After a few more errands, I drove home after dark—my favorite time to drive here, as you know, what with all the lights turning all the roads and buildings into the Magic Kingdom. The sappy songs were starting to annoy me (wow, now that’s sappy), so I switched to classic rock. Bruce was singing about Mary dancing on her porch. In addition to being a great musician, he’s such a poet, really. All songwriters are. Maybe we all are, when we’re in our own particular groove. Heck, even the LA Lakers are poetry in motion (and this from a non-sports-oriented person).
“Thunder Road” ended and then Prince was singing about precipitation of a certain shade on the darker end of the rainbow spectrum (purple). Then David Bowie sang about being really great people, if just for this day. Oh, I want to cry when I hear David Bowie—I miss him so much. I once heard that he became a singer because he couldn’t find someone to sing his songs the way he wanted them sung. Well, that’s one way to get a dream going.
That song ended and then Tom Petty sang about the girl next door. What was this—the Dead Singers’ Society coinciding with my-favorite-dead-musicians’ hour? Well, except for Bruce, of course. I can’t hear Tom’s words without thinking of Silence of the Lambs. Oh, yeah. I sang and tapped on the steering wheel just like Brooke Smith did as Catherine Martin, right before she was abducted. Well, I’m sure just about everybody does that, right?
Speaking of Tom Petty, when he died a couple friends of mine shared some stories of how wonderful—and chatty—he was to them. He even remembered one from years before. “Hey, you’re Marianne from the Macy’s on Riverside in Sherman Oaks!” I haven’t always been great with names, but I’ve tried to improve, with some success, after hearing that. It’s just a nice touch to life.
There was suddenly this other nice touch to life…Jeff. What in the world was I going to do with this guy? He wasn’t disappearing into the ethers like all the others. Of course, we hadn’t had sex yet—that’s usually what did it. Give it time.
But…this guy wasn’t like most men I’d dated. He was sweet, kind, not looking for anything, content. Maybe he’s an alien?
Nah, he just hailed from Wisconsin, where manners and contentedness were part of the schools’ curricula. I must’ve missed that class on contentedness, though.
“How r u?” he texted.
“Living the dream,” I texted back. “Want 2 go 2 a premiere?” Oh, that’s just great, I thought. Now he’s a public statement. What have I done?
It was a very smalltime movie I’d played the lead in several years earlier. Sometimes movies, especially the smaller ones, take eons to finish. A child actor could be in middle school by the time the movie’s done. Sometimes they don’t even get done, for that matter.
I buy my special outfits in a small dress shop in Sherman Oaks, speaking of Marianne at the Macy’s there. The owner, a master seamstress, alters everything that goes out the door so that it’s a one-of-a-kind creation. This one was a sheath of turquoise, cocktail length, with a somewhat deep neckline and a jagged, lacey hem.
The red carpet—what a wild, wonderful experience that is. Thank goodness so many pictures are taken because if that one moment wasn’t frozen in time that way, I’d forget it ever happened. It’s really such a quick, blinding blur. After the first round of bulbs come more, plus calls to look this way or that. I can’t see well for a few minutes after all those flashes.
We’re all—every human—insecure to some extent. Actors are an especially insecure lot, but we’re not allowed to show it so much. Who wants to see a slumped, bowed, insecure actor at the Academy Awards? No, we want to see polish and grace and ease and flow. So many years of training go into those one-minute walks and thirty-second interviews.
I was far from polish and grace and ease and flow, but each red-carpet walk got a little easier. “Just channel your inner Lady Gaga, honey,” Cara once recommended.
After the blinding-flashbulb moments, Cara turned into a shepherd for her babe-in-the-woods. “Here, honey. Meet this person, meet that person. Oh, and have you met Mr. So-and-So and don’t forget Ms. Such-and-Such.”
In between our chats with industry folks, Cara chatted with Jeff. She flashed me a signal that she approved…a whole lot.
Then there came the old watching-myself-in-a-movie thing. I’d almost never been by myself in a scene as I wasn’t usually a lead with all that air time, so I’d been spared that ECU (extreme close up) where I got to see all my pores—until that movie! OMG, it was hard. Was that really me? Seeing actors in real life can be startling, because the camera fills out people’s faces so much. Seeing myself, even now……well, to me I look like a puffalump. Cara assures me time and again that I’m the only one seeing a puffalump up there.
If there’s a panel after the movie, like there was with this one, that’s a whole other ball of wax. I actually enjoy those, because I like to have the opportunity to sound intelligent answering questions and discussing the movie with the audience. Then there came that applause thing. At first it can be hard to stand there while people applaud. It took some practice for me to just stay and not want to dive into the footlights or disappear up into the rafters.
“Give them the gift of giving you something,” Cara once coached. “They just received a gift from you and they want to give something back. Let them! Graciously receive their applause as that gift they want to give.”
Of course, some of us humans, especially in LA, have no problem with applause. Lookatmelookatmelookatme-me-me-me-me-me-meeeeeeeeee! I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i! It’s all about me-me-me-me-me-me. Okay, enough about me. What do you think of me?
I’m not that way. Well, maybe I am and I just don’t know it.
Then there’s the after-party in another mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Thankfully the dresses are so tight they’re a constant reminder not to eat too much.
Something was slightly different this time. One of the producers stuck by me for a bit, and it wasn’t in the usual Hollywood slimy way.
“Would you like to audition for a movie we’re doing?”
With her ever-present radar, Cara was by my side in half a nanosecond, so she could talk business with him.
Jeff had never seen me in movie-star mode, even though the movie was pretty small beans. I wanted to tell that beaming gleam in his eyes to calm the frig down.
As the valet (hell, Chuck E. Cheese has valet parking in LA!) was getting Jeff’s car, we wandered over to the side of the house and looked down on the vista of the Hollywood lights.
“I never grow tired of that,” I whispered. “Ever hear the story of Jim Carrey and his five-million-dollar check?”
“Yes. He’d go up to look over the Hollywood lights and imagine himself being a great actor. He wrote himself a five-million-dollar check, right, and promised himself he’d cash it someday?”
“And the day he could cash it came much sooner than he expected.”
We noticed the valet fellow was looking around for us, but it was hard to pull myself away from that view.
“It’s like it’s a lightscape, always reminding me what’s possible.”
As he drove me home, though, I tried to think of something to talk about that didn’t involve a movie or this town. And what would I do with him when we got there? He picked me up at Cara’s office, so he hadn’t seen my (well, Cyndi’s mom’s) little hobbit house yet. I wonder what his place is like?
He didn’t have much to say either, apparently. I mostly just gave him directions, and he made short comments about landmarks and neighborhoods here and there.
He parked in front of the house. So much for that awkward do-I-invite-him-in-or-not moment. He opened his door and quickly walked around the car to open mine. He helped me out of the car. (Even though it wasn’t ballgown length, the dress still wasn’t easy to navigate in.)
He walked me to the front door and waited while I fished my key out of my clutch. Once I opened the door, he pecked me on the cheek, vamoosed back to his car, and disappeared into the night.
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