Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Respectable Jobs For Actors"

With all the AMC’s and the USA’s and the FX’s and the TBS’s, as well as the myriad of other cable (and now Netflix and various computer-viewable) outlets airing original programming these days, there are a lot more places for actors to work. 

When there were only three networks, there were substantially fewer programs and the actors – by whom I mean the series’s “Guest Actors” rather than the “Stars” or  the “Series Regulars”, had a limited market to sell their wares to.  I mean, how many times can you “guest” on the same show without confusing the audience?

“Wait!  Weren’t you the police sergeant two weeks ago?  And now you’re “the predatory dentist”?  Show some respect for your audience, will ya?  You could at least throw on a mustache!”

“What about my ‘Dentist’s Smock’”?

“It’s the same head!

Even if you circuited all three networks, you could only work so much before you were rapidly “overexposed.”

“Every show I turn on, I see that guy.”

After a while, you stop thinking about the actor, and start thinking about how wonderful his agent is.

I am told however, that on the “down side” – and everything has a “down side”, including this sentence which may turn out to be the least interesting sentence in the whole post but you have to plow through it to get to the more interesting stuff – I am told that “Guest Actors” on series, even big-budgetted network series, are paid considerably less than they were paid in the “Guest Actor” heyday, so labeled because during the “Guest Actor” heyday, the “Guest Actors” were paid considerably more. 

I am not sure of the reason producers pay “Guest Actors” less than they used to pay them, but if I were to ask one, their real answer underneath their phony-baloney answer would inevitably be,

“Because we can.”   

“Series Stars”- and to a lesser degree “Series Regulars”, on the other hand, are handsomely remunerated.  That’s because you need them.  (And they and their representatives know it.)  Rizzoli and Isles are “Rizzoli and Isles.”  They can not suddenly morph into Rizzoli and Schwartz or An Actor Who Works Cheaper Than Rizzoli and Isles.  

(An exception {and there is always at least one}:  When back in the 50’s James Garner went on strike to get more money for playing “Bret Maverick”, Garner’s ever savvy employers Warner Brothers countered by replacing him with his brother “Bart”, and then, seemingly desperately, with his cousin “Beau.”  Ultimately “Bret” came back.  I do not know what subsequently happened to “Bart” career-wise, but “Cousin Beau” eventually resurfaced playing James Bond.  {Roger Moore.})  (Once again, as a replacement.)

The good news, at least for actors who like to work albeit for shrunken stipends, is:  More shows, more opportunities to act.  (Where they might impress a producer who’s watching enough to score a “Series Regular” gig, at which point they could really stick it to ‘em!)
So I am consulting on a show in New York, where they fly me First Class and put me up at a luxury hotel.  (It was good to be me, sometimes.)

The hotel, the Trump International, is located on “Columbus Circle”, directly across the street from Central Park.  My room faced “Columbus Circle” rather than the park, because Denzel Washington, heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and the then “Boy Band” sensation “Hanson” were also staying there, and apparently they got “Priority Treatment” over a highly regarded sitcom consultant.

I am looking out my window facing “Columbus Circle”, wondering if I craned by head really far to the left if I could catch even the tiniest glimpse of Central Park – the answer was “No” – when I notice, set up on the sidewalk in front of a building that has since been torn down and replaced by a vertical shopping mall are a half-dozen white, cloth covered tables, on top of which are arrayed a prodigious assortment of sumptuous baked goods, the tables manned (and womaned) by what appeared clearly to be, even with my questionable eyesight and a relatively high floor allocation,

Amish people.

Middle aged men, wearing black-banded straw hats and Lincolnesque beards.  Women, sporting head scarves and dresses to the ground. (And it was summer!)  Little children, attired like miniature grownups.  (Amish grownups.  It was good they did not attend regular public schools.  I could imagine a difficult time at recess.)

I myself am a sucker for authenticity.  There are no visible Amish people in Santa Monica.  (Although there is a substantial Amish community not far from our vacation cabin in Nappanee, Indiana.)

Although Amish baked goods are notoriously heavy and buttery and exceedingly sweet (an Amish specialty being “Shoo-Fly Pie”, so named because the pie’s primary ingredient, molasses, attracts flies and you are required to “shoo” them away), I was determined to make my way over there and partake, oblivious to the potential arterial occlusion, of the genuine article. 

Also, being the nice guy that I am, I decided to procure extra baked goods to share generously with my co-workers at the office.  So I really stocked up, enjoying every minute in the exotic company of people who eschew the convenience of motorized vehicles (and me, hopeless “liver-in-a-fantasy-worlder” that I am, I did not for a moment wonder how they had made their way to “Columbus Circle.”)

You know how there is always somebody around to burst your balloon?  I arrive at the office, gleefully unveiling my Amish confections with an enthusiastic “Dig in!”  And no sooner have I exposed my gift goodies to their appreciative excitement than this obviously-envious-of-my-attention “Wise Guy” honks out,

“You know those ‘Amish People’ are not really Amish, don’t you?”

“What are they?  Mennonites?”

“No.  They’re actors!”

Pssssssss.  (The disheartening “audible” of a deflating balloon.  Did I think to challenge this killjoy’s credibility?  It was too late.  The “Worm of Uncertainty” had terminally infiltrated the apple.)

It is hardly a gigantic Leap of Logic to proceed from “Those ‘Amish people’ are not really Amish” to “Those ‘Amish baked goods’ are not really authentic.”

You can imagine how I felt, hoodwinked into purchasing spurious baked goods by imposterous Amish people.  And then presenting them as a treat!

Yes, I am happy actors have more places to work today.

Now they are less likely to have to stoop to donning deceptive outerwear, hawking counterfeit pastries to an unsuspecting public.

1 comment:

Cito Gastonitis said...

Aren't they all unionized? The actors, not the Amish. So you're saying that the minimum pay is now less than it was in the 70s or 80s? In spite of the union?

Tid bit of amazing but trivial information (that has nothing to do with today's post, well, maybe a little): In 1975 the average salary for a major league ball player was $45,000., or about 3 times the average salary of the average American worker. In 2013, the average salary for a ball player was $3.39 million. Average wage of the American worker? $42,500.

I'm sure if the Amish produced a major league player...hey, there's something for Jon Hamm to work on...he'd be donating his salary to the church.

How bout dem Jays?