When I saw that Ellen Barkin was starring in the new NBC comedy “The New Normal,” a chill ran up my spine. The reaction had nothing to do with the bigoted character Barkin plays on the new offering from Ryan Murphy. Let’s just say we have a history.
Imagine it’s 1986. You’ll have to make those wavy lines with your own hands to create the illusion of going back in time.
I was working as an entertainment reporter for a small newspaper in Central Louisiana. Often, I would travel to New Orleans to do stories on movies being filmed there. Such an invite to report on the filming of “The Big Easy” took me to a New Orleans neighborhood where a house on a street corner was being used to film the movie starring Dennis Quaid and Barkin.
You have to remember that this was years before “TMZ” and most of the entertainment shows. The majority of journalists who showed up on film sets then was there to do a news story. Also, it was impossible to get near such a set without the permission of the film commission. So I had a legitimate reason to be there.
The filming attracted a large crowd that lined the street across from the set location. I took a place with them and watched as crew members went in and out of the house. Finally, I spotted Barkin walking toward the house.
Back then, I also took photographs to go with my stories. I threw up my camera and started taking pictures. Keep in mind I was on a city street surrounded by people watching the filming.
Somehow Barkin spotted me, stopped dead in her tracks and in a voice that was two octaves above screaming bloody murder shouted, “He can’t take my picture! He can’t take my picture! Get him out of here!”
The crowd around me began to disperse as if I had passed gas. I might have a little or it could have been Barkin’s evil stare that melted the crowd into people puddles. After what seemed like an eternity, she continued on to the house. When she was gone, a member of the crew came over and asked if I would just hold off shooting pictures when Barkin was around. It would be better for the crew if I did.
I agreed because it would have been hard to live with myself knowing some poor assistant director had been beaten to death or turned into a puddle with an evil glance.
There’s not been an opportunity to cross paths with Barkin since that day. I probably wouldn’t bring up New Orleans but talk instead about her 1999 movie “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Despite getting a chill up my spine every time I watch it, the comedy remains one of my favorites.