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balance (2): superstar

Wednesday, February 9, 2005


i was surfing an expat message board the other day and saw a posting wanting foreigners to do a t.v. show pilot (the ‘farang show’). having nothing better to do at this point i emailed them and volunteered. they asked me to meet them at 3pm yesterday in lad prao- a very long way from where i am. so not knowing what to expect i caught a taxi around 2. it was one of those instances where the taxi driver mistakenly thought himself to be a racecar driver- though none of the urban streets we raced through remotely resembled a racecourse- and one of those taxis mysteriously not equipped with seatbelts. 40 bone-rattling minutes later (after narrowly avoiding being sideswiped by a very large bus and wondering absentmindedly if thai people have ever heard of the rule of driving that says to keep one car length ahead for every 10 miles per hour they drive) i jumped out, dizzy, tried to stop shaking long enough to hand the driver his 100 baht, and plopped onto the curb to reel in shock. argh. at that point i was forced to regret my decision to go to lad prao.

nevertheless i pressed on. i met up with the production manager, a small, suspiciously friendly thai girl who immediately launched into her most intimate personal details with me as we waited in an air conditioned foyer through which various film-related workers traipsed in and out, laden with camera equipment. i heard all about her abusive boyfriend, and her fear that she had something stuck inside her womb from the last time she had had sex 4 weeks ago. She gave me her phone number and insisted i call her later to be best friends.

i was led into the main office, where various young, hip professionals peered at me disdainfully over their macintosh screens. a curly haired ladyboy plopped me into a chair and proceeded to paint on at least 5 gallons of makeup, and to remonstrate with me for being so incredibly thin (it’s true, i weigh 109 pounds right now, a terrifyingly emaciated weight for me). he pulled my hair straight back and sprayed it until it was a solid block on top of my head and i resembled some sort of munster. he handed me a traditional thai costume to put on (long silk skirt, shapeless jacket, gaudy gold belt). i sweated profusely under the thick material and bright flourescent lights. he dropped a cheap gossip magazine in my lap and i read comparisons of celebrity boob jobs while i waited for the other farangs to arrive.

my cohorts were a few typical english men, long time expats, who knew the staff well. we each were assigned a role that was quintessentially thai- one man was to be a tuk tuk driver, one a family mart clerk, one a policeman, and i and a man named tim were designated to be greeters at a thai restaurant. apparently the big joke is to show farangs in everyday occupations normally reserved for thais. hrmm. i started to wonder if i was the butt of this joke.

not long after the men arrived and were being made up, i realized that i was in the midst of a little clique of which i was not a part (which makes me unbearably shy), and they all seemed a bit bitter about thailand. a british girl who could only be referred to as a hussy & who appeared to be a manager of sorts took to joking about how thai people often mistake her for an ATM. one of the men bemoaned the fact that there is little to no money to be made and thus a life in thailand, once you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that it won’t be the island paradise of your backpacking days, is a life of drudgery. the thai girls all exclaimed and guffawed at my mentioning a thai boyfriend, and launched into the same admonishments i hear every time the subject comes up with anyone, being that thai men are worthless, will cheat mercilessly, and will eventually rob you blind. while i do believe these are all true, and hit especially close to home right at this point, i prefer to ignore those facts on a daily basis and live in a stubborn relative peace. sigh... by this time i was ready to get the hell out of there.

finally we piled into a luxury minibus and headed to our assorted venues for filming. we attracted many amused stares from passersby, not helped by the fact that i was tripping every other step on my long skirt. the family mart guy hammed it up, the security guy looked the part, and hours later, my partner and i dutifully though weakly wai’d ‘sawat dee ka’ at the camera and then gave shit eating grins and cheesy thumbs up. i must say i felt completely retarded, and found myself hoping the pilot never takes off, or that at least i was unrecognizable in my costume.

the rest of the group hung around to drink beer and gossip, but i changed into my street clothes and grabbed my 1000 baht compensation with little hesitation, and whispering an awkward goodbye that was largely ignored, i snuck off to shock an old, feeble taxi driver (who drove slowly but still had a penchant for running red lights) with my exaggerated makeup, on the way home to very welcome normality.
and thus my acting career in thailand was concluded.


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