The rink I skate at is used as a film and TV location all the time. I just saw Ewan MacGregor in it for Beginners and Sons of Anarchy was shooting a gunfight there last week. You can see it, all dolled up, in this Jessica Simpson video:
When I am skating there, the rink looks nothing like this. No colored lights, no loud music, no sparkle, no crowds. It’s lit only by fluorescent bulbs which show every spill on the carpet and wheel-skid on the wooden floor. There is often no music, just the chik-chik sound of skates on the floor. The heavy doors bang open and shut as skaters come and go, lugging skatebags.
It reminds me of working in the theater. The front of house, where the audience sits, is all gilt and chandeliers and plush carpeting. Backstage, where the actual work goes on, it’s cinder block, Formica countertops and narrow hallways, even in Broadway theaters. It’s never fancy or elegant. At night, when the audience is gone, the stage is lit by a single bare-bulb ghostlight and every flaw is starkly revealed.
I love these glamorous places best when there is no glamor. The disco ball is off, the crowds are gone and no music plays. It’s even cooler to me then, when all is revealed. That’s when I see these places as the honest tools that they are. They are simply places to do work. As a skater, I am doing part of that work. Being there when the artifice is stripped away makes me feel close to the heart of the place like nothing else does. I am not visiting the rink or the theater, I am part of making it what it is. It’s the mystery behind the mystery.
I prefer the man behind the curtain to Great and Powerful Oz every time.