I really did not even want to get out of bed or open a newspaper this week, much less write a blog. I’ve been battling a nasty head cold and when I get sick it’s like “leave me the Hell alone & don’t say a word to me” time. So, today’s “Valet Boy” may not have the “zip” and “pizzazz” of other posts as I battle the coughing, stuffy head, sinus and achy body symptoms.
Now that I’m far away from the exciting hustle and bustle of the teeming toddling faux-urban jungle that served as my base of operations so many years ago, I often feel like I’m missing something truly important. That I’m confined to a self-imposed exile, isolated from my professionally “artistic” friends and their inspiring often stimulating “creative” conversations.
Truly, I don’t think I’ve had one of those artistically challenging-stimulating actor-theatre-film conversations since my coffee chats at the Beachwood Cafe (Village Coffee Shop) in Hollywood back in the mid 80’s with Ms. Carol R.
Valet Boy Readers will recall the most recent stories set in the Beachwood Canyon area. If you were hungry and didn’t want to cook or brave the hordes of the City, the Coffee Shop was (and may still be) the only game going.
Carol R. was my defacto acting coach. We were both members of the Company of Angels, an Equity-Waiver theatre group in the Heart of Hollywood – that is until a crazy person set fire to the building and we were forced to relocate to, and convert, a defunct restaurant/gay bar in Silverlake called The Frog Pond.
The Company of Angels is the oldest Equity-Waiver Repertory Theatre Company in Los Angeles. Begun in 1959 (and incorporated in 1960) by a handful of actors, among them Richard Chamberlain, Vic Morrow and Leonard Nimoy, the Angels served as my theatrical home base from 1985 until my departure from Los Angeles in 1989.
In fact, it was Carol who insisted that I join the Angels and lobbied on my behalf. To this day, Carol remains the most talented actress with whom I ever had the joy of working. She was also the most shy about her talents and skills. But, she was never shy about sharing her knowledge of both the craft of acting or the difficult, wondrous, stressful job of living the actor’s life.
The reason I mention this today is that I’ve been musing over Talent, Abilities, Skills whatever you want to call it.
Is it a gift you’re born with? Is it something you can learn?
I did not always want to be an actor. Nope. Not at all.
My first thought was to become an artist. But, while I had “some” abilities in that area, I did not possess a God-given talent. It was my ninth grade art teacher who finally suggested I go into theatre – after I turned in yet another “ashtray” during pottery class. I don’t believe I ever thanked her. Though her name escapes me, I do recall I had a childhood “crush” on her. She was a lot older than me…all of probably 25…and had that sexy Madame Marian Librarian horn-rimmed glasses thing going on big time.
But before all of that, as a wee sprout, I realized I had a “knack” for weaving stories. During nap-time in the first and second grades, a select group of us would angle our sleeping mats together so that I could make up whispered stories which usually followed a predictable pattern of revenge upon class bullies, stealing peeks up girls’ skirts, torturing teachers – the kind of sophomoric things that would put some future screenwriters into nice little starter homes in the Malibu Colony. But, as a writer, alas my skills were slightly below that of “hack”.
I discovered acting in the third grade at Forest Avenue Elementary School when I played the King of Fairyland in the titillating tale of “Mother Nature’s New Dress”. It was a lurid story all about Springtime bursting out after a long cold winter. Heavy plotting, huh. I got the part because, as my teacher told me, “You’ve got the biggest mouth in school.”
I remember wearing my little King’s costume, entering from stage right holding a spiny thistle in my hand. Addressing my Queen, I proclaimed, “Good morning, my dear. It seems someone sent me flowers while I slept.” And I got laughs.
Now, it would be one thing to say that I was immediately struck by the thrill of being on stage and getting laughs. But, that is not the case. The truth is, I was much more interested in the girl who played the Queen. She was hot. Older woman – fourth or fifth grade hot!
Her name was Kathy and she had these tiny little rings of baby fat on her neck that for some inexplicable reason drove me wild with prepubescent stirrings of desire. Many years later, we would go on a one-time-only-date together to see the film “Bonnie & Clyde”. It was the most violent and bloody thing I’d ever seen in my entire life. I loved it. She threw up.
But, I’m wandering here…And my head is getting thick.
I’ll just wrap this up by saying sometimes I feel like I’ve pissed my entire life away and that all my chances are behind me. But that could just be the sinus meds talking…then again…
It is certain for one thing, sans the mentoring support system I enjoyed with Ms. Carol R., I am not near the actor I could have been.
My paralyzing fear of auditioning – almost all actors hate auditioning anyway – has kept me from seeking and getting work more often than not and the older I get, the worse the audition terrors become. This acting thing is like a muscle and has to be regularly exercised. If Carol R. was around I’m sure she’d have some pithy gut smacking advice for ol’ Valet Boy.
Inherited talent, learned skill, God-given gift or not – it’s still very much a Use It or Lose It proposition.
My friend Scotty P. thinks I should write a book about my ill fated Hollywood days and my trials and tribs. I asked him, “But, I never made it. I was a failure. Who in the world would read a book about that?”
He looked at me with tons of sincerity and said, “I would.” ( Bless his heart!)
Well, I don’t know if THAT’S ever going to happen. For now, I think I’ll just pull my demons out and parade them around with the help of Valet Boy and take things one blog at a time.
Thanks for reading – time to blow my nose.