Monday morning I showed up at the Skylark with my coffee and breakfast sandwich to babysit the bar as it was being prepped for a film shoot. I’d bartended the night before and seen the newly-green walls and faux-Irish bar decor. I’d listened to the grumbling of the regulars and watched the dumbfounded glances of patrons trying to put a finger on what was different at the bar that night. Others came in as if it was like any other night. They were there to drink and what was or wasn’t up on the walls was of no concern to them whatsoever.
Jimmy instructed me to watch that they didn’t tear the place apart, then took off. I opened my laptop to try to do some work but kept looking around as the crew worked away to ready the room for shooting the following day. They had to do as much as they could while still leaving the bar operational for that evening’s regular non-movie-magic business. The booze, beer taps, glassware, and bar itself remained as they’d always been; everything else was a little or a lot off.
The barstools were now wooden and had backs, rather than round and vinyl with chrome legs. There were many, many more tables and each one had it’s own little lamp with its own little lampshade. The Oddfellows banners were replaced by Boston T signs for a fictional Orange Line stop called Dover. There were now photos of various Kennedys and not a single one of Anton Cermak. A neon above the hallway to the kitchen promised live music but didn’t elaborate. A sign over the ladies’ room said Slainte in that Irish bar Gaelic font. The CSI pinball machine was replaced by a Wurlitzer jukebox.
I watched a lighting tech test out light strips placed behind the bottles of liquor. She manipulated virtual dials on her tablet to make them change into a succession of hideously bright colors. There were also strips of green light to illuminate the front of the bar down to the floor. She told me about the other shows she’d worked on, which included the whole variety-pack of Dick Wolf franchises. She didn’t think any more of those than I do but we both agreed that it was good that locals got jobs on those shows even if they had nothing to do with Chicago and little with basic human decency.
The show they’d be shooting here the next day would have nothing to do with Chicago either. In fact the Skylark was to play a South Boston bar called the Black Emerald in a pilot for a TV show based on Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone. I asked Jimmy before he’d left whether they’d paint the walls brown again and he said no, because if this series got picked up and they wanted to shoot here again, they’d just have to repaint it all over again.
As an electrician opened one of the curio cabinets in the back bar, he turned to me and asked if the tchotchkes and keepsakes were theirs or ours. “Ours.” I told him, “so please leave them as they are” and felt like I’d done my job for the day.
The day after the shoot I came in to eat and to see if the Skylark was the Skylark again. Aside from the green walls, everything else was mostly back in place. I asked Sheila what she thought of the walls and she said it wouldn’t have been her choice but that it looked clean. I joked that I’d have to do a whole new series of paintings now that the bar had changed.
I’d have painted the Skylark again even if it had remained exactly as it had always been.