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Extra! Extra! Poor young girl forced to wear a corset and butt pillows!

Extra! Extra! Poor young girl forced to wear a corset and butt pillows!

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Ah, "Hidalgo": the story of a man and his horse! The second film to be released by Disney with a star from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, though actually the first to be filmed (or at least start filming).

I was just about to wrap up my month-long stint as a Krispy Kreme doughnut girl at the El Capitan for "Lilo and Stitch", when I received a message on my cell phone from my call-in service. They said I had a fitting for a movie that I thought was called "Hell Dog Room". I listened to the message again and again, and that was the best I could make out. The slow summer had finally ended, and I was about to go to my cushy minimum-wage job of sitting in the cold and eating stale doughnuts. This time, however, I was going to do it for Disney.

I'd had my experiences with Disney before. I'd worked on "Even Stevens" and "Lizzie McGuire" (way back when it's working title was still "What's Lizzie Thinking"). Believe it or not, I played a junior high school student. Yeah, they kept me in the back. But those shows were great to work on. Everyone was super nice, holding was full of couches and bean bag chairs, and the food was great. I also worked on a reshoot for "Country Bears". I didn't work until the very end of the day, and we were kept in a bleak room with old muffins and old fruit. But we were at the Disney Studios. And -- come lunchtime -- we wandered around and my geekiness level was filled for weeks to come! I also got to see the Jim Henson Creature Shop-engineered bears up-close, which I adored. Overall, my experiences with Disney productions were pretty decent.

Then I worked on "Hidalgo".

It was to be a five-day shoot consisting of two all-nighters and three all-dayers. I was to play an audience member of the Buffalo Bills Wild West Show in turn of the century New York. We were to film in Palos Verdes, CA. in an area that used to hold a sea-life park called Marine World. Now, I'm not sure, but I think that might be the land that Donald Trump recently purchased to build very expensive tract-homes.

In late July of 2002...

Yes, 2002. "Hidalgo" has had it's release date pushed and pushed. It was supposed to be a summer movie last year. But, for whatever reason, executives changed their minds. And it certainly wasn't going to go into the holiday bracket of last year. And go up against "Return of the King"? P-shaw! Disney learned a decade ago not to release a movie when an actor has another movie out at the same time by another studio (especially if they'd lose). If "Aladdin" taught them anything, it taught the executives that. It also taught them that copying other films' material is a great way to make a movie, but that's another story.

... So, off I went to a costume warehouse in Van Nuys to get fit for my wardrobe. A few guys and girls were trying on items on various sides of the warehouse. Some were getting fitted for wigs. Everyone had to wear wigs or facial hair. Some guys had to get their hair cut. All the women had to wear corsets. And butt pillows. They have an official term, I know. But the point of them was to make your rear look larger, so I dubbed them the butt pillows. As for me, I got to wear an off-white dress with red stripes, white gloves, black boots, a petticoat, a red tri-tipped hat with netting on the front (I loved that hat) and a corset. I also got to wear a black wig done up, well, like Scarlett O'Hara's hair. It was a pretty nifty costume.

At the end of my fitting, the head hair stylist showed me what rollers to wear in my hair the first night. She was a very small, very energetic woman who I'd worked with on something before, but neither of us could remember what. I want to say her name was Betsy. She was such a nice lady. She was the one who told me what the movie was about.

She said it was about this guy, Frank (Viggo), who was supposed to be the greatest horse-rider in the U.S. I can't remember if he was raised by Indians or not. But one day, at the Wild West Show (our big scene) a sultan (played by Omar Sharif) sees this man and invites him and his horse, Hidalgo, to Arabia to race with their riders. He decides to go and race. And -- naturally -- the other riders try to trick him and trap him and cheat. But -- of course -- he outsmarts them. Then -- at the end of the movie -- when Frank is back in America, he lets his horse go to run free on the American plains.

"Because he loves him so he lets him go." Betsy said. She said she loved the ending and thought it was so beautiful. I was a little skeptical of the ending, but I'm sure it'll be moving on film.

Calling the Central Casting hotline for information on where to go and when to be there was when the fun really began. We were supposed to drive all the way out to Palos Verdes (beyond San Pedro) at 5:30 pm. Union would be paid for mileage, of course. Non-union would only be paid for mileage if they showed up for all five days of shooting.

So let's see: Mileage is measured by how far the location is from the studio. I'm pretty certain it wasn't being shot at Disney Studios in Burbank, because I was only paid $21 (yes, I was there for it all). I'm gonna go with Raliegh Studios in Manhattan Beach, because they did actually shoot some stuff there. Raliegh Studios is where the David E. Kelly shows are shot, such as "The Practice", "Boston Public" and the late "Ally McBeal." One day, on our way to lunch from "Boston Public" my friends and I saw Viggo laying on the asphalt beside his trailer, a book in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He was in full cowboy regalia. My roommate -- who was working the show, too -- shouted: "Your wardrobe department sucks!" to him. His response was to shout back to her: "I know!" But I'm wandering.

So, on August 7th, I drove out to Palos Verdes for the first time. There was no one there when I got there except for one guy who was intending on living there in his van for the next few days. But it did fill up, and we all got signed in and went to wardrobe, hair and make-up.

Now, as far as body-mass is concerned, I'm a small person. My waist in the summer of '02 was 27 inches around. At the fitting, the corset full of boning and laces and hooks made me 24 inches around. The first night, everyone was so energetic that the wardrobe lady who laced me up put her foot on the bench in front of me and laced me up from behind so tight that I now had a 20-inch waist. I joked and said, "But I've just gotta be a size 19!" Then I went to hair and make-up.

I must say, I looked damn good. So did all of the other near-1,000 extras there. It was so much fun to just sit in the stands and just stare at everyone and pretend I was in another time. When we were shooting, we were very convincing. When we were in between shots and talking on cell-phones, well, not so much.

I can't remember what we shot the first night. Only one thing really stands out in my mind about the first night: the corset. It was bad enough I could feel the lower portions of my ribs rubbing up against eachother. I'd been informing people of my knowledge that -- around the time that this film supposedly took place -- there were devices that women wore (strapped around their hips and cupping them from underneath) in order to keep their uterus from getting squeezed out by their corsets. (I know, I know. TMI.)

Anyway ... about five hours into shooting, I found that I was starting to get winded just by talking. Then I got winded just by breathing. Pretty soon, I couldn't take it anymore and walked to the Andy Gump (porta-potty). Couldn't run, that would require breathing too much.

That was the only time I was absent for scenes I was supposed to be in. I could not leave the Andy Gump for almost an hour because my body was trying to fit into that corset. And it was trying to make room for it?ahem?out of any part of my body it could. (I know, I know. Again, TMI.)

I went to the wardrobe ladies, who were standing just off set and asked one of them to please loosen my corset.

"How many times have you thrown up?" She asked me, almost too perfectly.

"Four." I answered.

"All right." She replied. I pitied the girl who only said three.

Shortly after that was dinner. There was just some gorgeous food made for everyone. Too bad I couldn't eat any of it. I was scared I'd get sick again. So I picked at a dinner roll and joined some other girls laying down in the wardrobe tent.

The rest of the night till sun-up was pretty slow and uneventful for the extras, but we were there. I wasn't freezing because of all the layers. Come sun-up, we were just all so happy that we'd survived.

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