Since the Burns militiamen/terrorists are in the news this week, here’s a small excerpt from the non-fiction book I’m working on. This story takes place in Burns. Hope it gives y’all a better picture of the podunk town in Oregon where this hostile takeover of a federal building is currently under way:
Landed my first significant role in a movie found on Craigslist, “Mirage.” I played Sheila, a white trash bartender in the middle-of-nowhere desert town, Burns, Oregon. Sheila witnesses her boyfriend getting shot in a bar-fight.
Our bare-bones crew spent a week filming in and around Burns. The main strip extends five or six blocks, perpendicular to the other primary street, that goes to the school on the hill. Nearby hot springs were like giant, oily mud puddles, reeking of sulfur, with loose earth on the bottom. Hot quicksand.
Each day we dined on leathery, vanilla-flavored Powerbars: flat, dry and bland. Ultra low-budget, the director was a huge stoner. Nothing else redeeming about the project, except a cute guy to flirt with in the cast. At least I was amused.
We stayed in a spooky pink building. Inside, it was dark and musty. Heard it used to be the courthouse. Currently it was filled floor to ceiling, with piles of rusty, dusty antiques.
We’re told, the son of the mayor lives upstairs. He opted to stay elsewhere while we were shooting, making his bedroom available. Never saw the guy.
Mine was the only room with any sign of inhabitants. There was a blanket, embroidered with a giant panda, tacked to the wall at the head of the bed. Installed in the ceiling over the bed, there was a large metal hook. Next to the bed, a wooden dresser. Nothing else in the room.
Curious, peeked in the top drawer. Holy crap! It was full of sex toys… Like none I’d ever seen, including a large harness attached to a heavy-duty spring. It must go on the hook!
The locals did their usual thing in the background: bellying up to the bar or playing pool on the only half-decent table in town. Got some pointers from a man with one eye, one arm and a wiry mustache, framing lots of missing teeth. I’ll never forget that gummy smile. His aim was astounding. (Still need to work on my one-arm game.)
At night, in a parking lot across the street from our makeshift motel, a bunch of teens gathered around whoever had the most jacked-up truck, smoking cigarettes and dirt weed, playing loud country/alt/rock, drinking. Of course I crashed the party.
I said to one young blonde, “You’ve got to get out of here.”
Regardless of gender, I’ve always had an attraction to pretty things. You know, like sunsets. Or kittens. Models. How can you not? Having no clue who she was, once asked Anna Kournikova if she might want to get into modeling, after scouting her at a coffee shop downtown. Whoops! She was already on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Felt like this one had potential. But there’s nowhere to go in Burns, except a desolate dead end.
It was a big deal having a “real” film crew in town. Never mind there wasn’t enough of a budget to get paid. They thought I was a movie star!
Fast-forward to one sizzling day last summer in Portland, at a boat party on the Willamette… It was that same girl from the Burns parking lot, all grown up! She thanked me for urging her to get out of Burns. She recalled the moment with impressive clarity.
“You told me to get out of that shit-hole and come to Portland.”
Might be the greatest thing to come of it; Mirage was never finished.