“Today I passed you on the street
And my heart fell at your feet
I can’t help it if I’m still in love with you…”
In Yiddish, it’s called a stoch – a sharp stab in the gut. (The “s” is pronounced “sh” and the “ch” is pronounced like you’re clearing your throat.) You may recognize this feeling, whether you can pronounce the Yiddish version or not. It doesn’t feel good.
I haven’t worked in show business for six years, but the desire to still want to is undeniable. That’s what gives me the stoch.
I feel the stoch when I drive past an outdoor “film shoot”, with their milling crews desperately fighting the clock, the Kleenex-in-their-collars actors sitting in Director’s chairs awaiting makeup, the massive cameras stationed idly to the side, ready for placement. There it all is. The running everywhere, the barking of orders, the delirious excitement of putting on a show. And I’m not part of it.
I feel the stoch every Wednesday, when I religiously pore over the television ratings in the morning paper, counting how many comedies rank in the “Top Twenty.” Generally, two. Maybe if they’d…nah.
I feel the stoch when my piano teacher regales me with stories of going “on the road”, backing some old but still active entertainer, an exiled outsider to the jokes and the camaraderie.
The stoch haunts my unconscious, causing accidental slips that reveal it all. Last week, I got an e-mail announcing that a UCLA extension class I’d signed up for would not be held due to insufficient enrollment. When I reported this to Dr. M, instead of saying, “My class has been cancelled” I said, “My show has been cancelled.” There it was. As plain as day.
Others in my position had successfully moved on. One former television-writing friend was now affiliated with the Dodgers as an award-winning co-host of their post-game “Call-In” show. Another acquaintance had proceeded from a celebrated career as writer, comedian and best selling author to become a United States Senator.
Maybe it’s just the people who didn’t matriculate to exciting “Second Acts” that experience the stoch, I’m not sure. I wonder if those who made satisfying transitions also miss it, or if the new stuff relegated their show biz memories to a cardboard box in the garage.
I also wonder if people in other lines of work experience the stoch? Redundant assembly line workers, auto execs, people who sold them sandwiches from a truck, when they drive past the plant they walked in every day, do they feel the stab I feel driving past Paramount, Studio City and Universal Studios? I bet they do.
Maybe you’re thinking, “If you miss it so much, why not try and get back in?” A reasonable question. For people who don’t understand. Today – though it was always the case to some degree – every writer being considered for a television job needs to be approved by the network before they can be hired. Even someone they want for one day a week requires network approval. That’s the kind of lock the networks have on things. At this point, I couldn’t get approval to watch a show.
What exactly is it I miss, and still want to be part of? A complete examination would take an entire separate post. And some Sodium Pentathol. Maybe it’s not even real. Maybe I don’t still want to do it, I’m simply engaging wishful wallowing. I don’t know. I just know how it feels.
Every repertoire needs a “hurtin’ song”, to demonstrate the performer has depth.
Consider this mine.