I don’t usually make up stories because Mom and Dad called it lying. I was about 5 or 6 when I discovered fiction and to say I loved it is a gross understatement. I ADORED it. I wallowed and lurched and stumbled my way to The Greats. Soon, I was basking in Fiction. Luxuriating in Greatness. God, it was wonderful. Writers were my heroes. Reading my homage. Writing was so wonderful that I wanted to do it.
What a bummer.
Yes. Bummer. I was young and lacking a natural talent for anything. Regardless of what they say, perseverance does NOT pay off. It just gets you frustrated. And you grow to be super critical of yourself. Plus, I was around naturally talented people. I mean, these are famous people who became famous.
I went school with actors and the children of actors and singers. Should I drop a few names? No, I hate that. But I will just to illustrate why, for instance, I didn’t go in for singing. I went to elementary school with Michael Jackson. He became the most famous person I used to know. Singers are, generally speaking, nice and he was no exception. Really nice kid and he was famous at the time. Never seemed to know it. I went to school with Louise and Sherri Goffin whose nice, normal Mom was Carol King. This at the height of her fame and fortune. Carol King sang at my Jr. High graduation. But enough of that.
Yeah, singers are nice, but so are the actors I’ve known. Mind you they were all pretty much failures. Except for Radames. I was buddies with Radames Pera, who played Grasshopper. Poor kid had a bald head for that role so he got teased a lot. Yeah, even in Hollywood you’d get teased for a bald head. This was the 70’s, remember. The era of long, beautiful hair.
Anyway, I didn’t think much of actors. I’d watched them filming shows around Hollywood for so many years that it wasn’t new or interesting anymore. How many times can you watch William Conrad get out of a 1972 Chevy and walk into the building across the street before you start to despise acting. Cannon? Remember that show? It aired for 4 or 5 years or something. I could look it up but I still don’t give a shit. Car chases? Ho hum…the car peels around the corner. Someone yells ‘CUT!’ and the car hooks a u turn, drives around the corner and they do it again. And again. And again.
But that’s not what I’m writing about. I think what I want to illustrate, if anything, is that some things aren’t as desirable as you think they are. Some talents are quite a lot more admirable from a distance. Like acting. It’s an interesting job, a hard job I came to realize. But for me, it was yet one more thing for which I failed to exhibit a natural talent.
And it looks so easy.
I’ve done it, the acting ‘thing’ and I felt awful. Like a lying liar. Like people were snickering behind their hands and saying ‘Oh my! who TOLD her she could act?’ I thought it would be easy. Radames never said it was hard work. No one mentioned talent, drive or luck, the things I learned later, were essential components of being a successful actor. Terrible thing for someone as smart as me. Thinking something was going to be a breeze and…well. It brought out a side of me I didn’t like. The side that thinks if everyone would just STOP for a second and listen to me it would be better for everyone.
I found myself arguing with the director. Criticizing the actors. Correcting the lady who did costumes, searching out and offering valuable advice to the makeup man. I even stood by the catering truck too long and too often and defended Balkan style yogurt with the caterer. I just purely loved an argument. In fact if there ever was a natural talent that I could offer up,it would be arguing.
Not rancorous yelling. I mean persuasive, convincing argument.
You see, a good argument can bring out some great stories. That’s how you fish for a story. It’s the bait.
You have to start carefully or they’ll just walk away. So you say something nice. That’s easy. Like, for the director I said ” Who’s lame ass idea was it to hire actors as cheerleaders. Because I have to tell you, not one of those girls can cheer. Not one.”
He gave me a look, but I get those all the time. Even when I was 21 and hot I’d get those looks. The ones that say ‘Who the FUCK are you?” And ‘I can’t believe you just walked up to me and SAID that!” And “Look at the size of her knockers!”
He tried a frosty look but hell…I was IN this movie. I was about to be made to look foolish. When you’re 20 something it’s a BIG DEAL. I was tip toeing around embarrassment and I bloody well had friends that KNEW I was going to be in this movie. I’d called in sick to work. I bloody well drove to Downey. You may not know where Downey is. Shit, are you lucky!
I had to do something. Aside from being immortalized in a crap movie. How do you live that down? It’s not like its going away somewhere.There were still people who called Radames Grasshopper. People who should have known better. I knew I’d get drunk some night and say ‘I was in a movie. I played a cheerleader.” And they’ll get the movie. Friends do that. Cuz good friends always have a mean streak that they call a sense of humor. I have that. So do you, probably.
Anyway, I told him I was one of those actors who had never actually been a cheerleader. So, like, what now, Mr. Director. Gonna direct us? Because telling that guy with the big teeth and bad breath over there to tell us to “Cheer. get ’em to do a practice cheer behind the principals while we…blah blah blah.” Whatever, isn’t going to work. Where’s the second unit director? Here? No?
He acted shocked and got all screamy. Like he had bigger fish to fry. Which he didn’t because the principals were still in makeup. So grow up, asshole. (I didn’t say that.) Big Teeth was upset. I went over to the catering truck and ate yogurt. See, I grew up in Hollywood. None of those other ‘actors’ had. I’d already checked. Kansas, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, Texas. Bumfuck where ever. And no cheerleaders. Nada. Shit. I figured yogurt had more fucking culture.
I saw one of them trying to take charge. Like herding cats. Big teeth knew a pro when he saw one. By pro, I mean me. Someone who had been on movie sets. Which I had. Lots of them. So he sidled over and tried not to stare at my tits, all the while trying to sweet talk me into doing his job.
I was getting $40 for a whole day in Downey. I made more at Color Lab, where I worked as receptionist/secretary/ payroll clerk/girlfriend of president of the company’s son. Shit. I wasn’t going to say yes. Just yes. You’d better make me. Sweeten this deal. I didn’t even have to say it. I just stared over his shoulder at the cat herder who was getting hysterical.
So he and I went back to Mr. Bigshot and I told him ‘Look. Marion (casting director) hired these dummies based on looks. Including me. My sister, Liza, was a cheerleader, but I sat in the bleachers smoking pot until they kicked me out of Hollywood High School. I watched them. And I listened to those cheers, unfortunately. I even remember them. Sort of. So, where are we? I’m gonna need some dialogue. (which was a $500 minimum payout and he knew that) if I’m going to train these monkeys.’
He got screamy AND cheap. Swore he could find someone who knew a cheer. It would make a cat laugh. He fired me. Pretty funny, really. I was already in principal background scenes from the morning, where we stood around and looked daggers at a deaf and dumb girl (heroines sister) on her way to be raped in the gym. Honestly.
What a shit movie it was. I was’nt happy. Either way I was a winner though. I was out of the movie (YAY!) or I got $500 (YAY!)
Yeah, I knew where I stood. THAT’S why I stood there. Right in line with the camera. HAH! Fucking amatuer directors from back east. I eat them for breakfast.
So I made immediate tracks out of there. I was getting paid anyway. Hollywood is full of rules about that kind of thing. Unions and shit. Most of all, I knew that I was IN THOSE PRINCIPAL background scenes. Continuity would shit bricks if a 5’11” cheerleader mugging directly behind the actors suddenly vanished. Oh, yeah. I’d be back alright. Or they would re-shoot 1/2 a day.
I went for some good Mexican and drove past Downtown LA to Pasadena. There was a really authentic English pub near Whyte Ave. with amazing beer.
Naturally, when I got home Marion was all over my answering machine. Terrible mistake. Hot sun. Hasty words. All fixed. Come tomorrow at 7am.
Well, that’s just a big NO! I had a good job and I’m a bitch when people are rude. It’s a gift, really. So I deigned to call her back and reiterate what a huge dick The Bigshot was. And Big Teeth had bad breathe. And I was told one day. Just one day. I couldn’t call in sick again. (I could and would in a split second) and WHO was going to herd the cats? Turns out me. I got my dialogue. So that was okay. I graciously accepted. And that’s when the arguments really started.
For one thing Mr. Bigshot decided he was going to be an asshole to me. Which is never a good decsion. He complained that the pom poms made too much noise when we shook them. Fine. Girls,pom poms on the ground. We dont look like cheerleaders without the pom poms. Can’t we just hold the pom poms still and also cheer and stuff? I gave him my 1000 yard sniper stare. He stopped talking to me. Oh,sorry. I mean ‘directing’ me. So we did this cheer my sister and her tennis playing, non pot smoking friends used to do.
To the left, to the left,
to the left, right, left,
My back is aching, my belts too tight
My booties shaking from left to right
to the left, to the left, to the…
blah blah blah…I thought it was hilarious…sure to drive Mr. Bigshot around the bend, right? Nope. He loved it. (This was a spectacularly BAD movie) I even learned a real cheer when I agreed to come back for the second day! Ahhhhh…he was a twit, who ever he was. Say, can he sue me for calling him a twit? Maybe…but he was. And his crap movie won a Razzie Award for worst movie that year. I think it was worst movie ever made. And there I was. IN IT1
Anyway, after filming that cheer scene the lousy rotten creepazoid actually sidled over and told me he’d like me to be in the shower scene. The ubiquitous shower scene. Except this was a crap movie, so it was a cheerleader vs punk rock girls wet topless undie soaked fight to the death shower scene. I almost punched him in the face. Instead, I left. I was done. I don’t think I even collected a check on that movie.
No, it finished me for acting. Stick a fork in me. I was done. It was time I returned to my first love.
Arguing with people.
I shoulda been a lawyer, right?
So, years pass. I don’t think I ever got the name of the movie. Seriously. I forgot all about it. I remembered Linda Blair was in it. But the rest? Just Mr. Bigshot and Big Teeth with Bad Breathe, what smarmy jerks they were. That was all.
Then my friend called. ‘HEY, you’re in this movie! Up at the $2 movie house.’ Yeah, the place that all the drunks and homeless people go to get out of the rain. That place. And everyone went to see it. Except me. I still haven’t seen it. And I hope I never do. Actually I checked on…oh never mind. I found my bit part and watched what was left of it. I thought I did pretty good.