Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Outside Kenyon's Hardware Store, Circa 1975

By all accounts I have a terrible memory. Scroll through the various posts on this blog and you will find many "I have no idea what happened next" or "No idea what follows" or "all recollection escapes me". I'd be a great White House Chief of Staff.

When it comes to childhood things get beyond fuzzy. My sisters all remember word for word conversations while my storage banks are more like montages from sepia toned 1970's home movies.

There are moments, however, that have survived the haze and remain clear.

My mother cutting my father's ear instead of a strand of his hair in the apartment we lived in before moving to Paul Ave.

Waking up in the house on Paul Ave and having to crawl downstairs because my leg hurt. It wound up being synovitis, which I'll get into another time.

Sitting in a wheelchair after having been in the hospital for the aforementioned synovitis looking out the bay window of the living room at a thunderstorm.

Singing along to Don McLean's 'American Pie' and making my sisters let me go solo on the final line because I knew how to sing it right.

Sliding into third base in the Quinn's backyard and finding to my horror that my hand had managed to gather up an entire pile of their dog Pepper's shit. I ran home without a word to anyone.

Billy Hodge going through the bushes in my backyard to retrieve a home-run ball from the canoe that hung from the Fisher's shed...he burst back through the shrub shrouded by a cloud of bees, screaming bloody murder.

Seeing my Mum's curly hair after a perm and crying.

Listening to the Red Sox in the dark in my room.

On the nights they didn't play listening to a talk show host named Larry.

Liking the smell of Caladryl so much that I would spray it into the air and breathe it in.

Picking raspberries from the bushes that grew wild on the side of our house.

Getting stung by a bee at the Quinn's house on the inside of my ear.

Going to the doctor after an earache and having him inject water into my ear...the pain was so intense they gave me some sort of painkiller that left me hallucinating the little bear in the boat in a painting on the wall actually sail away.

A war that took place on bikes holding garbage can lids that involved throwing real rocks at real speed.

Crashing my bike into the governor's limo which would be parked across the street from time to time as our neighbor was a state cop charged with driving the gov around.

Going to Homer Ladas' house and everything had onions and mayonaise...I nibbled hoping to fill up on dessert which was chocolate ice cream with coconut so I went home hungry.

Playing with Playmobil sets at Norman Silverman's house.

One of the Fratiello girls spitting on me from a tree house in their backyard.

Seeing 'Star Wars' in a double feature with 'Heroes' at a drive-in, the only time I've ever been to a drive-in.

Crying when the Red Sox lost the seventh game of the World Series to the Cincinnatti Reds.

Staring at a kissing couple on Scarborough Beach.

Getting lost on Scarborough Beach and a man with the blackest skin I'd ever seen save my life by taking my hand and bringing me to the Lifeguard Chair.

Missing the bus at South Road Elementary School and having to wait for my Dad to come pick me up and being TERRIFIED until he got there and bursting into tears once I got into the car and he laughed and told me it was okay.

Walking to school across Mrs. Diamond's farm and fearing the bull.

The crow that would accompany us to school across Mrs. Diamond's farm and wait for school to get out to follow us home.

Outside Kenyon's Hardware Store, circa 1975, I opened the door of our station wagon and prepared to enter the store with my Mother when I was struck by the unavoidable fact that I was going to die some day.

For anything else you'll have to ask my sisters.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I Meet My Waterloo

Only once have I ever gotten a job in the entertainment field by answering an internet posting. By the time I finished the job I would wish the number had remained at zero.

It was the summer of 2002. I was bartending in NYC at Dempsey's down on the Lower East Side. But I wasn't pulling enough shifts so I needed other work. I'd occasionally take temp work that lasted a few days but that led to pure insanity as I'd work during the day and then hoof it down to Dempsey's until closing only to drag myself out of bed on 2 or less hours of sleep to do it all again. To this day I wonder whether the emotional crackup I went through has direct antecedents in those frenetic days.

I had noticed that my commercial audition schedule had almost been obliterated. 9/11 had killed the biz but no one had quite realized it yet. I faithfully sent out headshots to Backstage postings, went to open calls, and, in a new twist, scoured Craigslist for Film/Theater opportunities.

One day I noticed a need for someone who could do an authentic French accent to portray Napoleon Bonaparte. Eh bien! My lifelong interest in French had come about from doubling over with laughter at the Inspector Clouseau movies combined with my Bastille Day birth. I'd lived in France. If there was an accent I could nail it was French. (Unlike Scottish. My worst audition EVER was with a Scottish accent. I'll tell that tale sometime.)

I wrote an hilarious reply to this posting. I think I might have spelled everything in a phonetic French accent. When they got back to me and wanted to meet with me I was tres happy.

Until I found out EXACTLY what the job entailed. It had been a vague posting, yes, and maybe my depserate financial situation left me unable to read between the lines, but I'd been sure it had been something that was to be FILMED. But, no.

A small public relations firm had been hired to try and jumpstart recognition of a movie coming out starring Ian Holm as Napoleon Bonaparte. The conceit of the movie is that Napoleon is in exile...he escapes by replacing himself with a look-alike. He then heads to Paris to begin plotting his return. Before he can do this, his look-alike DIES. So noone will believe that he is Napoleon.

OK, so, whatever. It's a comedy.

Why would they put an ad on Craigslist for a movie that's already been shot? How would I be playing Napoleon?


The public relations firm had come up with the brilliant plan of dressing EXCELLENT actors as Napoleon and unleashing them on the city with flyers that promoted the film. Not passes, mind you, that people could use to see the film for free or anything like that, just FLYERS.

Why I didn't run for the hills at that very moment I'll never know. Instead I turned on the charm even more. Sure I didn't want the gig but I certainly couldn't handle NOT getting such a stupid gig. What would that say about my career?

Long story short I got hired. There were two Napoleons. The other was actually French and short. Since he was short he got the good costume. It looked very Napoleonic. Mine looked like something an extra whomping away on a trombone in The Music Man might wear.

Was it his authentic Frenchiness that caused him to be so beloved and me reviled? I don't know, but consider the following...

He showed up outside The Today Show and was so embraced by the long line of people and security guards that he was interviewed by Al Roker. The VERY next day I was asked to leave.

I'm sure you can remember a time when you walked down the street and saw some loser in an outlandish costume passing out flyers. You altered your trajectory so as not to come into contact with them. They might as well have had leprosy.

Now imagine being the object of that scorn and rejection. While wearing a Napoleon outfit that more closely resembles a high school band uniform. Oh, did I mention that it was SUMMER? And HOT? Somehow this other little French dude could prance around the city sweat free and seduce legions of jaded New Yorkers into taking these postcards. I, on the other hand, stood forlorn on street corner after street corner like an ancient whore who can't fathom that she has ceased to be attractive to anyone for anything.

The worst part was that I had to get to and fro either wearing the costume or carrying a bag big enough to hold it in. I admit, I took to dropping off the flyers at nearby coffee shops and reading the paper near the stacks. If I saw anyone from the public relations firm I'd tell them I was just taking a break, that I'd get back into my costume in a second.

My evil girlfriend actually took a picture of me in the get up somewhere at Midtown.

I don't like to look at it.