Stick With Me, Kid – You’ll Be A Superstar

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Acting, Life
Tags: , , , , , ,

To say my parents divorced over Russ isn’t entirely true – at least in part, I was a reason. More specifically, my pursuits in entertainment. The variety show I was on was going strong, and out of that I became somewhat of a local celebrity. I sang songs (mostly oldies), told jokes, and maybe did some light dancing – this got me shows. I played festivals, weddings, bar mitzvas, and parties. This didn’t mean a whole lot to me at the time, besides getting my cheeks pinched by little old ladies. I don’t think Dad thought I would be successful at first, and he was shocked when I was. I think it annoyed him. By the time I started my acting career in earnest, working out of NYC and everything, he had a full on problem with me. This is something that’s made me feel an odd mix of relief, gratitude, and guilt.

Someone on the show suggested to Mom that I get representation and start going on auditions – they even gave us a name. The lady in question was Shirley – a manager from the Old Days, a breed already dying on the vine. What I mean is, she wasn’t a suit who looked at a flow chart and decided whether or not to represent you. She went with her gut. She hustled her talent and succeeded with a mixture of balls and luck. Everyone she represented was multi-talented – if you were one dimensional, she didn’t want you. She’s still alive as far as I know, and pushing 100 believe it or not. I think she may even be managing people – someone like that can’t help but do what they know.

Anyway, I remember walking into her office and seeing without a doubt the most gaudy dresser I’ve ever met. I’m talking gold leopard and zebra print shirts, diamond rings, multiple necklaces, teased hair, and big big big shades (even indoors). She looked over her desk at me.

“Hello, dear” (it sounded like deah).

I said hello.

“You gonna sing a song for me today?”

“Yeah.” I replied.

Mom hit the play button on our boombox and the track to Jailhouse Rock came pouring out. At that point in my life, Elvis was an icon to me (I’m talking young Elvis, before he started hanging out in all you can eat buffets). I loved his stage presence and style, and claimed it for my own. I can confidently say that I sang early rock and roll better than anyone in my age group. As I sang, Shirley’s glasses migrated from her eyes to the top of her head to her hand, and eventually to the desk in front of her. It wasn’t hard to see that she was delighted. She asked me to do a monologue for her, which I did. She played with one of her rings and looked around the room.

“Are you the mother?” (Aaaaah you da mudda?)

Mom said yes, and they sat down to talk business. We signed a contract, and I walked out of there with representation.

I think my first audition was a demo for Disney. Demos didn’t pay any money, and a lot of times they were considered “junk”. Sometimes they lead to other things, though. It wasn’t long before I started going out on a lot of auditions and booking. Dad started to get an attitude with me, and would hit me more often. He seemed to drink a lot more, too – I remember one time I came home and he was sitting in front of the TV watching war movies. There were a couple of empty six packs in front of him.

So my point with all this is, to some extent the divorce was my “fault” – if you want to call it that. I’ve always felt kind of bad, because I’ve wondered if they wouldn’t have been perfectly happy if not for me. For years after the divorce – even into adulthood – I used to have real nightmares (and nightmares are a rare thing for me) that my parents got back together. Usually it was that Mom missed him and called him and he’s moving back in. I think I picked up on the fact that she was lonely. Not that she still loved him, necessarily – she was scared of him – but that she needed someone. You know?

Like I said before, somebody – maybe even a couple somebodies – would have wound up dead or missing if my parents had stayed married. It wouldn’t have been a far stretch to imagine that happening. To the extent that Mom was crazy enough – and infatuated enough – to listen to Russ and stop trying to work things out, I’m thankful. It sounds strange to be thankful that your mother is certifiable, but there have been times – no more than a handful in my entire life – that her craziness proved to be a boon. Almost every time, it was important things.

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