When I first moved from my family’s farm in Illinois to Los Angeles, I was definitely the epitome of a ‘Hay Seed in Hollywood’. I was awkward, socially backwards, and in complete awe that I lived where palm trees grow. I couldn’t believe anything so tall and skinny, never fell over or snapped in half. No matter how strong the ocean wind blew, the palm trees just swayed and bowed. It was like they danced in the wind joyfully laughing knowing that they could not be blown over, and they would stand tall once again as soon as the wind passed them by.
I, on the other hand, was not as confident with my height as the mighty palm trees. I was six feet tall and dreaded it everyday. I felt like an Oompa Loompa stuck inside of a Big Bird costume.
Within the first few months of my arrival in Los Angeles, I was introduced to the wild world of independent filmmaking. A friend of mine had landed himself a job as an assistant to a producer on an indie film starring Dean Cain. My friend called and told me that he could get me a job on the set as a PA (production assistant). Basically, a glorified gofer. He insisted it would be a great learning experience for me and an opportunity to get to know my way around a film set. The film was being shot on location in the high desert of Palmdale, CA. The job would include a place to stay and three meals. WOW…kinda like a working vacation. Will there be any palm trees there?
My dusty, hot drive up to the Palmdale indie film set was like a road trip out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Which was appropriate, because the motel room I was to stay in was straight out of Pulp Fiction. The room came complete with lipstick stained towels and an empty vodka bottle rolling around under the bed. It didn’t take me long to understand the difference between a low-budget indie film and a big studio film. Honestly, I kinda liked the edginess.
Early the next morning I began my first official day as a crew member on a film set. I was assigned to two departments, transpo and craft services. Transpo, which is short for Transportation Dept., is super cool. I had to drive a white van and transport actors, the crew, and equipment to and from the different set locations.
When there was no one to transport anywhere, I was sent to work with craft services. Craft Service is a very important job. It is referred to as ‘crafty’ and it provides all the snacks, refreshments, and meals to the cast and crew on a set. My job with crafty on this film set was to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I did mention this film was a low-budget film, right? In all fairness, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are probably your best bet on a dessert set that is in the triple digits. It was HOT out there!!! When I wasn’t serving PB&J to the crew, I was running around delivering bottles of water and sunblock.
That’s how I met the star of the movie, Mr. Dean Cain. Otherwise known as Superman, Clark Kent, or Louise Lane’s boyfriend from the 1990’s TV show Lois & Clark.
I was assigned to Dean Cain. What does that mean? Well, it means I was his personal water girl. Dean played a businessman lost in the middle of the desert, so many of his scenes were shot during the hottest part of the day and directly under the intense desert sun. Don’t worry Superman, your trusty water girl is on her way!!!
I had one job to do, and it was very specific. Make sure Dean Cain gets Fiji bottled water. It had to be Fiji water. Not Arrowhead, not Dasni, and definitely not Kirkland. It had to be Fiji. I never knew why it had to be Fiji. I mean, what does Fiji have to do with Planet Krypton?
It didn’t matter. All I knew was I was getting paid to hand bottles of water to a sweaty Dean Cain and stand next to him as he guzzled it down like a strapping farm hand, whose muscles were pumped after bailing hay all day in the smoldering heat of hot summertime. Oh my God, if I ever get cast to play Maggie in a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I’ll remember that moment.
When the shoot day finally ended, I was instructed to take off my ‘crafty’ hat and put back on my ‘transpo’ hat. Which means, I went from being Dean Cain’s water girl, to his chauffeur. I drove Mr. Cain back to his motel, which was much nicer than the motel I was staying in. Of course it was. After all, he was the star of the film. I just spread the peanut butter.
As I drove our Man of Steel across the Mojave Desert, we small-talked about the day's events and how a peanut butter sandwich could survive an apocalypse. As we chatted, we looked at each other through the reflection of the rear view mirror. Do those eyes really have x-ray vision? Why is his hair so perfect? Focus Melinda, focus on the road. It was after midnight when I pulled into the parking lot of Dean’s motel. He leaned forward and stuck his head up near my driver’s seat.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” he said.
Huh? Now? “Huum, uh, O-o-ookay.” I stammered.
“How tall are you?” he said.
Well gee-whiz Superman, aren’t you original. “Six feet,” I answered.
“Do you ever wear heels?” he asked.
Hot buttermilk biscuits! Am I back in a Quentin Tarantino movie and is Superman getting kinky?
“No,” I answered. “I’m six feet tall. Why would I wear heels?”
“Tall women are beautiful. I love tall women,” Dean explained as he leaned closer to my driver seat.
Okay. Goodnight Superman. I’m on the clock. Don’t you have a building to jump over or something?
“Never be shy about your height,” he continued. “My girlfriend is 6’3”.”
Oh, so there is a Lois Lane. My bad.
“Really?” I said.
“Yes, my girlfriend is a professional beach volleyball player. She is 6’3” in bare feet. Whenever we go out, she always wears four inch heels. She is fabulous. I think all tall women should wear heels.” Dean explained.
“Well, I don’t even own a pair of heels. The last time I wore heels a guy told me to take them off. He said he could see up my nose.” I confided.
“What?” Dean laughed. “He sounds like a jerk.”
Dean smiled the sweetest, most encouraging big-brotherly smile and said, “Tell ya what, I dare you to buy a pair of heels and wear them to the wrap party next week.” He grabbed his bag, jumped out of the van; and as he walked away, he turned and said, “It’s up to you, but I think tall women are beautiful.”
Hold your horses! Did Superman just give this tall chick permission to wear heels? I think so. Off to Payless I go.
The next day I bought myself a pair of nifty, size 11, four inch taupe heels. I knew they would go perfect with my little off-white mini sundress. Wrap party, here I come.
The party was at a swanky little Hollywood bar. I walked into the party, wearing my new heels. With my heels on, I was 6 feet 4 inches tall. Oh God, I hope my nose is clean. I looked around the room. No Dean Cain in sight. Well, maybe he got stuck in a phone booth or something.
I needed a drink. I walked over to the bar. The bartender watched me as I strutted his way in my new heels.
“Hey, I’ll have a dirty martini.” I said.
“Nooo, you won’t,” replied the bartender.
Are you out of olive juice? “I’ll have a dirty martini,” I said again.
“No, you won’t,” said the bartender. “I watched you walk over here. It looks like you have had enough drinks for one night. I’m cutting you off.”
“What? I just got here.” I announced. “I haven’t had anything to drink all day.” Hell, I hadn’t had anything to drink all week.
“I'm sorry,” replied the bartender. “I can’t serve someone who can barely walk up to the bar. Would you like some water and a couple dinner rolls?”
“OH NO!” I exclaimed. “I’m not drunk. I’m wearing heels. You see, I’m six feet tall with no shoes. A few days ago Superman dared me to wear heels and I’m not very good at walking in them yet. I guess I should have practiced walking before…”
The bartender gave me a very cold stare. “I’m not serving you. Maybe you should take off your heels before you hurt yourself.”
Wow! That was rude. Maybe he was right. I took off my heels and walked outside to get a breath of fresh air. I sat down on the curb defeated. This must be what Superman feels like after getting socked in the gut with kryptonite. Tears welled up in my eyes. Oh no. Don’t cry on a street corner, Melinda. You’ll ruin your mascara. Where’s Superman when you need him?
I tilted my head up towards the sky in hopes that my tears would roll back behind my eyeballs. It was then that I noticed the palm trees that were lining the street. They stood tall, beautiful, and proud. The wind was blowing them in my direction. It almost looked as though the palm trees were giving me an encouraging nod. As if to say, ‘You’re ok. Get up and walk your tall ass back into that party.’
It was then that it dawned on me. Superman’s gal pal, Wonder Woman, was tall. Hell, Wonder Woman was an Amazonian! OH MY GOD, I’m a SuperHero!!! And that bartender is Lex Luthor! I put my heels back on, stood up, and walked back into that bar. I walked slowly, but confidently. Whenever I would start to lose my balance, I would stop, take a deep breath, and say ‘I am Wonder Woman’.
Just then I heard, “Well, well, it’s Melinda. Aren’t you looking great tonight.” It was the producer of the film standing with a few of the crew members.
Okay. Deep breath. Don’t be nervous. I am Wonder Woman.
“Well, thank you.” I said “How are you handsome boys doing tonight?” What the?... Did I really just say that? Did I just call the producer a boy? Who the hell do I think I am? Oh yeah, Wonder Woman!
“I was just going to buy a round of drinks,” said the producer. “Would you like to join us?”
“Absolutely. Thank you,” I replied. Wow! I like being Wonder Woman.
As we approached the bar, the producer handed his credit card to Lex Luthor, “I’d like to buy a round for my friends.”
Mr. Luthor glared at me. I gave ol Lexie my best smile as I put my hand on the producer’s shoulder, both as a way to make a point and to keep my balance.
“And what will you be drinking tonight?” asked Lex Luthor. “A martini?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m suddenly more in the mood for a Mai Tai.” That seemed a bit more in the spirit of Wonder Woman’s island of Themyscira.
The wrap party was a lot of fun. Dean Cain never did show up. He was probably busy being more powerful than a locomotive. By the end of that evening, I had developed a super power of my own. Walking gracefully in heels. HA! Honestly, walking in heels was not really the super power I gained that night. That night I learned the true power of self-acceptance. Thank you Superman.
I never saw Dean ‘Superman’ Cain again. Today I own a few pairs of heels. Two pairs are Manolo Blahnik, thank you very much. I enjoy wearing my heels. To this day, whenever anyone has the balls to ask me why I wear heels, I just reply by saying, “Superman told me to.”