My day as an extra in Adventureland

Adventureland (2009)

My blurry appearance as an extra in Adventureland.


Me, evidently a fan of amusement parks

Pittsburgh, Summer 1987

Film: Adventureland
Release Date: April 3, 2009
Director: Greg Mottola
Costume Designer: Melissa Toth


As today is my 32nd birthday (a day I share with Ernest Hemingway, Robin Williams, and Cat Stevens, to name a few) I’m going to exercise my blogger’s right to shift direction a bit and focus on… me!

In case my blog about style in the movies didn’t give it away, I’ve always been a fan of movies. While I never harbored dreams of stardom, there had always been a part of me that got a kick out of seeing myself on screen—which my fiancée attributes to my Leo ascendant—and I spent many a weekend in high school cajoling my patient friends into starring in some amateur production of mine, typically a half-baked story driven by gangsters, guns, and Goodwill-purchased suits.

It wasn’t until I entered college that I considered actually being part of an actual production, tossing my proverbial hat into the ring by registering as an extra with a local casting agency that has worked on several major productions filmed in Pittsburgh including The Dark Knight RisesJack Reacher, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Just two months into my freshman year at Pitt, the agency announced that extras of all ages would be needed for a day spent filming at Kennywood, the amusement park that had been the setting of many fond memories since early childhood. The park was being transformed back in time two decades for the 1980s-set comedy Adventureland, which would star Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart as college students spending their summer working at an amusement park.

While I never got to meet either of the leads—in fact, I’m not even sure if Kristen Stewart was on set that day as she wasn’t in any of those scenes—Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds, and Kristin Wiig all contributed to making the day a memorable and engaging experience for us extras, generously taking the time to chat and joke with us. A highlight of the scenes filmed that day was the introduction of Margarita Levieva as Lisa P., an alluring park employee whose idea of operating rides meant merely gyrating to Shannon’s “Let the Music Play”, a 1983 dance-pop hit single that we heard many, many times that day… and which I never need to hear again.

Adventureland (2009)

One of my favorite vignettes of the movie finds insecure park employee James (Eisenberg) sharing a joint with Lisa P. inside a dismantled Whip car, a colorful foreground against a smoky evening in the Steel City, scored only by the thrilled screams of Thunderbolt riders.

“Summer in Pittsburgh… that’s fuckin’ harsh,” decries Michael Zegen as one of James’ buddies, and I’ll try not to take offense. Southwestern Pennsylvania had long provided a familiar backdrop for movies like Night of the Living Dead, The Deer HunterFlashdanceThe Silence of the Lambs, and Striking Distance, the latter perhaps the least known of the bunch (for good reason) but one often proudly touted by Pittsburghers for how prominently the city is featured.

In the 2000s, Pennsylvania began offering tax incentives for productions to be filmed in the state, which saw a boom with movies like The RoadThe Next Three Days, She’s Out of My LeagueThe Dark Knight RisesSouthpaw (which was partially filmed at my office!), Fences, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom among the many to set up shop in the Pittsburgh area. Adventureland may have been among the first of this new wave of movies not only filmed in Pittsburgh, but often set here as well.

The nostalgic Cancer side of me has always had a soft spot for coming-of-age movies, so I was pleased when I finally got to watch Adventureland in theaters after witnessing how the proverbial sausage was made a year and a half earlier. It’s a fine companion piece to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which also addresses the awkwardness of young love, heartbreak, and hope while taking advantage of its Pittsburgh setting.

What’d I Wear?

Early on the morning of October 25, 2007, I was dropped off in front of Kennywood, equipped with a bag full of my own clothing that I had hoped would fit the desired description of looking like something straight out of a summer in Reagan-era Pittsburgh. (The creation of BAMF Style was still five years away, but I had been paying attention to period costumes for quite some time already!)

It’s been 84 14 years so my recollection may be a little hazy, but I remember hustling into a pavilion with the other extras—all of whom ranged in age, appearance, and enthusiasm—for costume selection. Some were issued costumes while others, including yours truly, had brought their own clothing to be analyzed and approved. My first outfit to make the cut consisted of a light pink Lacoste polo shirt and white jeans.

Adventureland (2009)

Sharing the screen with Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds, and Bill Hader (as well as a very kind fellow extra that I was paired up with for the day.)

The Lacoste polo had been pioneered by none other than French tennis champion René Lacoste, who founded his clothing company of the same name in 1933, specializing in his signature polo shirts with a green crocodile embroidered over the left breast in reference to his name. I received my first two Lacoste polos for Christmas in 2004, when I was in the tenth grade. Both were the then-standard 5191L short-sleeved model, size 4, made from cotton piqué. The colors were light blue and light pink, the latter providing just enough that pastel ’80s je nais se quoi that I selected it for my Adventureland kit. (In the nearly two decades since, the 5191L appears to have been superseded by the similar L.12.12.)

The white low-rise jeans were from American Eagle, purchased only a few months earlier during the summer of 2004. I wore them in Adventureland with a thick brown burnished leather belt, likely also from American Eagle. My sandals were the classic stone Birkenstock slides, with two buckle-fastened straps, worn inexplicably (or perhaps as requested?) with white socks.

Adventureland (2009)

Strolling through center screen just after Bill Hader’s character storms from his office with a baseball bat. Evidently, my hungry character has picked up a box of popcorn.

During the daytime scenes, I had a pair of gold-framed aviator-style sunglasses clipped to my belt loop, again also likely from American Eagle and a smart choice for me to have chosen—if I may say so myself—as Adventureland was set during the summer of 1987, only a year after Tom Cruise famously wore his Ray-Ban Aviators while quenching his “need for speed” in Top Gun.

The only piece of my proposed costume that hadn’t passed muster was my digital watch, a Timex Ironman on a silver-toned link bracelet. I had yet to really get into watches, instead only needing something that quickly told me the time. Had I selected a Timex T80 I may have been allowed—if not encouraged!—to continue wearing it on screen, but the costume team member working with us extras wisely nixed my anachronistic Ironman… leaving only an embarrassing ring of sun-starved skin around my left wrist that actually makes its way on screen (as seen in the still sourced for the top of this post.)

Adventureland (2009)

Even the photo I took of myself from the day was blurry, though I’d blame that on that wicked LG VX8300 and the fact that I don’t believe “behind-the-scenes” photos like this were necessarily… encouraged.

How to Get the Look

While perhaps preppier than anything I’d wear to an amusement park today, I was evidently dressing to impress back in the summer of ’87… but should I have popped the collar?

  • Light pink cotton piqué Lacoste short-sleeve polo shirt
  • White cotton American Eagle jeans
  • Brown burnished leather belt
  • Tan Birkenstock sandals
  • White socks

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie. Everyone is great in it, but I’m particularly convincing in my role as Guy Walking Through the Park Carrying Snacks.


  1. Brian Wilson

    Good job! And a great outfit. I’ve only gotten to use my own “wardrobe” on a couple of productions. I’ve worked as an extra – ahem, “background artist” – here in Atlanta for the past five years or so. It’s also hard enough so that I’m relieved when it’s done but just fun enough to make me want to do it again (usually within a week or two). But it’s always worth it for that thrill you get from seeing yourself on the big, or little, screen!

  2. Linda Mayhew

    Happy Birthday! Hope you have a great and fashionable day! Love your emails and IG. Keep up the great work.

  3. i m

    Happy BD! White Jeans at adventireland, well here’s my disater-version of the tale! On Father’s day this year , took my two sons to our regional version fo Valley Fair, a medium-sized theme-park/fair/amusement park combo. Rocked my brand new, impossibly white, white skinny jeans. The first sign of the impending apocolpse, beatiful sunny Sunday suddenly turns to torrential rainhalf way thru the hour and half drive. No Worries, concrete, black top concourse. Get there, only to discover it was under renovation, many areas of exposed dirt that they covered with a ballfield type red-clay mixture–probably a great idea when dry, but ad an hour or two of heavy rain, and you get muddyclay slop that’s got my brand new white jeans in the crosshairs–splatters up and down my legs. Took a knee a few times for vids and photos, major grass stains. Inadvertenly sat on a bench that some kids had just used for gangplank, more mud/clay stains, and Ihaven’t even got to the food drippings and finger prints! Coudn’t help but wonder if I somehow got subducted into a real-life Tide advert. Needles to say, envious as f*** at your placid, stain-free walk thru the movie-set amusemtn park.

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