On Thursday a strangely surreal evening; the kid had his first-ever public performance; a thousand people came, terabytes were burnt, and the evening progressed through sushi to Stephen King in the twilight, and now I can't get this Steely Dan tune out of my head.

Aged almost four, he’s in the “Tiny Tots” division of gymnastics, which believe it or not is not even the youngest. I had a vision of a dozen kids clumping around on a stage with a smattering of parents clapping politely. It turns out the gymnastics club is huge and it was a mass performance by everyone from the wee kiddies to the Olympic hopefuls, in a hockey arena. There were hundreds of performers all told, and each had one or two loyal retainers; the chaos, commotion, and general entropy level made it a real nerve-scrambler.

Thousands of people, and hundreds (at least) of digicams and videocams; when you have forty or fifty Tiny Tots bouncing around on the mat, each with at least one ancestor scrambling for camera angles, it gets brutal. Elbows were deployed about as you'd expect in a hockey rink.

Audience filming gymnastics recital
Count the videocams.

I paused to consider the amount of data that was flowing and realized that quite likely several gigabytes per minute were being invested in immortalizing these young performers.

The theme of the evening was “That Seventies Gymnastics Show”, and various classics of the era were trumpeted forth to encourage the performers. I conclude that Disco still sucks, pretty much. The four-to-six-year-olds performed to Shake Your Booty which you might think hard to top, but my little guy’s troupe’s routine was set to Macho Duck, something I’d never heard before (thank goodness), anyone who survived the Seventies can work out the title’s provenance.

Crowd and performers at gymnastics recital

We hung out so the kid could watch the cheerleaders and some of the flashy floor work, but oxygen was growing short so we strolled two blocks for sushi. On the way, a car drove by with an old Steely Dan tune coming out:

While de poor people sleep wit’ de shade on de light,
While de poor people sleeping, de stars come out at night.

The song is Show Biz Kids (from the great album The Royal Scam) and I got an internal giggle attack, walking along with my own Show Biz Kid in the early dusk. Then that “poor people” refrain, which is hypnotic, got lodged in the back of my brain.

While de poor people sleep wit’ de shade on de light

If Apple’s iTunes Music Store were a sensible citizen of the Web, I could post a URI to that song and you could listen to a sample and maybe buy it. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Outside the sushi joint, a film shoot was in progress. You could tell this was a top-line production, even the dude who manned the street barricades had chiseled features and showcased pecs, waiting for that talent scout to launch him on the road to Tinseltown millions.

lighting tower on dead zone set
While de poor people sleeping, de stars come out at night.

After dinner, we decided to stroll through the shoot, and it was definitely big-time; if you haven't seen one of these it’s hard to imagine how many trucks and people and generators and wires and train-tracks laid down the middle of the street (for cameras) are involved. This one went on for blocks.

The crowd on the Dead Zone filmset
While de poor people sleep wit’ de shade on de light

As we strolled by, they did a rehearsal take; a handsome young couple with a pretty little girl and cute little boy walked along between a row of parked cars and nice storefronts; the woman stooped, picked the little girl up, her dress swirling, and they all laughed. The street and sidewalk cafés were packed with spectators. As we watched, one allowed “Nice young family like that, you can bet something terrible’s going to happen to them.”

He had a point, because when we got to where the Director and VIPs had their custom-lettered black chairs badged with names I didn’t recognize (not a movie buff, sorry) we found that they were filming Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, which the IMDB says is a TV series.

While de poor people sleeping, de stars come out at night.

The set, on a very expensive part of a very expensive street in a very expensive neighborhood (Kerrisdale, for Vancouver connaisseurs), was in the street but weirdly not of it; the movie crew, without making a big deal out of it, entirely ignored the throngs, this is 8:30PM on a summer Thursday evening remember. They had a different look, a different feel, and their tribe wasn’t intermingling with the natives.

I was particularly impressed with the immense lighting towers, they had deployed at least four.

2 lighting towers on the Dead Zone filmset

Watching all this, the song’s punchline finally came to mind:

Show biz kids, they makin’ movies ’bout themselves,
you know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else.

Which is maybe a bit unfair. But I just couldn't get it out of my head.

author · Dad
colophon · rights

May 30, 2003
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