Here. You Do It.

Posted: April 6, 2013 in Acting, Life, Mom
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

She threw the fabled Red Book in my lap – the book contained the phone numbers of important people we had come across; agents, managers, casting people, directors…whatever.

Mom: Here. You call.

I felt a little panicked.

Me: Me? You want me to call?

I was like, 10 or 11. I had talked to these people, of course, but hadn’t talked business with them – I had never negotiated before in my life, that was Mom’s job. And I had certainly never seen them in the context of anything more than a social call. Sometimes Mom would tell me to bring up cookies or flowers to my agent’s office and I would do that. It mostly involved me talking about whatever book I was reading, or asking them how their families were doing. (Take note, readers – that stuff goes a long way).

Mom: I want you to be the one to talk to these people from now on. You negotiate the deals.

Panic fluttered in my chest. I didn’t know the first thing about any of this. I never liked the business end of things – I wanted to be creative. I could give two shits what I was paid. The specter of making horrible business decisions arose in my head. Those shadowy figures making back room deals rolled through my vision – I worried I would make mistakes and fall into a trap. After all, the world was out to get me.

Me: But why?

Mom: Because.

Panic was turning into anger.

Me: Because why?

My Mother looked straight down into my eyes with an intensity I had rarely seen.

Mom: Because I’m not going to be around forever.

There was a long, pregnant pause.

Me: But…how do I do this. And what do you mean you’re not going to be around?

Mom: Everyone dies, Danny.

I blinked back tears, thinking of the horrible ways she could die – killed by mysterious hit men, or an “accident”, or poisoned. I thought of running my life without her and became even more overwhelmed.

Me: Is there another hit out on you?

Mom: Not that I know of. But I’m on the way out and you’re on the way in. You need to do this yourself.

I stamped down my anxiety as best I could, and picked up the phone. I hoped like hell I wouldn’t say something stupid, or my voice wouldn’t sound as nervous as I felt. It was a simple call – checking in to see if there were any last minute auditions. It went rather well, I thought, and I hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. I felt somewhat empowered, thinking it wasn’t so bad.

Mom: Well? Did you ask them about the audition you went on yesterday?

Me: No…I just checked in.

Mom: Dammit, Danny. You were supposed to ask about that!

Me: I didn’t know…

Mom: Call them back.

I didn’t feel right turning around and calling them back – in my limited experience, I felt it made me look like I didn’t know what I was doing (I didn’t, really, but I didn’t want them to know that – I had trusted Mom to make all the decisions thus far and that was fine with me). Embarrassed, I called them back like I was asked. With my agent talking in one ear, Mom was literally bent down by the phone and talking in my other ear.

Mom: What did they say? Ask them when the callback is.

It was confusing to carry on two conversations at once. I managed to get Mom’s questions in before the agent got too impatient and I started to get too stressed out. The phone calls went on like that. She would have me make a phone call to whoever – then dictate what I ought to say and ask questions or make comments during the phone call that I was somehow supposed to convey to the person on the other end. It was like a fucked up game of Telephone.

It extended further than simply phone calls, though. Sometimes we’d be in the studio with Russ, and she’d lean in and whisper something in my ear.

Mom: Tell Russ you think the drums need to be louder.

I didn’t necessarily agree with her assessment, but with some hesitation I relayed the message.  Russ would nod in acknowledgement and then do whatever he was going to do anyway. She’d nudge my shoulder, and then give me another message to repeat. It was something I quickly got tired of.

Sometimes we’d be out in the car, after a lesson with Russ, and she’d get thoughtful.

Mom: Dan, run back in and ask Russ if the answer is coming back.

Me: Mom, I really don’t want to do that.

Mom: Just do it.

I did, and relayed his response to her. This resulted in no small amount of pumping me for every detail and going over every scrap of information. What did his eyes look like when he said it? What was his body language like? Did he seem positive or negative? Did he answer right away, or did he pause?

Like I said, her propensity to do this hasn’t changed much over the years. Even today, she’ll literally ask me to write e-mails for her. Hell, when she took grad school classes she actually had me write her papers for her because “I was so good at it”. A family friend once said that she wants to be the power behind the throne, so to speak. She wants to be the one pulling the strings but not the one actually out there doing stuff. At least in my experience, I think that’s accurate. But I think it has more to do with her confidence level than anything else – she’s perfectly capable of writing e-mails or making phone calls. She just feels the need to hide behind other people.

So, at a young age I started making business deals and doing things (mostly) on my own. I don’t think this was necessarily a bad thing, and it’s come in handy over the years. I have to admit, I still feel under prepared sometimes when I make phone calls. I have to stuff down that rising anxiety. I worry that I’ll get it wrong, that I’ll miss something, that I’ll forget to ask a question that’s relevant. In the end, I take a deep breath just dial the damn phone.



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