For more than five years, a rotating cast of Brooklyn-based actors and models has been paid to reside at the Can Plant apartments at the Pearl, posing as locals, enjoying meals at the former brewery’s many high-end restaurants, hanging out at Local Coffee, and taking turns just walking the grounds carrying small shopping bags and looking happy.
Two disaffected “residents,” one an actor named Max and the other his girlfriend/fashion model named Sasha, first approached the Dimmick Diaries with the revelations after they were given split shifts, one forced to work the weekday schedule, the other flying in for weekend relief. That made it all but impossible for the young couple to connect back home at their Williamsburg third-floor walk-up.
The Pearl management had no immediate comment.
“Some of us knew something funny was going on,” said a bartender at Cured. “I wasn’t all that surprised when one or two people asked if we served Peekskill’s Eastern Standard IPA, but when some guys came in one night and all of them ordered SingleCut’s Kim Hibiscus Sour, I started to wonder. ‘Where are these guys from?’”
Sasha said she grew tired of weekends alone on assignment, especially after a Saturday morning incident on the small green outside the Twig that occurred as she was watching yoga teachers doing asanas.
“We were assigned to walk around the Pearl Farmer’s Market with a ‘pet’ that had been flown in from Canyon View Ranch, this fancy Hollywood pet spa,” said Sasha, who asked to be identified by her runway nickname at New York Fashion Week. Locals, she said, know her as Callie. “One Saturday, some local guy’s male pit bull lunged at ‘Shampoo,’ my Goldendoodle, and ended up nipping me hard on the leg. I lost a modeling job the next week because of the bite mark.”
Max said he and other “imports,” as the Brooklynites called themselves, were paid “the going rate” by a New York agency to work three or four-day shifts in San Antonio, followed by time off back in New York and then a fresh shift in Texas. The actors and models were required to take “be friendly” classes before their arrival to learn how to mix with the locals who were slowly beginning to lease apartments there.
Management, he said, wanted it to appear that the Can Plant achieved full occupancy on the day the apartment complex opened.
“The agency only hired people with neutral accents, or people originally from Texas, and you had to undergo training to blend in,” said Max. “A friend of mine named Colt was sent home after telling a table full of people at Southerleigh Brewery that the rent for a two-bedroom at the Can Plant was a joke. Most of the people at the table that night were locals, complaining how expensive it was to live at the Pearl. Colt was kinda drunk and said he knew people in Manhattan who paid more for garage parking every month. That got back to management and Colt was on a plane home the next morning.”
One farmer’s market vendor told the Dimmick Diaries he grew suspicious one weekend after watching several tall women who didn’t dress like farmers peeling off “Michoacán” stickers from a load of fresh avocados.
“They had that big city look, and I just assumed they had bought their stuff at H-E-B,” the vendor said. “Now that I think about it, they were all really good-looking.”
Jesse, a third Brooklyn resident who agreed to meet with the Dimmick Diaries after being introduced by Max and Sasha, said he was recently reassigned to check in the Hotel Emma, a plush assignment limited to a single weekend to avoid staff from recognizing guests and growing suspicious.
“As the Can Plant slowly filled up with locals, they started moving some of us over to the Emma, which was awesome,” Jesse said, who admitted he was given a negative agency review for repeatedly referring to the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River as “that creek.”
Jesse said he was one of several people who took a test drive in a new Ferrari that dealers were showing at the hotel last week. “I was riding down in the elevator when a room service guy made a negative comment about my Nets t-shirt,” Jesse said. “I raced back upstairs and changed into the Spurs shirt they gave all of us. I never did wear that Mexican barber shop shirt they gave us from Dos Carolinas.
“You know why Botika finally opened?” Jesse asked. “Because so many of the ‘imports’ complained there was no good sushi in the neighborhood. The Pearl had a near-riot on their hands. They kept promising a sushi place and nothing ever happened.”
Sasha and Max said their bookings would end on April 1, and word among the other imports was the Can Plant had finally reached capacity.
“Most of us will be gone at the end of the month, but you can tell if someone you see there is one of the Brooklyn ‘imports’ if you look closely,” Sasha said. “We’re all tall and thin, and a lot of us are walking around with an exotic breed of dog. Most of us don’t make eye contact with strangers, even though we were told that’s how it’s done in San Antonio, and if we don’t know someone, we don’t say hello even if you say hello first. It’s just too creepy.”
Max said the “Can Plant gig was easy money, and I fell in love with Central Market, but I’ll be glad to go home. I just want to be somewhere I can go for a long walk. Broadway scared the hell out of us, so we hardly ever left the Pearl. I must have gained 10 pounds last year.”