Extra, extra, read all about it

by all three stars that she has to this day.

Barbara Opinsky of Chesterfield loves movie stars. “I have ever since I was a little kid. I know they are the same as we are but I can’t help it,” says Opinsky, who grew up in upstate New York. “Starting when I was 12, my mother would put me on the train and I would go into New York City to see shows and the stars. The meanest one was Fredric March. He walked right past my cousin and me, and didn’t say a word.”

As she got older, Opinsky figured the best way to feed her jones, especially since she didn’t live in Hollywood, was to try out as an extra in a movie. Her first attempt was in the 1960s when she was living in Columbus, Ga. and answered a call for extras for The Green Berets with John Wayne. Unfortunately, the extras needed had to play Asian soldiers. So Opinsky missed her chance to meet, or more likely catch a glimpse of, the Duke.


Next came the documentary about the Amish, which apparently never made it out of Lancaster, Pa. In the case of other, more mainstream films such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Larger Than Life, with Bill Murray, Opinsky made it in as an extra but not in the actual movie. She also was an extra in the 1979 film Pleasure Doing Business with Conrad Bain, Alan Oppenheimer and Phyllis Diller and while she didn’t make it into that one either, she did manage to collect a $1 bill signed by all three stars that she has to this day.

Now, of course, we come to Opinsky’s moment of triumph, better known as the extra experience that didn’t get away. She and Dr. Ken Rotskoff, a dentist in St. Louis, are featured in the wedding scene in Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. OK, maybe featured is pushing it. “You can catch a glimpse of us if you absolutely know what you’re looking for,” she said. “Ken literally positioned us to move over so we could get into the shot.”

They also can be seen for a split second at the wedding reception, but again, Opinsky says, you have to look hard and fast.

More exciting to Opinsky, however, was getting to chat during the shoot with Clooney and other cast members. In fact Clooney, known for his practical jokes, played one on Opinsky, without her knowing. When Rotskoff told her about the prank, which involved Clooney spraying something on her, she got the actor back by claiming the spray had caused her to break out and she had to be taken to the emergency room.

“I told (Clooney) I could sue but I was willing to settle and it wouldn’t cost him anything,” she said. “I said I would be happy to stay at his villa in Lake Como for two weeks, to which he said, ‘I thought it wasn’t going to cost me anything.'”

Up in the Air starring George Clooney and Barbara Opinsky is tentatively scheduled to open in St. Louis on Dec. 11.

* Most charities have their angels and the Harvey S. Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry is no exception. Enter Earl Kessler and Al Siwak, who hatched a plan to hopefully keep the pantry stocked not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year.

Kessler, who retired in January from the furniture business, had often worked with a company in North Judson, Ind. called Bailey’s Discount Center. Owner Mark Bailey has a 200,000 square foot clearance and closeout center that handles tremendous quantities of everything from furniture to tools to health and beauty aids to luggage to food. One day Kessler was in Bailey’s store and noticed all the canned food.

“My wife and I would go to Aldi’s and buy canned food for the (Kornblum) pantry,” said Kessler. “I figured if we could buy in large enough quantities and ship the food to St. Louis (from Bailey’s place), we could get a lot more canned food for the money.”

Kessler discussed his idea with Siwak and the two pooled their resources to ship the food in. Siwak figured if more people joined the effort, they could bring a lot more food in more often. So he decided to solicit others to join the two. Today, 22 people contribute $300 every quarter to bring a substantial amount of canned goods twice a month to the pantry. They try for a variety of canned fruits, vegetables, soups, stews, chili and meats, “but last week Mark called to say he had 700 cases of 32-ounce tomato soup so we bought 1,000 cans for roughly $1 a can. Now that’s a big savings.”

Should you want to join these angels, feel free to email Kessler at [email protected] However, be prepared to ante up for at least a year, which means $1,200 payable in $300 increments every four months.

* David Miller, grandson of Lester Miller of Lester’s Sports Bar & Grill fame, is one of four partners in Sammy Scott’s Sandwiches & More, which opened last week at 12766 Olive Boulevard (at Mason Road) in Creve Coeur. The four partners have worked at some of the area’s top restaurants, but felt that given the downturn economy and the public’s desire for “craveable comfort food,” a full-service sandwich shop, which also serves salads and soups, would have large-scale appeal. They hope, if business goes well, to expand into a mini-chain.