AS LONG AS I WAS GOING TO BE IN L.A. ANYWAY for the American Pie press junket, the kind folks at Universal asked me if I wanted to come down early and visit the set of Viva Rock Vegas, the new Flintstones movie. Since I worked as an extra a decade ago, I've always enjoyed seeing the machinations behind the gloss of a major motion picture. The only thing I knew about this movie was that the cast was entirely different.

We arrived on the set (built in a working quarry), and they took us to a part they weren't using at the time (by the Bronto King and the Melrock Place apartments), where they promised us barbecue and a presentation about the production. Apparently, in L.A. "barbecue" means lukewarm hamburgers and hot dogs, but I was hungry enough that it made no difference. Besides, the food was being fortified by an open bar.

The first thing I learned was that this is a prequel (they're all the rage these days, aren't they?). It's the story about two Stone-Age bachelors who meet and fall in love with their future wives. Mark Addy (The Full Monty) replaces John Goodman as Fred Flintstone, Kristen Johnston (Third Rock from the Sun) replaces Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma, Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal) replaces Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble, Joan Collins replaces Elizabeth Taylor as Wilma's mom, and in the most unsettling piece of casting, Stephen Baldwin replaces Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble.

A host of people stepped up to the microphone, including returning director Brian Levant and the fashion designer, to tell us how this movie is bigger, more fun, and even more of "a labor of love." Once that was finished, we got back on the buses to visit the set of the Rock Vegas strip, and watch them film a scene (a shot of them driving down the strip in a pink Cadillac, which will end up in some musical montage). The best part of this (besides the free drinks, of course) was seeing all the primitive names for the Vegas landmarks: casinos like the Molten Nugget, Tardust, Glitter Gorge; and also performers like Mick Jagged and the Stones and Frank Stoneatra.

So we saw them shoot the scene, and I got my picture taken lounging on a primitive car, wearing a purple, leopard-print dress. We then got on our buses and went back to our fancy hotel. The next day I didn't have anything to do or anywhere I needed to be, so I went to the Getty Center and killed the afternoon just hanging out. Thank you Viva Rock Vegas, and thank you Universal for the entertaining expedition.

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