by Sam Hutchins
The next day we got a relatively late start. For once even I wasn’t complaining about taking our time leaving the hotel. After a healthy start in the afternoon Darius and I wound up drinking in the hotel bar pretty late into the evening. That man is just the kind of troublemaker I love but should not be around. He worked his charms to put us at a table with a pair of rather attractive blondes, one mid forties and the other in her early twenties. Being in my cups as I was it took a bit of time for me to figure out that they were mother and daughter, the former in town on business and the latter attending university locally. It got a little strange as the mother made a pretty open play for me. Even though the daughter seemed fine with it I was a little uncomfortable. I defused the situation by walking her outside and around the corner before politely making my excuses. In retrospect I definitely made the right call, with memories of a sweet bit of making out in the rain preferable to a walk of shame from her hotel to mine the morning after.
We loaded up the truck to head back to the Blues City Cafe for some better photos. They usually turn out a little better in the light of day and before you’ve put away a dozen drinks. Also, buzzed as I was I had somehow managed to get the manager of the place on the phone the night before. I’m professional like that. Goose was a very nice and welcoming fellow but I had my concerns. As gracious and laid-back a good old boy as he seemed, you don’t run a joint right on the main strip like that without being pretty sharp. I’d been taken in by the cornpone, aw-shucks attitude before so I wanted to meet in person and take the measure of the man.
Goose turned out to be a nice guy, and did his damndest to buy us breakfast. Big charred hunks of sirloin are the best thing possible late at night and the last thing you want in the early morning. Amazing the difference a few hours makes. I accepted a cup of coffee and pulled him aside for a very frank talk. I laid my cards right on the table, letting him know we liked the place, had very little money, but still wanted to work there. He clearly was a sharp man behind his good ole boy persona, sharp enough to see that I was leveling with him. One of the toughest parts of the job is gauging whether someone will do an honest deal with you or instead lead you down the path and jack up the rate at the last moment. My best tactic is impressing upon someone that I can be a very serious man and Goose got the message. I felt confident we could come to terms.
Moving on, Kar Wai expressed an interest in seeing some seedy motels. We had already seen a fair amount of the poorer neighborhoods in Memphis and they were too impoverished even to support any sort of lodging. My gut was to head towards Graceland. It seemed like a logical place for that sort of location and failing that we’d at least get to take the tour. Turns out the instinct was a good one.
Heading north out of Memphis, Rte. 51 is named after Danny Thomas. South of town it turns into Elvis Presley Boulevard. The strip leading up to Graceland is wall-to-wall souvenir shops, greasy restaurants, and sleazy motels. The body of work suggests that Kar Wai has an affinity for the louche life, and some of my experiences to date had born this out. What happened this particular afternoon, however, was much further out there than I ever could have guessed.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.
Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.