How I Got My SAG Card

It used to be that getting your SAG – or Screen Actors Guild – card was a big deal for actors who wanted to act onscreen. It was a big deal because it was so incredibly difficult… in a Marxian way. Not Karl, but Groucho. The only way to join was if you did union work. And you couldn’t get union work because you, well, weren’t in the union. Another club that didn’t want me as a member. As a young actress, I was, of course, dying to get in. This is the unlikely story as to how I finally did.

Dateline: Los Angeles, 1991SAG Logo

I was working as an assistant to an executive producer who had created a primetime puppet show. Yes, puppet. As in the Jim Henson family of puppets. (No, my boss wasn’t Jim Henson, may he rest in peace.)

My boss didn’t create the puppets. He just thought he created the world.

Other than being obsessed with himself, this boss was also obsessed with – of all things – the promotional posters used in advertising the puppet show. Posters, really?

Let me back up a bit more and write this story in chronological order.

I didn’t start off working for this executive producer (How ‘bout I call him EP from now on?). No, I began this decade (1990) working as an assistant to a former boss who I had known and loved. But she was a co-executive producer on another show run by EP. So the EP would hang around not only his puppet show, but this other show as well.

And one day in a meeting where my boss and the EP were pitching stories, I made the mistake of massaging the EP’s shoulders briefly. It was a nice thing to do, I thought. Little did I know this would lead to my downfall.

Because after a few minutes of this friendly shoulder massage he grabbed my wrist and instructed me to keep massaging. So I did. What was I gonna say?

I ended up massaging his shoulders for two hours that day. This is closest I’ve ever come to a casting couch. From then on, if at all possible, I steered clear of the pitch room.

But that two-hour massage was enough. EP loved me after that. So, later in the year, when his assistant announced that she was leaving, EP told my boss that he wanted me to be her replacement.

My boss encouraged the switch. “It’s a good move for you. He is the head honcho, after all…”

And so I became the right-hand woman to the big boss, the EP.

In the meantime, I had started being trained by his current assistant in their offices a floor below. She was leaving to get married or have a baby – I don’t remember. But I do remember how haggard she looked. Like she couldn’t wait to dance into the sunset – or run.

I also started hearing stories of how EP liked to be “babied” with, for example, homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or, you got it, neck massages.

So, within a week or two, we made the transition. I was EP’s new mother, er, assistant.

One of the first phone calls I got as the new assistant was from someone on the crew asking if he could have one of the show’s publicity posters. These were posters of the various puppets on the show, shot in couplings and situations to elicit mirth from even the most brain-dead of television viewers.

I don’t remember when the friction started between EP and me, but I do know the fact that I no longer was the “mistress” giving massages and was now the “wife” who refused to make widdle-biddy-baby a PB&J didn’t help the situation. And, frankly, I didn’t care. I was an executive assistant, not a professional coddler. (And yet the latter is exactly what 99% of show runners want in an assistant.)

I could see EP getting cranky about my refusal to change his diapers and wipe his butt, but what really surprised me was his anger at the fact that I’d given away a few of his publicity posters.

“I told you to always ask me before giving away these posters.”

I didn’t remember this conversation, but okay. “I only gave one to the studio publicist who called and asked for a poster for the photographer who took the pictures.”

“I DON”T CARE,” I remember him bellowing from the same mountain upon which Moses delivered the Ten Commandments. “ASK ME FIRST!”

Evidently, I didn’t realize that these posters were, in fact, gold. If only eBay had existed in 1991.

But the shit really hit the fan on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

I had used my lunch hour to get my hair cut and told the other assistants where I’d be. I was sitting in my chair, chatting with my hairdresser, when the salon’s phone rang (remember this was before the ubiquity of cell phones). My hairdresser answered the phone, looked at me with perplexity, then walked over — extending the cord a good twenty feet — and handed me the phone.

“It’s for you.”

From the receiver streamed such histrionic vitriol that I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Even my barber was stunned. EP spat at me so viciously that spittle practically flew from the earpiece. The call ended as abruptly and abusively as it started.

After taking my beating, I lowered my head and silently cried through the snip, snip of scissors.

I arrived back at the office and could see past the bullpen of assistants’ desks to the large corner office that was the EP’s. He was pacing like a tiger. Back and forth.

He saw me and motioned me in. The moment I was past the threshold, he released the door’s magnet and it closed behind me.

“I quit.” This was gonna be an ugly mess, but at least I got in the first words.

“I told you not to give away my POSTERS!” I felt like Christina Crawford in the showdown with the wire hangers.

I was already crying ugly, snot running, dry-heaving. But – dammit – I would have my say. “It was your wife who asked for them. She said you wouldn’t mind.”

“Oh, I MIND alright!” He gesticulated to the credenza behind his desk. “Those posters are more important than THESE!” He pointed to the photos of his children. To this day, I don’t know if he meant the posters were more valuable than his children’s pictures or than HIS ACTUAL CHILDREN.

Through the kind of abominable sobs only a twenty-something girl can emote, I said, “I give you my two weeks notice.” Then I walked out and sat at my desk in the bullpen.

Cut to:

The Monday after the four-day Thanksgiving holiday.

I went back to work, honoring my two weeks notice. And, ironically, after some downtime and a likely chat with his wife, Attila the Hun came to me with remorse. No, he didn’t apologize exactly, but he did tell me he’d like to “help me get started in the field I want to work in.” He had helped a previous assistant get a job working with a director, is that what I want to do?

“No,” I said, “I want to be an actor. You can give me a line on the show and those few minutes of work will pay as much as my salary for the week. The extra income will also help as I look for another job.”

“Oh,” he replied, “I can’t do that. EVERYBODY wants a line on the show. Every wife, sister, nanny. EVERYBODY.”

“Okay,” I said. “But if you’d like to help me that’s what I want.”

————————————————————————–

My line on the show was, “Hi, my name’s Lynn, and I’m having trouble with my boss.”

The irony of this line was not lost on either one of us.

And, that, is how I got my SAG card.

The Tipping Point of Bad Behavior

When do we reach the tipping point on bad behavior? Aren’t we saturated yet? God knows, I never need to see another “real” housewife from anywhere or keep up with a single Kardashian. But, for me, the tipping point came when I heard about Self magazine making fun of a woman running the Los Angeles marathon in a tutu. Now, I personally think that ANYONE who has got the guts and tenacity to run over 26 miles in one day should not only be celebrated but probably be elected to Congress because they have got more character than I (or most Congressmen) will ever muster.

But, evidently, the sultans of style at Self think anyone running in a tutu is lame (I shudder to think how they’d judge me). So they ask this runner for permission to use her photo in their magazine and she says yes and is excited to be in the magazine and then sees this under “BS Meter — what’s lame this month”:

image

And here’s the kicker (wait for it…): the tutu-wearing runner is running her first race… After. Surviving. Cancer.

Now the lame editor of this lame magazine has apologized — perfunctorily — and gotten a whole bunch of press (although I think Sheryl Sandburg needs to buy up this rag and fire the whole lot of them). But my point is not merely that ridiculing a sick person is evil, it’s that this constant state of one-upmanship that has been trending — and gathering steam — in social media is evil.

There is a tsunami of bad behavior that has invaded our television channels and our magazines and, well, us. I can’t watch it anymore. I can’t read it. Look, I’m no Pollyanna by any stretch and, yes, I love sarcasm and banter that is witty and intelligent and helpful to individual and cultural growth. But this epidemic of bad behavior fueled by the 24/7 infiltration of media is, I’m convinced, going to lead to society’s downfall — a bunch of self-absorbed, snarky, entitled cliques interested only in their own shallow needs who thrive on degrading those of us simply trying to get by. Did our ancestors fight and win World War II so their heirs could watch trash TV and take non-stop selfies and surf the internet all day? Really?

We’re better than this, America. And the only way to prove it is to stop watching, stop reading, and stop buying this crap. The one thing of which I’m certain is this: If we don’t buy it, watch it, wear it, or tweet it, the media will stop producing it. Show that we are more discriminating in what we consume and we will rise above this degradation being shoveled at us.

I vow to turn it off and tune it out. Anybody with me?

 

Are We Looking at Ourselves Too Much?

SelfieIt dawned on me the other day that I never look in the mirror anymore. In fact, I don’t think I’ve looked in the mirror since 1988.

I look inwardly a lot, constantly self-evaluating and analyzing. But, since I never look outwardly virtually at all, I still think I look like I did in 1988.

So my mind’s eye sees myself as a svelte 26-year-old while my real self is a 51-year-old who’s rapidly losing the war to muffin top. No wonder I haven’t really looked in the mirror in three decades.

article-2272983-17544E69000005DC-62_634x405Now this wouldn’t be a problem — and I’d certainly be happy to continue living in my river of denial — if I weren’t an actress who auditions in front of other people for jobs that require me to be in front of the camera. This is the revelation I had the other day upon leaving a meeting with an agent and noticing that 1) I had failed to notice my blouse had come unbuttoned and was exposing my bra and that 2) a watering eye had caused my mascara to smear the side of my face. I looked like Ray Lewis in drag. Well, at least I’m not a vain actress…muffintop-large

Still, is it better to not look at yourself at all or, as is the trend lately, to look at yourself all the time? I say this is a recent trend because a study just came out stating that elective plastic surgeries are on the rise because of selfies (photos taken of yourself via a smartphone). So young women — beautiful young women — are getting unnecessary Botox, facial peels, and nose jobs because they look at themselves too much. Come on, ladies, you are more than your imperfect nose, your thin lips, your porous skin. At least, this muffin-topped, slightly rumpled Hollywood actress thinks so.

 

Get Mad, Not Sad

20120909-210601Last night I went to bed mad. Not Hulk-throwing-furniture-out-the-window-mad, but disgusted mad. Last week was an unusually frustrating and misogynistic week in Hollywood for me and it all boiled up as I tried to squash my emotions and just sleep.

And I thought to my self, “Self, you can sit on this anger or you can use it.”

I’m aiming to turn my anger into a positive. Here’s how:

1. Recognize that life is not fair. Not for me. Not for anyone.

2. Number 1 sucks, yes, but move on. Action is key.

3. Use anger to motivate, ridicule, self-analyze. But, for God’s sake, use it. Remember number 2: Action.

I write these rules for myself as much as for anyone else. An old therapist once told me that anger is simply depression begging for action. If I don’t use my anger as motivation, I will fall into the inactivity of depression. And if that happens, who wins? Certainly, not me.

 

 

Jack T. Dog’s 2nd Annual Oscar Review

"Can I have a slice, Ellen? I'm a good, good boy." -- Jack T. Dog

“Can I have a slice, Ellen? I’m a good, good boy.”
– Jack T. Dog

Last year, my dog, Jack, wrote arguably the most insightful review of the Academy Awards telecast in the history of reviews. This year, he’s doing it again:

“‘What are you wearing?’ Grrrr… ‘What are you eating?’ That’s worth paying attention to…”

“‘Happy’ makes my mommies want to dance and makes me want to chase them with a toy…”

"I'd run this guy out of my yard." -- Jack T. Dog

“I’d run this guy out of my yard.”
– Jack T. Dog

“Oh, Ellen’s passing out pizza… Rufff… Now that’s a good host…”

“Who is that plastic monkey introducing Idina Menzel… even I know who she is. ‘Let it Go’, girl…”

Crime Reenactor

Starting tonight, I officially journey into a new phase of my acting career: crime reenactor. (Cue music: Da Da Da Dum…)

First up is an episode of Unusual Suspects titled “Death of Innocence” in which I play a neighbor who witnesses a crime. It airs Sunday, February 23rd at 9pm on the Investigation Discovery network. If you should miss tonight’s premiere, no worries, it will also be repeated frequently.

Mixing the recipe for murder...Wahahaha

Mixing the recipe for murder…Wahahaha

But Thursday things really heat up when I portray the killer in Deadly Wives’ “Acid Lady.” I am the bat shit crazy real-life woman who kills her perfectly lovely husband by boiling him alive in a vat of acid. While this is a tragically horrible true crime, I never had so much fun as an actress. Catch this show on the LMN network on Thursday, February 27th at 10pm eastern time. Again, this episode will air into infinity, so if you miss Thursday’s premiere, you can catch it in subsequent airings on LMN. In fact, watch it once by yourself, then a second time with your husband. That should fix any marital disagreements forever…

 

 

Price of Fame

I’ve wondered lately given America’s — heck, the world’s — obsession with fame just what the cost of that fame really is.

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman comes to mind. The genius with which he mined his characters for every ounce of humanity — pathetic and poignant both — takes a toll on an actor. On a person. How can it not?

As an actress myself, I understand the catharsis of touching on certain emotions and the wrenching agony of accessing others. I am not, nor will ever be, in the realm of Mr. Hoffman’s prowess. And because I don’t want to dredge up and dwell in those minefields of anguish, I never will be.

imagesBut another consequence of fame is being bluntly tossed aside when the business — and the public — is, for whatever reasons, done with you. Some celebrities adapt, even plan for, this phase in their careers. Many, many more do not.

In fact, I’ve encountered several of them not only in my acting life, but also in my “money” job as an English tutor. An idol from an 80s sitcom, a crush from a 70s cop show — I’ve met both in their homes. One is a divorced, but well-adjusted dad; the other is a hoarding recluse.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Life is hard. From our vantage point down on the ground celebrities may look like they have it better as they orbit the galaxy, but sometimes the spotlight is simply too bright. Remember, all stars — eventually — burn out.

 

 

Calendar Girls…and Boys

Creative calendar photographs may not be entirely new (remember the movie Calendar Girls?), but when executed as cleverly as this one from a German retirement home they are still really fun. Here are the recreations of twelve classic movie poses. The models range in age from 75 to 98, and the movies they pay tribute to include Titanic, Easy Rider, The Seven Year Itch, and Dirty Dancing.

Buiting. William Buiting. A svelte 89 years old.

Buiting, William Buiting, a svelte 89 years old

Dirty Dancing: Thanks to computer graphics, 92-year-old Johann Liedtke didn't really have to lift Marianne Pape, 79, also known as Johnny Castle and Frances "Baby" Houseman.

Dirty Dancing: Thanks to computer graphics, 92-year-old Johann Liedtke didn’t really have to lift Marianne Pape, 79

Easy Rider's Walter Loeser (left), 98, and Kurt Neuhaus, 90

Easy Rider’s Walter Loeser (left), 98, and Kurt Neuhaus, 90

Irmgard Alt, 79, and Siegfried Gallasch, 87, have got the fever: Saturday Night Fever

Irmgard Alt, 79, and Siegfried Gallasch, 87, have got the fever: Saturday Night Fever

Joanna Trachenberg, 81, and Horst Krischat, 78, as Giant's Liz Taylor and James Dean

Joanna Trachenberg, 81, and Horst Krischat, 78, as Giant’s Liz Taylor and James Dean

Martha Bajohr, 77, as Cabaret's Liza Minnelli

Martha Bajohr, 77, as Cabaret’s Liza Minnelli

Blues Brothers Margarete Schmidt (right), 77, and Lothar Vishnevsky, 76, are on a "mission from god."

Blues Brothers Margarete Schmidt (right), 77, and Lothar Vishnevsky, 76, are on a “mission from god”

As Marilyn Monroe, Ingeborg Giolbass, 84, has got The Seven Year Itch with Erich Endlein, 88

As Marilyn Monroe, Ingeborg Giolbass, 84, has got The Seven Year Itch with Erich Endlein, 88

Just a spoonful of sugar and a flight over London for Mary Poppins' Erna Schenk, 78

Just a spoonful of sugar and a flight over London for Mary Poppins’ Erna Schenk, 78

Erwin J. von der Heiden, 80, also known as Rocky

Erwin J. von der Heiden, 80, also known as Rocky

Holly Golightly or Marianne Brunsbach, 86, is having Breakfast at Tiffany's

Holly Golightly or Marianne Brunsbach, 86, is having Breakfast at Tiffany’s

King (and Queen) of the world: Titanic's Erna Rutt, 86, and Alfred Kelbch, 81

King (and Queen) of the world: Titanic’s Erna Rutt, 86, and Alfred Kelbch, 81

Old Hollywood

Here’s to old Hollywood.hollywoodland

No, I’m not talking about the golden age of Hollywood (although I do love that period). I’m talking about the resurgence of old broads leading the charge — and awards — in today’s Tinseltown.

For the first time in years, I actually feel optimistic about this business I love (well, love/hate). Because this year’s awards season has pulled a reversal and nominated its oldest skewing spate of actresses in years. The average age of best actress nominees for the Academy Awards is 55; in fact, only one — Amy Adams — is under 40 and she’s 39. Of course, this list includes Meryl Streep, 64, and Judi Dench, 79, both acting goddesses whom have been acting in high-caliber fare forever.

Courtesy of Merie W. Wallace/Paramount Vantage / October 29, 2012

Courtesy of Merie W. Wallace/Paramount Vantage / October 29, 2012

But my favorite “overnight fame” story this year is that of 84-year-old June Squibb of Nebraska. An Oscar nominee for supporting actress, Ms. Squibb has been acting for pert near seven decades. Talk about tenacity.

Until her 60s, she took small parts on Broadway and in regional theaters. She didn’t even begin her film career until 1990.

This all makes me love Ms. Squibb, not only because I relished her nominated performance, but because it gives me hope that at any age dreams can still come true.

So here’s to you, Ms. Squibb. Whatever happens on Oscar night, you are an aging gal who inspires.