“… An actor’s life for me.”
Dining recently at a nearby restaurant – where the outdoor tables provide accompanying blankets in case you get chilly – I watched a young – late twenties, early thirties – waitress, trudging to a nearby table with a mop, tending to a messy, left-behind spill. In a voice, meant to be overheard – otherwise, she’d have just thought it – I hear her grumble,
“Do I want this?”
I don’t know why. Call me intuitive; call me ridiculous. No, call me intuitive. But my immediate inference from overhearing her existential disgruntlement was not “Do I want this job as a waitress?” but rather the circuitously implied,
“Do I really want to be an actress?”
This assumption is not as big a leap as you’d think. In Los Angeles, the bet that your waitperson is, or more accurately, wishes they werein show business is “even money”, or lower. (With “Uber Driver” challengingly moving up on the rail.) What I saw, carrying a mop and an overused “wipe-up” cloth, was a struggling actor, wondering out loud if it was worth it.
Which got me to thinking.
It often occurs to me how bad my attitude is about everything. Even things that are currently going swimmingly, my negative reaction being, “How long can this last?”
By imagining contrast – or is it comparison – I wondered how much unwavering optimism, grit – and outright statistical denial – it takes to publicly profess and actively follow up on:
“I want to be an actor.”
Thank God neither of my children confronted mewith that perilous announcement. They’d have seen “paternal support” and undisguised anguish duking it out on my tortured physiognomy.
(Which is why I never play poker.)
Top to bottom, “bottom” being imagining working for Spielberg while mopping glutinous glop in a neighborhood restaurant, I do not know how they manage to keep faith in such an enormous, long shot aspiration, bordering on winning the Kentucky Derby without a horse.
I mean, the odds. The odds…
And the rejection. The rejection. (Just to be parallel.)
Your agent sends you out for an audition. Meaning you have an agent, which puts you substantially ahead of the game. Substantially. (I’ll stop soon. I promise.)
You do your thing for the producers. Later, you hear from your agent:
“They decided to go in ‘another direction’.”
That ubiquitous euphemism is supposed to immediately make things all right. I know all I’d be thinking is,
“Yeah, in a direction away from me.”
That’s, as they say in The Godfather, the business they have chosen. A soul-crushing world of no auditions at all, auditions that fail, auditions with promising “call-backs”… that fail, auditions for people wearing ironic (disturbing) “Free Harvey Weinstein” t-shirts… that fail.
The rampant indignity is everywhere. You walk into an office, you check in, they direct to a seat in the waiting room, you casually look around,
And everyone there looks uncomfortably like you. Only in some cases – and it only takes one–
You change agents. (Thinking, “It’s not me, it’s them.”) You get new “head shots.” (Or its current Internet counterpart.) You take acting lessons, which cost a fortune – meaning, no quitting that nifty restaurant job – hoping to upgrade your chances by “honing your craft” and “perfecting your instrument.” Acting is an art, after all. Not winning the lottery.
Unless it’s exactly “winning the lottery.” Thousands of aspirants – eleven winners. And some of those “low-money payoffs.” “Spokesmodel” at the Automobile Show. (“Hey, it’s a foot in the door. You never who’s sampling the new hatchbacks.”)
“Everything about it is appealing”? Sorry, Irving. I don’t think so.
You see an actor in a movie. You think, “I can do better than that.” But how can you prove it? It’s not like they make the same movie twice – one with the inferior actor in it and another with you. “You see that? I’m better.” Sadly, it does not happen that way. Instead of you on the screen, you pay money to see them.
I am truly sympathetic to these punishing aspirations. (The “bug” did not entirely elude me.) I just don’t know how they do it. During the best of circumstances. Not to mention the worst.
Someone offers you your dream… for certain (criminal) considerations… It’s not a happy place to be.
And yet, people dive into a business more likely to shatter their dreams than get them a star on Hollywood Boulevard. And I haven’t even gotten to, “What happens if they come true?”
Of course, you know what that means.
The always wonderful, “Two-Parter.”