Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Drama Drop -

* I cannot tell you how many times I have had a dream where I show up to sing somewhere without my pants on. Well, it really happened to poor Bryn Terfel whilst in South Korea for a concert. Bless his heart - he shows up to the concert with only minutes before he was due on stage and realized he had forgotten his drawers and was only in a pair of shorts. There was no time to return to the hotel, and Terfel was left with the prospect of singing in his shorts. However, by a stroke of luck he managed to find someone with almost exactly the same build. Seriously? Terfel is 6'4" tall. Finding someone with that same build in South Korea is a stroke of luck indeed.

* Throughout the 20th century, the SMPF (“Service Municipal des Pompes Funebres”) in Paris, was a one-stop shop for posthumous ceremonies. This is where coffins, wreaths and draperies were made, hearses were parked, and the funerals of those such as Victor Hugo and Jean-Paul Sartre were arranged. Now, “Le 104” as it is now known (located at No. 104, Rue d’Aubervilliers in northern Paris) is a base for more than a dozen artists. According to, Le 104 cost 100 million euros ($133 million) to transform, and has an annual budget of 11 million euros, two-thirds of it paid by the capital’s taxpayers.

In the days when Le 104 was a funeral “factory,” with around 100 convoys a day, and more than 1,000 employees, few dead bodies ever came through it. For reasons of hygiene, staff handled everything except the corpse. They carved and painted coffins that were lined with shiny satin; sewed dark draperies and flags that were emblazoned with family crests; and looked after hearses -- horse-drawn carriages, then cars, then vans.

Today, artists labor where the funeral workers once did. Their large studios flank two courtyards with sloping glass ceilings. Below one courtyard are the stables -- still labeled in the old lettering -- from which carriages would clip-clop up a ramp, pick up the ornamented coffins, then go collect the bodies from homes or hospitals.

* Now, the economy is having an effect on location filming? According to the Los Angeles Times, location filming, which was once as prevalent as a Starbucks store, is rapidly fading to black. Not only is the recession to blame, but also to blame are the out-of-state economic incentives for producers. A FilmL.A. report to be issued today shows that on-location film shoots in the Los Angeles area have fallen to their lowest levels on record.

[Photos - Left: Bryn Terfel singing in South Korea. By PA. Right: Le 104]

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