Whenever I need a strange, unusual or hard to find item for a project, I start at craigslist.com. For a particular scene in Ghost Opera I need an ironing board. I’m not sure what kind, size, shape or whatever. I just want something that will fit the late 40’s visual mise-en-scene I’m trying to establish. I suppose that means no neon floral prints or teddy bears. So I search the list and bingo! An old wooden antique ironing board shows up. To my fortune it’s located in West Allis, (one city to the West of Milwaukee.) There is no price on the listing, only an email to contact the seller. With hope and excitement I send a message of interest. I ask in the email if $10 for the ironing board is acceptable or if that’s not even in the ballpark asking price. (What do I know of antique ironing boards?)
Two days go by and I don’t get a response. I’m hot for the ironing board so I fire off another email tersely asking if the poster actually wants to sell it and could they call me and let me know one way or the other. Not ten minutes later my phone rings… “This is Randy,” a gruff, mucusy voice recites emphatically. I’m not sure I know a Barry so fish for a bit more information.
“Umm. Hi. Randy?”
“Hey I got dat ironing board,” he clears his throat.
“Oh great,” I reply hopefully. “Yeah. I was wondering if you still wanted to sell it, and how much do you want for it. Is ten dollars reasonable or are we talking antique roadshow here? I want it for a project I’m working on. I’m not really sure what something like that is worth. ” After saying that I realized I just lost my bargaining platform. Crap.
“Ya. I want to sell it. There’s a metal thing on it that says something, but I can’t read it. What do you want it for?” It’s always tough for me to try and encapsulate my projects into short descriptions. Especially if I’m pretty sure the person I’m explaining it to has never seen an experimental film.
“Well..” I think for a second. “I’m working on an art project. It’s sort of a movie and an installation.” There’s a brief pause in the conversation. Randy fires off some strange information:
“We’re swingers, so if you want I can be in your porno!” As you can well imagine, this takes me completely by surprise. I’m not sure how to answer or even if I should. I really want the ironing board so I begin to quickly weigh my options.
“It’s not really a porno. Its kind of an art film/music video kind of project…”
“You sure, cause wanna be in a porno. I’m unemployed right now. I’m just redoing the floor.” He coughs. “Damn sawdust is everywhere.”
“Well, OK. I can let you know if I need someone for that. So what about the ironing board?”
“It’s pretty old. Twenty five bucks,” he offers not hesitating the least bit. I think about if for a minute. It really is a cool piece and I doubt I’ll ever see one like it again.
“O.K. You are in West Allis, right? Can I come and see it? Are you available this afternoon?”
“Ya. I ain’t workin’ right now so you can come anytime. I’m just redoing the floors.” I write down his address and tell him I’ll see him in about an hour.
I feel a bit nervous about this meeting so I tell the guys at work the story. “If I’m not back in an hour call the cops. It means I’ve probably been kidnapped and chained to a furnace in some horrid West Allis basement!” Everyone has a good laugh while I nervously wait for the elevator.
Randy’s house is behind an abandoned factory on a dead end street. I pull up to the house and am really quite shocked by the way it looks. I was envisioning some dilapidated shack, but instead I was surprised to see a clean little white house completely swathed in Halloween decorations. It was all there! From fake spiderwebs and plastic jack-o-lanterns, to flying witches on stakes stabbed into the lawn. The front door is expectantly open. I can hear the sounds of work banging from deep inside the house. Here we go! I ring the buzzer. Randy answers the door wearing a dust filter respirator.
“The ironing board is in the basement. It’s kind of cluttered. Do you want to go into the basement? You’ll have to go around back.”
“I can wait out here,” I say nervously. “Can you bring it out?” He agrees as I wait at the side door. A moment later Randy returns carrying the ironing board. I take one look and realize its perfect. We engage in a bit of small talk as he sets up the board to a standing position. Nothing really weird has thankfully happened yet. I do take notice of his homemade spider tattoo between his thumb and forefinger. I casually wonder if he’s been to prison. He asks me again what I’m going to do with the ironing board, and again I try and relate the idea. It turns out Randy is a pretty nice guy and not really a psycho sex fiend (or doesn’t come across as one in person anyway.) We settle on a price of twenty dollars. As I’m walking away I decide I have to take Barry’s picture. Luckily I have my camera in my satchel. “Would you mind posing with the board,” I ask professionally. I want to document my project. He excitedly agrees and poses with the ironing board like it is a prize swordfish. Click. “Thanks,” I say and head quickly to the car.
“Hey,” Randy calls after me. “Let me give you my email address and you can get a hold of me if you need me for your porno.”