TO BOLDLY GO WHERE WANNABE TREKKIES HAVE GONE BEFORE!: My Adventures as a Next Generation Extra

 

Okay, this doesn’t really have much to do with my new novel FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN (which you may find for purchase here on Amazon), but an interested reader stumbled across the fact that, for a brief time in my checkered past, I served as an extra and stand-in on Star Trek: The Next Generation, thereby upping my “geek cred” among sci-fi nerds throughout the Federation. Said reader asked if I would share some reminiscences of my Trek sojourn, and since followers of this blog tend to be fans of all things fantastic, I thought you might enjoy hearing some of the Adventures of Ensign Woodworth.

My Hollywood experience prior to Trek had been limited to some extra work on that timeless classic Teen Wolf, Too!, which filmed on campus at my alma mater Pomona College while I was a student there. I composed part of what the filmmakers referred to as “background action” or “atmosphere.” I found the latter term rather insulting, since it made us extras sound like nebulous, gaseous beings who would simply dissipate when the director yelled “Cut!” Nevertheless, I had fun on the set, despite catching a horrible stomach flu that nearly caused me to puke on star Jason Bateman as I rode behind him in a shuttle van when the last day’s shoot wrapped.

My first gig on Next Generation was as an unnamed, uncredited (of course) “security officer,” which in Classic Trek would have made me a “redshirt.” (Hence, the photo above.)  Alas, I did not get to die horribly in the first act of either of the two episodes in which I was cast! (I would be remiss if I did not express gratitude to my childhood friend David Trotti, who was 2nd Assistant Director on the show and without whom I would never have had the opportunity to take part in it)

My stint began with the show’s costumers at Paramount Studios fitting me for my sleek, one-piece gold jumpsuit Next Generation uniform. To ensure an absolutely wrinkle-free veneer, I had to wear a special tuck-in tank top and brief undergarment combination. The jumpsuit worn over the undergarment consisted of a stretchy, Lycra-type material with bungee-type straps that ran underneath the soles of the costume’s boots to pull the entire outfit taut. This arrangement made the outfit look super-snappy, but it felt like I had giant rubber bands dragging down my shoulders all day. Furthermore, the uniform had no fly; in order to relieve yourself, you had to unzip the jumpsuit and essentially drop the entire costume down around your knees. The design made me wonder if people in the future will be genetically altered so they never need to go to the bathroom.

Sadly, I only got to be a human crew member on Next Generation. I was hoping I might get cast as an alien, not only because that would be even cooler from a geek standpoint, but because I’d get a “bump” in pay, as we extras say. I gather the amount of the “bump” depended on what percentage of your face they had to cover with makeup: a little bit more for a latex wrinkle across the bridge of your nose, more still for the ridged scalp of a Klingon, and most of all if they had to remake your whole visage.

Both of the scenes for which I served as “atmosphere” for Trek took place in Ten Forward, the lounge where Enterprise crew members go to unwind after a hard day of dodging photon torpedoes and repairing overloaded dilithium-crystal warp drives. No doubt this pub serves its squeaky-clean crew Trek patrons nothing but non-alcoholic smoothies and juice cocktails! (Actually, I vaguely recall reading a copy of the Next Generation series bible that stated that the drinks in Ten Forward are chemically designed to give crew members a pleasant buzz that, somehow, they can immediately shake off if the ship needs all hands sober on deck for an emergency. No bar fights, and the Enterprise navigators are never DUI! And, as I mentioned earlier, you never have to go to the bathroom, even after all that drinking. What a truly utopian future awaits us in the Trek universe!)

I first reported for duty in the Next Generation episode “Masks,” in which an alien archive starts to transform the Enterprise into a replica of what looks to be a Mayan temple. As I indicated, I was in a crowd scene in Ten Forward, strolling through the bar in the background with a colorful (and completely innocuous) cocktail in one hand while chatting with an attractive red-headed female navigator. Unfortunately, this scene appears to have ended up on the proverbial cutting-room floor. (Not because of me, I hope!) At least, I have been unable to spot myself in the show in the couple of times I’ve watched the episode.

My second tour of duty on the Enterprise came in the episode “Bloodlines,” which centers around a young man who may—or may not—be Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s son. Again, the scene takes place in Ten Forward, where Picard and his presumed offspring are having an intense discussion. This time, I actually made the final cut: You can see me (albeit out-of-focus) in my gold security officer’s uniform seated at a table behind Picard’s “son,” where I am playing a futuristic checkers game with an older, African-American crew member. The actor playing my opponent was a very warm, funny gentleman who cracked me up with the flamboyant, enthusiastic jumps he made with his space-age checkers. Neither of us knew any rules for the game we were supposed to be playing, but whatever they were, he was clearly winning.

The rest of my work on Next Generation was off-camera as a stand-in for Picard’s “son” and for Brent Spiner, beloved by the known universe as that affable android Commander Data. As I was of a similar height and hair color to these two actors, the camera crew would use me to set the lighting, sharpen their focus, and practice any camera movements prior to the actual shot. I have particularly fond memories of Brent Spiner, who went out of his way to introduce himself and shake hands with me the first day I served as his stand-in. (Shaking hands with Data—I was in geek heaven!)

Spiner was as much fun off-camera as on. In between takes, he and Michael Dorn, who played the formidable Klingon Worf, would amuse themselves (and everyone else) by doing improv comedy. During one rehearsal for a scene on the Bridge, Patrick Stewart as Picard barked an order at the two of them, and they both dropped to the ground and crawled away like groveling slaves. On another occasion, they adopted the accents of Borscht Belt comedians and ad-libbed an incredible routine as the screenwriting Epstein brothers, doing a hilarious Yiddish version of Casablanca. (“This could be the start of a beautiful frayndshaft!”)

Messrs. Spiner & Dorn were not the only ones with a sense of humor on the show. In this pre-HD era, the set designers took advantage of the fact that the home audience would never be able to read the blurry, out-of-focus labels on the Enterprise’s control panels. They embedded several inside jokes on the Bridge and elsewhere, including a set of buttons devoted to the “Improbability Drive” from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My contact with the other principal actors on the series was limited, although I was seated on the ground near Patrick Stewart at one point when he stumbled slightly and used my shoulder to catch himself, for which he apologized like the English gentleman he is. (Picard almost fell on me! I was in geek heaven again.)

Those are the high points of my personal Star Trek voyage. I would love to post a picture of me in my security officer’s outfit, but everything Trek-related is so thoroughly copyrighted and trademarked that you’ll just have to take my word about how dashing I looked in uniform. Or squint really hard as you watch that one Ten Forward scene in “Bloodlines.”

Until our next blog journey…LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!

Your FRANKENSTEIN Playlist!

Greetings, Friends of FRAULEIN!

In honor of tomorrow’s official release by Amazon’s Kindle Press of my new novel FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN, your humble mad scientist DJ has assembled a set of his favorite Frankenstein songs–a soundtrack for the laboratory of your mind. Igor, spin those platters!

  1. “Frankenstein,” The Edgar Winter Group. The classic instrumental monster jam. Winter said he spliced together scraps of several unfinished songs he’d recorded, a process that reminded him of how Frankenstein cobbled together his creature from the disparate parts of dead bodies. Hence, the song’s title. The resulting tune is so apropos that it’s hard not hear the thumping keyboard bass line as the monster clomping its way toward some unsuspecting village.
  2. “Teenage Frankenstein,” Alice Cooper. I suspect most of us felt like this at some point during adolescence: an ill-proportioned freak put together by someone who didn’t quite know what he was doing.
  3. “She’s Got a Frankenstein,” The Scared Stiffs. A paean to the delights and detriments of loving a make-her-yourself woman. The Scared Stiffs are one of my all-time favorite Halloween bands, and this track is from their spooktacular second album, The Last Horror Movie.
  4. “It’s ALIVE!,” Bobby “Boris” Pickett. Pickett is best-known for that Halloween perennial “Monster Mash.” “Mash” is, of course, a Frankenstein chestnut in its own right, but I thought you monster mavens might enjoy hearing this catchy, lesser-known “sequel” song, which Pickett recorded thirty years after the original.
  5. “Frankenhooker,” The 69 Eyes. It is hard to imagine a guiltier pleasure than the demented slapstick B-movie Frankenhooker, the (abnormal) brainchild of writer/director Frank Henenlotter, who also gave us such celebrated cinematic mutants as Basket Case and Brain Damage. Unless, of course, the guiltier pleasure happened to be a song based on said movie. This is a track by a great Finnish heavy-metal band called The 69 Eyes, who have also done English-language musical tributes to such horror movies as Lost Boys, Pitch Black, and From Dusk ’til Dawn. And, yes, both the movie and the song “Frankenhooker” deal with a prostitute composed of pieces of dead prostitutes. A lady of the night, indeed!
  6. “Weird Science,” Oingo Boingo. Danny Elfman meets John Hughes–’nuff said! I’m sure I wasn’t the only teenage boy in the ’80s who wished he could fabricate Kelly LeBrock in his bedroom.
  7. “Over at the Frankenstein Place,” The Rocky Horror Show. Of course, several songs from the musical and movie about Dr. Frank N. Furter and company would fit in this list, but I chose this song as the one that most explicitly references Frankenstein…and is also one of the prettiest of the lot.
  8. “Feed My Frankenstein,” Alice Cooper. The King of Shock Rock returns with another Frankenstein hit, in this case using the monster as a metaphor for sexual appetite. Listen closely for a cameo by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, at the end of the song.
  9. “Here Comes the Bride (The Bride of Frankenstein),” Elvira (featuring Fred Schneider). Did somebody say “Elvira”? In honor of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN, I had to include this swell novelty song by the one-and-only Mistress of the Dark. Fred Schneider, frontman of the B-52’s, adds the perfect touch of mad-scientist quirk to the chorus.
  10. “Body Shoppin’,” The Scared Stiffs. Although not directly inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic, this Scared Stiffs song is definitely in the Frankenstein tradition, since it draws its inspiration from the 1962 Frankensteinian B-movie The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. The movie concerns a surgeon whose girlfriend gets decapitated in a tragic traffic accident–hey, these things happen! Our enterprising hero manages to keep the head alive, then goes out cruising the red-light district looking for a woman with the perfect body onto which he can graft his girlfriend’s head. Both moody and tongue-in-cheek, the Scared Stiffs song manages to make this silly scenario both hilarious and haunting, accenting the melancholy tune with eerie quotations from the original movie.

Well, that’s it for this set! I would love to hear any suggestions you have for other Frankenstein tracks, so please offer your “requests” in the Comments section. I realize there are at least two entire musicals based on Frankenstein from which I haven’t drawn a single song. For those interested in either Young Frankenstein: The Musical or Frankenstein: A New Musical, my lovely monster mate Kelly Dunn wrote an excellent article for Famous Monsters of Filmland in which she interviewed Shuler Hensley, who had the distinction of playing the Monster in both shows. You may find her article in in this issue.

You can hear many of these songs and other cool, spooky tunes on my favorite internet Halloween radio station, http://www.halloweenradio.net. I also recommend the Slacker radio app, which offers both mainstream and indie rock Halloween radio stations.

And when you’re done rocking out to these monster hits, don’t forget to check out FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN. The ebook is available on Amazon for only $2.99–more monster for your dollar! Here’s the link:

FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN Amazon Order Page

Thanks for reading…and listening! Please LIKE and SHARE this list with any fellow Frankenstein music fans you may know. Stay tuned for more Frankenstein fun!

Let FRAULEIN Reign!

Dear Friends of FRAULEIN,

She’s ALIVE! She’s ALIVE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

To all of you who nominated FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN for Amazon’s Kindle Scout Program, I am delighted to report that your well-deserved reward has arrived! You should find an email notification in your inbox with a link to claim your FREE EBOOK of the novel. I hope you all enjoy the book. If so, I would greatly appreciate it if you would go to the novel’s page on Amazon and leave a review, however brief. Here’s the link to the pre-order page:

FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN Amazon Order Page

If you didn’t get a free copy and would like to read the book, you may pre-order it in on the above page and it will be auto-delivered to your Kindle-ready tablet, phone, or computer on the ebook’s official release date of September 20th. The ebook of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN is available for the bargain price of *ONLY $2..99*, so please recommend the book to any family, friends, and acquaintances you think might be interested.

Again, thank you for your support! This is one election where we ALL win!  🙂

Best Wishes,

Stephen Woodworth

 

 

FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN Rises from the Grave!

Dear Friends of FRAULEIN,

The laboratory is ready. The storm gathers overhead, lightning licking at the rods atop the castle tower. Electricity envelops the bandaged figure on the slab, which twitches and screams to life. Soon, the creature shall rise, break loose from the straps and chains that bind her, and stalk the night to fulfill her destiny. FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN is coming for YOU!!!

Yes, I am pleased to report that, after recovering somewhat from the untimely death of my father, I have just turned in the final edits for FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN, which means the novel should be available for sale on Amazon in about a month or so–just in time for Halloween! As promised, those of you who nominated the book during the Kindle Scout campaign will each receive your special, FREE COPY of the ebook in advance of its release to the general public. Thank you all again for helping the novel win publication!

I shall update you again as soon as Kindle Press lets me know the official release date. As the publication date nears, I also plan to resume regular blog posts that I hope you will continue to read and enjoy. In the meantime, best wishes to everyone! You may take pride in the fact that at least one on your votes in this election year has had an outcome we can all celebrate.  🙂

Warm Regards,

Stephen Woodworth

FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN: Elected! (And Selected!)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Dickens’s description certainly fits 2016, which within a single day saw both the life-affirming, creative triumphs of the Tony Awards and the horrible violence in Orlando.

As most of you know, I have experienced a similar roller-coaster of joy and sorrow in my personal life this year. Last Thursday, my wife Kelly Dunn and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. The following afternoon, I learned of the passing of my 87-year-old father Harry Woodworth. Today, as those of you who nominated the book may already know via Amazon’s email notifications, my novel FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN was selected for publication by Kindle Press. The victory is welcome but bittersweet, for under ordinary circumstances, my dad would be the first person I’d call to share the good news.

I am glad that all of you who supported the book will be justly rewarded with your free copies of the ebook. Even more than your votes, however, I treasure the outpouring of empathy and emotional support you have shown me and my family. Winning a book contract is great, but true friendship is worth far more. I thank you all for yours, and I look forward to celebrating FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN’s publication with you under happier circumstances.

If FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN Weren’t Already Dead, the Suspense Would Be Killing Her!

Dear Friends of FRAULEIN!

Well, the campaign is over, the votes have been tallied, the people (and monsters) have spoken, and in the popular vote, FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN has proven a YUUUUGE winner! Thanks to all of you, the novel spent 616 of 720 hours in the “Hot & Trending” category (more than 85% of the 30-day campaign time!) and amassed more than 1400 page views!

However, as in certain other elections we could mention, the final decision often comes not from the voters but from the superdelegates–in this case, the editorial board of Kindle Scout. We are still awaiting their word with sweaty brows and chewed fingernails. Regardless of the result, though, I again want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who have shown your support. No matter what happens, your encouragement has given me the resolve to see that FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN and future projects reach their audience one way or another. FRAULEIN and I thank you!

The Polls are Closing! Vote FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN *Now*!

My fellow Americans, stalwart citizens, and concerned constituents! This is your LAST CHANCE to cast your vote for FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN and earn your FREE COPY of the ebook if the novel wins publication. Voting will end around midnight Eastern Daylight Time tonight (or 9pm if you live here on the Left Coast), so make sure you and your friends get your votes in before the deadline! The link to the campaign page is here:

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/125299K9TRV0T

Remember, anyone with an Amazon can nominate the book. It costs nothing, only takes a few seconds, and best of all, if the book wins publication, everyone who voted for it with get a FREE COPY of the ebook.

Thanks again for all of you who have participated in this campaign. With your help, FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN has remained in the “Hot & Trending” category EVERY SINGLE DAY for the entire 30-day campaign period! Regardless of whether the book is accepted for publication, that counts as a WIN in my book! I am so touched and grateful for the outpouring of support you’ve shown.