Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Life As A Wannabe Actress In Hollywood

All adventures begin somewhere, and mine began in Akron Ohio. Acting was something that I wanted to do as long as I could remember. I couldn't wait till I grew up and moved to Hollywood. Little did I know that a dream and reality were two different things. It would be a decade or more before I would realize that. But for now, I was a little girl who used her mom's makeup to try to look like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.

College was where I felt most like a racehorse waiting for the race to start. I studied theater arts. They taught me how to move, how to do a character etc but they failed to tell me the reality of the acting business. They need to offer courses in the reality. I was unprepared for what I was to encounter. So on June 1977, a month after I turned 20 off I went into the unknown that was Hollywood. My friends from school were surprised that I would do it but I wasn't. I was the one who would climb a tree just to see how high I could get. Now I was off to climb the Hollywood tree wondering would I reach the heights or would I fall off the first limb?

What I remember most about the trip was when the plane was landing in LA. I saw the brown sky as we got closer. What the heck was that? Smog is what it was. Smog wasn't something I had ever seen before. The skies in Akron were always blue never brown. Well, I was in LA and off I went, straight to Buena Park Ca. Yep, the friend I was staying with didn't live in LA but in Orange County. Her apartment was right next to Knott's Berry Farm. She told me it would be no problem because I could get on the freeway and drive to LA. Freeway? I have never been on a freeway in my life. But hey, I was in California so after I got a car, I got on the nearest freeway heading to LA.

One of the first things I had to do was not only find a job but an apartment. The thought of driving on the freeway everyday was out. People called it bumper to bumper traffic, I called it a long parking lot. As my luck would have it I found a job and apartment at the same time. All right a day or two apart. The job was as a sales clerk at the Broadway Dept Store and my apartment was a studio near Universal studios where I paid $190 a month. How can I remember the rental price after all these years, you may ask? Easy, it was the last time in my life that I paid that little for an apartment.

Life at the Broadway was interesting. Along with seeing celebrities shopping, I encountered a group of people that I discovered I belonged in. The wannabes. At the Broadway, you would find wannabe actors, writers, director etc. Basically, if there is a job in show business there would be a wannabe at the Broadway. We all wanted to grab the brass ring of fame but most rarely did. I was told by other wannabe actresses who to avoid at auditions. What man was a grabber or just a plain old perv. Never heard about this in my Acting 101 class in college. I made notes and prayed I would never meet these guys. They told me I need pictures and a resume. Resume? All I had to put on it was my high school and college experience. But that was a beginning.

A co-worker who was a photographer on the side took my pictures. They came out fine and another friend helped me with my resume. My resume barely filled a page but I was told don't worry after a while you will have stuff to add. Armed with my photos and my resume off I went to start my career. That was when I hit the wall. The wall known as the Hollywood Catch 22. In order to get a job you have to have an agent and in order to get an agent you have to have a job. No one in acting class told me about this. Another wannabe actress told me to try open casting calls they would have listed in Dramalogue. Open casting calls for those who don't know are a more polite term for cattle calls. Cattle is right, you signed in given a number and waited your turn. Did I get a job that would give me the brass ring from one of these. Nope. I did learn patience when waiting for my number to be called.

The next thing I discovered was that courses in college weren't enough on a resume. I had to find an acting coach to help me. So armed with the latest copy of Dramalogue I went looking for a coach. That is when I discovered another reality, the acting business can also be very, very expensive. I remember being shocked at how much they charged for classes that lasted just a few weeks. I wasn't a trust fund baby nor was I married to a 100 year old millionaire so I was stuck. Or so I thought,another friend from work told me that several people got together to work on scenes and I was welcome to join them. It was where I discovered there was a second level in wannabe land.

When I went to the first session, I met people who had come to LA decades ago to try their hand at acting. One was a man, whose name is now long forgotten, but the sadness in his eyes won't ever be. He had come to LA as a young man several decades earlier to be an actor. His biggest role as I remember was as a background actor, no lines. He showed me his portfolio that had pictures that were taken when he was a young man. In the picture, his eyes were eyes of hope and excitement. When I looked at his newest pictures the glow in the eyes were gone and had been replaced by the look of sadness. He had been through the mill of Hollywood and the only thing he ended up with were a few memories. I am a talker so I ended up during breaks talking to him. He told me to not count on anything as far as Hollywood went and to never take anyone's word for anything. It seems in Hollywood a man's word meant nothing unless it was written into a contract that was signed and sealed. The first crack in my dream had started. This wasn't what I had thought it would be like.

I did encounter some famous actors and actresses at events and would ask them for advice. They all said the same thing. It was luck over talent. What!!!! I wasted all that time in college when it was just a matter of me being in the right place at the right time. The crack in my dream just got even bigger.

While I was trying to figure how to turn things around in my acting career my living situation took a turn that should have been on a soap opera. The apartment complex got a new manager. He turned out to be an Elvis wannabe long side burns and all. Anyway, there was an empty apartment between mine and a woman with 2 kids. He moved his mistress into this apartment and his wife had no clue. I can never listen to Elvis music because of that guy. To make a long story short, Elvis Jr decided the woman and her kids & I might tell wifey about the girlfriend so he told the owner we were nuisances. How could I be a nuisance since I was rarely home? Along with a struggling acting career I now had to find a new home. Entering from stage left is my best friend.

When I found out I was being evicted and the owner wouldn't listen to my side, I was depressed. I had only a few bucks in the bank and it wasn't enough to find a place. My best friend from my job came to the rescue. She had room in her apartment and my part of the rent would be less than what I was paying now. The only problem was that the place was in Hawthorne and my car had gone to that great scrap heap in the sky.

No problem I thought, how hard is it to take the bus? Or I should say how hard is it to take a bus where people smoked marijuana in the back and the driver didn't care? But I did it and that is when I encountered the person who would shatter my dream of acting. I never knew her name I just recall her being in her 50's but dressing like a woman in her 20's. She said she was an actress too, who was waiting for her big break which was coming. She showed me her pictures and they were of a older woman dressed up like Ellie Mae Clampett etc. She also had the same sad look in her eyes as the man from the Broadway. Encountering this woman made me think but talking to my best friend changed the course of my life.

The name of the movie is long forgotten but a bunch of us had gone out to see a movie. Later, we always went to a nearby restaurant to talk about what we had just seen. I mentioned something like if I had written the movie I would have changed this scene and done the ending differently. That is when my best friend asked me if I ever considered being a writer. Writer? No, acting is what I loved or so I thought. She is a writer and said when talking about movies, actresses will talk about the parts they want to play but I always talked about how I would rewrite scenes. This put the seed in my mind that maybe I was going the wrong way. While I love acting, I hate the business. The bottom feeders who would feed on the naive made my skin crawl.

If you expected to read about the darker side of my Hollywood life, there isn't any. I was lucky. While I did encounter a bottom feeder at a club who swore to me he could get me a huge acting career if I would come to his apartment to discuss it. I may be naive about some things back then but I wasn't stupid. I don't remember what I said to him but the encounter left me wanting to go take a shower to get the scum off of me.

I knew it was time to leave because if I didn't I would end up like that woman on the bus. So I packed my bags and stuff and moved back East. Do I regret, not sticking around and trying once more. Nope. As soon as I was settled in Florida, I bought paper and started writing. I sent in stories but so far haven't sold anything. That's ok though. As a writer, I don't have to be a certain size, or have work done on my body to fit what Hollywood dictates as suitable for an actress. I feel freer as a writer and am enjoying my life. Do I regret my time in Hollywood? No, I think I needed to go there and experience what I did in order to be prepared for life as a writer.

This blog wasn't done to dissuade anyone who wants a career in acting. It was done, so people wouldn't go with their rose colored glasses on. See it for what it is warts and all. I did get a brass ring but it was one that led me to a wonderful life that wasn't acting. I always was told that I would take the long way around things instead of the easy way. It just took me 10 years to discover that my real dream was that of a writer. To not go after a dream even if that dream leads you to another life is a waste. Just take the leap you never know where you may land.


Jodi Silver said...

What an intense post! Wow. I guess I am in the wannabe category, YET, I also believe in manifestation. It is the spirit in me that drives me to get my children's book published and the animated movie produced.

Luck. YES, I agree, it does take that too. Luck can turn into reality. ALL IS POSSIBLE. My belief system. I have to have that faith for I am FIANLLY working on my dream in the "second" part of my life. The first part of my life was spent helping those in need. I do not regret what I did as I always kept my dream of writing and helping our environment alive. I volunteered at places and I continued to write.

I didn't have the opportunity to submit manuscripts at a time when agents were NOT required (the rejection slips would have made good insulation - and it would have shown me that the manuscript was read. I look at that as an accomplishment). I too remember my appartment in Belmont Heights at 140.00 a month furnished. Sometimes I wonder if I shoudl have stayed, YET again ALL IS AS IT SHOULD BE. We are always where we are supposed to be.

Sometimes that is hard. Your post says that so clearly, however, you did find your home. Writing.

I am a bit confused if you do act. You have actress down, yet your blog indicates that you do not. I could be very wrong on that one.

I like your blog. INTENSE YES. Does it give a message. YES. A message of HOPE. A message that you will be where you are supposed to be and it might rather surprise you.

I never thought that at "my age" things would turn a corner for me. What is age. Age is undefinable. Unfortnately age in the entertainment world is ALL IMPORTANT. What a shame. Some are learning. Some.

As my book states that it is never to late "if you are willing to listen and learn."

NICE BLOG. Informative, Intense, revealing, refreshing and honest. What more could one ask.

Raven Hawk

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