“Your career is at the bottom of the ocean with no boat and no oar.”
I cannot stop running that statement through my head, even though it happened 20 years ago. That’s how long it’s been since I quit the business. My old manager said that to me on our last meeting, at my last Hollywood lunch at the last time I believed I could ever be an actress. In fact, as he was saying that to me, the waiter was handing me my leftovers in a tin-foil wrapped package shaped like a goose. Some things you never forget.
We had wrapped “Mr. Belvedere’s” sixth and final season years before this lunch and I had done two low budget movies, a play at the Tiffany Theater in L.A. and three national commercials for Kelloggs, Wendy’s and Nike. That wasn’t enough.
That manager was an jerk. I never realized until 20 years later the impact that statement had on me. That line echoes through all my dreams, when I get insecure, scared, hopeful, etc. Of course, I’ll mention it when I’m giving my Academy Awards speech: “And to Doug, my former agent at APA and one-time manager who dumped me over lunch at Tony Roma’s … my career is no longer at the bottom of the ocean with no boat and no oar.” Then the crowd rises to its feet in deafening applause.
My next audition after that dreaded lunch was for a pilot from the producers of “Friends.” It was for the lead, and I got a callback right away. They brought me back 12 times to read with various actors to play opposite my character. The 13th callback was for network. I had to go to 20th Century Fox and read for all the producers, writers and the decision makers. I thought I was the only one _ after all, they’d seen me 12 times, they just needed the head honchos’ seal of approval. Wrong. It was between me and a somewhat-unknown actress from the “Karate Kid” franchise: Hilary Swank. I didn’t get the part, she did. I quit acting, she went on to win two best-actress Oscars.
I was done, as in D-O-N-E. I was devastated, burned-out and didn’t have the layer of skin for rejection anymore. At 21, I decided to see what else life had to offer.
Now I’m 41, and for the past two years I have been on a quest to get back into the industry. Yes, I am a masochist, but I miss it. I have lived so many life experiences from losing my mom, my kids father, to raising two kids as a single mom, to starting a new career in real estate….I want to see what I am capable of now.
The first manager I got as an adult “has-been actress,” Michelle, was a trip. She was legally blind but she drove a Prius. She could barely see me, could barely see my pictures or lack of any recent credits. She signed me, and off I went thinking it was that easy. I was really excited, and fully expected to get audition and audition like from 20 years ago. Michelle got me two auditions in a year. I wasn’t allowed to call her. None of her clients were. In fact, if you needed to reach her, she had a “special” number you could call and leave a detailed message. IF SHE DEEMED it legitimate enough to call you back, she would. You were screwed no matter what. Michelle wouldn’t even call my cell number for an audition. She made me get a cell number in her area code so she didn’t have to call long distance and spend 20 cents. One would think I would have seen the red flags. I left Michelle after a year of wasted time, and found “Tony” _ my manager for the next 2 months. (some names are changed to protect getting into trouble.)