This past weekend, some members of the Big Empire and a few hangers-on got together in Las Vegas to film the first of what we hope to be many episodes of America's favorite show about two flamboyant magicians who fight crime along with their bionic lion - Presto P.I.
Many of you have probably already seen the preview and thought, "Boy, those costumes really stink!" Well, rest assured that the Big Empire's costume department got on the ball for the actual show. If you haven't seen the preview yet, why not take a look?
The first episode should be all edited and loaded up for your streaming video pleasure within the next couple of months. Until then, here are some behind-the-scenes highlights to satiate your desire for more Presto P.I.
Matt and I (Sigmund and Rey), donned our costumes - brown corduroy suits bedazzled into something in which flamboyant magicians would feel comfortable, long black capes, bright shirts and top hats. We all had a good laugh at our goofy clothes until it dawned on us that we would actually have to go outside in them at some point.
Director Burt Cohen set up his bright lights and camera, then waited patiently while Matt and I tried to learn our lines and figure out how to act. We never quite got either down, but Burt assured us he would take care of everything in editing, by which he probably meant most of our lines would be cut out.
Amy (Miss Lola) looked foxy, thanks to her bangles, make-up and the actual dead fox hanging around her neck. The real star of the morning, though, was Gabby, the bionic lion. He chewed up the scenery (and Miss Lola's fox) with his mechanical jaw, and growled in three different styles. It was to be the first of many upstagings of Matt and I during the next few days.
Our first public appearance took place on the very south end of the Strip, near the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign. Matt and I coyly waited until the last possible second to tie on the capes and put on our top hats. Our embarrassment was tempered somewhat by a guy with a camera on a tripod who was taking pictures of himself with no shirt on. At least we'd be fully clothed, even if it was in magician costumes.
Further up the Strip, Burt decided a good idea would be to get us running through the massive crowd watching the pirate battle show in front of Treasure Island. As we ran, capes flying behind us, some joker making a left turn yelled out, "Are you guys gay?!!" Success! We had affirmation that we had gotten the look just right. Of course, we had to reshoot the scene many times, because Matt kept stopping in the middle and cornering tourists, telling them, "We're really not gay. We're actors. Really. Look, that's my wife, I swear to God."
Arch-villain Mr. Slick, played spectacularly by Dan, made his debut in the evening on the Midway in Circus Circus. Dan had taken the time to actually practice his character's cool, and it showed as he strutted down the walkway and through the slot machines, stopping to slap the hands of well-placed extras, David and Robert. Burt kept directing Matt and I to slink behind him with more feeling, but we finally had to wrap it up when security started giving us the stink-eye. Besides, we had to meet with some Hollywood hotshots at, where else? the Peppermill.
While waiting for a bus to move away from the entrance to the El Co, we were approached by some pretty nasty looking bums, one of whom told us of his plan to become president and pass a law declaring, "Free booze for Indians! Free cigarettes for Indians! And marijuana flying free!" One of the others kindly offered to sell Burt's camera for him because he was a good salesman. He wasn't really dissuaded by the fact that Burt didn't want to sell his camera. The bus finally went on its way and we hurried through the scene in one take, then got the hell out of there.
Hoover Dam provided the background for the rest of the morning's scenes. Again, we got a later and more hungover start than we had originally planned, thanks to some late-night dicing at the Sahara. So instead of having the dam pretty much to ourselves, there were gawkers everywhere. On the Strip, you can make a pretty big ass of yourself and people seem to take it in stride. Not so out in the middle of the desert. As we shot, folks would openly stared, and ask ingenious questions like, "Are you making a video?"
Once again, Dan stole the show with Mr. Slick's patented flee-strut-flee maneuvering and show-stopping double takes.
Matt and I really came into our own at the next location, out in the middle of the desert in Boulder City. Maybe it was the healthy lunch from Burger King or maybe the fact that our acting seemed to improve in reverse correlation to the number of strangers standing around. Whatever the reason, the scene in which we woke up, dazed and disheveled in the desert, was pretty much the high-point of our performance.
The evening was spent wrapping up Sigmund and Rey's confrontation with Mr. Slick outside Circus Circus, and some final shots of Dan, with giant cigar, laughing evilly, punctuated by massive fits of coughing which probably won't make the final cut.
DAY THREE Our original plan for the story involved using Cook E. Jarr, the only guy in Las Vegas who dresses consistently worse than Sigmund and Rey, as a snitch. Unfortunately, the Jarr backed out of the project, citing a bad case of the Clap or something, so we were forced to go with plan B: Sonny Charles and Sweet Louie, a.k.a. The Checkmates.
They had kindly arranged for us to shoot in their lounge at Arizona Charlie's. As soon as we met Sweet Louie, we knew that these guys should have been our plan A all along. After introducing ourselves, he said, "Well I'm Sweet Louie, and that's one secret I'll never tell," one of his lines from the script! We were floored and ecstatic. His reading was absolutely perfect. The only thing that made us nervous was that he seemed to have prepared more than we had. Matt and I readied ourselves for yet another outshining.
The Checkmates asked Burt if he minded them improvising a little to make their lines seem "less stiff." I don't see how these two guys could ever have been stiff at any point in their entire lives. They were the smoothest characters you could ever meet, and as a testament to their natural acting ability, they even sounded convincing when they complimented Matt and my line-readings. I've never felt prouder in my life than when Sonny said, "It's like we've all known each other for years."
Before rushing off to the airport, Burt had to step in front of the camera for a few moments to play a corpse hanging out of a car door. Another brilliant performance.
We wrapped up shooting, packed up the cameras and lights, and dropped Mr. Cohen off at McCarran, satisfied with the knowledge that we'd soon be the toast of the flamboyant magician community.
Who are we? ©1998 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. Questions or Comments?