Thursday, September 16, 2010

Being of Use.

Discouraging news all around yesterday.  Warbucks in Annie was pre-cast and Garbo Talks is looking for someone 'less masculine, more flamboyant.' And so it goes.
I was, while not exactly depressed about the news, a bit disgruntled by it.  Rejection is part of the business and God knows it's not the first time I've wanted a gig I didn't get. 

Talked to a close friend of mine out here about it briefly last night.  He gave some sound advice.  He happens to be an actor also and ran into John Travolta (yes, the John Travolta) one day.  He said they were chatting one time a while back and John said, "You must be tearing things up out in LA."  My friend said, "Actually, I'm not.  I'm struggling." Travolta said, "Well, the thing is, in LA you have to find someone that 'gets' you."  He said, "For me it was Mike Nichols.  He 'got' me.  After that things were a lot easier."  Nice to hear, of course, but still not immediately helpful. 

The last line of Patton, the extraordinary 1971 film with George C. Scott is, "All Glory is Fleeting." I often think of that line.  And it's absolutely true, of course.  I remember a conversation I had once with Michael Moriarty.  It was the late eighties, before he started on Law and Order.  He'd just returned from making a film called Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood, in fact.  Michael was still teaching acting back then.  I don't remember how we got on the subject but Michael said something along the lines of, "I was the flavor of the month for a time.  Couldn't do anything wrong.  Turning down projects left and right.  If I had to do it again, I would have made some different choices.  It's important to recognize when you're hot and then, well, carpe diem."

Andy Warhol's much quoted 'fifteen minutes of fame.'

Angie and I watched a remarkable little film called Little Miss Sunshine last night.  We paused it in the middle to walk up to Baskin Robbins (it's right around the corner from us) to get some ice cream to assuage my bruised ego.  I love the movie.  So funny and dark.  Ultimately the theme is about the importance of family when the chips are down.  I'm happily estranged from the callous and selfish lifestyles of my own family but Angie's family is incredibly supportive.  In fact, I had a conversation with Angie's mom, Rosemary, yesterday that served to underline that very fact.  It couldn't have come at a better time.

In AA there is much talk of 'getting out of your head.'  That is to say, when you're feeling blue or experiencing a moment or two of self-pity, do something for someone else.  Do it with no expectations of being rewarded.  Simply become entirely altruistic.  It works one hundred percent of the time, I've found.  So when I have setbacks like this, the first thing I think of is, "How can I help someone else, someone less fortunate than I am?"  And that is precisely what this day is about. 

Years ago I got sent to Toronto to film a pilot.  I was signed with William Morris in those days in NY and it was a potientially huge 'break.' Nothing ever came of it and before I left Toronto to fly back to NYC, one of the producers said to me, "I don't think we have a snowball's chance in Hell of selling this thing.  I just wanted you to know that so you wouldn't be waiting on pins and needles back in New York." So flying back, I was really depressed.  Just awash in self-pity.  I had tried so hard.  And nothing was gonna happen with it.  There was an older lady sitting next to me on the flight back.  She would not shut up.  Just yapped away like a wind-up doll the whole time.  I tried to ignore her.  I gave her exasperated glances.  I sighed a lot.  Nothing worked.  She just kept blabbering about absolutely nothing.  Whatever came to her addled mind.  Finally, just before we landed, she said, "So why were you in Toronto?" Finally, a chance to talk about ME.  I said, rather importantly, "Just shot a pilot.  I'm an actor.  Finished yesterday and now I'm just flying back to New York.  What about you?  Why were you in Toronto?" She said, "My husband was there on a business trip.  He had a heart attack in his hotel room.  His casket is in the belly of this plane.  I'm bringing him home."

I was shell-shocked.  I was humiliated.  Deeply ashamed.  We landed and I stayed with her to get her bags and then walked with her to the United offices to sit with her while she did all the paperwork.  There was a van waiting for the body.  It took awhile for the transition from the plane to the van.  I stayed with her.  I let her talk.  I wanted to ride in the van with her back to Brooklyn where she lived and where she was taking the body.  The van driver wouldn't let me, though.  When we said goodby, about two hours after we landed, she tried to give me a five dollar bill for my troubles.  The van drove away and I stood outside Laguardia for a long time, deep in thought.

Anyway, the point is, not getting a role in a play in Long Beach is not the end of the world.

I'm going to make some breakfast now and serve it to Angie in bed.  I'm going to feed the puppies and take them for a walk when they're done.  I'm going to call my friend, John, who just lost his mother and try to give him some solace.  I'm going to go to a meeting later and seek out someone newly-sober and tell them it's going to be okay.   I'm going to move everything around in the garage so we have room for Angie's daughter's things (she's moving and doesn't have room for it all).  I'm going to be of use.

See you tomorrow.