I Coulda Been A Star
By Barry Dougherty
Everyone dreams of becoming a star, of getting their name in lights, of being stopped on the street by an adoring public. I too had that dream–the one that started with John Barrymore telling me about the addiction to “the smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd.” Unfortunately, I kept waking up from that dream before ol’ John fell flat on his face from his other addictions. Regardless, I began my quest to become a star! Oy!
After reading up on how to break into show business, I broke into my bank account to pay for the 8x10 glossies that every actor needs to gain entry into this fascinating world. The photographer twisted me into positions that I’m sure will come in handy some day if I get called in for skin flicks. The end results were displayed on reams of contact sheets containing hundreds of poses from which I needed to choose the one that screamed, “And the award goes to!” Admittedly, the photographer tried his best with what he had to work with. He helped me make my selection with comments like, “That gap in Letterman’s teeth has really made him a star,” “Chubby cheeks got Drew Carey his own show” and, my particular favorite, “That hairline hasn’t hurt Jack Nicholson’s career.”
It is also important to have a resume that speaks volumes about one’s talent as an actor. The problem is that you need to have this resume before you get the work. I called Actors’ Equity to find out what goes on the resume and the receptionist told me to put in any acting I’d done this far, as well as “special abilities,” so I’d stand out to casting directors. No need to stretch having played a muskrat in the 4th grade pageant or understudy for Juror Number 4 in my high school production of 12 Angry Men. It was “special abilities” that threw me–if I’d gone to clown school I could add juggling, but all I could come up with was that I drive a stick shift (sort of, if I don’t go out of second gear) and once went parasailing (they don’t need to know that I threw up when I hit the ground).
Lest you think I wasn’t a serious thespian who took my natural-born talents for granted, my next stop after the photographer was HB Studios, the acting school that would forever go down in history as the institution that trained this future multiple-award-winning star. I signed up for Basic Acting and Acting for the Stage. Had I known prior to signing up that both classes were taught by the same teacher and were filled with the same students, I could have saved myself a couple of bucks.
I was not the star student. How could I be with all the attention being lavished upon Kimberly from Nebraska? She may not have known exactly who Shakespeare was, but it didn’t stop the applause of the class following her poignant interpretation of Ophelia as Oprah. Nor could I expect to compete with Darren from New Orleans, whose flawless French had everyone screaming, “Audition for Les Miserables, you fool!” For some reason known only to the actor-turned-teacher, I seem to have been given roles that I’m sure Bob Newhart would have auditioned for had he taken this class.
Armed with photos and training from the best I was ready to tackle my first audition. It was for a Crystal Lite commercial, a diet drink. There I was, among 300 hungry neophytes like myself, waiting for that big break–to mix the diet dink in water, sip it, smack our lips and utter, “Mmm.” May I just say that once you utter “Mmm” with your mouth full, it dribbles.
The real way to get a part, however, is to have your agent do the work for you. The only way to get an agent is to make sure you have a full resume or you get the following:
Agent: “So, what experience do you have?”
Me: “I took an acting class and spent the entire semester working on my role as the court clerk in To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Agent: “Right. Can you do an accent?”
Me: “Well, my paperboy’s family came over on the Mayflower and he has a hint of an accent that I think I could recreate if called upon to do so.”
Agent: “Good luck with your career.”
Okay, so acting isn’t for every Tom, Dick, and Harry. I never said dreams had to come true in the first place. Besides, here in my job in the electronics department at Macy’s I get to watch the soaps all day long, and, you know, Kimberly and Darren make a cute couple on One Life to Live.