By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In the kitchen, Bobby and Higgins punch up lines for the on-location space scene, three days away.
It's all show biz.
"Anyone can come," says Bobby. "Everyone's invited. It's totally open-door. I don't care if you can act or not. I haven't turned anyone away."
They just come and memorize their lines from Bobby's handwritten scripts, then read them over and over until Bobby is satisfied with the take. Most of the actors have been coming for two years. "It's sort of like a softball team that you see every Thursday night," Scott Parkin says.
On a Sunday afternoon, in the 100-plus-degree August heat, a dozen cast members arrive at a shimmering construction site at Central Expressway and Northwest Highway where mountains of gravel and sand resemble--at least to Bobby's eye--the "Planet of 10,000 Women or So."
About half the cast members--the astronauts--are dressed in white lab coats, space suits, and plastic toy helmets, all spray-painted silver.
Bobby recruits me to be one of the space women, and when I warn him that I have no acting experience, it only seems to please him.
I slip into a filmy, teal top and pants, which, if not for the silver "space belt," would look like something from I Dream of Jeanie. I have "space bracelets"--two chunks of cardboard tubing, spray-painted silver, and a "space medallion"--a glitter-covered disc with plastic stones hanging from a plastic chain around my neck. Like the rest of the space actors, I wear knee-high black boots, into which my harem pants are tucked. The pipe-cleaner tiara is on my head. I carry a staff--a red light bulb atop a cylinder taken off a thrift-store trophy, with pink plastic beads wrapped around the base.
The plot is straightforwardly nonsensical:The earth astronauts are litterbugs, and we space women are going to capture them. They have landed, after all, on our desolate planet.
Bobby is on the top of a hill of road-construction rock looking through the viewfinder at the astronauts.
"Shake your beers before you open them," he orders.
They do; the beers spew all over their faces, and the astronauts pour them into their helmets. Then, in some of the best acting on a recent show, they pass out.
"Now, the space women," Bobby says.
The evil queen is played by Carla Adams, a massage therapist in real life. Dressed in a shiny, disco-era silver dress, a glitter-covered hockey mask, and the silver-taped majorette hat, she leads us into the pit. She stomps on an astronaut's wrist so he can't reach for his gun, shoves her staff into the rocks, and cries, "Reba, reba, eye, yie, yie!"
We space women shake our staffs and do the same. "Reba, reba, eye, yie, yie!"
I ask Bobby later what that means.
He is visibly disappointed that I didn't get it.
"It's from The Three Stooges," he says. "You remember when they were captured on Venus and the space women came up to them and bit them on the cheeks? They said, 'Reba, reba, eye, yie, yie.'"
After nearly three hours of shooting, we are hot, we are smelly, and we are thirsty. The litterbug astronauts consumed all the beer. As the sun goes down and we're walking to our cars, I ask Bobby if he's pleased with the shoot.
"Yeah, but I could always get more," he says, looking down at the ground and pushing it with the white rubber toe of his faded black tennis shoes. "More cutaways, more close-ups. I'm going to wish I had more when it comes to editing, but it's always like that."
"Hey, look at that," he says suddenly, pointing with his toe to a spot on the ground where air bubbles left holes in the sun-scorched crust. "Craters," he says.
He grabs his camera and kneels down to get a close shot. He carefully tips the camera toward the ground until the lens touches the dried mud. I realize he's probably simulating the crash of the spaceship into our planet. A satisfied smile spreads across his face. "Let's go get some space water.