Up in the Air, the movie that commences shooting here in St. Louis next month — hell, let's just call it The George Clooney Movie — concerns a man whose goal in life is to accumulate 1 million frequent-flier miles. Consequently, a lot of it takes place in airports.
The open casting call for extras, which took place two weekends ago at Crestwood Plaza, was, to Unreal's mind, a lot like a day in a really crowded airport, only without security so we didn't have to take off our shoes. But there were lots of long lines and lots of waiting.
Casting director Joni Tackette was looking for 2,100 good men and women. On Saturday, the first day of the open casting, 4,000 St. Louisans showed up, the first at 6 a.m. when the mall opened its doors for the walkers. By 8:45 a.m. more than 200 people had gathered and Tackette decided to start interviewing aspirants more than an hour earlier than scheduled.
Many of the hopefuls were dressed as business travelers, in suits and overcoats. Laurie Manoli even brought a suitcase, partly as a prop and partly to store her coat and water.
"Everyone looks so well-dressed today," marveled Leisa Son, the mall's marketing manager. "You don't usually see such a professional look in the mall on Saturday afternoon."
No kidding. Crestwood Plaza — or Crestwood Court, as it now advertises itself — hadn't been this populated in living memory.
At 3 p.m., Son announced that anyone who did not have a ticket for a place in line should come back Sunday or mail in his or her application.
"Mail it in? Fabulous!" said Kathryn Crumrine. "Like they're going to look at me and go: 'Yeah, she's the one.'"
"[Director Jason Reitman is] looking for a lot of general Midwest faces and people who could be travelers," Tackette told us. She was particularly impressed with a woman named Louanne who had worked as a gate agent at Lambert Airport for 26 years and had come to the tryout in full regalia.
"We're looking for people like Louanne," Tackette said. "People who have real-life experience. They look authentic. They know how to handle the equipment and are comfortable in the environment. The director loves that."
Reitman himself had made an appearance at the mall earlier in the afternoon. "I swear, I saw the director walk past here half an hour ago," Manoli exclaimed. "He was wearing a baseball cap. I looked at him, he looked at me, and I was like: Oh, my God."
Unreal was unimpressed. Who cares about Jason Reitman? What about Clooney? Was he here, too?
"Absolutely, 100 percent...not," Tackette announced. "There'd have been a lot of screaming if he was."
On January 16, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to bestow Delmar Boulevard with the honorary title of Barack Obama Boulevard. Soon, thanks to Kacie Starr Triplett, the Ward 6 alderwoman who proposed the name change, street signs at six intersections along the east-west artery will bear the name of the nation's 44th president.
Unreal can appreciate that the city's lawmakers would rename a major street after the new commander-in-chief. After all, change is what the man is all about.
It's those other streets that the Board of Aldermen want to rename that have Unreal wondering if change is really what we need. During the past two months, there've been at least six different proposals to give honorary names to local byways.
Alderman Samuel Moore would like the 4500 block of St. Louis Avenue to be rechristened Jessie Taylor Avenue. Alderman Terry Kennedy wants to rename the 1300 block of Taylor Avenue (the one that already exists) after Elder Samuel Moore Sr., the aforementioned alderman's father.
Other proposed changes include renaming Elliot Avenue Rev. Joe L. Bryant Avenue, dubbing 11th Street Barbara Abeln Street and switching part of Howard Street to Jeff Patel Street, in honor of a store owner and his employee who were murdered during an armed robbery last May.
While the aldermen were busy trying to give the city's streets more names than Puff Daddy, Unreal came up with a few more local thoroughfares that are ripe for renaming.
• In the spirit of Barack Obama Boulevard, Soulard's Congress and Senate streets ought to become Tweedledum and Tweedledee streets. Nearby Dorcas Street sounds like an insult that critics would hurl at George W. Bush, so we'll go ahead and name it after him.
• Is it too soon to transform historic Pestalozzi Street, home of the Budweiser Brewery, into Brito Boulevard? Unreal doesn't think so.
• Mark McGwire already has his own honorary stretch of I-70. But in view of his alleged steroid use, why not shorten his part of the freeway to 500 feet, or about as far as the jolly, juiced-up giant could belt a baseball?
• Blow Street currently runs between Gravois and Hampton avenues in south city. It needs to swap places with the stretch of North Broadway that borders the Edward Jones Dome. That way Rams fans can park on a street with a name that describes the performance of their team's offense.
• Given the erstwhile chief's fondness for tow trucks and towing companies, the municipal parking lot that serves St. Louis City Hall and police HQ should be renamed in honor of Joe Mokwa.
• Finally, surely no one would object to Roll Over Beethoven Avenue, a Chuck Berry-inspired addendum to the modest stretch that connects Morganford Road and Gravois Avenue.
The Will to Buzz
In the potentially cool-shit-we-get-to-try-for-free! department, Unreal recently received a curious little package that called to mind a stick of dynamite.
It promised "instant and sustaining energy," no calories and "0 Crash!" It came in a little spray bottle — smaller than a container of hand gel, bigger than a lipstick — and bore the brazen brand name BaBOOM!
BaBOOM! BaBOOM! BaBOOM! BaBOOM! BaBOOM!
An energy spray, apparently. A Red Bull knockoff, in concentrated form.
Unreal and two other willing guinea pigs gave the stuff a try at a late-night, midweek concert.
"Open wide and aim for the cheeks," the bottle's label read. "Take five sprays. Repeat as desired." We found ourselves giddy at the first taste. "Bubble gum!" "Orange Triaminic!" "Chemicals!" But after the fifth go-round, it was more like, "[Lip-smacking sound]...What the...blecch."
Three PBRs and 60 minutes later, the verdict was in.
Unreal: No sensations to speak of.
Accountant: Numb cheeks and the urge to spit.
Lobbyist: Stared off in space for a moment. Looked almost wistful. Possibly had a flashback. "Damn," Subject Number Three finally piped up. "I was really hoping I'd be hooked — you know, that it'd be better than crack!"
Too BaBOOM! bad.