It was the Spring of 1986, and Chicago was going strong as a desired film location. The Blues Brothers really put it on the map a few years earlier, and Martin Scorsese was shooting scenes for The Color Of Money with Paul Newman, Tom Cruise and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio at Fitzgerald's, in Berwyn and a few other locations around the city. A few months earlier in January, the Chicago Bears had won Super Bowl XX, by defeating the New England Patriots, 46-10 and the city was still abuzz with that NFL Milestone.
I had been a fixture in a few Rock Clubs for over a decade at that time, designing ads and promotion for more than a few of them. Director Paul Schrader, who wrote some of my favorite screenplays including Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and directed such classics as Blue Collar, Hardcore, American Gigolo and Cat People was doing a new film in town. This project was Light Of Day starring Gena Rowlands, Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett playing brother and sister in a rock band. Although it was set in Cleveland, Ohio, Chicago locations were featured prominently in the film.
My “connections” then tipped me off of a gig their band, The Barbusters was doing in the area and being familiar with the club and the various owners, I just had to go. Joan Jett's press kit at the time, described the band as follows: "Adding further to the realism of the film, Schrader had The Barbusters band (Joan Jett, Michael J. Fox, Michael McKean, Paul J. Harkins and Michael Dolan) rehearse together for two months before actual rehearsals for the film began.”
The band went to Chicago to play two bars as The Barbusters. Fox recalls those appearances in the same press release: "We played a gig at this bar called ‘The Lucky Number’ on a Friday night and then played the next night at a place on the South Side called ‘The Depot.’ We did about a 45-minute set each time and they went really well. We'd figured the only way to really test if we were a viable working band was to put ourselves on the line and go out in front of a bunch of beer-drinking folks who'd come to see rock and roll. I think we accomplished that."
I arrived at the Suburban South Side club (The Depot in Chicago Ridge, IL) and it was fairly crowded and started to get packed as word of it leaked out over the evening. The band played well, and “blew the roof off the dump” as David Letterman would say, and we mingled afterward (some other stories in there as well) and quite a few of us stayed in touch with them throughout their stay here, even attending some Blackhawks hockey games, as their season was winding down.
A few weeks later, during the first week of April, it was announced that a scene was to be filmed at the Chicago Auditorium, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds were going to be playing a show, as well as filming some scenes there. I was not going to miss that. The weather was warmer by then, but it was to be a “winter scene” and we were instructed to dress like it. A local radio station was also sponsoring it and giving away tickets. The place was packed to the rafters (that winter attire sure as shit, didn't help any) and the crowd was pretty pumped up having Michael J. Fox, Joan Jett (although not seen in that particular scene) and Michael McKean (Lenny from Laverne and Shirley and David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap fame, among other credits) among the crowd.
I was a few rows in front of them and to their right, and although I can be spotted in places in the film, it's best I leave that alone as my date that evening and I were “immortalized” on film which could have gotten awkward in a near future divorce case.
The Thunderbirds were onstage and getting ready to play and Paul Schrader was giving the crowd their “instructions.” Never being a fan of “instructions,” be they written or spoken, I quickly improvised my own. Instead of cheering for the band, I thought it would be a funny thing to begin woofng (woofing was the official Bears “cheer” during their amazing 1985=86 season.) I told some of the people around me and we began, then turned to face the crowd and lifting my arms to “conduct” them. As if on cue, suddenly, the entire fucking auditorium erupted in woofs, which were incredibly loud in the “acoustically perfect Chicago auditorium.” I thought it was funny as hell and looked over my left shoulder and saw Fox and McKean enjoying it as well. Once again, it was classic "Boris" instigation. Needless to say, the one person who was not amused was the film's director Paul Schrader. The scene was ruined and had to be restaged and shot over again. I laughed about it all night along with others and we told the story at the bar after we had gotten out of there. Much to my surprise The Chicago Sun Times had reported on it the following Monday. Right there on Page 2, was this article…
I loved it! Proof of the night that I made my “directing debut.” That decades old clipping actually remains in my wallet, behind my daughter's photo to this day. And the Bears? Well…
Here's the full Light of Day movie, the aforementioned scene is at the 45 minute mark.