I'd been writing for the local music monthly The Rocket since 1988 and by 1991, I was (sad to say) more than a little burned out on the scene. So when Cameron Crowe began filming "Singles," his follow-up to "Say Anything," I wasn't one of those flocking to become an extra or trying to get a glimpse of oft-sighted star Matt Dillon, who was playing the lead singer of faux grunge band Citizen Dick.
When the movie finally opened in September 1992, I caught a screening in San Francisco. I expected to see some faces I knew, but I was not expecting to see my own name on the big screen, even if it was for just a split second. My "cameo" is in the scene where Citizen Dick reads their review (you can see my byline to the left). They'd mocked up a real page of The Rocket, much to my surprise.
But those 10 seconds of fame aren't the reason I love "Singles." Crowe might regard it as his least successful film and grunge fans may have dissed it now (and certainly when it came out) for being more about yuppie romance than the Seattle music scene, but it still stands as a sweet snapshot of the '90s (and who doesn't love those rock star cameos and that killer soundtrack?).
The movie is now, unbelievably, 20 years old and just as beloved by people who've never set foot in Seattle or for whom '92 was spent in diapers. Campbell Scott, who played nice guy Steve, recently said he gets approached by people of all ages, "I'm 47, I have gray hair, and yet people still come up to me on the street who weren't even born when 'Singles' was made...and they say, 'Oh, I love that movie.' And I always say, 'How old are you?' [Laughs] And they say, 'Twenty-one.'"
Although Crowe had previously shot his first film, "Say Anything," in Seattle, not a lot of feature films were being made there, so "Singles" was a big deal and a lot of locals remember those days fondly.
Seattle-based journalist Jeff Shannon, who visited the set, recalls, "The whole city was abuzz about the production; they filmed all over town. Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick were very nice and approachable," but adds, "The general consensus during this time was that Matt Dillon was kind of a dick."
Shannon, who was then a writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, remembers, "Crowe was totally preoccupied, but he came over and talked with me between set-ups. During the filming, there was a Neil Young concert at the Coliseum [now Key Arena], and Dillon was there with [Bridget] Fonda and some others. Dillon was yelling, 'Play 'Cortez the Killer'!'"
Patty Schemel, drummer for Hole (and the subject of the documentary "Hit So Hard"), recalls a run-in near the OK Hotel, a live music venue that doubled in the movie as the "Java Stop" coffee house where Fonda's character worked. "I was in my band Sybil at the time," Schemel recalls to Moviefone, "We were all down at the OK Hotel where we were playing a show, but it was all ages, so there was no alcohol. We'd go around the corner to... I think it was the Pioneer Saloon to drink. Our singer, Tammy, she said [whispering], 'Matt Dillon's in here.' I remember her going up to him and saying, 'Matt, that film 'Over the Edge' was so amazing.' And he was just like, [muttering] 'Thanks.'
For those who were involved in the film, their memories of "Singles" are even fonder. Mina Sanayei Wirth, whose brother was the lead singer of pre-grunge Seattle band The U-Men, was an extra in two scenes, including one at the Off Ramp, where Soundgarden performed "Birth Ritual" over and over. "I can't remember much about that day, except that the song never got old," she says.
Soundgarden's bassist Ben Shepherd had a less rosy recollection of that day's shoot. As he told author Mark Yarm in "Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge," "My fingers were so sore from doing so many takes. You have to get all the different camera angles and performances of the actors and stuff. We're in the background, playing 'Birth Ritual,' and that song, if you play it enough-that sliding stuff, my fingers were so sore by the end. Big, nasty blisters from that. And they edited me out. All you can see is part of my elbow."
Sanayei Wirth was also an extra in the scene where Sedgwick goes dancing with a friend and realizes her boyfriend, who's supposed to be in Spain, is there with another woman. The location was the Re-Bar, which was more likely to play Dee-Lite than anything grunge. "The whole day was spent with us dancing to the song 'Ring My Bell' by Anita Ward," Sanayei Wirth, who took her sister along to the set, says. "Krya said the line, 'We will always go out dancing,' a hundred times that day. She and her friend then walked to the bar and past the cad and a blonde floozy. Kyra then fled the bar in tears, with her friend in tow. The big moment in the movie for my sister and me was when Kyra and her friend walked between us on the way out of the club. I remember Kyra being very aloof, the woman who played her friend being very nice, and the guy who played the cad flirting with my sister. It was surprising to see that scene in the movie, because the disco was replaced by a heavy rock song. Still, whenever I hear 'Ring My Bell,' I think of 'Singles.'"
Twenty years later, she's not the only one reminiscing about "Singles" -- especially now that Soundgarden is back together and Seattle is hip again.
Keep an eye out tomorrow for our 25 Things You Didn't Know About "Singles" Post