Saturday, June 4, 2011

Last Tango in Los Angeles: The Wig

Last Tango in Los Angeles: The Wig: "We have a thrift store near us, a good one, not the usual dirty, dusty, chaotic type affair that one usually associates with thrift stores...."

The Wig

We have a thrift store near us, a good one, not the usual dirty, dusty, chaotic type affair that one usually associates with thrift stores.  It's very clean and extremely well organized with a massive selection of used clothing and knick-knacks and kitchen ware and books, etc.  We really like it.  We pop over there every now and then to see what they have and yesterday we were rewarded with several fun and interesting items.  Now, as nice as it is, it is not our all-time favorite thrift store.  No, that title belongs to one over in NoHo, just a few miles from us, called 'It's a Wrap.'  That thrift store is our favorite.  Because 'It's a Wrap' has a contract or agreement of some sort with all of the studios in Hollywood and gets their hand me downs.  Amazing clothing to be had there for a song and a dance. 

But this other one, the one we dropped into yesterday, is much larger and has a much more pedestrian selection of goods.  And on Fridays, the usual inexpensive prices are an additional half off.

The first thing I found there yesterday were some brand new, 18 ounce training gloves.  Boxing gloves.  They're like new and I hung them up in the office.  They also have a huge selection of hard back books, all for a buck, and I picked up ten or twelve.  Angie was off in the kitchen ware area picking up some stuff.  That's when I came across the wig.

It's a short, grey/white wig perfectly matching my hair, or what's left of it anyway.  It was all tangled and messy but I put it on and walked over to Angie.  She was aghast.  So for three bucks we bought it.  Turns out it's a 'Tony of Beverly Hills' wig, which online goes for about 200 bucks.  She combs it all up and puts it on and, presto-change-o, we were astounded.  Now, obviously, it looks like I'm wearing a wig.  But that wasn't the point.  It gave me a real idea of what I might have looked like had I not been cursed with male pattern baldness.

Frankly, I really never gave a lot of thought about going bald.  It never concerned me too much.  I think, in retrospect, I would rather have NOT gone bald, but I never took the time to fret over it.  My concerns about going bald were entirely professional, not vanity related.  In fact, I remember the first time I really noticed it was an inevitability was about 1993 or so.  I was doing another Arthur in 'Camelot' up in Pennsylvania and the photographer was taking shots from the balcony of the theater.  A few days later I got a look at his 'proof sheet,' and there, unmistakably, was the evidence of my early balding. 

As the years went by, it slowly receded and finally left altogether.  A little shocking, I suppose in hindsight, because I had always had a very full and thick head of hair.  But, unlike a lot of people I know, it honestly didn't bother me too much.

Yesterday, however, putting it on after Angie combed it out, I was given a quick glimpse into the 'what if.'  Kind of like Michael Landon in his 'Highway to Heaven' period. 

I recently lost a gig, one I wanted rather badly in fact, because I looked older than I am.  I alluded to it in an earlier blog.  It was for the male understudy in 'God of Carnage' here in LA.  I would have been understudying James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels.  It came down, after a couple of weeks, to me and another guy.  They went with the other guy, obviously.  Now, I wanted the gig not because I think it's such a great play, I don't.  But it was a 'run of the production' contract and it would have been a couple of grand a week for doing pretty much nothing. 

So my agent was informed that it was down to the two of us and we had to wait a whole weekend for the final decision.  On Monday they called him and said, "Well, Clif is clearly the better actor but the director thinks he looks a little old to play the roles."  I found this particularly disappointing because both Gandolfini and Daniels are older than I am, I think. 

Now, as it turns it out, it was a good thing that I didn't land the gig because something else came along that I otherwise wouldn't have been available for had I done it.  Nonetheless, I was a tad crestfallen. 

Now that the show is closed I can write about it in this blog.  I did a little checking and found out the understudy never went on for either actor.  Ah, well. 

But back to this wig business.  I would never wear one in real life.  I've always held the toupee in mild disdain.  William Shatner and Burt Reynolds always come to mind.  Who, exactly, does one expect to fool?  And for what reason?  It is the very height of vanity.  Charlton Heston was legendary for never taking his wig off and swearing right to the end that he wasn't wearing one.

There are others, Connery, Malkovich, Patrick Stewart, who aren't the least bit concerned with showing their baldness in public but occasionally don a wig for a part.    And then there is Nick Cage, who's rugs are becoming downright distracting.

I have, over the years, become quite comfortable with my loss of hair.  I recently did a gig, Adding Machine at The Odyssey Theatre, that required me to grow it long on the hope was that I could get it long enough for a really bad 'comb over.'   But I didn't have enough time to get it long enough. 

I suppose, if I had my druthers, I would just as soon not have gone bald.  Especially after putting the wig on yesterday.  I once read somewhere that the gene for baldness comes from the mother's father.  Well, that can't be true because my grandfather on my mother's side had a thick head of hair at the time of his death when he was in his late seventies.  So, I don't know.  Again, I've never given it a lot of thought. 

I wore the wig around for awhile yesterday, long enough in fact that Angie finally said, "I don't like that gleam in your eye.  You are NOT going to wear that thing in public."  And that was the end of that.  The truth is I was playing with the idea of wearing it out to dinner or something to see if I could get away with it.

I remember an interview on Letterman years ago.  The guest was Bruce Willis, also famously bald.  Letterman asked him about it.  Willis said, "You just gotta be cool with who you are, man.  That's all."

I liked that.

See you tomorrow.