In 1992 I was in the movie Equinox, starring Mathew Modine. I was cast as a waitress in the Villa Capri restaurant, where a big shoot-out took place between the twin brothers (both played by Matthew Modine). I've never actually seen the film, directed by Alan Rudolph, but I've cherished a friendship that started on that set. My friend Marjorie Johnson was also cast as a waitress on Equinox. Yes, I know I'm a name dropper. . . but I knew her before she was a national celebrity.
As waitresses, we both had costumes and needed to be on set extra early to have our hair done. The scenes at the Villa Capri were filmed over the course of a week, so we had quite a bit of time to sit and visit. For those who know Marjorie, one thing that she excels at. . . is visiting. She's also known for her diminutive stature. She's tiny, well under 5 feet tall. At one point during filming she was supposed to carry a tray of food across a crowded dining room. After the first take, they had me carry that tray, because tiny Marjorie couldn't be seen and it looked as though the tray was floating across the restaurant by itself.
The 1992 World Series was taking place just blocks away from the Minneapolis restaurant we were filming in, and one night the cast and crew waited several hours for enthusiastic fans to go home before we could resume filming. That was the night the big shoot-out was choreographed and filmed. I was supposed to run out the front door of the restaurant when the shooting began, and cower near the entrance to the Villa Capri. The character played by actress Tyra Ferrell would edge past me in her quest to investigate what was going on. The director yelled "Action", so I run out and and crouch near the front door, Tyra Ferrell rushes up and says to me, "What's happening?" She spoke to me! My heart was beating so fast. "They're shooting!" I reply, staying in character and using the panic I'm feeling, because this dialogue hadn't been rehearsed or scripted. "Whose shooting?" she presses. No one had ever bothered to tell me the plot of the movie. I had been hired as a glorified extra, and never seen the script. I still don't know who was shooting. It was 3 o'clock in the morning, and I had been on set since 9 A.M., when she asked me who was shooting. I was clueless and tired when I replied "The guys in the movie."
"Cut!" I hear, and my heart sank, because there went my chance at having a speaking part in Equinox. When the director came up to Tyra Ferrell and myself he didn't even make eye contact with me, he only looked at Tyra when he said "There will be no talking in the next take."
Jump ahead to 2016, and my friend Marjorie, who didn't get to carry that tray of fake movie food, has been on national television more times than I can count. She's done The Talk, Dr. Oz, The Rosie O'Donnell show, she was a regular on the Wayne Brady show, she appeared 21 times on Jay Leno. She wrote and published a wonderful book on baking called Blue Ribbon Baking With Marjorie Johnson. And she exceeded her goal of over 2,000 fair ribbons for her baking.
I like to say that I'm the unofficial president of the Marjorie Johnson Fan Club. We speak regularly on the phone, and she always asks what I've been doing, before she fills me in on whatever cool gig she's booked herself on. Her husband Lee, who was such a nice guy and so supportive of her career passed away about 3 years ago, but Marjorie soldiers on because she knows how proud he was of her success.
When we talked last night she mentioned several things that she really believes in, and I'm going to pass them on to you gentle reader. She tries to walk an hour a day, she eats plenty of fruits and vegetables. When a trendy new food comes on the scene, if the science shows it's healthy to eat, she'll figure out how to cook it and she'll incorporate it into her diet. She chooses to be happy, and is so grateful for each good thing in her life. She often reads two newspapers a day, to keep abreast of current events. She lives in the same home she and Lee raised their family in, and credits the stairs for keeping her legs in great shape. She savors her dessert each evening, because you should savor the things you enjoy, but she keeps it to 200 calories because too much sugar just isn't healthy. This August 10th, will be her 97th birthday, and I hope one day to be as young as she is.