Thursday, March 26, 2009

"London Times - Part Nine B"

I don’t want to leave the Actors’ Workshop without remembering some of the students in my class. As far as I know, none of them flourished on the acting firmament, unless one of them later changed their name to Dame Judy Dench. But they were a fine group, and I pay verbal tribute to a few of them today.

A tall, rather thin, lively and delightful girl named Chrissie Shrimpton, sister to Jean Shrimpton, who, along with Twiggy, were the two most famous models in the “hey-day” era of “Swinging London”. I recall Chrissie’s boyfriend, waiting to pick her up after class. A musician. You may recognize the name. A Mister Mick Jagger?

That’s right. Me and The Mickster. Two degrees of separation.

As she hopped into his roadster, he may well have remarked, “Who’s that Jewish guy, came out with yuh? Looks like he can’t get no satisfaction. Hold on a minute. There might be a tune in that.”

I remember an expatriate Texan, whose name, I believe, was Johnny Mountain, though I could be confusing him with a local L.A. weatherman. I know he had a really big name, which was appropriate, because the guy was huge. Not heavy, or with a big gut – perfectly proportioned, but enormous. I described him as the type of guy who goes into a restaurant and orders cattle. Fortunately, he laughed, because he could have punched me to Germany.

Colin Peterson. Australian. Colin was once a child movie star, and after an extended hiatus, he hoped to revive his career. For some reason, Colin had chosen to “sharpen his chops” at a acting school nobody’d heard of, whose standards permitted them to include such unlikely candidates as myself.

Colin was also a drummer in a band. Once, he excitedly raced up to me in a record store and screamed, “We’re ‘Number Three’ in Belgium!”

For some reason, Colin felt comfortable confiding in me. (Maybe because, though not English, we both shared membership in the British Commonwealth.) Colin said his band was thinking of changing its name. He asked me what I thought of the name he favored for the band, “Rupert’s World.” Weaseling out on a direct response, I replied that I thought it didn’t matter what the band’s name was; it was all a question of the music.

Colin agreed with me. But he was distraught because the other members of the band, who were all related, favored a name Colin really hated:

The Bee Gees.

Colin did not remain with that band much longer.

I have mentioned in other posts the name of Belinda Rokeby-Johnson. I think I just like mentioning the name. This was long before feminist hyphenation. This was traditional Upper Class snootiness. The thing is, Belinda wasn’t the least bit snooty.

Belinda was beautiful. Dark-haired, slim and impeccably complected. (Describing women is not one of my literary strengths.) Everything about her announced – though very discretely – “I’m from really old money.” Her elegance, the way she held herself, and especially, the way she treated “the little people.” Like me.

After losing my teaching job, Belinda was the one who suggested I apply for pre-Christmas employment at Harrods. And once – this still touches me – when an inexplicable rash broke out over half my body, rather than shunning me, Belinda drove me to the Emergency Room, stayed with me the whole time, accompanied me to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and then took me home. It’s unlikely to be true of all of them, but some Upper Class people really have class.

When Belinda and I were assigned to do an acting scene together, she invited me to rehearse at her townhouse, which was in Eton Square – a really fancy part of town – and then stay for dinner. I recall two things about that dinner. The overhanging chandelier had real burning candles in it rather than light bulbs, and my table setting was arrayed with more forks than we had in our entire cutlery drawer. I had no idea what to do with them. I believe I dropped a couple on the floor, just to cut down on the volume.

After dinner, Belinda’s husband, Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Rokeby-Johnson drove me back to this hostel-place I was living in – I had moved on from the place that had no bathing facilities – in a red, Aston Martin convertible. When he let me out, Rafe handed me a crisp ten-pound note.

At first I refused the money, but Rafe insisted, confident, he predicted, that I’d pay him back someday. I’d still like to do that. So, Rafe, if you’re reading this, buddy, just say where, and the money’s on its way. Adjusted for inflation.

My final memory is of a girl whose name I don’t recall. She looked a lot like…remember Geena Davis? She was like her, but with a cockney accent. The reason I include a woman whose name I can’t recall here is because, when I decided to quit the Actors' Workshop (and, in fact, leave England entirely), the girl took me out to lunch and berated me for quitting.

I had a similar experience once before. Classmates at the UCLA Bertolt Brecht Summer Theater Workshop berated me when I announced that I was returning to Toronto and enrolling in law school. On both occasions, though couched in professions of admiration for my ability, my classmates seemed to treat my personal decision as a betrayal of them. I never totally got that, but I appreciated their caring.

A lot of people want to be actors. Most of us don’t make it. What you’re left with are the people you met along the way. I remember a few of them today.

I wonder if they remember me.


Corinne said...

Are you aware of the perfectly fascinating life you have lead?

You could probably, one day, tie these posts together an publish a book.

I'd buy it.

Corinne said...


Why won't they let us back in to our posts to correct spelling?

It always looks correct until I hit "send".

growingupartists said...

No kidding, with all that name dropping, SOME of these poor souls ought to remember the guy who always lost at poker. That's in your book somewhere too, isn't it? Or do I have to wait patiently for London Times - Part Nine B, Afternoon edition.

A. Buck Short said...

“Orders cattle,” just terrific. We amateurs might have just gone with “side of beef” without exploring the loftier possibilities.

And so concludes this reader’s belated appreciation of, and commentary on, the last Pomerantz posting trilogy relished in a single sitting. For us Jews, there are few experiences more enjoyable than an orgy of mutual self-deprecation, or at least making lemonade; which to become a truly religious experience has to actually consist of etrogade – requiring really too much Talmudical explanation to be worth it. And certainly not retrograde, which is the genre many of these pieces so delightfully fall into – but so much of a stretch that I really think I hurt myself this time.

You have reminded me of an unfortunate experience in the only acting class I ever took in college. (Oddly, I think it was the Ionesco Winter Theater Workshop, and we may have played you guys on Thanksgiving.) OK, but the story is true, although, technically the experience actually happened outside of the acting class, rather than in it.

Started by skipping the class. Is that sense of foreboding coming into play yet? I think I had a paper for anothercourse past-due and thought it the more productive use of time to drive onto campus and head over to the library.

I looked forward to completing this albatross. Besides, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and all was right with the world. And I was tooling onto campus in the “pre-owned” Karmann Ghia that I had purchased practically (and as it turned out, literally)for a song the month prior. For the uninitiated, or merely the un-overthehill, the Ghia was a car whose hand-built, award-winning Italian designed bodywork was such that one could easily forget he had actually just bought a Volkswagen. Actually sort of had the appearance of a Studebaker that had eaten out of the wrong side of the mushroom. If you absolutely have to Google Studebaker, why be my guest. The point is, the vehicle exuded this certain aeronautical vibe, lulling one into the illusion you were actually enjoying a sports car. I had big dating plans for this illusion.

So I’m making my left turn onto campus, enjoying life to the fullest and singing to myself, “Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day. I’ve got a wonderful feeling. Everything’s going my way.” Because when skipping plain old regular theater, it is incumbent upon one to occupy at least some of that time with musical theater.

Unfortunately, with such preoccupation, I had neglected circumspection about what might truly be “coming” my way. Well into the second chorus, precisely on the refrain, “Evvvvvv-ry—thing’s coming my waaaaaay…” Head-on collision with an Oldsmobile.

Did I mention that, like all Volkswagens, the engine was in the back? The boot, as we use to say in the Bert Brecht Home Schooling Summer Auto Shop, was right up front. And empty. The perfect crumble zone before those were intentionally integrated into the chassis for safety. I look up, the hood ornament from the Olds is right there, approximately 8 inches away on the other side of the Ghia’s windshield. The aghast expression of the woman who had been driving the other vehicle, not far behind.

I am reeling from the impact. As luck would have it, a professor and class full of students from the nearest building, heard the enormous impact, came running, and helped me exit the stylishly stricken former mode of transportation for a seat on the curbside and words of genuine concern. Unfortunately, as luck would not have it, this also happened to be the very same theater class I had just ditched for the morning. As they learn in mime class, certain things are better left unspoken. No one ever raised the issue of why I had not been in class that day.

Incidentally, could this be the Tex-patriot of whom you spoke?

Take it from one who has been awarded the honorific JewIndian name Smoked Whitefish – the guy really is a hoot. Thanks for the memories, yours and my own.

growingupartists said...

Corinne, you'd buy, about your blog (we're sisters now).

growingupartists said...

Stranded on a broken raft, I'm sure you know the feeling.

mockingbird said...

I'm in line behind Corinne to buy your book. These entries feel like dipping into a memoir at random, enjoying a morsel of story.

And, speaking as someone with a double-barreled last name, some of us are neither modern-hyphenates nor snooty upper class. We're just Welsh.