What is this? Dirty Close-Up what? Let me explain.

My first encounter with the people that work behind the scenes in the entertainment business was almost twenty years ago, and to this day I still think that their stories and experiences are usually more interesting than the PR spin that any actor would reveal. On most shoots I hear the most insane stories about Hollywood in the location scout van, or at the craft service table and I always wanted to give these below the line types a place to share a few. The Dirty Close-Up interview is just that. I am starting them as written interviews and will be posting video interviews soon, both give a behind the scenes look at the personalities and quirky individuality that make up a call sheet on any film or television shoot. Oh yeah, in film slang a “dirty close-up” is a close up shot of an actor with a little bit of the back of the actor they are talking to in the shot…but I digress.

Meet Thomas (TK) Keith, my good friend who works as a 1st Assistant Director and 2nd Assistant Director on many of the projects I art direct. TK works hard, keeps his cool and from the moment I met him shared great tales from Van Halen music videos, the Seinfeld sitcom and multiple sightings of the Virgin Mary, so of course, he is my first Dirty Close-Up interview. Today we talk about the ridiculous “Hot For Teacher” video that was on MTV every 15 minutes when I was in high school.

main large A Dirty Close Up Interview: TK the AD (Part 1)

GK: So, for everyone who doesn’t know what an AD is, or even an Assistant Director give them a description.

TK: In a very simple description, the 1st A.D. makes the schedule and runs the set with the director. The 2nd A.D. communicates with the crew and cast to help accomplish the days work. All A.D.’s get a lot of help from every department. Each department head acts as it’s own assistant director.

GK: I know you have done some really cool shoots over the years, I think I was most excited to hear about the Van Halen ‘Hot For Teacher’ video shoot. Tell me about Waldo, the crappy lip-synching, teaching the Van Halen brothers to dance, the strippers and the endless guitar solo table in the library.

Here’s the Wikipedia about the video.

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TK: No one could have taught Van Halen to perform a choreographed dance. They were terrible but they worked at it for hours. That scene wasn’t part of the original video. It was added on after the original four day schedule, and there was no energy left from anyone.

hft1 A Dirty Close Up Interview: TK the AD (Part 1)

Click the original production report to watch the 'Hot For Teacher' video

GK: What about those teachers, were they actual strippers?

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TK: Those “teachers” dancers were models and not strippers.  They were very excited about being in the video, and got very pumped up by all the screaming 13 year old boys.  

TK (continued): The kids that played the band members, at a younger age, turned cocky fast. At one point, David Lee Roth came up and told me to get the kids out of their motor home. He said, “They won’t leave and they’re drinking all our booze.”  

During prep I walked in on a meeting with the director and David Lee Roth; David pointed at me and said, “Waldo”. I didn’t think about it again until the first day on the set, the 1st A.D. told me David (Lee Roth) wanted to use my glasses on the kid playing Waldo.  

img 0877 585x780 A Dirty Close Up Interview: TK the AD (Part 1)

TK and his "Waldo" glasses

GK: Was Hot For Teacher a multi million-dollar shoot or down and dirty?

TK: I wish I had held on to the budget. It wasn’t much money at the time. We only had one motor home. Everyone else (makeup, hair, etc) set up in classrooms at John Marshall High School. We had just one grip/camera truck and the art department had two trucks. I don’t think there was video assist at that time. It was unusual to have a four day schedule for a music video. I remember some of the crew were smoking pot at the end of the first (15 hour) day. I walked past them and reminded them the call time for the next day was in eight hours.

I remember we damaged the hot rod car on day one. One of the kids kicked a dent in the door as he was climbing in. On another day, one Van Halen member made a disparaging remark about one of the make up departments sexual orientation. This was September 1984. Their crew almost walked out. 

GK: I saw this video a million times when I was in high school, Van Halen seemed so cool, watching it again it is such a campy cartoon, but your take on it makes it cool again (in a campy 80′s video kinda way). I guess the only thing left to ask is what about drugs, is that something look the other way for just to get the shoot done? And before we move on to other gigs, tell me about tantrums, fits, breakdowns and insane demands?

TK: One of the crew on the “Hot For Teacher” video was in charge of crew drugs, from what I heard. The band only asked for a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels and a case of malt liquor in the tall cans. 

I’ve had one time when a well-known actor broke down in tears about lunch. Another actor called me at the production office phone to cuss me out and then hang up. He called and hung up seven times.  He was drunk and never said a word about it the next day on the set. A famous director yelled at me about lunch not being ordered. I’ve discovered that lot of the anxiety on a set usually revolves around low blood sugar!

hft2 A Dirty Close Up Interview: TK the AD (Part 1)

Here's page 2 of the production report! Thanks TK.

Later this week TK tells me about working on the Seinfeld sitcom and his never ending encounters with the Virgin Mary!

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One Response to “A Dirty Close-Up Interview: TK the AD (Part 1)”

  1. toni says:

    i love this video i like david lee roth

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