Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Swarm: Confessions of a Child "Star"

Encino, CA. 1978:
I was in fourth grade, maybe 3rd since my parents held be back because I couldn't learn my vowels and needed "help" as they put it. In other words, I had dyslexia, however back then learning disabilities were not accepted and you were on your own to deal with it - no special schools, or extra help from an  understanding teacher or loving parents. My father used to tell me with all seriousness that there had been some blood cut off to my head when I was born, which resulted in my arrested development. Thanks for the medical diagnosis Dad. 

Before my last name became "Warbucks" it was Cassidy and I would tell my classmates endless stories of the things my cousin Shaun Cassidy (who at the time was a major star and "Hardy Boys" hunk) had done that weekend. I was in the  middle of telling my friends (who's ass i had just kicked in tether ball because I was 8 feet taller than anyone) that Shaun and I had just had the most fun riding horses at his ranch that weekend when my brother (5 grades my senior) walked up to the group and told everyone that I was lying and that Shaun Cassidy was not our cousin. As the blood rushed to my head, I pretended not to know him as I flipped him the bird. Incidentally, my brother had a huge bright orange Afro complimented by a ton of freckles and I pretended not to know him on a regular basis despite him wanting to be the Barrack Obama of our school. 

Later that day I ignored suspicious looks from my friends and hopped into my mom's burnt-orange Datsun with partially missing floor board. While my parents lived in an amazing home in Encino, cars were apparently not a priority. She had two pieces of news for me that day: First, she was pregnant at the age of 40 with my sister. Holy ShitI thought she had a tumor all this time. You can't be pregnant at 40! And P.S. I am NOT sharing my shit with this new baby, in particular my Bionic Woman Record Player and Farrah Barbie Head. Mom also told me that I had just got a part as a school kid in a killer bee movie called "The Swarm". She then handed me some stale Oreos and a non-refrigerated 7 Up (giving us non-refrigerated sodas was a specialty of hers). Despite my new-found stardom, this had not been a good day and I just needed to get home, steal a Heineken from the fridge (a cold one!) smoke a stolen Marlboro from my friend's sister in my tree house and think. 

The next day Mom and I headed to Burbank Studios. Since I was 10, pushing 11 I only remember only the following
  • Director Irwin Allen (a Big Wig at the time) screamed constantly at the cast. I was scared shitless of the old guy.
  • Star Michael Caine was the Tom Cruise of the 70's. Everyone in the set was in awe of him (and frankly who could resist that sexy hair and brown polyester leisure suit?)
  • Where the figizz was female lead Katherine Ross hiding? She must have been doing blow in her trailer as I never saw her in person the entire 4 months of filming. 
  • I actually thought the bees were cool (they pulled the stingers out of them but of course many were missed and people were constantly being stung, which I also thought was cool).
  • On set school rocked because it was only 2 hours everyday and super easy. Hmmm, and we wonder why child stars and celebrities are less than bright.
  • The piece de resistance was roaming off set one day to explore, and wandering onto the set of "Wonder Woman." Linda Carter was in full costume: leotard, bullet-proof cuffs, the works. She was on a pay phone and she smiled and winked at me. I seriously almost went lesbo right then and there in my rainbow suspenders and Laura Ingalls pigtails. I couldn't stop smiling that day even when my face was covered in bees lying on a hopscotch court.
Side note: my sister, the television executive/Harvard grad/miss perfect told me that she has recently worked with Shaun Cassidy on some projects and he actually does own a ranch. Who knew?

Below, for your consideration, please watch a clip from The Swarm. I am the girl in red who slowly gets eaten alive by bees. While my acting was fantastic, I must say that nothing compares to the acting chops of Miss Shuster (Olivia DeHavilland). She should have won an Oscar that year.

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