|Se A Vida E video|
|January 20th, 1996. Orlando, Florida.|
In The Beeline Diner at the Peabody Hotel, Neil and Chris discuss tomorrow’s video shoot with Bruce Weber. Bruce Weber is the famous photographer and filmmaker who has directed just one music video before now: the Pet Shop Boys’ “Being Boring” in 1990. His second will be for “Se A Vida E (That’s The Way Life Is)”, the song which will be released this summer as the Pet Shop Boys second single of 1996.It is to be filmed at Wet’n’Wild, a theme park full of water rides. Confident in Bruce Weber’s ability to conjure up something fabulous, they have not yet burdened themselves with the details of what the video shoot will actually entail.
“So what exactly are we going to do?” Chris asks him.
“We don’t work before ten o’clock,” mentions Neil.
“The problem is,” says Chris, “what to wear. There’s no way I’m going to go down rides in a pair of swimming trunks in a video.”
“I could in the right circumstances,” suggests Neil. “If I was only seen from here upwards.” He indicates a line not far below his chin.
Bruce Weber explains some of his ideas:
“There’s this thing called the Lazy Riven.. There’s a weird photo booth…I’ve this friend who’s a surf photographer and he sent me this film of surfing and I want to have it projected, so you’ll sort of be in the water…I like the suburban-ness of it, all these people in bathing suits…the weird attitude of it..” He has this breathy, gentle and incredibly enthusiastic way of talking which makes everything he says seem really inspiring.
The diner’s other tables are packed with the international cast of beautiful and interesting people who Weber has gathered together to star in the shoot. “It’s a cast of thousands,” says Chris. “It’?; Ben Hur.” Bruce Weber calls one of them over. His name is Pablo and he is a painter; Bruce Weber suggests that Pablo should paint the Pet Shop Boys during the shoot.
“It’s so us,” says Chris. “We can be still.” Neil wonders whether maybe the painting could become the single sleeve. “We’ve never ever ever ever ever managed once to get the sleeve to coordinate with the video. This could be the first time,” he laughs, “for our 26th single or something.”
They discuss how explicit the video can be. Though it is one of their favorite videos, “Being Boring” was never shown properly in America because of the bare flesh. Neil and Chris want to make sure this video can be seen by everybody. “In Europe no one has any problem with nudity,” Neil explains. “I mean, you couldn’t show an erect penis. But America has a thing about bottoms. You actually have a rule that you can’t see an arse-crack.” He laughs. “When we told our American manager you were doing this video he went pale.”
Bruce Weber reassures them. “I thought I’d just try to make the video the best it is for the song. People love your music. And because there’re so many trendy videos that way, maybe it’s sexier not to.”
“Exactly,” Neil nods. He points out that cigarettes aren’t allowed either. “And we’re against cigarettes.”
“I think they should be banned,” says Chris, then adds, “and I think all other drugs. Should be legalized.”
They survey the cast, most of them teenagers.
“It’s amazing,” says Chris. “When you see pictures of me when I was young I was a geek. Tragic.”
“Were you?” says Neil, surprised.
“I think so,” Chris insists.
“Well, I was tragic,” retorts Neil. It’s not entirely clear whether he’s being sympathetic or competitive.
“How you’ve transformed yourself,” Chris sighs.
“It’s called money, Chris,” says Neil dryly.
“It’s amazing how it transforms you,” Chris laughs.
They discuss transport to the set for the Pet Shop Boys with stars.
Next day. Chris says they should get a limo; he has spent the previous week on holiday in Florida with friends and he has got used to a better class of transport. “On this trip,” he says, “we’ve not done it by half. We’ve limoed it, we’ve helicopter it, we’ve boated it.” The helicopter ride was in Miami, where they flew over Madonna’s house.
“You ruined her afternoon nap,” Neil tuts.
“We went so low over Madonna’s house,” Chris giggles. “In fact, we circled it. And Sylvester Stallion’s. If I was Sylvester Stallone I would have blasted us out of the sky.” In their Miami hotel they met Jimmy Nail (who Neil and Chris recently had dinner with, thanks to a mutual friend). Jimmy Nail is officially described as “quite moody”.
“I’m going to bed,” Neil sighs.
“Don’t forget the creams,” teases Chris. “The skin-tightening gels.”
“You’re the one with the creams,” Neil retorts, and retires.
The next morning. As requested, the Pet
Shop Boys’ call time is ten o’clock. They meet in the lobby. And discuss the merits of physical beauty. “You don’t want a beautiful body,” Chris insists. “You want a beautiful
body on other people.”
We drive the five minutes to Wet’n’WiId in a limo, as ordered. Driving in, Neil spots a long, enclosed, black water tube snaking down from a great height. “Oh my God,” he says. “That’s my idea of hell.”
They go to the wardrobe room to make the difficult decisions about clothes. “It’s that whole dilemma,” Chris frets. “What am I meant to be? It becomes very philosophical. At the moment I’m just a straightforward dude.”
Neil tries on a shiny Gucci suit.
“These trousers aren’t going to fit me,” he reports as he pulls them on. “They’re too small.”
“How too small are they?” asks the wardrobe man optimistically, still hoping a compromise can be found.
“They’re sort of incredibly too small,” says Neil. He decides to wear the Helmet Lang he brought with him, until Bruce Weber tells them that the first shot is in the Wave Pool (a pool with big waves) and that they may get “a little wet”. The cast gathers in bathing costumes, holding or floating on an array of animal-shaped inflatable, forming a large, shifting flotilla.
Neil and Chris paddle out to them on lilos. Everyone is encouraged to have as much fun as possible, while camera-people with all different kinds of cameras (some carried on shoulders to keep them from the water, but one of them inside some kind of perspex box so that it can shoot near and in the water) rush round, filming. Wet’n’Wild hasn’t been closed to the public today, and so plenty of curious holiday-makers in the water watch with curiosity. Soon, with all the splashing, Neil and Chris are more than a little wet and it doesn’t take long for them both to capsize. It looks terrific fun; this is clearly not going to be one of those videos where the Pet Shop Boys look moody and detached. When the song starts booming out from the pool side – “Se A Vide E” is one of those happy songs that makes you feel sad – it tits the mood perfectly.
“So,” smiles Neil, walking out of the waves dripping from head to toe, “we might get a little wet?”
“How much fun was that?” Chris enthuses. “And the cast, they’re all very tactile. You know how we just don’t touch. It’s rather refreshing.” He turns to Neil. “They are so nice. It’s unbelievable, considering how good-looking they are.”
“Yes,” agrees Neil. “In Britain being that good-looking is a license to be a complete bighead.”
Chris wanders off and Bruce Weber comes over. “Chris is so funny,” observes Bruce Weber. “He loves to hide out I had to get one of my assistants to keep his boat there.”
In their trailer, Chris lies on his back on the couch, eyes shut, receiving his make-up. “I guess this is what they do in mortuaries,” the make-up woman says. Chris stirs, and says to Neil, “I’m tempted to take one of those Gucci suits. Those are the pants (like.”
“Wear one in the next shot,” Neil suggests. Chris is horrified. It is one thing to want a Gucci suit; it is quite another thing to wear one in a video. “I’m a surfer,” he scoffs. He gets out a gray hooded Stussy sweatshirt with a big “S” on it.
“I’ve got one of those,” Neil comments. “You mean you went into my shop?” Chris protests, outraged.
“There’s not many sweatshirts,” Neil apologists. “Anyway, [don’t wear it officially – I only wear it practically.”
In the Photo Illusion Booth, for $5 a photo, tourists can shoot themselves against a variety of backgrounds, and preview their photo on a video screen before deciding whether they want to keep it. Bruce Weber ushers the Pet Shop Boys inside. Chris takes a photo of himself being eaten by a shark. Neil takes one of himself with a wave about to crash on his head. Then they do one together, and Weber declares himself satisfied. “It isn’t exactly hard work, is it?” laughs Chris.
Afterwards they are filmed walking out of
the photo booth, and so are four sailors, then two boys and a girl, then a young girl wearing a strange hat, and so on. Next they have to walk along the Wave Pool’s edge with four sailors, and then walk towards the camera as the sailors cavort drunkenly around them. It requires several takes. “Be more drunk than that,” Bruce Weber instructs. “You’re had about fifteen beers.”
“It’s not too camp, this video, is it?” Chris laughs, back in the trailer.
Neil reads about Emma Thompson in Vanity Fair. “God, they write some bollocks in this magazine,” he remarks.
They don’t enjoy the Lazy River so much:
floating round a slow-moving circuit over and over again surrounded once more by the cast and their inflatable. “Wet and miserable,” Chris reports. He wants to go on The Rocket. You climb up an endless spiral walkway until you are at Wet’n’Wild’s highest point, then step inside a rocket-shaped capsule, which tilts forward until its bottom, and your feet, are above a near-vertical slide. When the operator pushes a button, the floor gives way beneath you, and you drop at an incredible speed, only slowing down as the slide curves beneath you. Chris, his friends, and myself, decide to try it.
“That Rocket!” Chris relates to Neil afterwards. “I love thrills! It was a Free fall ! It’s enough to make you want to jump off a tower block.” It is only then that he is told that, when you’re in the capsule, you can be seen in all your nervous anticipation on a video screen below. “I’m going to do it again, looking cool,” he promises, though he doesn’t. Once is thrilling enough. “Why can’t all videos shoots be like this T’ he asks. “Go to a pleasure park and have fun?”
Neil surveys the supplied fruit. “Banana?” he inquires
Neil, Chris, Dainton and some of the cast go down a ride called The Surge, where you sit around a circular dingy and fly down a wide three-stage chute. At the bottom, the unevenly-balanced dingy flips open.
“I thought, I don’t know where I am,” says Chris.
“We did go west then,” chortles Dainton.
There is a small crisis regarding clothes for the next shot. “Who did you give your pants to?” the worried wardrobe man asks Chris. Chris doesn’t know.
“My pants have gone missing,” he declares.
“How interesting.” Comments Neil.
The sun is now beginning to set, and Bruce Weber wants to film the cast dancing. This includes the Pet Shop Boys. He tried to get them to dance for “Being Boring”; he’s still trying. The cast are split up into pairs and have to twirl and cavort with each other as they move towards the camera, except that Neil and Chris remain true to their resolve and mostly just walk. “You’re so shy,” Chris’s partner observes. When they’ve done it three or four times Neil announces, “I think I’m going to get my sausages.” It’s about six o’clock, and some sausages have been barbequing next to the catering truck for a while. He tucks in. “I’m not regarding this as dinner, by the way,” he points out firmly. “This is a snack, baby.” Chris, meanwhile, is more preoccupied with the disappearance of his Stussy sweatshirt. He thinks he left it out by the Wave Pool earlier. Search parties are dispatched, but it is never found. (“As usual,” says Neil, “I blame the public.”)
The day’s final shots are to filmed in a dark projection room. First they have to stand stock still while two different lights are switched on and off and one of them is played over their faces. Chris yawns.
“I like him yawning!” Bruce Weber enthuses.
“We do yawning as one of our things,” Neil explains.
Bruce Weber sticks a star to Neil’s forehead and a smaller one to Chris’s right cheek, and they repeat the process. After a while some assistants also shower the two of them with bags of reflecting stars. Then they move across the room; footage of surfers
riding waves and families playing in a park are projected over their white clothes. (The only idea from last night’s dinner which didn’t materialize was Pablo’s painting.) Bruce Weber is feverishly excited as this is filmed, his voice reaching a higher and higher pitch:
“Oh beautiful…Oh I love it!…Oh Neil, there’s a suffer right on your pocket. I love it, I love it…Oh God…It’s so beautiful what you’re doing…” He asks them to look upwards and open their mouths, as if they are gazing at something in wonderment. “I love it!…[t’s like kids at the movies…Move your head, Chris…Nice…Beautiful, Chris…Eyes to the right, slightly. ..Beautiful, great…Oh!…Hold that…Beautiful…It’s beautiful…Just open your mouths…Beautiful…Beautiful…”
And it is over.
“That was great,” says Neil.
“It was really enjoyable,” Chris agrees. As they get ready to leave, Bruce Weber describes the film been making around the old Hollywood actor Robert Mitchum. “He’s like the original bad boy.” Bruce Weber grabs Chris’s arm. “He’s even badder than you.
Chris shakes his head in resignation. “I’m not bad,” he says, with visible disappointment.
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 1996: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 1996 Issue 15