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/ .

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