Week in the Life: Radioman, Autograph Hunter, Bum And Film Actor

Shooting star still feeds from the film studio rubbish bins
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The Independent Online
HE'S NOT going to do that is he? We have just been given free Cokes from the movie catering van, but the habits of an old bum never die. Radioman - that's what they call him - is having a sly gander in the rubbish bin behind the van and, oh dear, down he bends for a rummage. He finds scrambled egg and scoops it into his mouth, leaving lumps in his beard. "What? Are you kidding?" he protests. "This is good stuff."

Radioman needs his energy. We are at the Silvercup Studios in Queens, a converted bread factory, where they are shooting interiors for the series The Sopranos, a runaway hit in America that premiered in Britain on Channel 4 this week. As always, Radioman has come here on his trusty bicycle. Later, he will cross to Washington Square in Manhattan where a CBS TV movie is on location.

This is what Radioman - real name Craig Schwartz - does. A one-time street tramp, nowadays he pedals daily from movie set to movie set across New York, to spy stars and collect their autographs. He is Radioman because of the battered boom box that always hangs around his neck. Crews and actors have grown to love him; so much so he is frequently given walk- on roles, even an occasional speaking part.

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IT HAS been all go for Radioman since Friday last week when Sandra Bullock (Sandy to him) was in SoHo on her new film, 48 Days. The shooting was all indoors in the trendy Merc Bar on Mercer Street. Radioman helped to try to disperse the tourists outside. "I told them it was a mayonnaise commercial. `Who's in it?' they wanted to know. `What do you mean?' I said. `It's a mayonnaise commercial!'."

The weekend was quieter. On Saturday he had time to update his telephone recorded message. Anyone who dials his number is greeted with all the latest scoops on what films and television series are being made where in the city and on which day. The intelligence is always spot on - a service the paparazzi would surely pay royally for. In the evening, it's back to Mercer Street where they are doing night-time shots with Sandra.

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SUNDAY FINDS Radioman, 49, on his bike again. It's a Schwinn given to him by Whoopi Goldberg. He met Goldberg on the set of Eddie years ago. This March she really did him proud, inviting him to Hollywood and giving him two tickets to the Oscars ceremony. (He wore a black tie, but still took in his radio.)

He has the day off and rides to Rockaway Beach - "to look at the beautiful women in their thongs".

Monday's main event is a premiere on Third Avenue. The turnout is rather thin for this film, My So-Called Life, starring Matthew Modine, who stops to say hello. "Hey, Radioman. What's going on?" Earlier, he has met Pipo Maypo, a friend and aspiring director who has just made a documentary on him. Called Radioman (The Collector), it will get its first Manhattan screening next Saturday.

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TUESDAY, THOUGH, is hectic. His first stop is Silvercup, where they are on the first day of six months of work shooting the second series of The Sopranos. He also stops by to visit Sarah Jessica Parker. Always nice to Radioman, she is in the middle of a new series of Sex and the City, which is also in production at Silvercup. From there, at lunchtime, it's back to SoHo for 48 Days.

And Radioman gets his turn on the set. The action is on Broadway and Prince Street, and Ms Bullock is buying a newspaper to see what has been written about her love interest in the film, a famous baseball player. Radioman is to play a tramp (no costume or make-up needed) walking by the kiosk, his bike in the background. The camera lingers on his face. "Gee, I got more time than her!" he says later. Still, that didn't beat Ransom, starring Mel Gibson, in which the director actually gave him a line.

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ON WEDNESDAY, he cycles all the way to Shea Stadium for a reshoot of Bullock meeting her pitching beau. Radioman has a portion of the catered filet mignon lunch. The evening is even better, though. Noticed lingering outside the Manhattan nightclub where the cast and crew of 48 Days are having a wrap party, he is invited inside by the director to join the fun.

Finally, it's Thursday, and Radioman figures on returning to The Sopranos at Silvercup. The star, James Gandolfini, who plays a dysfunctional Mafia boss, comes out on to the street in a dressing gown and slippers straight from shooting a scene. He gives Radioman a hug. Radioman is scruffy, his language coarse and he eats out of dustbins. But he is also every New York film set's lucky mascot.

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