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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Ski Memories Germany

The Cameraman’s Fish Eye Was More Than Just A Lens
David Russell

We were a three person Hollywood group plus a technical crew from Munich, coming down from the Austrian Alps, having filmed at the Kitzbuhel, Austria Olympic ski site. Our completed goal was to capture skiing footage, including the night ski torch parade down the mountain; footage we would later edit into a beer commercial, that same torch scene once used in a James Bond movie.

I also had fulfilled a promise to Orchestra Maestro Skitch Henderson to deliver greetings to an amazing one-armed Zither player working the lounge of the Kitzbuhel Grand Hotel.

With tasks completed, we covered the 60 miles fairly quickly arriving in Munich, where we would stay overnight, before flying to the states the next evening.

While our local production people took care of the hotel check in, I had us dropped at the Augustiner Keller, a brewery with a giant hall and an outdoor garden that could seat more than 5000 peoples. I know, we once filled all those seats making a commercial recreating Oktoberfest.

This time our arrival coincided with Holy Thursday and late enough to be The Last Supper. The hall was filled with people celebrating the end of lent, with glasses and voices raised to accompany an Accordionist and Dirndl dressed singers on stage.

Getting there an hour before Church Mass, there remained a limited menu, but all the bier one could drink, right from the brewery taps, fresh as that day. We contributed as best we could. And who should bring eight liter mugs to our table, but one of the bier fraus who had appeared in our commercial shot there four years earlier. She remembered me and I remembered her. When her mugs where deposited on the table, she hugged me and dragged me to the office of the manager, Herr Bachmeyr. Though he wasn’t there, on the wall above his desk where photos we had sent to him taken during the filming. And there she was front and center carrying filled to over-flowing bier mugs in hand.

Since the hall was fast emptying and her day was over, I invited her to join us for dinner, which she blushingly agreed to, but only after she finished carrying all our plates and two more handfuls of liters to the table. For the sake of a name, let’s call her Hanna. Hanna was in her late 50’s or early 60’s, a quite Zaftig Frau, strong enough to carry those eight filled liter mugs from lunch time through late dinner.

When she joined us, I seated her across from our 65-year old Hollywood cameraman, Hal, who had experience filming all over the world and always delivering, which is why Hal was with us.

One look and Hanna’s and Hal’s eyes clicked, which their mugs did frequently throughout the meal. Since the meat dishes were gone by the time we ready to eat, we settled for what was left, a plate with skinned, boiled potatoes, a heap of sauerkraut and a fish about 8 inches long with both head and tail intact. Hal, with his English-fied German and Hanna with German-fied English, seemed to have no trouble blushingly communicating.

When their plates emptied, on a spoon, Hanna scooped an eye from her Fish and handed it to Hal, a German love token. Not only did Hal take it, but chewed it with great relish, showing he had swallowed it. Then, to reciprocate, Hal duplicated the love token to Hanna, who also gnashed it with gusto. Not long later, Hanna invited Hal to join her and go to Church. We reminded Hal that because of our long day, tomorrow would be a late brunch at 11. He nodded as they left together. It was sobering, yet smilingly satisfying for us who knew the quiet competent Hal, see him react with such emotion. Remember, we’re talking a he of 65 and a she somewhere in her 60’s. I took it as a sign there was hope for all of us.

At 11 next morning, Hal was right on time, coming into for brunch with with a sprightly step and a twinkle in his eye, as if he had found Religion.

After brunch, our time was free till a bus would pick us up in front of the hotel at 5. Hal said he had to arrange to get our equipment through customs and a few other tasks and would meet us at 5.

At 5, Hal was there, again with a spring in his stride and a sparkle in his eye, as if he had found Religion a second time.

On the long flight from Munich to LA, Hal seemed to have fallen into a coma, sleeping most of the way home. It was obvious for that cameraman the fish-eye had been obviously a lot more than just a lens.

© David Russell April 2009

The Hyphernate
David Russell

Today, at most ad agencies, you're either a Writer or a Producer. But, in my days, being a Hyphenate was not unusual.

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