes to DVD--I could see residual checks every 6 months on the sale of the DVDs due to the music I was playing--or "mimicing"--on screen. It's all very complex how all this minutia is worked out..I'm just going to keep my mailbox open--keep those checks coming!(so I can be a "Shopaholic" too)...
Here are some links for the film--enjoy!
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1093908/fullcredits#cast http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Dancy-And-Ritter-In-Confessions-Of-A-Shopaholic-7470.html http://buzzsugar.com/tag/confessions+of+a+shopaholic

Jim plays "Business Commuter " waiting for train on "ALL MY CHILDREN"!! - February 24, 2008

Mike Lemon Casting in Philadelphia sent an email out to all AFTRA actors in the Philly & suburban area to check our availability for working on the ABC-TV soap opera "ALL MY CHILDREN" that would be shooting some scenes in New Hope, PA. The shoot date was originally Friday, February 1 but was moved to Monday the 4th of February. I was available, and after talking with Annette at Mike Lemon I was told I'd be a "business commuter" at the New Hope Ivyland Train Station. Our call time was set for 4:45AM in Center City Philly where we were to be transported by bus to the New Hope site. What was ironic is that I had been working as a musician in New Hope the past year rather consistently(moreso than at any other time in my career)and was familar with where the train station was. I asked if I could DRIVE TO THE STATION myself rather than taking the Philly bus. Though she preferred all actors to leave from this designated area, she checked with the show and the next day she called to say I was granted this exception, and could report at 6:30AM to New Hope. This bought me a bit more "sleeptime"--but would also prove to be beneficial as I'll reveal to you later!
I got to the set around 6:15AM dressed in a black suit with white shirt, blue tie, and black overcoat. We were told to seek out "Enza"(who was an associate producer for the show)to check in with her. We had to present some working papers that were sent to us from Mike Lemon Casting that enabled us to work on the show. This was actually my first AFTRA "gig" even though I had joined AFTRA prior to my Screen Actors Guild membership in 2003. AFTRA does most of the daytime dramas-- and though I had submitted to many of those shows casting directors over the years I had not been called. So the rules for this union were a bit different--and perhaps were based on the soap operas or networks stringent rules.
Upon pulling into the train station I noticed that the Philly bus was already there with the motor still running--it was a frigid February Monday with rain in the forecast so this was as good a "holding area" for those actors as any. I walked to the station where the crew was setting up their equipment for the days shoot, and I asked if Enza was there. I was greeted by the stage manager Marty who said Enza was not there yet but that I could help myself to some breakfast inside an adjacent building to the ticket area of the train station. He then went to greet the other actors(about 25) and they filed out of the bus and also headed for some oatmeal and bagels(and lots of other goodies!). I chatted with a few of the actors and eventually we all headed back to the bus as it was agreed that it was warmer there than the inadequately heated station. I saw that a lady was shuffling through working papers of the other actors and so I gave her mine and she assured me they would get to the right place.
After waiting on the bus for 15 minutes or so, Marty came on the bus and asked for a few of us to come to the set. This was about 7:30 to 7:45AM--so shooting would begin rather early. I had been watching "All My Children" and knew that two actors Darnell Williams and Debbie Morgan had returned to the show after almost 20 years--they were one of the first African American couples on daytime TV playing "Jesse" and "Angie". "Jesse" had supposedly died and from what the viewers could sense from their return(and thanks to the soap opera magazines that are story "spoilers")--there would eventually be a reunion of this couple who's storyline is very endearing to fans of the show. What I did not know until Debbie Morgan stepped out of the train station onto the platform where I had been placed along with other actors--is that these New Hope scenes would in fact be the staging ground for this reunion of Jesse and Angie. This thought excited me and I felt honored to be a part of this action.
I had been placed right next to Debbie Morgan to her left as she views the train slowly passing her--as they roll "action!" I notice that Darnell Williams is on that train and she spots him(or "Jesse")in the train window. Debbie("Angie")drops her pocket book and ticket on the ground and screams "JESSE"!! as she runs down the platform after the train...she would repeat this action a few times as they would back the old train up--on the first take I uttered to her "that was dramatic"--she either did not hear me or chose to ignore it and walked back into the train station(actors are always running lines in their head and it's not a good idea to say anything to them)--however later she smiled when after take 5 or so I said "you're getting your exercise today". All of us react to Angie running after the train--and in subsequent shots she is filmed wallking back towards us in a daze, almost ghostlike. Both she and Jesse are dressed in the same shades of brown which make for an alluring color scheme when they are eventually reunited.

*THESE SCENES WERE SEEN ON FRIDAY FEBRUARY 15th AND CAN BE VIEWED AT THIS YOU TUBE VIDEO LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwNYYPWaZTc (at 1:46 into the video you see me placing my bag onto the train platform and "Angie" crossing in front of me to wait for the train--the camera stays on us for a few seconds; then from 2:00 to 2:20 of the video you see me standing next to Angie from the camera angle INSIDE OF THE TRAIN(Jesse's perspective)and that is where Angie spots Jesse on the train and begins to run after him--near the videos end she walks slowly back to the station and you can see me "far away" a few times still standing on the platform).

In between takes of the above described scenes we were asked to head back inside the station and other actors were placed in other scenes outside on the platform--this is when I noticed that another veteran actor from the show had arrived--and to my delight it was Michael Knight who has played Tad Martin on the show 'forever'. I had actually met Michael a few years ago in Allentown PA--I was playing a grand opening for a new Crowne Plaza Hotel at 9th and Hamilton in their lobby, and after my gig went for a drink in the bar--Michael walked into the bar and was greeted by a waitress by name. When I heard his full name announced I turned and was shocked to see "Tad" there--I shook his hand and expressed how I loved his work all these years. We spoke for a half hour--he was in town to shoot a film in the PA area and was staying at the hotel...well fast forward to Monday morning February 4th and there is "Tad Martin" walking into my life again!--I shook his hand again and reminded him of our Allentown meeting a few years back. He lit up and say "I was just thinking of that this morning!"--perhaps it was his first return back to this part of Pennsylvania and it was on his mind. We would not speak at length though as--once again--he was running lines with Darnell Williams and this would consume most of his day. The idea was that "Jesse" was on the run and "Angie" could not know he was alive--though he loved her greatly--and she him--if they knew he would be alive it would endanger her life and the life or their son Frankie. Some unidentified criminal element has impressed this fact on Jesse and he is driven to remain "dead". "Tad" is the only one so far that knows Jesse is alive and is reluctantly facilitating his getaway via a train to "somewhere"--remember that word as it will be explained later...
We broke for lunch at about 12:30 and we all headed for the adjacent Triumph Brewery at 400 Union Square--check them out at www.triumphbrew.com --a wonderful buffet awaited cast and crew--salmon, ziti, mixed veggies, barbecued chicken, potatoes and more. Our 1:15 curfew came too soon and we headed back for more shooting on the platform of the train station. This time we filmed commuters walking TO the train station to enter and get our tickets. "Jesse and Tad" are seen approaching and entering the station, and later "Angie" approaching the station and seeing that her train is delayed. After viewing the actual show this is the only segment I was not seen in as they cut just before I strolled into the picture.
At one point some air-activated "hand warmer" packets were distributed to the cast by the crew--we gladly put them in our gloves and shoes as the light freezing drizzle and frigid air on this cloudy February had us cold to the bone. The fortuitous foggy and damp weather contributed to the melodrama of the days scenes with Angie sad over seeing Jesse on the train. At times the drizzle changed to snow and we thought "How pretty that would be if that could be filmed"--but in reality the camera can't pick that up and "fake snow" has to be created(from "milk" I was told)to allow it to be discernable on camera. While some of us were inside, I was called out to speak to the stage manager Marty. He asked me if I could stay longer today--as he knew I drove to the set. The other background actors had to board the bus back to Philly by 5:00PM. I heartily agreed--as I assumed I would be in more scenes(obviously). When I returned inside, an actor asked me in front of Debbie Morgan(Angie)and others what I had been called about--I said in a low ominous voice"THEY WANT ME TO STAY UNTIL MIDNIGHT". I finally got a laugh out of Debbie Morgan as she said "honey you can stay but I know I'll be long gone by then!"
Sure enough, at 5PM I saw the bus pull out of the New Hope Train station taking the 25 or so actors back to Center City--an actor from NYC named Chris Stadulis (
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2617580/resume ) was the only other actor on the set besides Michael Knight and Darnell Williams--Chris and I have kept in touch after that day--he played the police officer in several scenes who "Jesse" was nervous about(that he could be looking for him). What we filmed next was Jesse and Tad entering the train station and chatting inside; Tad asks him where he's going and Jesse responds "somewhere"--Tad advises him to stop delaying and go get a ticket to "somewhere". At this point the director had me standing at the ticket window; I was mimicing that I was talking to the ticket guy and my profile can be seen for several seconds as Jesse approaches the ticket counter behind me. I take my ticket and then Jesse is asked where he wants to go and he responds "Toronto--one way". This scene occured on Valentines Day, February 14th near the end of the show, and as mentioned earlier, the initial scenes we shot today appeared the next day. Monday February 18th was the actual meeting of Jesse and Angie where they embrace and leave the train station--I am seen in a recap of Fridays scene as she walks back to the train station after chasing the train. The music bed underneath the scene is Alicia Keys "Like You'll Never See Me Again"--it is a powerful song that perfectly mirrors the inner angst Angie and Jesse are feeling.

**TO VIEW THE FEBRUARY 14th SCENE OF ME GETTING MY TICKET AT THE TRAIN STATION WINDOW, GO TO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q2gIaUBLg0&feature=related ((you can see me at 1:35 to 1:53 into the video)

We were told when we signed on to work on "ALL MY CHILDREN" that we would be paid for 3 episodes since our shoot encompassed 3 days of viewing. We wrapped at 6:30PM--I shook hands with Michael Knight and Darnell Williams and thanked them for the experience. Marty the stage manage wrote down "7:30PM" for me as he asked me how long it would take me to get home(I said about an hour). Two weeks later I would get a check from the Disney Company(I forgot that they had bought ABC-TV)for a very nice piece of change for my 13 hours on the set. If you watch the scenes on You Tube you'll note at least 30 other videos relating to this Jesse-Angie reunion are there as well--this was a very popular couple in daytime drama and I was elated to be a part of such a historic reunion--so there's your inside peek at my day--hope you enjoyed it!!

JIM PLAYS FOR HARRY POTTER NARRATOR--FAMOUS ACTOR/SINGER JIM DALE!! - January 21, 2008

I had the distinct honor of playing for one of the great actor/singer/comedians of all time at Destino Restaurant Thursday night Jan.17th--and someone I had met years before--but did not recognize him until he introduced himself when leaving.
This tall distinctive man entered with his wife Julia Schafler(which I learned from googling a few things when I came home)and immediately asked to be seated near the piano--I nodded to him as it is unusual for Destino customers to make any eye contact with me or request tables in the bar--they all head for the restaurant or an initial bar drink but keep their concentration there...so I knew there was something about him that was curious and special. His wife seemed uninterested in sitting near the piano but he won the battle. Throughout their drinks and dinner he would hum or sing along with tunes I was playing whether they be standards/Broadway or Pop tunes---I would nod to him and smile to encourage him to continue--little did I know at the moment who he was-- yet I had this uncanny feeling like "I knew him"...over an hour later he rose from his seat and came to put a few dollars in my tip jar--I said "you have a nice voice"--to which he responded--"I'm a singer"--I asked him his name-- as by this time I was confident that this was just no ordinary singer. He responded "JIM DALE". Immediately the light bulb went on and I shook his hand and said "of course!--" I told him I saw him in "Barnum" years ago(the late '80's)and that he did the show with my friend Jim Fyfe from my alma mater Allentown College where we were both Theatre majors. I went backstage to see Jim Fyfe and also met Jim Dale at the same time...(note: the show was actually "Privates on Parade"--an off-Broadway musical Dale starred in that Fyfe was also a cast member in--I mistakenly said "Barnum" because that was his more identifiable show which won him a Tony award years before.) Jim Dale nodded to me that he remembers Jim Fyfe(who of course has gone on to have a great career himself)and I saw him speak with his wife about it--he took my card and exited Destino, hailing a cab for both of them.
Upon arriving home I googled his name and many great links came up--Jim Dale has been the voices(Literally!--over a 170) of ALL of the Harry Potter books/DVDs and is currently the narrator for the new ABC show "Pushing Daisies". What is SO weird is last week at Destino I started playing the music for "Georgy Girl" on the piano--not singing it--because I didn't know all the words--but always liked that melody and just happened to think of it. WELL-- JIM DALE is the LYRICIST for that 1966 song which was a #2 hit and nominated for an Academy Award! (Hey there Georgy Girl!)...at 22 years old he was the first singer to be produced by Sir George Martin(the Beatles producer); so many other kudos to his career that can be found at the links that follow...hard to believe that he is 72 years young--he looks great... learn more about JIM DALE at:
www.jim-dale.com ,

the Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Dale
a recent pic of he and his wife at an opening party for the "Pushing Daisies" show at:

http://www.thepiemaker.com/pushing-daisies-exclusive-jim-dale-interview-pics-from-nytvf/pushing-daisies-jim-dale-julie-schafler-5/
How Jim creates his incredible "Potter patter" at:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20070902/ai_n19501634
...and another Pushing Daisies site:

http://pushingdaisies.wetpaint.com/page/Jim+Dale?t=anon

JIM IS THE STAND-IN FOR ACTOR GREG KINNEAR ON THE FILM SET OF "BABY MAMA"! - July 22, 2007

Background:
Former Saturday Night Live writer and "Weekend Update" anchor Tina Fey, star of her own NBC TV show "30 Rock"(she's up for a 2007 Emmy for best comedy show and female actor in a comedy)--has added the film "BABY MAMA" to her starring credits. Her co-anchor on SNL Amy Poehler costars in the film--which deals with a single professional woman (Fey) opting to hire a surrogate mother (Poehler) so she can have a baby and keep her career on track. Actor Greg Kinnear stars as the love interest of Fey's character and Sigourney Weaver stars as the head of the surrogate agency.
I was aware of this film as I had been called a few weeks ago to be an extra(background actor)on some scenes shooting in NYC. When the call time was bumped up to be an overnight shoot--I realized it would conflict with a music gig I was doing the next day--and so I regretfully had to bow out...this would be the FOURTH TIME I'd decline a Tina Fey project due to contracted music gigs becoming an obstacle--the other times were for her "30 Rock" TV show. On Tuesday July 17th I was preparing to drive to Ocean City NJ for a private surprise anniversary house party I was playing when my cell phone rang--it was Diane Heery Casting in Philadelphia. They were asking if I'd be interested in being the "stand in" for Greg Kinnear the following day on the set of this "Baby Mama" film shooting in Philly. They told me I was their "first choice" as my resemblance to Kinnear was the closest of all the actors they had on file(a "Stand In" usually resembles the starring actor and helps the film crew establish their camera angles/lighting for each shot; they then step aside and allow the main actors to shoot the scene). My mind reeled at the great opportunity and I tried to think if there were any conflicts that again would stunt my chance to work with Tina and Greg--there were a few calls I had to place to avail myself--so I made those calls and called Heery Casting back to say YES! They told me to check their website later that evening for the call time for Wednesday(it is determined by how late the shoot goes the previous day). Being that I was in Ocean City until at least 10PM--I had my sister and other friends checking the site--it was not posted until after 10:30PM and as I drove the 2 hour trip home from Ocean City I learned that I had to report to Front and Reed Streets in Philly at 8:30AM to catch a shuttle bus to our first shoot location(which would be Chinatown).
The film shot mostly in NYC from May through July--however "BABY MAMA" is BASED IN PHILADELPHIA so it was necessary to go there to do scenes germane to the plot. What I learned is that the film in fact was "wrapping"(finishing)the week of my involvement with it--and only 3 days would be spent in the City of Brotherly Love. 4 scenes were scheduled on Wednesday--my "stand in" scenes for Kinnear were scenes 2, 3 and 4. We were all told to show up with casual summer clothes and a few "changes" for the other scenes--though I brought a veritable wardrobe I learned from the wardrobe folks that I could stay the same thoughout the shoot(that worked for me!) I wore jeans and black dress shoes with a flowery blue Hawaiian kind-of shirt over the pants. The bus driver took us at about 9AM to Chinatown where we all walked the streets in varying ways to shoot some "atmosphere" of that area. About 50 extras had been called and I quickly was acquainting myself with several of them as we enjoyed a lovely morning on the set. When that was successfully captured, I was told to report to a van where I would be taken to the Kimmel Center at Broad & Locust Streets(where I had played a private corporate function a year and a half ago in their "Tier 2" restaurant area). Here I met "Laura B"--the Tina Fey stand-in who also works with her on the "30 Rock" set(which she told me she begins work on again in one month). The director had us entering the Kimmel Center lobby together and walking about 60 feet into the center of the lobby(the idea is that the characters are "dating" and so I had my arm around her and we were chatting in a friendly manner). After a few takes and hitting "our marks"(preset pieces of tape on the floor), many of the background actors were added to the mix to create the atmosphere as we entered the Kimmel Center. Tina Fey entered the building near the end of our "stand in" work and she smiled at me instantly--I actually did not realize it was her at first as various people were entering the lobby to purchase tickets for productions there, and I assumed she was another "ticket buyer". As she approached us I said "OH--Tina!" and introduced myself with a handshake. She looked very pretty--A navy blue blouse and conservative skirt; her hair well done and sans her usual eyeglasses. I noticed Greg Kinnear had entered the lobby at some point and he was dressed in jeans, a cool lime green shirt and funky white and green sneakers. At this point they then took over and did a few takes(they are called the "A TEAM"--we are the "B TEAM"). Laura and I would then ascend to Tier 2 and then Tier 3 to shoot other scenes overlooking the lobby,and not long after Tina and Greg would put their unique stamp on the scenes of them flirting and enjoying the ambient Kimmel Center spectacle(these scenes today had no lines--essentially I envision music being the backdrop and the actions of Tina and Greg would speak volumes and become a "montage" for their various dates at Philly landmarks.)
After what they call a "walk away lunch" I was then transported to Scene 3 at Love Park at 16th and Arch Streets--heavy rains and thunder had been forecast for today and sure enough the skies at 3PM were looking ominous. Anticipating this, the film crew quickly erected a tent to keep most of us dry as a hard sustained rain began to fall. After about 45 minutes a reprieve availed us the chance to walk a bit around the Love Park "circle" and we stopped at a designated area for a "kiss"(again dozens of background actors were added to the scene)--soon after Tina and Greg appeared and they shot the scene as quickly as possible before another rain event might occur--thankfully it held out and became sunny and more humid then previously. Greg needed to be at another appointment by 6PM so I knew that we would be wrapping somewhat early today(shoots can go up to 18 hours)...today would be Greg's last on the set, and the next day Tina would work a half day and then the film would be "in the can". Around 4:30-5PM the van took Laura and I a short distance over to the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the final scene of the day--we would be seated on a park bench at the the top of the stairs--during the setup for the scene, a high school friend of Tina's visited the set with her three little kids(Tina is originally from Upper Darby PA). I chatted with her friend(Marlene)and her kids as they were so excited to see Tina--I learned that she lived perhaps 20 minutes from me in the Collegeville PA area. When Tina arrived on set she hugged her friend and the kids and not long after they were all placed on an adjacent park bench by the director-- where they would be seen in the film(I thought that was a sweet touch). Around 5:30 the director said "Ladies and Gentleman, the final day for Mr. Greg Kinnear! This is a wrap!" We all applauded, I came over and introduced myself to Greg and told him it was "great to be him for a day". Tina was chatting with her friend, and at that point I reminded Tina that I had done a sketch comedy show for years based in the Lehigh Valley but it had aired in NYC on Manhattan Cable("The Sturdy Beggars Comedy Show")--Tina had met our writers a few years ago when they were interviewed by Lorne Michaels for SNL--she said "Oh those guys are FUNNY! I was just thinking of them this week". I asked her to keep us in mind for potential situations on her "30 Rock" TV show. She thanked me--and I headed to the shuttle bus with the rest of the actors as we headed back to Front and Reed streets--we all had "vouchers" that we need to fill out so we can be paid--so in a flurry before we boarded the bus, we had them signed by the staff and our copies returned to us...a few nice friendships were forged today, and a great experience once again as my Screen Actors Guild membership proved to be a fortuitous vehicle--enabling me to work with the best in the business--thanks for reading and look for "BABY MAMA" in theatres in 2008--when you see those Philly scenes in the film--remember who did them first!

***JIM IS THE OPENING ACT FOR "SHAW-BLADES" AT CROCODILE ROCK CAFE ALLENTOWN!!!*** - March 24, 2007

I'm happy to share with you that I had the privilege of opening for two superior rock icons on Friday night March 23rd at Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown--TOMMY SHAW(lead guitarist/singer with superband STYX and DAMN YANKEES) and JACK BLADES(bassist/guitarist/singer with NIGHT RANGER and DAMN YANKEES). Visit their site at www.shawblades.com. The duo reunited after a hiatus of several years and have recorded a great CD called "Influence", songs they cover from Simon & Garfunkel, Yes, Steely Dan, ELP, the Zombies, and more. I heard a week prior to the show that the duo was coming to Allentown, and I pursued a course of action that actually was based on trying to "sit in" with them on keyboards and vocals. After reviewing the songs on their new CD I realized they were laden with keyboard solo parts(and great harmony opportunities). Since they were touring with just acoustic guitars and a few effects pedals, I thought they may be interested in that added musical ingredient. I went on the "forum" section of their website and hooked up with some folks going to their NYC show at B.B. Kings on Wed March 21. They got a letter backstage to Tommy and Jack informing them of my request to sit in with them.
And so I waited with anticipation...

Crocodile Rock Cafe owner Joe Clark and I have known each other over 20 years--he had Tom Epler and I open for Molly Hatchet way back in 1987 at another club he owned, and in 2001 a trio I performed with called "Three Together" (w/Jake Kaligis & Gordon Gorin) opened for Todd Rundgren at Crocodile Rock. I called Joe Thursday night to see what he thought of my idea--he said he would run it by the guys when they arrived Friday afternoon but he was not optimistic. At 3:00PM Friday afternoon I received a call from Croc Rock club DJ Tom Taylor. Tom said, "Hey Jim--it's not gonna work with you playing with Tommy and Jack--but they ran it by their management--and they'd like you to OPEN for them." I was told to be there by 6PM to set up--doors opened at 7PM and I was to go on at 7:30. I quickly updated my website to reflect this wondrous opportunity, sent out an e-mail announcing it, packed my car with keyboards and acoustic guitar(and PA system which I was not going to have to use), showered/dressed and grabbed a half-eaten tunafish hoagie and chips and set out at 5PM to try to beat the Friday traffic. I arrived before 6PM to the strains of Shaw-Blades doing their sound check. After a half-hour of glorious harmonies and steller 12-stringed twanging I got to meet the guys and thanked them for the opportunity. They were very gracious and they exited to grab some dinner--the Croc Rock staff helped me get hooked up to their incredible in-house system, I ran through a few songs and it was time to let the crowd in...

The DJ played some dance David Bowie music and I concentrated on song selection--I decided I'd open with two Doors tunes--"Touch Me" and "Light My Fire". I was told I had a half-hour to play so I took the stage at 7:30PM and introduced myself to the crowd--I assured them they were in for a great night and they immediately seemed ready to hear some music--and welcomed my Doors songs with eager ovations. I then grabbed my acoustic and hit a button on my keyboard to play pre-recorded keyboard parts with full orchestration on "Comfortably Numb" from Pink Floyd. I then did an original tune "A Little '60's Tune"(you can hear it here on my website at the MP3 samples); I switched gears and did "Tiny Dancer" from Elton, then Bowie's "Space Oddity" on acoustic with the prerecorded keys again. Since it had been raining for a few days I thought of the 1967 Hollies hit "Bus Stop" and that got the crowd dancing a bit("Bus Stop wet day she's there I say 'please share my umbrella")...With weather on my mind, and since "it's been a long and lonely winter" it led me to think of "Here Comes the Sun" and so I did that on keys(there had been many taunts from the crowd for some Beatles). At that point I felt like I was nearing the 8PM cutoff but the soundman flashed both his hands at me--meaning '10 more minutes".. "She's Got A Way" from Billy Joel was my next selection--and after another warm reception from the Shaw-Blades fans I asked them what they might want to hear--complete cacophany broke out and nothing was discernable--except the bouncer who bellowed "FREEBIRD"!! I drolled like Ronnie Van Zant from the Skynyrd live album "What song is it choo wanna hear??!!" The crowd pulled out lighters as I began "Freebird" on the piano--I did a short version and rocked it out on the keys...and I was done. A final burst of applause and grins from the ladies made me feel like I did my job--I kept the music related to the Classic Rock mode they were going to hear that evening--and it worked like a charm. I broke my equipment down--had it off the stage in 10 minutes...and we awaited Shaw-Blades to take the stage...

What I did not realize until later that evening is that the Boston MA show the guys were to do the night before had been cancelled due to Tommy Shaw having extreme laryngitis...the tour manager told me they shot him with a steroid and he sounded flawless with Jack Blades and a third guitarist backing them up with incredible vocal power as well when they took the stage around 8:30PM. "Summer Breeze" was one of their first songs along with Tommy's Styx hit "Too Much Time On My Hands"(we all did the 2-claps after "Too Much(clap-clap)Time On My Hands")...some stand out songs were the Damn Yankees tune that Tommy and Jack did while in that band--(Can You Take Me)"High Enough"...also "Your Move" from Yes would have made Jon Anderson proud. Never leaving the stage for 2 hours, and surrounded by a litany of acoustic guitars to choose from, Shaw-Blades joked and entertained like real pros--their show was chock-full of humorous stories of the road(Jack at one point admitted that he didn't know the lyrics to CSNY's "Love the One You're With" was "there's a rose in A FISTED GLOVE")--he actually did phone tag with Stephen Stills to insure those were the right words...by 10:30 PM, and after great renditions of "Crystal Ball" and "Fooling Yourself" from earlier Styx days and the finale--a slow brooding version of "Blue Collar Man"--the boys were done--an incredible show!

I was 16 when I first played "Fooling Yourself" and "Grand Illusion" in my first band back in 1978(my bandmates were in their '20's)--though I did not get to play those keyboard parts on THEIR songs--they allowed me to do much more--have the stage to myself for 40 minutes...after a few hurried autographs near the exit door the guys bolted into a waiting Hummer that owner Joe Clark got behind the wheel of and drove them off to their hotel(word from the tour manager was that Tommy was still not feeling well and perhaps the steroid shot was wearing off--I'm crossing my fingers that they can fulfill their ambitious tour)...the tour manager gladly took my CDs and said "we'll play it on the bus"--so after 30 years of doing Styx songs--Tommy can hear some Jim Loftus songs...how cool is that...thank you all for lasting through this long journal entry--hoping you felt closer to the event!

TALENT HUNTER: Actors/models: MOST RECENT TV/FILM AUDITIONS! - March 2, 2007

Hey everyone...just wanted to tell you about an awesome site where models/actors can find DAILY UPDATES on PROFESSIONAL auditions for the top soap operas, TV/film auditions(Law & Order, General Hospital, MTV, all new ABC/CBS/NBC TV shows, all new films,etc.)...as an actor/singer/musician myself I find it an ESSENTIAL site for me to peruse everyday...log on to:
http://talenthunter.com/?idAff=343 right now , sign up and start preparing your pics/resumes for those roles waiting for you(some you can e-mail to them as well)!

WMGK 102.9 PM DJ SCOTT CARR SENDS ME OLD PHOTO OF OUR OLD DJ DAYS AT Z-95!! - February 27, 2007

Well it's been quite awhile since I placed an entry in the journal here--and here's a "blast from the past" entry...In another life(and different century)I was a part-time disc jockey for WZZO(Z-95)FM radio then located in the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem, PA(it has been in Whitehall PA for several years now)...after a stint at WAEB 79 AM in Allentown PA from May to October 1981, I sent a tape to T.D. Kelly at Z-95 with the earnest desire to be a rock and roll DJ--and it worked. At 20 years old(and instead of starting my junior year at Allentown College in the Theatre Department[now DeSales University])--I started doing 7-midnight Saturday nights and the "Sunday Night 6-Pak"(6 albums back-to-back) from Midnite to 5:30AM Monday morning for the biggest rock station in the Allentown/Bethelehem/Easton PA area(and beyond)..I also filled in for every other DJ except the morning show during my tenure at Z-95...our overnite guy, then named Skip Carr--has been at WMGK 102.9 FM in Philadelphia for awhile now(and previously 94 WYSP for years)-- I called him a few times recently overnight and caught up.."Skip" is now "Scott" Carr--and he sent me an old photo of our DJ staff posing in front of our WZZO van with our mascot lying on top of it(circa 1982!)--and I have it posted in the "PHOTO GALLERY" on my website here...there was not enough room in the photo caption area to list all the DJs--but if you were around at that time and listened to Z-95--take a nostalgia trip with me and try to recall these names(maybe cut and paste the pic and then cut and paste the following underneath it): left to right: Steve McNee, noon to 4PM; Gene Romano, morning show 5:30-9:30AM; Joan Edwardson, morning show news 5:30-9:30AM; unidentified person(not a DJ--sorry!), seated--T.D.(Tom)Kelly--our boss, program director, 4PM to 8PM; Bruce Bond, music director, 9:30AM to noon, Skip/Scott Carr, midnite to 5:30AM, Rick Strauss, 8PM to midnite(Rick now works with Clear Channel radio--passed him on 6th Ave in NYC one night after a gig at Nino's Tuscany last year, and on the bus back to Allentown from NYC another time--hey Rick!); I'm the next one(2nd from right)--almost unrecognizable--I know(yikes); and Chip Murdock, midnite to 5:30AM Sunday morning(Chip is an old buddy who has been living in LA for some 20 years; see him every once in a blue moon in Lehigh Valley--wassup Chip!)...so there ya have it...thanks to Scott Carr for bringing back some memories--25 years ago this year--wow.

JIM MEETS AND PLAYS FOR MR. TONY BENNETT!! - January 19, 2006

On Tuesday night, January 17th, as I was about an hour into playing piano at Nino's Tuscany in Manhattan(where I do a regular Monday gig but was filling in for 10 days for Irving Fields)... a recognizable figure popped into the restaurant briefly to chat with the manager. A few gasps from patrons indicated that none other than Tony Bennett had walked in. As a few of them grabbed their table napkins and ran over for an autograph, this pianist decided to also meet this legendary singer. I grabbed my recent compilation CD "Ballads of Broadway, Bee Gees..and Me" and handed it to Mr. Bennett as he was leaving...he commented that he enjoyed my playing--I had ironically been doing a Michel LeGrand tune "What Are You Doing the Rest Of Your Life" which Tony had recorded. He was very personable...I returned to the piano and did a rousing version of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" to the crowd's delight...but it wasn't over yet...

The next evening after I finished my dinner at the bar at Nino's Tuscany, the bartender Dino suggested that I start playing--I thought he was just referring to the crowd that was starting to assemble, but I didn't notice what he was truly indicating until later...I began my set with Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean" and went on to "As Time Goes By" from the film Casablanca when a bar patron I knew greeted me as "Mr. Casablanca". My third song was "New York State of Mind", and I would go on to play other standards like "Fly Me to the Moon", "Our Love is Here to Stay" and a tune I did the previous nite--"What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life"...the first song I would sing in the set was "What a Wonderful World"...not long after that number, I noticed a young blonde lady getting up from her table. A column had blocked my vision of who she was seated with--and I was surprised to once again see Mr. Tony Bennett following her out. He greeted me with a smile at the piano and my first tip of the night. "Two nites in a row--Tony"--I said to him affably...he thanked me for the tunes saying "Nice job, man"...I recalled that I had wanted to mention something to him the previous nite--I told him I had written a song some 13 years ago when Tony was making a nice comeback thanks to MTV--I had tried to get it to his management company but was not sure if Tony ever heard it--he seemed unaware of it and so I said I'd try to get him a copy of this tribute song entitled "Thank You Tony Bennett"--he smiled and thanked me. What an honor. A singer Frank Sinatra once called "the greatest pop/saloon singer in the world" paid me the highest compliment--his admiration. The songs I listed above that I had played were ironically numbers he had covered in his career--and the only one I sang--"What a Wonderful World"--was a duet he did with k.d. lang that sparked his career comeback(and "New York State of Mind" was a recent duet with Billy Joel not long after the 911 travesty)...had I known he was there I might have piped up on a few numbers--or perhaps asked him to sing...but this was much more perfect--coincidentally doing standards he had sung with no knowledge of him being in the room...my guardian angel must be a musician!! Thank you--Tony Bennett!!!

JIM TAPES HIS 4th STINT ON "LAW & ORDER:SVU!!! - December 21, 2005

On Wed., December 21, 2005, Jim taped his 4th stint on "LAW & ORDER: SVU" which will air February 28th, 2006. The episode called "GONE" has Jim playing a father--he and his wife, who holds a crying baby, enter an elevator that is under surveillance and the image is caught on a video observed by the SVU team; on 2 other episodes Jim is in the background as a clerical worker in precinct scenes in the episodes "ROCKABYE" and "STORM"(both Nov.2005)...and if you scroll down here at the "JOURNAL" you can read about his day on the set doing the episode "STRAIN" as a featured jury member.
Call time was 9:00 AM in North Bergen NJ at the SVU studios--this was DAY TWO of the infamous NYC transit strike, and so Jim turned down a previous offer to play an FBI agent for a day on the NBC-TV pilot "KIDNAPPED" starring Dana Delany and Jeremy Sisto (which will air in January 2006) due to it being shot in downtown Manhattan on this same day--and travel to this destination may have been compromised due to this strike. So the later phone call to once again do "SVU" seemed fortuitous as it involved shooting at the Jersey location.
In the scene we shot around 10:30AM--I enter an elevator with "my wife" and our baby boy which she is holding--the child is crying and I am irritated--I push "floor 6" on the elevator and the door closes on us--supposedly this is caught on a surveillance camera the SVU folks are monitoring. (You may see my name in the final fade of credits as "the Dad"(lol))...later that day I and other actors were transported ironically to Manhattan to shoot a club scene at " 'disiac" at 402 W. 54th St. (www.disiacnyc.net ) I may be seen at the bar(wearing black leather jacket) with two others as 4 young kids exit(3 males and a pretty blonde--all playing underage)who figure highly in the plot of this show; also you may see me standing at perhaps the same dance club in the background while the young girl dances with one of the guys she's with. We wrapped around 7:30PM but until I was transported back to my vehicle in North Bergen I was clocked out at 9PM--another great day and the last SVU to shoot before the Christmas break--look for it on Feb.28, 2006 at 10:00 PM E.S.T on NBC-TV.

JIM SINGS WITH LISA LOEB AT STERLING HOTEL, ALLENTOWN!! - November 9, 2005

Below is the text of the article written by Paul Willistein which appeared in the Nov.9-10, 2005 East Penn Press in the Lehigh Valley, PA. Check the "Photo Gallery" here at the site for action shots, and be sure to keep up with Lisa at www.lisaloeb.com (she has a new TV show about to air on the E! Network about her recently "single" life entitled "#1 Single".

"JIM LOFTUS PUTS ON A HARMONY WITH LISA LOEB"(Nov. 9, 2005)

By PAUL WILLISTEIN (photos also Paul Willistein/East Penn Press)
pwillistein@tnonline.com

Lisa Loeb was singing her hit, "I Do," at the Sterling Hotel when she asked who was adding the harmony. A man raised his hand. Loeb, performing solo in Allentown PA for an American Red Cross benefit, asked the man on stage. When he started singing, it was clear it wasn't him. Shushing him, she asked again. A deep voice resonated from the audience. In a mocking basso profundo tone, Loeb said, "Yeah, right." That's when Jim Loftus, Lehigh Valley singer-songwriter and musician, stepped right up. Indeed, it was Jim who had been adding the harmony."Ironically, Dominique and I did the song when it first came out," said Loftus, referring to his former duo partner.

Loftus appears with Gordon Gorin, performing 8 p.m.-midnight Nov. 17, Dec. 1 and 15 at the Leather Corner Post, along Kernsville Road at 6855 Horseshoe Road, Lowhill Township, near Orefield PA(610-395-1782), and solo Nov. 19 at the Terrace Restaurant, Rt. 145, Walnutport PA(610-767-1545).

Jim plays keyboards, acoustic guitar and harmonica. Gordon is on electric and acoustic guitars. Their repertoire includes songs by James Taylor, Billy Joel and the Eagles. More information: http://www.jimloftus.com/ At the Sterling, Loeb displayed her amazing vocal range, gutsy guitar-playing and humorous banter. Her set included songs from her most recent CD, "The Way It Really Is," fourth since her decade-ago breakthrough, "Stay" from the soundtrack to the Ben Stiller-directed "Really Bites. Loeb hung out after her gig to sign autographs, including her blue guitar, ironically won by that unharmonious other guy.

For Loftus, hitting the right notes was second-nature. "I just instinctively did the high harmony on that one ['I Do']," he said. When Loeb broke into the Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music," Loftus also chimed in.

Loftus is versatile. He soloed at the closing night party for the "Linda McCartney's Sixties" exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum. He programmed the parts to The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and sang it, strumming an acoustic guitar. He also did other songs of the rock luminaries in the McCartney photos.

Loftus gigs 7-10:30 p.m. Mondays at Nino's Tuscany, 117 W. 58th St., near 6th Avenue, in Manhattan.

Opening for Loeb at last month's benefit for Gulf Coast hurricane victims was New Hope's Lindsay Rush, whose dad Robert plays in the surf band Ripchords; Mike Rauscher, of the Aardvarks; Sarah Ayers, with Greg Lipsky on guitar, and Northampton High School grad Alex Seier, of The Blackout Effect.

Rauscher and Ayers sang on Loftus's CD of original tunes, "The Fame Game."

Ironically, before he stepped on stage with Loeb, Loftus watched himself on TV at the Sterling bar. He was an extra in a jury scene on "Law and Order SVU." Loftus also appeared on this year’s “Hope & Faith”.

--Paul Willistein

Jim plays for soap stars at his Nino's Tuscany gig! - August 22, 2005

When I showed up Monday August 22nd at Nino's Tuscany on W. 58th St. in Manhattan to begin my usual Monday nite piano gig--I was told it would be a slow nite with only 12 reservations on the books...but later Christina the hostess feigned a fainting spell and told me "I just seated this really cute guy on 'All My Children!" I originally noticed Kin Shriner of "As the World Turns"--most noted for his memorable run as 'Scotty Baldwin' on "General Hospital" in the awesome "Luke & Laura" days of the '80's(when I used to watch him!) As I started my gig and played several tunes including a Beach Boy's medley--I then noticed Jacob Young seated across from Kin--he is a young star on "All My Children" playing Adam Chandler Jr. They were both with their blonde dates--and after my first break Christina begged me to approach them(for her...lol)
I introduced myself to Kin and Jacob and their dates and thanked them for being at Nino's--and that I enjoyed their acting work over the years(I was also familiar with Jacob's shows). Jacob said "Hey--we enjoy YOUR work" and thanked me for the Beach Boys medley(It wasn't until I read of it that I learned he ironically was in a film about the life of the Beach Boys). I asked then if they had any song requests, and Kin offered "I'm a bit partial to 'Greensleeves'. Jacob said he really likes Billy Joel's "Allentown"(I really love the way that song starts with all the sound effects"...I told him that Allentown is my stomping grounds--and where I got my start in piano bars). Kin added that his Billy Joel fave is "Vienna"--and then somehow the song "Brandy" came up (which is one of my faves). Jacob mentioned that he is working on a new CD himself(and is an accomplished singer/musician with previous CD releases). I asked him to sing "Brandy" but he declined--so I set off to the piano and played their requests--Jacob waved appreciatively. When they left they shook my hand and treated my tip jar--Kin affirmed that they would be back--he said "I'm always here." It was a very cool experience as I've truly enjoyed watching both actors over the years--to learn more about Jacob Young check out http://abc.go.com/daytime/allmychildren/bios/69891_1.html and
http://maribarb.homestead.com/files/jacobyoung.html and Kin Shriner sites are http://soapoperadigest.com/features/atwt/interviews/shrinerscottfree/ and http://www.cbs.com/daytime/atwt/about/bios/kshriner.shtml .

JIM PLAYS A WEDDING GUEST ON ABC-TV's "HOPE & FAITH"!! - August 4, 2005

Kee Casting, who cast me back in 1995 to be one of the several news persons on the set of Mary Tyler Moore and Gregory Harrison's ill-fated CBS-TV series "New York News", called to book me for the zany ABC-TV show "Hope & Faith" with Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford for a Thursday, August 4th shoot. I was told it would be a short day--that we'd be taping a wedding scene. Call time was 10:30AM in Long Island City at Silver Cup Studios East, and despite leaving the house at 7:30AM--traffic and a few wrong turns and gridlock approaching Lincoln Tunnel and eventually the Midtown Tunnel made me an HOUR LATE! I was elated to find that upon locating the holding area for the extras--no one had "acted yet" and were still awaiting approval of their clothing by the wardrobe department. When we finally got down to the set at 1:15PM, we went through a few rehearsals with Kelly Ripa--she was playing the bride AND the the bride's "Evil Twin" who disrupts the wedding proceedings by objecting to the union of marriage. Kelly donned a black wig, veil and tight-fitting dress as the evil twin--but was glowing in white as the bride. I was seated behind her as she played the evil twin, and I had to gasp and moan with the rest of the actors at "her disruption" of the wedding--was very cool and hilarious. We were done shooting by 3:45PM, and I was pleased to get to shake Kelly's hand upon completion--I got to tell her that I too had worked with her sidekick Regis Philbin when I opened for him back in 1992 at the State Theatre in Easton...that Kevin Bacon "6 Degrees of Separation" thing has some merit to it...
I'll let you all know when the episode will air--for more on "Hope & Faith" go to http://abc.go.com/primetime/hopeandfaith/main.html .

JIM SITS IN AT "JIM CARUSO'S CAST PARTY" NYC!! - August 2, 2005

"Jim Caruso's Cast Party" at Birdland, 315 W. 44th St. in NYC is undeniably the most fun you can have on a Monday nite in Manhattan(with your clothes on). Comedian/singer Jim Caruso hosts this wild open mike that features some of the best cabaret singers in New York--and many a star has been known to stop in for the party(from Liza Minnelli to Jon Bon Jovi!) Anyone that wants to sing has to put their name on the sign-up sheet and Jim will bring them up. Several years ago I worked with Jim Caruso on a New York TV show called "Cafe DuArt"--so a few Mondays ago I re-introduced myself to Jim, dropping by Birdland to watch the Cast Party unfold. On Mon., August 1st after my weekly gig at Nino's Tuscany on W.58th St., I took a cab down to Birdland and eventually sat in doing Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" on their awesome Boesendorfer piano(one of my fave songs). Pianist Billy Stritch--a jazz/cabaret legend in Manhattan is the usual accompanist each week but will vacate the piano for other instrumentalists, and it was great to meet him and play their piano. So if you're visting NYC on a Monday--by all means come see me at Nino's Tuscany but ALSO rush over to catch "the Cast Party"--read more about it at http://www.castpartynyc.com/ .

JIM PLAYS A JURY MEMBER ON "LAW & ORDER:SVU"!!! - June 3, 2005

Tuesday, May 31st I spent a 15 hour day on the set of the award-winning drama "LAW & ORDER: SVU(Special Victims Unit) thanks to Grant Wilfrey Casting in NYC.
(Visit the show's website at http://www.nbc.com/Law_&_Order:_Special_Victims_Unit/index.html ). On at least 3 different occasions I had been called to do one of the "Law & Order's" but a musical gig conflicted with the date. It's ironic that on this said date--a NYC engagement at Nino's Tuscany fell through and my regular Tuesday gig at Whitemarsh Valley Inn was cancelled due to it being Memorial Week--so it cleared the way for this great experience. A veteran of doing "extra" work by now(I've done 5 episodes of the CBS show "HACK" filmed in Philadelphia, an episode of "Sex & the City", several films and other TV shows), this was my first time on a "Law & Order" set and it was special because it's probably going to be my most featured opportunity--as a jury member on an episode called "STRAIN"--airdate Tuesday, October 18 at 10PM E.S.T. on NBC. I drove to their North Bergen NJ studios for a 7AM call time that day--arriving a little after 6AM so as to be in plenty of time for their mammoth breakfast(one thing you can always count on with a great TV show or film is being fed all day!) The craft service tables are usually well-supplied, and then you have a formal sit-down lunch or dinner (The crew and main cast members eat first, followed by background SAG actors, then Non-Union--there truly is a "caste/cast system")[pun intended]...we began working fairly early--on the set about 7:30AM--I was placed in the front row of the jury second to the end--we had two wardrobe changes to indicate two different days of the trial--this first scene I was in a blue shirt and gold tie. What is still fascinating to me is watching the crew set up for each scene--most folks who watch at home obviously have no idea of the meticulous plotting and planning that goes into each shot and scene. Almost an hour can be allotted in "blocking the scene" with the stand-in actors for the stars--who walk through the movement, stopping at areas on the floor that have colored masking tape to mark their "stops"(the camera people use measuring tape to measure how far the actor's face is from their cameras at each "stop", and a light guage is placed against their face to sense how much or little light is needed to illuminate that specific area)...various hand-held screens or gels placed in the cameras are set up to allow just the right amount of light through. Eventually the "first team rehearsal" is called for and the actual stars and guest stars appear on the set to do a run-through of the scene. Actress Diane Neal appears, seated closest to us--she is Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak on the show. Today her hair is pulled back and braided beautifully on the back of her head--she looks like a stunning Grace Kelly--wearing a black pin stripe blazer and skirt. Though she is a former model, Diane greets us affably and sets a tone early that she is accessible and lots of fun. She begins to chat with us about the particular case we are trying today when she is interrupted by the director to do her walk-through. Her funny quip under her breath to us indicates she'd rather hob-nob with us then "get serious"--I found that to be an awesome attribute when most stars do not mingle with "the background actors"--later in the day she and I would exchange some quick small talk--"What flavor of gum, Diane?"--I asked once--"Nicorette" she retorted. I later read an article on the wall at the studio about her personal fight to quit smoking and it all 'connected'--ironically, her closing statement as the prosecutor in today's case made an analogy to the tobacco industry.
The show has to do with a young man murdering two men to avenge the death of his brother--who he felt was intentionally killed via a new strain of the AIDS virus that is associated with the drug "meth". Though the rumor was that the shooting schedule was moving briskly today--there sometimes were 2 hour breaks before the jury was brought back in to shoot again--and by the end of the day a good 4 hours went by before we were brought back at 9:30PM to shoot the jury's REACTION shots to the closing arguments of the attorneys--the cameras are placed directly on us as the main actors repeat their lines for the umpteenth time and we react facially to their words. (Here I am wearing a light brown suede casual shirt). Yawns, red eyes and general weariness abound throughout the cast, crew and extras and after a one-take on these reaction shots the director yells the long-awaited "THANK YOU! GOOD NIGHT!"...the fellow jurors had been discussing how close we SAG actors were to receiving "Golden Time" pay rate--when we wrapped at 10PM we were an hour away from receiving the FULL day rate of $118.00 per day to be paid PER HOUR starting at 11PM--we already had night premium and overtime--and what they call "meal penalties" had accrued for the day--which means our sit-down lunch at 2:10PM(much later than it should have been) and no sit-down meal later puts more money in our pockets--it's great to be in "the union" as all these particulars are taken into consideration and written on our payment vouchers--which are signed at days end by the gentleman in charge of us...in closing-- this was jury duty I didn't want to get out of--and it certainly pays better!

IT'S A SMALL WORLD--even in MANHATTAN!! - May 26, 2005

I was in NYC Wednesday May 18 for a Musical Theatre Workshop that ASCAP runs every year and afterwards went to a restaurant nearby at 117 W.58th St. where I knew an older gentleman named Irving Fields played piano(legendary player)...the place is "Nino's Tuscany"(www.ninostuscany.com ) a venue opened only 6 months ago--and one of 5 restaurants owned my Nino Selimaj...I chatted with the bartender Jimmy and he said Irving plays there Tues-Sun..I said "What about Mondays?" Though he said it was slow there Mondays I told him I had that nite recently "vacated"...and he said he'd mention it to Nino and took my card...Mr. Fields wife Ruth was next to me and I overheard her talk about the singer Roslyn Kind--sister of Barbra Streisand--I had met Ms. Kind years ago and have her CD--so we struck up a conversation--I was introduced to a singer beside her named Steve Maglio who sings Sinatra at the nearby Carnegie Club Sat nites with an 11-piece orchestra http://www.stevenmaglio.com/ --when Steve found I come from the Philly area he questioned whether I knew agent Jerry Samuels(who books the senior retirement facility circuit)--when I said that Jerry books me for those gigs--I learned that Steve HAD RECENTLY BEEN CALLED TO FILL IN FOR A DATE I COULD NOT DO!!! HOW IRONIC AND "SMALL WORLD" is that!? Steve lives in the Jersey area and so I guess Jerry Samuels agency encompasses quite a geographic area--but that set the stage for Steve doing some numbers with me at the piano after Irving left(I also met Mr. Fields--real nice guy--almost 90 years old yet very good health..the next evening the bartender called me and said that I could fill in for Mr. Fields during Memorial Week when he's on vacation--a few days later however he learned that Irving had a replacement already set--but it resulted in me getting STEADY MONDAYS THERE! So beginning June 6, that's where I'll be--my first weekly gig in NYC in about 5 years!...for more about Mr. Fields go to http://www.rebooters.net/hippoirvingnytimes.html and to check out all of Nino's venues go to http://www.ninosnyc.com/--see ya on Mondays in Manhattan!

Spotlight: THE ROGER GIRKE BAND! - March 19, 2005

After playing a gig at the Brookside Country Club in Pottstown on Friday nite March 18th, I decided to travel all the way into the Blue Bell area on Rt. 73 from Pottstown. I know that a great new Italian place in North Wales, PA called Bacco(www.baccobacco.com ) has incredibly good bands on the weekends..so just after midnight(to quote an Eric Clapton song) I entered the foyer of Bacco's and was greeted to the sweet sound of some funky blues. All of a sudden I heard the lead singer say "take it away Roger Girke!"..now, the only Roger Girke I knew was my good buddy from the Lehigh Valley who I've known since the late '80's. As I approached the stage(which is floor level with the bar)--sure enough Roger's gritty smile I recall was joined by his grittier, searing guitar lead. He interrupted the lead for a few seconds for a quick hug, and a few songs later his show was over. He was sitting in with another band that evening, all from quite a distance from North Wales. Roger has resided in Delaware for many years, and so the few times he travels to PA is always a treat for me--and what an unexpected one to walk into! Seated at the bar ironically was the owner of one of my weekly gig venues--Leo Leone of San Marco Ristorante in Spring House (www.sanmarcopa.com )..I introduced Leo to Roger (hey Roger--you know you owe Leo some Santana tunes next time you're in town--lol)...Roger and I caught up after at least 7-8 years of not seeing each other--before departing to Delaware he had played integral roles in the bands "the Front" and "Righteous" in the Lehigh Valley. He handed me his new CD(released in 2004) that is simply awesome--entitled "My Baby Loves That Stuff" by the Roger Girke Band. Roger sings and plays some of the funkiest R&B/Soul- tinged Chicago & Delta Blues with New Orleans funk you'll ever hear--and I'm so proud that he is making major headway in the Delaware/Maryland markets(and the national scene should be next!) How overjoyed I was to see him--and to share his music with all of you--please go to www.rogergirkeband.com and next time you consider hitting Rehobeth Beach think of this guy--I'm so glad I took that long ride up Rt. 73 tonite!(..I think there's a blues song there...)

Jim sees Ann Hampton Callaway in NYC! - March 16, 2005

On Wed., March 16 I travelled to Manhattan to check out a songwriter showcase sponsored by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets(MAC) & ASCAP, featuring new cabaret-oriented songs performed at the Lighthouse at 111 E.59th St. in NYC. The special guest for the evening was the incredible singer/pianist/composer Ann Hampton Callaway who performed selections from her new CD "Slow"(with a new song she co-wrote with Carole King and the song she wrote for Barbra Streisand's wedding to James Brolin), and a haunting CD single "Who Can See the Blue the Same Again" about the Tsunami disaster[with all proceeds going to the Prasad Project serving the victims www.prasad.org ]. She was interviewed afterward by Jamie DeRoy of MAC and her witty, comedic responses were amusingly self-deprecating and warmed us to this modest, statuesque lady with incredible talent. I had the pleasure to meet and work with Ann several years ago on the sketch-comedy show entitled "Cafe DuArt" that starred comedienne Louise DuArt in a cabaret setting where various perfomers(including Callaway, Lainie Kazan, Linda Lavin and others) would perform--I was part of the "background actors" cast for the show which aired in the late '90's on the Nostalgia Good network. In a meet-and-greet after her performance where she signed her CDs, Ann and I caught up after all these years. Check her out at www.annhamptoncallaway.com and if you have a chance to see her in the future, don't hesitate..her CDs are available at her site as well. In a side note, though he was not present, an old Allentown college buddy Michael Ogborn penned one of the songs featured in the evening's showcase--"Ou Apres La Guerre"--Michael has been increasingly successful as a musical theatre writer in Philly and beyond--he now resides in NYC--here is a link to some of his work: http://curtaincallprod.tripod.com/news.html And before the day was over, I found my way to Sam's Restaurant and Bar at 245 W. 45th St. where I used to play some dinner hour slots a few years ago--my friend singer/actress Tia was behind the bar..when a few guys came in wondering why there was no music, I volunteered to play for them and the crowd and a marvelous time was had by all! God I love NYC...

Check out THE THREE MONKS jazz trio! - March 6, 2005

I had the pleasure to catch Doug Hawk's somewhat new trio The Three Monks this Sunday evening at Allentown's Stooges Bar & Grille (www.stoogesbarandgrille.com) Doug is an incredible well-trained vocalist who became well-known in the Lehigh Valley a few years ago with the jazz fusion group Rhino Campground, where I got to know him personally. Now he and classically trained pianist Dan DeChellis and talented drummer Rian Carr are a trio that must be seen--Doug's lyrics are penned to Dan's dreamscape jazz meanderings that challenge the listener and invite them to expand their music appreciation. The trio uses Dan's big Yamaha electic stage piano to provide the sole musical accompaniment, with Carr's persussion enhancing the mood DeChellis creates. Hawk sometimes scat-sings, raps proficiently, and soars his tenor voice with deft precision--wanna be a singer?--check out this young man!(he also gives private lessons). Though Hawk would prefer doing originals all evening, he and the trio sprinkle a choice amount of great cover songs from Steely Dan's "My Old School" to Stevie Wonder to a hauntingly slowed-down interpretation of the Beatles "A Day In the Life" interspersed with a digression into "Eleanor Rigby". The trio puts their unique stamp on these cover songs which only makes them more appealing to listen to. I invite you ALL to check out their site at www.threemonks.net and go see them soon--they play dates in the Lehigh Valley and Philly/Manayunk venues so there should be a place in comfortable travelling distance to see these guys.
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