Saturday, February 14, 2009

Breaking Into Show Business


When I first tried to break into show business, I was young and naive about it all. I answered an ad in the paper for a movie that was to be shot in NYC. So I go down to this casting place and there is a couple of guys in a bare room, an exercise bicycle and a barrel of water in front of a white screen. They had a big camera set up in front.

I hand the guy my headshot and he says, "Okay, I want you to stick your hand in the barrel of water and pretend you get a shock."

He stands behind the camera and the little red light comes on. So, I put my hand in the water and pull it out quickly. "Do it again," he says. So I give it my best, “Ow I'm shocked!” expression.

"Now,” he says, “do it one more time." And looks over at this guy, who mounts the exercise bicycle with a little generator attached to it. I look at the guy on the bike and he's giving this odd smile.

I put my hand in the water and ZAP! I get a real shock. The director yells, "Good, do it again!" So, like the fool I am, I do it again and get another shock! ZAP!

"Hey, what is this? I ask.

"That's good," he says, "Follow me."

Desperate actor that I am, I follow the guy into a room with curtains surrounding a mound of exotic pillows and lights set up for the camera.

"Would you be willing to take your clothes off for the camera?" he asks.

"What do you mean?"

"I want to see how you react to stimulus under the lights and camera. For the movie."

"Hey, wait a minute," I say. "What does this have to do with a movie anyway?"

"You've heard of Marlon Brando?" he asks.

"Of course I have? Who hasn't?"

"Well, he's in the next room watching on the monitor."

"You're kidding? Why?"

"Well, he is directing the movie and wants his actors to be able to do certain things. He thinks 'regular' auditions don’t' show enough."

"Oh. Well, if it's for Brando," I say.

So I take off my shirt and jeans and stand there with my socks on, embarrassed and a little chilled.

"Okay, sit on the cushions."

I sit down and the lights dim, a blue light comes on. Suddenly a wind machine picks up and is blowing the curtains all over and in walks this actress dressed in a harem costume with her belly exposed, like Genie in “I Dream Of Genie.” She has a little wand in her hand.

"Hi," I say. "Some audition, huh?"

She puts her finger to her lips and pokes me with the wand. "Ow," I say, not really hurt, a bit confused.

"Good," says the director. "Now make me believe it is a cattle prod."

Before I can answer, she pokes me again and this time I get a JOLT like you wouldn't believe! Suddenly music starts to play, surrounding us from all sides. South Seas music and waves crashing on surf spring from the speakers, weird instruments punching out odd animal rhythms. She pokes me again and smiles a florescent white smile!

“Stop!”

She zaps me again.

"That's it!" I yell. "This is not an audition, you jerks!"

I jump up and get my clothes. The girl runs out of the room. The music stops, the lights stay low but the wind is still blowing category three on my hair. I am sweating like a pig and shaking all over. I got to get out of here!

Starting for the door, shoes and shirt in hand, I trip on my pants as they tangle on my ankles. The guy comes out and looks at me splayed across the floor. He’s not fazed.

"Marlon wants you to stay. He liked what you did!"

"I'm outta here, Pal! Tell Marlon to go prod himself!

I turn and trip onto the floor again. I notice out the corner of my eye a big fat guy with graying hair and a ponytail walking toward the other side of the room. No, it can't be! I hear the chuckle, the unmistakable Marlon Brando chuckle.

But it's too late. I have blown it. I am in the hallway, staring at the heavy grey metal door. I hear his voice from within. "Get me another actor. If he doesn't want to do it, he doesn't want to do it, that's all."

I make a fist, pound on the door. No one comes. I pound again.

The door creaks open and standing in front of me is the actress. She’s wearing a pink terrycloth robe. In natural light she looks different, her features more defined. "Yes?" she asks in a strange accent.

"I, I want to do the movie. I want to do, do..." All the time I am thinking, what am I crazy? I want to do WHAT?

"Sorry" she says. "The part is no longer available."

She smiles and shuts the door. I turn and walk away dazed and confused. Marlon Brando wanted me! Wanted ME! I almost turn, run back and pound on the door, but I am numb. I cannot move. I am frozen in place. The face of the girl at the audition comes to me and slaps me like I have never been slapped before. It was, it couldn't have been but it was, was that? Salma Hyack?

I sit on the cross-town bus, images of Salma dancing before me. Her smooth soft belly in the dim blue light, the delicate way she prodded my side. The lovely little ZAP she gave me. I sit and stare, beating myself up when a realization pops into my head...Wow! So, this is show biz!

Jack of Arts

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