Costa Mesa Gets a Casting Call: Lights, Cameras, Construction

Times Staff Writer

When residents of Costa Mesa's Rosemary Place peeked out their windows Wednesday and saw the small army of TV cameramen, city officials, makeup artists and police, they knew it had finally happened: Reality TV had moved in next door.

But instead of voting someone off an island, producers had picked a family to move out of the neighborhood for a week while construction crews and celebrity designers demolish and then rebuild their house.

The neighborhood heard the announcement via bullhorn about 8 a.m., when the ABC television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" kicked off a week of filming and remodeling on their street.

At the center of the drama are Thomas and Deirdre McCrory, who, in addition to their two sons, ages 3 years and 21 months, are expecting triplets in the coming weeks.

Neighbors said the McCrorys won the house makeover with their compelling story of an expanding family in a relatively small house. Past episodes have featured a family with a daughter whose leukemia is in remission, and a family whose father is serving in Iraq.

By noon, the cul-de-sac was jammed with two trucks of camera equipment, a trailer for makeup and hair, and a long tour bus complete with a lounge, kitchen and sleeping area.

Orange cones and construction signs filled adjacent 20th Street, accompanied by three police cars and four traffic officers, paid in part by filming and event permits bought by ABC.

"There's a couple of celebrities here too," said Mayor Gary Monahan, motioning toward a tall, fluffy-haired man in a rugged jean jacket. "I don't know who he is myself, but people keep pointing him out."

"That's Ty Pennington," field producer Diane Korman later explained. "You know, the hunky carpenter from 'Trading Spaces.' "

Even if the mayor didn't recognize him, the neighborhood's teenage girls certainly did.

"I got his autograph!" said one, clutching her notebook. "He even signed this jacket for me."

The filming is a big deal for the city, too, said Carol Procter of the city manager's office, because Costa Mesa has not hobnobbed with Hollywood for some time.

"In the five years I've been here, all we've had are little snippets," she said -- a brief shot in opening sequence of the ABC drama "Dragnet," a performance hall used for a Tom Hanks movie and a few car commercials.

To accommodate "Makeover," city officials expedited their review of building plans, issued press releases and assigned a full-time home inspector to the project.

The McCrorys need a bigger house, said Shirley McGonagle, who has lived in the home next door for more than 40 years. "I had three kids in this house and even that was more than I could handle."

According to McGonagle, the magic that is reality TV has already begun for her neighbors.

"When they found out they were chosen, they started crying, and I started crying," she said.

"Then this big, burly guy with a stud earring [from the camera crew] started crying. It was beautiful."

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