“Lights, Camera…Travel!”

“Lights, Camera…Travel!”

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 Lights Camera Travel Cover“Lights, Camera…Action!” That’s what the director tells the crew at the beginning of a film “take.”

In a play on this phrase, legendary travel writer and editor, Don George, and actor (Pretty in Pink) and top travel writer in his own right, Andrew McCarthy, have assembled a series of short travel stories from a “star-studded cast” in the Lonely Planet anthology, Lights, Camera…Travel! On-The-Road Tales from Screen Storytellers.

Granted, the likes of Alec Baldwin, Malcolm McDonald, and Brooke Shields know something about movie-making. But when I began, reading the book, I doubted that any of them could write a story worth reading?

Not Thinking Things Through

To paraphrase the New Testament of the Bible, “She who is last shall be first,” meaning that I’m going to begin my review of Lights, Camera…Travel! with a quote from “Life is a River in India” by Brett Paesel, TV writer, author of Mommies Who Drink: Sex, Drugs, and Other Distant Memories of an Ordinary Mom, whose blog is appropriately enough titled Last of the Bohemians.

Here’s what came into her head as she, her husband, and two sons approached the first stretch of white water rapids during a river rafting  trip in India:

“Why hadn’t I thought this through? I had been imagining myself as Meryl Streep in that river movie that I never saw because I knew it would scare that s[…] out of me. But I knew what she’d be like in it anyway, because she’s always sensitive and oh-so-strong with flawless skin. I wasn’t Meryl Streep, I was a D-list actor — one of the first idiots to be hacked to death in a slasher movie because I’d gone into the basement without thanking anything through! Why hadn’t I thought this through? What was I doing in the f[…]ing basement?”

So did Paesel and her family survive their The River Wild experience, as had Meryl Streep?

Or does their story end abruptly just seconds before their collective brains were bashed out as their raft spun out of control into a gigantic, mid-stream piece of granite, forcing others to reconstruct the the last day of their lives from notes Paesel scribbled in indelible ink on water-proof paper?

Well, you’ll just have to buy Lights, Camera…Travel! to find out.

Tight Jeans Wouldn’t Have Saved Her Butt

Brooke Shields.

Wasn’t she that blonde, teen-age bimbo, wearing tight jeans in those Calvin Klein ads?

Yep. Here she is talking about “jeans,”, “genes,” and “survival of the fittest.”


Sure, Shields might have been able to make out okay in a paradise like that in her “memorable” 1980 flick, The Blue Lagoon? But could that Pretty Baby handle less hospitable climes?

She would ultimately learn the answer to that question after jumping a the chance to be sent “on assignment” as a writer for Marie Claire magazine. The only problem is she forgot to look before she leapt to the conclusion that it would send her to a yoga retreat as it had done with Demi Moore, or to a tropical island, where Gwyneth Paltrow had been dispatched.

After Shields called the editor to ask about the destination, she said:

“The answer was chilling: ‘We want you to go to the Arctic and build an igloo by yourself and sleep in it overnight!’”

Shields left Los Angeles in 70-degree weather, and after changing planes in Ottawa, arrived at Iqaluit, Canada, a hop, skip and a jump from Greenland. She wasn’t in California any longer, Toto, and discovered that

“[w]ithin thirty-nine seconds of deplaning, [she] had no feeling in [her] fingers or toes, [her] digital camera had seized up, [her] nose hairs had frozen, and [she] could not take in a deep breath.”

Not exactly another day at the beach, Ken and Barbie.

Did Brooke Shields finish her icy construction project on-time and under-budget? Did she need plastic surgery to rebuild her frost-bitten little lithe body? Or did a polar bear have her over “for lunch,” making that body work unnecessary?

Read her “Artic Adventure” tell-all tale in Lights, Camera…Travel! and you’ll know all, including the fact that Brooke-The-Bimbo graduated with honors from Princeton University where she earned a degree in French literature.

Flying Around the World

Fly around the world in a private jet? For most of us, that’s going to be an unfulfilled pipe dream. But actor Anthony Edwards and his wife bought their own plane, pulled their four kids out of school, and along with two pilots and two school teachers, spent nearly a year circling the globe.

Although many will remember Edwards for his portrayal of the emergency room physician, Dr. Green, in the television series, ER, I think I first took note of him when he played Lt. (j.g.) Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, who flew in the “backseat” of Tom Cruise’s F-14 Tomcat in the 1986 movie Top Gun, which was filmed in part in San Diego.

Edwards’ chief pilot, Len Riley, advised him to purchase a “traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS)” for his plane. At the very end of the year-long trip, as the aircraft came in for its final landing, it nearly crashed into a small plane performing aerial acrobatics. Edwards ends the story thusly:

“A collision was avoided” All was fine. Len did everything he had promised to us. He kept us safe to the end of the trip.”

Edwards flew into the “Danger Zone” in Top Gun and didn’t survive the resulting “theatrical” aircraft accident. But thanks to Len Riley, he avoided losing his life in a real mid-air collision.

Ironically, Riley wasn’t aboard the Edwards plane, but his sage pre-trip advice about the plane’s equipment ended up saving Edwards and his family. You’ll have to read Lights, Camera…Travel! to learn why Riley wasn’t at the controls on that fateful final day of flying.

So it seemed only fitting that I would read “Glides Like a Piano,” the story of Edwards’ around-the-world journey, as I flew home from San Diego the day after seeing an F-14 parked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway moored along the city’s waterfront.

Pack it!

The next time you’re gearing up for a little “adventure travel,” pack a copy of Lights, Camera…Travel! in your carry-on bag. It’s highly entertaining, and gives a peek into an aspect of movie celebrity life that few have ever seen. Don’t leave home without it.

(Don George is one of Dick Jordan’s travel writing mentors, and is co-chair of the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference held each August. Andrew McCarthy was on the faculty of the 2012 conference. Purchases made from Amazon.com through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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