Friday, April 16, 2010

"Lost Love"

“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…”

Hank Williams

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.


growingupartists said...

This is so excellent, I hope you submit this truthful piece. If all else fails, just throw more dinner parties...I always picture you as head storyteller. And on a yacht.

angel said...

First off, Ken STILL want's it too...if his blog is anything to go on. :-)

I worked crew for almost a decade, before my son was born. I had to give it up at that point, to raise my son, but trust me, I still miss the comradery, hard work and plain fun! It's like nothing else on earth.

Rick Whelan said...


Wonderful post today on memories of things past. It reminded somehow of this poem:



Blue Girls
By John Crowe Ransom

Twirling your blue skirts, traveling the sward
Under the towers of your seminary,
Go listen to your teacher
old and contrary
Without believing a word.

Tie the white fillets then
about your hair
And think no more of what will come to pass
Than bluebirds that go
walking on the grass
And chattering on the air.

Practise your beauty, blue girls, before it fail;
And I will cry with my loud lips and publish
Beauty which all our power shall never establish,
It is so frail.

For I could tell you a story
which is true;
I know a lady
with a terrible tongue,
Blear eyes fallen from blue,
All her perfections tarnished;
yet it is not long

Since she was lovelier
than any of you.

growingupartists said...

Ken Levine HAS it, angel. More than Earl, anyway. Doesn't he announce on the radio?

I'd be jealous and forlorn too.

R.A. Porter said...

Maybe stop trying to work for "the Man" and try joining one of the legion of Internet content creators like FM78?

Good writers will *always* be needed for good narrative.

cb said...

Commiserater here...being mocked by every grip truck and honeywagon in the southland.


growingupartists said...

That FM78tv looks really groovy, hop on Earl!