Freudian Slips: November 2006

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

November 30, 2006

Bazookas, The Movie

Maybe my blatant exclusion had something to do with my formal attire or the way I carried myself. Background actors rarely are in a position to ask questions and I might not have wanted to even know. With every extra on the movie set stationed around the bar but me, I started to lament how I got wrapped up filming the sexy comedy Bazookas, The Movie red-eyed through the live long night without actual inclusion.
Around 3:00am, director Michael Leonard finally walked over to me with his wheels turning. He informed, “Joe, I am not going to use you as a background extra.”
With acting aspirations derailed, my innermost insecurities ran rampant. I must look as ridiculous as Jerry Seinfeld festooned in a puffy pirate shirt. I have a dress-down change of wardrobe in the car. Tell the director you will gladly change wardrobe to casual.
“No?” I mustered trying to hide my disappointment.
“Joe, you are going to play the bartender. I am giving you a speaking part. You’re in the next scene.”
“Sure thing. Let me know when you need me. I’ll be eating my porridge.”
An extra on the set commented, “Am I mistaken, or did you just land a better part in this movie?”
Two and a half hours later and still not given my line to rehearse at nausea, I got called onto the set. I had a hop in my step searching for the entrance to the interior bar. Two principle actors sat bar side, one pretending to be inebriated in ale, the other intoxicated by personality. I introduced myself to the co-stars for what reason I do not know.
The lighting man stationed to my immediate right asked, “Joe, is that too much heat on you?”
“Not at all.” I beamed. “It’s my time to shine.”
The gregarious co-star parleyed my wisecrack. “This business is all about C.T., baby.”
Since the actor’s guild failed to outfit me with a decoder ring, I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know what the abbreviation stood for. So my lips moved instinctively as my acting stretched in between takes.
I agreed, “You got that right, it’s all about C.T.”
The co-star, Joe Campellone, clarified, “Yeah, it’s all about Camera Time.”
I could not help but laugh. “That is what I am talking about, baby.”
As the director took us through a walk-thru rehearsal, I noticed the differences in the setup for the upcoming shot. The two principle actors seemed to be sitting bar side left of the mark. The lighting shone incredibly grand from my standpoint. The background extras circled around the bar that I solely manned. The soundman hoisted and positioned a boom microphone above my head. The sleek high definition camera pointed directly at me. As the director rounded out the scene, I finally got the picture. For the next scene involving a bartender flagging a patron, this would be about me and C.T. Actors took their first positions and the camera moved up to speed. In an instant of distractibility, I thought about the sleepless nights I laid in bed curbing my enthusiasm should the improbable opportunity ever present itself to dialogue one itsy bitsy line in a motion picture. I didn’t have to wonder anymore what that line would be.
With no formal training as an actor, I mentally organized my chronology checklist almost too late. Start on your correct mark. Acknowledge the drunk with a head nod. Make eye contact with the second co-star before speaking. Lean onto the bar and into the camera for your second mark. Deliver your line. Use your free hand to make a pirate’s cutthroat gesture for exclamation. Walk around the bar without tripping over the monster cables.
Quiet on the set. The movie set clapboard slapped down. Action.
The collective bartender wearing a dapper tuxedo shirt leaned into Hollywood, “Your friend here…is cut off.”
Bringing new meaning to tipping your bartender, the marvelous director coached me through seven takes from two different camera positions. If this scene makes the final cut without my “cut off” line cut out, it will be a Lifetime Achievement Award for a background actor who dreamt of one cameo in the foreground.
*DVD copies of Bazookas, The Movie can be ordered here.


- Joe Tornatore on the movie set of Bazookas.
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November 28, 2006

Glory Days

This past weekend, I played in a touch football game on a sun-drenched field. Despite absorbing the indignity of being picked last to play on a team, my heart pitter-pattered and my jaw chomped at the bit. During the opening kickoff of the football game, my legs buckled in their arduous quest forward. About ten steps downfield into the first play of the game, I realized a great detraction. I cannot string strides together. I cannot open my strides to a gallop without my knees cog wheeling or giving out. I am functionally unable to run.
A speed merchant on my team living out his glory days left me in the dust. My younger brother passes me on my left. The rest of my teammates surged ahead of me in the downfield pursuit. Lady in cement passed me at the thirty-five yard line. High-speed shutter aspirations turn into slow motion gnashing of moving joints. The opposing team’s thirteen-year-old ball carrier broke free of the pack. For lack of a better action word, I give chase. Only NASA could scientifically explain the gravitational pull on my body trying to move my weight forward. My gimpy legs skidded laterally but they could not even touch the ball carrier. In my gasp for air, I grasped only air. Middle age rendered me a worthless football player. I could not effectively backpedal, sidestep, jump, run, or block. I turned around at the action only to see my entire sports career in a rearview mirror of sorts.
In a sedentary alternate universe, perhaps there are 44-year-old couch potatoes, who while reaching for another beer and the chip and dip bowl, know they cannot run anymore. Personally, it came with as much surprise as humiliation to learn that I cannot run anymore because I am able to tenuously sprint from point to point in tennis and racquetball. If my life depended on it, I could probably exit a house on fire with only second-degree burns although nobody would call my plodding escape running.
An hour later, the pickup game mercifully ended with my clothes soaked in cold sweat. Reddened of face, I walked off the field a defeated man left wondering where all the years of my prime went. If I knew nothing about football, I knew something about my future. The tennis clinic promised to be coming my way for Christmas will be returned for an Ipod.


November 26, 2006

Million Dollar Baby

While channel surfing with the remote control, my ears recorded what my eyes did not initially see. This sports fanatic stopped on the heels of a professional boxing match in progress. I noticed the excitement of the crowd and the fervor in the male announcer’s voice as two million dollar babies went at it.
“She has it all. She is the complete package.” The announcer passionately described. “A vicious right hook to the temple. Look at her go. This is some lady. ”
The description made no sense with the brutal visual images before me. I realized that the only thing missing from this sporting event was testosterone. This was not a hair pulling catfight over the high school baseball team’s right fielder’s affection. I watched a simply glovely woman boxer pummeling another broad in the corner of a ring. A left jab precipitated a body shot into the pillows of her opponent’s erogenous zone. Teeth clenched, the two pug-faced red eye combatants traded blows like rabid pit bulls fighting to the death.
I watched the bout until I could not take it any longer. As a hot-blooded man, who espouses the beauty and virtue of women, I cannot visualize anything less feminine and desirable than a woman boxer. If savagery constitutes a lady, what lousy adjectives are left to inject a tramp?


November 23, 2006

Belly of the Beast

-amateur chef Joe Tornatore has his hands full this Thanksgiving.
After I plunged my hand into the cavernous belly of the 38 pound beast, I didn't know whether I would be able to find my way out. If I say I was up to my elbows, my armpit would feel slighted. Rumor has spread amongst family members that inside the fresh killed turkey I found a liver still beating, an equine resembling neck bone, and a dented Florida license plate with no sign of its rightful owner.
Happy Thanksgiving!


November 21, 2006

The High Andre Waters Mark

A hard-nosed defensive back, Andre Waters played for the Philadelphia Eagles with reckless abandon. Often fined for his bone-crushing hard hits in his twelve-year career, Andre Waters played the game of football the only way he knew how…downhill on a collision course. He earned the tenacious reputation as one of the most ferocious tacklers in the National Football League. I remember shuttering at the violent way he hurled his body like a projectile across the field. I lauded his kamikaze style and caliber of performance because he played with no regard for human life…his or anyone else he came into contact with.
Tragically, Andre Waters took his own life today with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. He always played for keeps.


November 19, 2006

A Bridge Too Far

- It's a jungle out there.


November 16, 2006

Near Call of Duty

"GAME HEAD and leading video game publisher Activision have joined forces to bring gamers a truly interactive gaming experience. SPIKE and Activision searched the country to find 16 hardcore fans of the popular "Call of Duty" game franchise, flew them to a top-secret military installation and initiated them into a real boot camp. Under the charge of real-life Senior Drill Instructor JB Spisso, these "candidates" behave like soldiers. They must run, eat, sleep, and game on Spisso's command. A series of Gaming Missions and Physical Challenges will determine who has what it takes, and who should have stayed at home on the couch. In the end, only one candidate will withstand to become the GAME HEAD: Call of Duty 3 Challenge Champion and win a bevy of prizes including a Home Entertainment Center, compliments of Best Buy; a VIP trip to the SPIKE 2006 Video Game Awards and a trip for 2 to Normandy, France."
I signed a binding contract that prevented me from publicly mentioning the following bit of bittersweet news until after November 13, 2006. Weeks after I auditioned for a reality television show, imagine my reaction when I opened the following email in my Inbox: DEAR MR. TORNATORE, CONGRATULATIONS. YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED BY SPIKE TV AND ACTIVISION TO APPEAR ON THE SHOW GAMEHEAD: CALL OF DUTY 3 CHALLENGE.
Various links, contest rules, legalese, and releases for a criminal background check accompanied the body of the email. Once I determined that this was no Nigerian internet scam to showcase my acting ability at the expense of a drained bank account, I jumped for joy upon reading the first line of the lengthy email. Unable to contain my excitement in the library, I dashed around the entire house. Agog, I circled the dining room and scaled the staircase with middle-aged mock speed. My eyes twinkled. Sixteen finalists from around the country would jet off to Camp Smith, a military base in New York State to launch the official release of the virtual reality war game Call of Duty 3. Contestants agreed to confinement to the military base until a first place winner was determined. The competition called for a virtual reality X Box competition juxtaposed with a Survivor type boot camp for skills competition like repelling, paintball wars, and shooting matches. When my heart stopped racing about the possibilities of fame, fortune, and personal injury, I settled back to my computer chair to read the fine print governing my winning status. I started to slowly read what I had to do next on my way to becoming a reality TV star. From the page, I lifted two words that struck me as a kind of demeaning, FIRST ALTERNATE.
“First Alternate.” I repeated aloud in disbelief. “What kind of second class designation is FIRST ALTERNATE?”
I grabbed the telephone by the throat and called the listed representative in a California area code. In speaking with the Activision producer, I quickly learned the realities of being an alternate reality TV star.
“You can only get into the game if a contestant cancels at the last minute.”
I asked pointedly, “What am I looking at here from a probability standpoint?”
“Mr. Tornatore, we still haven’t heard from all of the contestants, sixteen criminal background checks need clearance, and somebody could get sick at the last minute. So you have an outside chance somebody might trip up.”
Even as first alternate, my instructions stipulated completing all the entangled necessary paperwork via fax and pack my suitcase for parts unknown, ready to go on a moment’s notice. Over the next week, I started to workout at the gym with the ferocity of a Sigfried and Roy tiger. I longed for a chance to put a 19-year-old computer geek in a headlock during one of the military maneuvers. Checking the calendar and world events, I realized that the production dates would occur not only during Rosh Hashanah but in the midst of a nationwide Ecoli spinach outbreak. I held unto hope like the caboose in a tug of war.
Alas, I received a last minute email that the show established a confirmed cast along with an iota of thanks tagline for my intended enlistment. All the background checks came back without any of the sweet sixteen marked by even a Henna temporary tattoo. Rosh Hashanah interfered with nobody’s dreams. Nary a mixed green salad lover got sick from tainted spinach. No lost soul missed their secret mission airplane. The only distinction I earned was that gamehead classmates of my oldest daughter found my name listed as a finalist on the internet. So how much did being runner-up affect my psyche? Plenty. While sipping from a vodka drip reclined atop a luxury liner vacationing in the Gulf of Mexico, I had the presence of mind to check the time one night.
I mentioned to my wife with regret, “That reality TV show I almost appeared on broadcasts in exactly one minute.”
I have impeccable timing…only to an extent.


November 14, 2006

Give me a Brake

- Even without the signage, humanity dictates to yield to a hunched forward old fogie with a cane being held upright by his wife.


November 12, 2006

In the Loop

-Joe Tornatore, far right, smiles for the camera.

There is no greater cause that symbolizes and unifies both my career in social work and my interest in acting than my selection to participate in a World AIDS Day commercial. A background actor of my lowly stature rarely gets a chance to speak on film and today my pantomime on B roll film for this worthwhile cause proved to be no exception. After being afloat on a cruise liner in the Gulf of Mexico only twenty-four hours earlier, the acting role called for standing in place for hours on a mark outlined by a cobalt blue piece of tape. As I tried to execute conversational pantomime to complete strangers at a standstill on cue, my body rocked in a boat's perpetual sway.

Shooting for the commercial occurred at Hill Studios in Paulsboro, New Jersey. Upon arrival, I admired the bevy of autographed show biz memorabilia gracing the walls. I learned that Hill Studios provided the backdrop for many commercial, television, and movie projects. The likes of Frank Sinatra to Allen Iverson have graced the premises so what was acting novice Joe Tornatore doing in a place like this? I am not really sure how my life works other than to describe it as ironic. Truth be told, a middle-aged man with a receding hairline stood against all odds front and center in a closed set commercial spotlighting spry thirty something year olds.

After actors muddled through wardrobe and makeup, the crew fashioned each of us with a tiny red ribbon, the symbol of awareness to commemorate the World AIDS movement. As wranglers marched us to the staging area, the smell of white paint fumigated nostrils. Instruction focused on the micromanagement of positioning. Sixty extras from a parade of nations formed a human red ribbon loop on a freshly whitewashed studio set. With my fortuitous position marked in the center of the contiguous loop, I considered myself the slipknot delicately holding the human ribbon together. I joked aloud about this and many other whimsical puns to lubricate the assembly. I also laughed at myself for if a camera lens adds ten pounds, a week long cruise adds another dozen pounds.

Two trigger-happy photographers took literally hundreds of digital still shots of the actors, photos promptly loaded into laptop computers to start production before the day’s wrap. Throughout the shoot, three hard working makeup artists ran around the set dotting beads of trickling sweat, wiping facial sheen, and powdering faces. My face looked like aged crumpled cheese next to the fresh porcelain faces so the makeup department quite literally had their hands full with me. When the camera lifted 25 feet atop a hydraulic platform scaffold to shoot aerial footage of our loopy formation, things started to look up for all of the actors. Hours later, the unfailing camera lowered back to ground cover tripod action for dolly track pans, soft focus shots, and prizewinning close-ups.

I shared a sit down catered lunch and conversation with two beautiful women. After they fell asleep on the table with their heads down, I started to rethink the notion of my stage presence over chicken salad at nausea. Then another extra saved me from despair when she told me I might not be Chicken Little. Production canonized a touching close-up of me extending my arm to an infant, who held by her mother, grasped hold of my finger with her fist to symbolize the circle of life. There is a bigger picture here. Word passed on the set attached notable actors Will Smith and Kevin Bacon to this commercial. The director also informed us that music will be composed for the commercial and a pre-screening party is being teased to launch airing. This may turn out to be something grand. If nothing else, it proves that no matter where you stand in life, it is always good to be in the loop. So act now for a cause.


November 10, 2006

Sharing Fascination

While Freudian Slips slept online this week, its author enjoyed incredible sunsets in the gulf of Mexico with his wife. This is a picture from the top deck of the Carnival cruise ship Fascination.


A Life in Ruins

Beyond expectations, this was the most breathaking sightseeing I have ever experienced. The Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Mexico are ranked in the second set of Seven Wonders of the World. The smile on my face does not reflect my contained anxiety. This anaphylactic risked this remote jungle location to get to this spot along the sixty foot cliff overlooking the sea. My wife had to sweet talk me into going on this excursion but I am so glad she made inroads. As only the irony of Freudian Slips could undescore, I would have hated for my life to end in ruins.


November 05, 2006


After a rejuvenating workout at the gym, I wound up lockered next to a peculiar man. Dressed in mismatched clothes, the man looked like he did not belong at the gym…at least not for a workout. When he opened his gym bag, I saw a bevy of pornographic girlie magazines, spoiled food fitting of a squirrel, and a hand towel positioned to conceal a 35mm camera. Alarmingly, his actions superceded the contents of the stuffed ditty bag. As if I were an invisible bystander, the man repeatedly fondled silk boxers that peeked naughtily out of a zippered compartment. The man walked with his head down to make repeated marches to the sink for hand washing only to return to his magic gym bag to fondle the garment. I am not sure that he ever wanted to leave his gym bag side. Rather, I think compulsions made it the only option.
When he started mumbling to himself, I quickly dressed back to civilian clothes while his camera remained tucked away. I had seen enough. The man all to himself gave me more than enough evidence for me to form my own opinion. In my own crowded mind, I called him insane. Then I remembered my just finished workout ritual.
I lollygagged inside the snack bar for a few minutes so I could start my workout exactly at 10am sharp. Once comfortable to set myself into motion, my own compulsiveness required me to do the circuit machines in the predetermined order of a set routine. Superstitiously, I used the same weight I have been doing since I started losing weight a year ago. I exerted the same amount of energy by pushing the weights for the same amount of repetitions. I kept my heart elevated, pausing only for water breaks every fifteen minutes on the hour. I repeatedly cleaned off the machines with paper towels. More than once or twice, I fastidiously checked myself in the mirror. I ended my workout when the secondhand struck twelve exactly one hour later. Nine seconds over my mark, my lips almost moved to voice disapproval. I proceeded to the locker room, where I called another man insane.


November 02, 2006

The Eagles Will Win

-The Eagles Will Wynn...but when?
In a sheltered workshop teaming will collating and assembly work contracts, many of the developmentally disabled clients dressed up this past Halloween in attention grabbing costumes. At his busy workstation, I approached Fred who dressed in a Philadelphia Eagles football jersey complete with oversized shoulder pads. Fred tipped his Philadelphia Eagles visor the moment he saw me enter the open-aired workshop. Like the Eagles of late, I couldn't pass on the opportunity.

“Now that is scary, Fred.” I greeted. “It takes a brave soul to be a Philadelphia Eagles player this year.”

“He-he, you guessed it. I’m an Eagles player. Na-no fooling you.”

Following the Eagles lackluster 13-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, I had been listening to sports talk radio for two days. Venomous fans crucified every player on the team from the third string quarterback to the water boy. More compassionate callers and level headed radio show hosts vainly tried to dissect the problems of the talented local football team only a year removed from reaching the coveted Super Bowl. I decided to elicit the opinion of Fred, a true hardcore Eagles fan diagnosed with mild retardation.

I asked, “Fred, can you answer a question about the Eagles?”

“Wa-wa-what Joe?”

I decided to make a multiple choice dartboard to make it easier on Fred's compromised speech. “Mired in a three game losing streak, the Eagles team to a man has to ask themselves what went wrong and how to fix it. There is plenty of blame to be shared in a team game but fingers point to bad coaching, a lack of leadership, poor execution, and underachieving players not showing emotion. I ask you as a fan, what do you think is the major problem of your favorite football team?”

Flanked by a ghoul and a giant pumpkin, football Fred laid it on the fifty-yard line. “Wa-well its like this, Joe. The other ta-ta-teams… Yeah… the other ta-ta-teams. The other ta-ta teams are scoring more points.”

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