Any story that is only 26 medium-sized steps away from the CL office is already a fantastic idea, and that's without considering the perk of unlimited chicken 'n biscuits that this story promised.
I've crashed the Bojangles' TV commercial shoot at Silver Hammer Studios with a goal in mind: make it until lunch without being discovered as a phony. When I walk into the green-screen room, two cowgirls are sitting on the hood of a vintage caddy convertible eating biscuits, lots of biscuits. They giggle, raise them together like they're toasting drinks, then bite in. After each take, a production assistant swoops in to catch the spit-out dough in a bucket.
The brunette cowgirl cringes in between takes. Her bites are like little mouse nibbles. How can she sell biscuits if she doesn't love them with all her soul? "It doesn't look realistic," I say to the spit bucket man, acting as if I actually have clout on the set. "Tell her to take a bigger bite." Before the assistant can respond to me, the director repeats my instructions. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Later, Mr. Director tells the ladies to be more playful. One of the cowgirls jokes that she could just make out with the other cowgirl. Everyone on the set chuckles, as do I, trying to fit in. But I go a little overboard with it. My hearty, guttural laugh arouses some suspicious looks.
The key to staying under the radar is telling the right lie to the right person. Another production assistant on the set is adding water to the iced tea to get a more appealing light brown color. I tell her I used to do some food styling for Country Time and had a similar problem. "I told them either let me add some water or call the product what it is, Magenta Lemonade."
I chat with an actor dressed in a Cuban shirt and shorts to portray a Miami beach bum. He asks me what I do, and I tell him I'm in sales at Bojangles'. Then he asks me what I do specifically. I think about taking credit for creating the catchy slogan "gotta wanna needa getta hava Bojangles'," but decide that person is probably too high-profile to be at this shoot.
Instead, I tell him I prospect new Bojangles' locations. Later, I make a confession: "To be honest with you, I'm getting tired of the chicken." Then, in a serious tone, I add, "But that's between you, me and the chicken."
When it's my Miami buddy's turn for his part, he poses with a drumstick. Bringing it to his mouth, he kisses it before taking a bite.
"Don't do that!" the director yells. "Don't kiss the chicken!" The director gives Miami guy additional encouragement, "Oh yeah! You like that chicken! That chicken is GOOD!"
Surprisingly, lunch isn't Bojangles'. A catering company provides a pesto chicken breast stuffed with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, beef tips and a mushroom couscous for me and the crew. ("What's that say about our product?" I think, still in Sales Rep mode).
Charlotte City Club, at the top of the Interstate Tower, always has a private party on Saturday nights. I step off the elevator to the sound of forks and glasses clinking over a murmur of polite conversation. A seated dinner is perhaps the worst time to crash a party. Trapped with eight strangers, not coming up with the perfect identity and you're finished.
In the recently vacated reception area, only three place cards haven't been picked up. It appears I'm at a Bar Mitzvah. Two of the cards are for people with the last name Shulman and the other is for a rabbi. But then I spot a guestbook with "Wedding" written on the cover.
I haven't seen Wedding Crashers, but I'm told Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson conduct extensive research of the wedding parties prior to the shindigs in order to solidify full-proof aliases. This Hollywood glamorization of crashing takes all the risk, adventure, and spontaneous, compulsive lying out of the sport. I consider assuming one of the absent place card identities: I could become Michael Shulman and proceed to table 12 or the rabbi at table 9. While Shulman is an unknown, lacking decades of Torah study and intangible rabbinical wisdom would be as conspicuous as wearing a cross. I decide to play it safe and come back to the wedding after dinner. I need to be a little looser to lie, anyway. A couple of white Russians can't hurt. I saunter over to Cosmos to crash the bachelorette party of a co-worker. Being the only guy at the party is a slightly scaled-down version of what I imagine being the last male on the planet is like. One co-worker elects to sit on my lap instead of pulling up another chair.
On my way back to the wedding, I pass by stretch limos and fancy high schoolers. Hopewell High is having its prom at Founder's Hall, so I stop in.
Dateless, I feel like Napoleon Dynamite. I stuff three chicken fingers in my face, wash them down with some nonspiked punch, then dance the electric slide. On my way out, I break up a couple sloppily making out on the floor. I tap the guy on the shoulder and tell him to keep it classy.
Back at the wedding, the party has heated up. I spend 20 minutes at the bar before realizing I've traded in my "mysterious stranger" image for "creepy binge-drinker."
Having attended more than a few Jewish celebrations, I can say with confidence that the gift of the Jews is not jigginess. Only six or seven twentysomethings are grooving to MC Hammer, 50 Cent and the like when I hit the floor. I keep my moves awkward. Embracing my spasmodic roots should help me blend in. But the DJ foils my attempts at dance-floor anonymity. He calls for a dancing circle and elects me to kick off the solo. I bust a few moves before shuffling to the exterior.
After the dancing circle dissolves, the DJ picks on me again. He puts his arm around my shoulder and announces: "All the ladies on the dance floor, dance on this guy."
Instantly, I'm immersed in a lady circle. But my cover is blown. I feel an unfriendly tap on my elbow and turn around to see the bride and the groom staring at me.
"Excuse me," the bride says. "How do we know you?"
"Um ..." I'm thrown into a headlock by a groomsman. "Creative Loafing," "article," and "but I'm Jewish too" are the explanations I stammer as I'm escorted to the elevator by my neck, gasping for air.