Next up is Casey Lowe’s story, “Get me Chase Holden!” This one starts off with a seemingly normal day on a film set, but really keeps you on your toes with its twists and turns.
"Get me Chase Holden!"
Just before nine on a drizzly, slate-colored Saturday morning, the grassy patches and paved paths around Central Park’s Turtle Pond were wild with activity. Everything seemed normal but it was all fake. Instead of New York, the scene was playing out on the backlot of a studio in Hollywood.
I was working on the set of a movie as an extra with my friends Kendra, Pam, and Brian. We’d worked on probably a dozen films together and it was always fun hanging out with them. This was good because despite the long hours, there’s a lot of down time on a set. Every new scene requires the movement of tons of cameras, lights, and people. While this is going on the actors go to their trailers and us extras go to a holding area which may or may not have food, working toilets, and comfortable seating.
On this shoot, though, we’d hit the trifecta: snacks were available at what’s called “Craft Service”, there were ample restroom facilities, and the holding area actually had sofas. Soft, comfortable, beautiful sofas! After the second or third scene of the day we had about an hour and a half to kill so we sat around and talked about the latest overnight success in town, Shonda Jenkins, and how every agent in the City of Angeles was calling her with audition offers.
In her best “Studio Boss” voice, Pam was yelling, “Get me Shonda Jenkins!” which put us all in fits of laughter for a good twenty minutes. Brian just smiled with an arched brow like he always did, and said, “We should make someone up, and start a rumor that everyone is looking for a meeting with them.”
Honestly, it sounded like harmless fun – a way to kill some time for that afternoon. So we started thinking about good, solid movie star names like “Ron Banner,” “Jane Evans,” “Tiffany Van der Dietzen.” Nothing quite hit the mark, so we got some lunch and settled back into the comfy sofas. After a few more failed attempts we’d almost decided to give up and start a game of spades, the official card game of movie extras everywhere.
Brian had a far-off look on his face for a moment, and then offered, “what about the name Chase Holden?” Kendra got a funny look on her face as she connected two thoughts together in an aha moment and said, “It’s got the sound of old Hollywood while also having a last name for a first name, that’s gotta get people’s attention!”
It was perfect. The name just felt right in our minds and on our lips so we hatched our plan: we would start by saying the name Chase Holden a little louder than the volume of conversation in the extra’s holding area. Then on set, as we passed the director, writers, stars, and assorted crew members we’d make sure to say the name to each other just loud enough for them to hear but not get its context. Finally, at the end of the day on our way to our cars, we’d make sure to loudly guffaw and use the name like we’d heard some juicy info about him. It was juvenile, but that’s the kind of thing that made our group so fun.
Thirty minutes later we had the chance to put our plan into action. An assistant director came by the extra’s tent and said we should hurry to set for the next scene. We got up and made sure to mention Chase to each other so that the other extras would hear us. Then, after a quick trip to hair and makeup for a touch up, and wardrobe for a slight costume change, we arrived on set and were sure to say Chase Holden’s name around the crew before taking up our positions in the shot. Forty minutes later, with the shot completed, the Director said “That’s a wrap for today, we’ll see everyone tomorrow. Check the call sheet for your start times!”
We changed out of our costumes and headed for the parking area, all the while making sure to say Chase Holden’s name in front of as many cast and crew as possible without seeming obvious. After some goodbyes we parted for the night and agreed to meet up a little earlier than our call time the next morning, so we could continue our whisper campaign. As it turned out, this was completely unnecessary.
The following morning, as we were walking to the extras holding area to check in, we passed by the hair and makeup trailer and heard one of the artists saying to the other, “Chase Holden may be coming by the set today so make sure to keep an eye out!” Further along, we said hello to a friendly grip who was loading lighting equipment and in response to our greeting he asked “Did you hear about Chase Holden? He might be replacing the lead on set! It could happen as early as today.”
This was equal parts gratifying and terrifying. It was fun to think that our evil plan had worked, but it was troubling to think that it had worked so well and so fast. On the spot we agreed to suspend our plan and just enjoy another day on set. No need to keep up the ruse, we’d had our fun. But sadly this was not to be the end of the story.
Throughout the day we kept hearing rumors involving the fictional Chase Holden, each more improbable than the last. Our smiles turned to frowns as we realized that people were actually stressing about it. Some worried for their jobs, others worried Chase might make a surprise visit to the set, while still others wanted to get a selfie with the phenomenon for their kids and would be heartbroken if they didn’t get the opportunity.
Yeah, this was definitely going sideways fast, but what could we do? Later in the week on the final day of shooting we said our goodbyes and agreed to keep things mum until we got together on the next film shoot. As it turned out, a number of productions were on hiatus so we didn’t end up working together again for almost a month. In the interim, the story of the “Boy from nowhere” grew and got picked up in the major trade publications and a cable show focusing on celebrity gossip. The search was on in earnest and the public wouldn’t be satisfied until they could see the next overnight success, Chase Holden.
As the start date for our next movie was approaching, I was looking forward to seeing everyone very much and couldn’t wait to discuss the “Chase Holden phenomena” that we had created. Then something happened that I never would have expected. I was listening to the radio on the way to the set early in the morning. The traffic and weather reporters did their bits then the entertainment person came on and announced that the star had come forward. He was working in Hollywood under everyone’s noses doing research for his next “project” as a lowly extra named Brian!
This last bit of information was troubling. Someone had clearly usurped our fake star’s name and claimed it for their own, but was the name Brian just a coincidence? I raced to the set and ran to the extras holding area where I found Kendra and Pam. They looked at me with blank faces as they had clearly heard the same reports. Anxiously we looked toward the door to see if our fourth friend was coming but it was in vain. It looked like he had turned his back on us. What was most worrisome, though, was the thought that he had planned this all along. It was his idea to talk up our fake celebrity and he had suggested the name. Were we just pawns in his master plan for success in Hollywood?
It didn’t take long to confirm that we were right. All day the cast and crew were talking about “Chase” and that he had “secretly” worked as an extra up until about a month ago. One writer gushed that, though he had a plain look, you could tell he had a “smoldering undercurrent of raw passion for the craft of acting that isn’t seen more than once in a generation…” This description of our former friend almost caused me to laugh out loud. It was just amazing to think how rumors can turn into legends in the blink of an eye.
In between takes on set, as we stewed in the extra’s holding area, we kinda went through the stages of grief. We started with disbelief: “How could he do this to us? It must be a mistake.” Then moved on to anger: “That’s it – he’s dead meat! I’m going to have a talk with him one-to-one,” Pam threatened. Finally, we moved on to acceptance: What could we do to change things? We didn’t have anything with which to fight him. Or did we?
Kendra got that look in her eye that said she was thinking about an elaborate, complex, multi-layered plan likely involving hacking supercomputers, breaking into NORAD, and then kidnapping a Saudi Prince. Happily though, she had a much simpler idea: “Let’s kill Chase Holden.”
I protested, “Wait, what? We shouldn’t actually kill Brian, even if he deserves it!”
“No, silly”, Kendra continued, “We’ll say that the real Chase Holden died in an auto accident up on Mulholland Drive months ago and that this guy, Brian, is an imposter!”
That seemed like a perfect way to get our revenge and we set out on our new course in the same way we had done before. Rumor had created Chase Holden, and rumor would be his downfall. As before, we saw results right away. If anything, this rumor was moving faster than the last. Maybe bad news does travel faster than good.
Within a day the set was full of talk about how Brian had stolen the identity of the late, great, Chase Holden, and soon afterward, all of Hollywood was in an uproar. Now the search was on for a villain, rather than a star. In a way I felt bad for Brian. I’m sure it had seemed like the perfect crime to him, but now he was persona non-grata at every studio. Our revenge seemed to be complete.
Days turned into weeks and there was no sign of Brian. It was like he’d dropped off the face of the earth. We actually started to worry and began to ask around everywhere we could. Finally, while working on the backlot of a major studio, we got some answers. I had been showing Brian’s picture around, without much luck, until I gave it to an old carpenter who’d worked at the studio his whole life.
Taking off his glasses, he squinted at the picture and said “oh yeah, that’s Chase Holden…could have been a really big star…too bad that he died so young.” I started to grab the picture back in frustration since he seemed to be just echoing our rumor. But then the old man continued, “When he went off to war in ’67 I was sure he’d return to me, but sadly he was killed in action.”
“Wait, I think you’re confused, this is a picture of our friend Brian,” I said, trying to hide my annoyance. But the old man persisted and pulled out an old newspaper clipping from his wallet. As he slowly unfolded it to reveal an obituary, there was Brian’s smiling face, complete with his trademark arched brow. All we could do was look at each other in stunned silence.
What had we done? Was it possible that Brian actually was Chase Holden? And did we deny him the chance to be the star he was meant to be? Those questions haunt me to this very day…