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Three score and ten or more

Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Adventures of the Famous Actor

New Adventures of the Famous Actor (movie, or otherwise).

I started acting in plays soon after I learned to breathe and read, and began to get compliments in either Jr. High or High School .  As I worked through college as a Political Science Pre-Law major I divided my time between Intercollegiate Debate and College theatre, doing classwork and working at the UP railroad in order to stay in school.  When I went off to be a missionary in Finland, I assumed that I would have a two or three year vacation from theatre, but I ended up doing some acting, writing some sketches, and doing a fair amount of puppetry.

Returning home from the mission after three years, I was over twenty one, sort of self financing, and I changed my major to theatre and did plays etc. to get my degree.
My first paid acting gig  was at the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival, the summer of 1958.  We did three plays in repertory, Anthony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing, and Macbeth.  As a green actor (at least for pay) I got some fair roles.  I think that my favorite was playing King Duncan in the Scottish Play.  I died in the first act and came back to murder  folks, carry forests to Dunsinane and change costumes a lot.  It was well directed as sort of a pot boiler.  The other roles were more substantial but a lot more fun.  One of my great discoveries, after having had folks tell me how wonderful I was for years was to discover: 1. That I was a competent actor, improving all the time, but I was not nearly as good as I thought I was.  2.  Even really great actors (and we had several in these shows, some who had been doing it for twenty years) can work for peanuts and never become “stars” or even consistently self supporting without other jobs.  3. After spending three years in a totally spiritual and pretty securely “straight arrow” atmosphere, working with a bunch of free living actors can be a little mind blowing. (It was the first time I had ever seen guys dancing with guys at parties, or seen a house with a nude statue of a famous actress in the living room.—You get the idea)  

After we got through with rehearsal  and into nightly performance (rep is interesting because you are in a different play every night, so it is a great experience), I got my self a job as a life guard, first in a pool and then out on a beach so I became a very well tanned bearded guy with long hair (which actually has something to do with this story).

We were dark (didn’t do a show) on Mondays, and one day a guy (one of the better actors, with some major roles, Benedick, Augustus,  -  he later spent ten or so years playing Dr. Bill Horton on the soap opera Days of Our Lives,)sort of made the announcement that he had to drive up to Hollywood. the next Monday for an audition at Desilu (If you don’t know desilu, you are too young) and wondered if anyone would like to ride shotgun and keep him awake.

I had an uncle up in L.A. who had a major Hollywood real estate firm and I wanted to see the family, so I volunteered.  Ed (His name was Ed Martz, but he later became Edward Mallory) swung by and picked me up early in the Morning and off we went.  We chatted about theatre, he gave me some names of possible agents, we ran some lines for his audition, and soon we were in Hollywood.  He let me out at Hollywood and Vine (My uncle’s real estate office was just a block away), gave me the name of a couple of good, cheap restaurants within half mile, and told me when he would pick me up in the late afternoon.

Being on my own, I wandered down to the real estate office and peered in the window, recognizing one of my Idaho cousins working in the office.  I was about to enter, when I heard a lot of female screaming, and a bunch of teen age girls, who seemed to be together, were running down the street pointing at me.  I toyed with running away, but that seemed cowardly, and I didn’t want to go into my uncle’s office and leave them screaming outside, so I, sort of, held my hands up in a gesture of surrender and they surrounded me, shoving autograph books at me.  I tried to tell them that I wasn’t anyone whose autograph they would want, but was ignored.  

Shrugging, I took a pen, scribbled “Best wishes” or something like that and signed a thoroughly unrecognizable squiggle on twenty or so autograph books.   As I finished, a “crowd” of six or eight more came along, drawn by the commotion.  One asked me if I “was anybody”, and I said no, but ended up signing more books, then as they went on the hunt for someone else I slipped into the office.  My cousin asked me what was going on (actually she asked me who I was, because she didn’t recognize me with the tan, beard, and long hair, THEN she asked me what was going on.)  I told her that I hadn’t a clue, she called my uncle who came along in a few minutes and took both my cousin and me out to lunch.   I still don’t know who those girls thought I was, and I have often wondered about them showing those autographs to their friends and whose autograph they told their friends that they had aquired.  Except for working in an outdoor historical drama where one of the parts of the job was to line up every evening and sign autographs for the audience as they left (thousands of autographs, it seemed) that’s the closest to being really famous I have ever been.  To tell the truth, it was somewhat terrifying, and I don’t envy those who go through it all the time a bit.

I will look, in the morning to see if I can find my pictures of King Duncan, Pompey, et al and post some young, “handsome” and working pictures.


At 12:19 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

Maybe they just thought you were "cute"! Girls are very sneaky creatures ya know. :)

Looking forward to the pictures. I wish I had some way of knowing when you're posting.


At 1:29 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

From now on I am going to "try" to post every weekend. Tidbits like the theatre stories etc. may fall in between. I noted that Saur kraut in an early post promised to post every day. It aint gonna happen with me.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

Can't wait for the pics. How interesting that you played in San Diego. That was at Balboa Park,right? I lived there from 1965 to 1968. I lived on Point Loma just off of Rosecrans Blvd. It was a beautiful city.

I can imagine that your head was spinning at the different culture in the arts. But, it sounds like you loved what you were doing. It is a shame, but I don't think many people end up doing what they love.


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