Seinfeld‘s fictional movie titles were always a special treat — Sack Lunch or Chunnel, anyone? — but the one with the most mystical staying power has to be Rochelle Rochelle, “a young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.” First, George sees the film at the theater. Then he’s renting it in a later episode when he runs into his ex, Susan, and her new girlfriend at the video store. It even eventually becomes a stage adaptation in an episode guest-starring Bette Midler.
And all the time, the movie poster remains the same: a hazy, moody black and white portrait of a beautiful young woman.
She was “played” by an uncredited extra named Chela Holton. Though Holton did lots of Hollywood background work during the time Seinfeld was on, she now lives a low-key life in California. I was lucky enough to be the first to interview her about her Seinfeld experience for my upcoming book Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, which is out July 5 — and available for pre-order right now.
Here, a few highlights from our interview … for the rest of the good stuff, please check out the book!
How did you end up as Rochelle? I was an extra, but I had been hired specifically to pose for this picture. They needed her to have a summery dress on. I had to borrow one from a neighbor. They dolled me up a little bit. Outside the soundstage, there was a little park area where I posed for pictures.
Were there multiple set-ups? We did a lot of different things. They had me walking with my suitcase. The idea was that it was supposed to be a dark and dreary setting but then here’s this girl in her sundress. Most of the pictures they took were of me standing, but the one they used was a crop. The idea was how out of place this girl in her sundress is. I think the day was perfect, because it was overcast.
Since you were hired as an extra, did you appear in any other scenes? By the time they were done with my mini-photo shoot, probably a couple of hours had passed; they had me change and then I was an extra in the bar scene. My back is to the camera and my hair is back, so you can’t tell that it’s me. And by the time that scene was done, there was my picture on the poster, eyebrows all unkempt. It was so fast. It was like a drill. Everyone knew what they were supposed to do, and they just got it done.
Did you get a copy of the poster? Way back when the show aired, I was told, “Call back next week and ask if you can get a copy.” When I called, they said, “Sorry, it’s studio property.”
Do people in your life realize the significance of Rochelle? I have two beautiful stepchildren. [My partner] took a screenshot [of the poster] from the show and blew it up to hang in his office. So the kids asked about it once or twice. They think I’m famous. Realistically, I very rarely bring it up. It was 20 years ago. Vanity overcomes, and who wants to be as old as that?
There are also people in the office. There’s this young boy who recently moved onto another position. But he’s obsessed with Seinfeld. So much so that he would bring up a quote or say something Seinfeldesque several times a day. We even started a Seinfeld jar. He put a dollar in every time he said something about Seinfeld. He’s young, so he would have been a little kid when it was on. I have not told him. That’s my little secret.