“I got a million of ‘em!”
Actually, I only have two. I just like saying that because that’s what Jimmy Durante used to say and just thinking about him puts a big smile on my face.
Okay, let’s get to work.
You will shortly become aware that both of my mistaken dreams are rooted in show business. Yesterday’s “I wanted to be a comedian.” And today’s:
I wanted to be an actor.
You will also note there is no “I wanted to be a pilot.”
“Is it bad when your plane’s nose-diving towards the Tarmac? Over.”
No “I wanted to be a surgeon.”
“He’s all open!”
No aspirations to enter our family enterprise: “I wanted to be in the dry good business.”
“I lost count of the t-shirts again.”
Also noteworthily, there is no “I wanted to be a writer.” Why? No glamor and no excitement. My fantasies never involved making the suit; they involved wearing the suit onstage. As a writer of my acquaintance once observed, “Writers aren’t in show business. They just know people in show business.”
And now, back to “Mistaken Dream Number Two”:
I wanted to be an actor.
Let me be specific in this regard. I did not want to be a leading-man actor, or an actor who does Shakespeare, or an actor who takes his clothes off in sex scenes – Yikes! And that is not about doing Shakespeare.
I wanted to be a “Character Actor.”
My dream was not entirely unreasonable. Early on, I had attended two drama schools, and following productions in both venues, playing supporting roles, I was invariably reviewed positively in the newspapers. The ignored actors with the leading roles always hated me. Though that could possibly have been my personality.
“Did you notice my review in the newspaper?”
Anyway… I mean, if you got it, you got it!
Although the chance appearing in movies is inevitably a long shot, my aspirations were not entirely delusional. I even had a cinematic role model in mind.
I wanted to be Oscar Levant.
Oscar Levant was a gifted pianist (who had the misfortune – at least in the competitive sense – of being buddies with the considerably more gifted George Gershwin, who, I can imagine, Levant wanted to be.)
Beyond being a standout on the Steinway, Oscar Levant was also naturally hilarious, in a sardonic, “Algonquin Roundtable” kind of a way. Levant’s ascension to the movies is readily understandable. I can see him being hilarious at parties, skewering pomposities, opining wittily on the human condition, and since those parties were Hollywood parties, impressed (possibly inebriated) producers in attendance proclaimed,
“We are putting you in our movies!”
“What’ll I do in your movies?”
“You will be ‘Oscar Levant!’”
The producers were true to their word, and Levant gloriously rewarded their instincts, injecting an original freshness with his presence, and often contributing his own idiosyncratic dialogue. (You can check out his credits on IMDB. Unless you are lucky enough to know his magnificent daughter Amanda, as I am; then you can simply ask her.)
I had discovered my ideal progenitor. And I dreamed of following in his footsteps.
I wanted to be me in movies.
Injecting an original freshness with my presence – no one had ever seen the likes of me on the Silver Screen – and often contributing my own idiosyncratic dialogue.
It never happened. Except once, in a Canadian movie called Cannibal Girls, where I did, in fact, just that. But as far as making my mark in movies was concerned, however, I had entirely missed my moment.
Oscar Levant’s clever quips were ideally suited to his era. I seemingly blinked my eyes, and before I knew it, the “me” in movies was…
The exact prototype of who I wanted to be. Only it’s not me. It may not even be Zach Galifianakis anymore. Zach may have more recently been replaced by a new “me” in movies, the cycles of “heat” evolving ever faster than they used to.
All I know is, I had this dream of playing myself in the movies, and while I was dreaming, the “The Moment in Time” raced on, and the dream was no more.
That there are many ways for your dreams to be mistaken.
You could have the wrong dream – “I wanted to be a comedian.”
Or you could imaginably have the right dream, but it isn’t enough.
I kept dreaming. When in reality,
I should actually have been doing something.
Moral of the Story: You cannot be funny at parties when you turn down all the invitations.