This is Day 15 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in a classic film of my generation, Animal House.
I did not start out here in Hollywood as a hot commodity. To do that without being well-connected you have to be:
- exceptionally young
- exceptionally beautiful
- exceptionally weird looking
- exceptionally funny
Some people might argue that “exceptionally talented” should be on that list. I, on the other hand, would argue that everyone thinks he’s exceptionally talented, so what’s the point? There’s one Meryl Streep; there’s a million people like you…getting off the bus…every day.
But I digress.
I was none of those things. But even though I was 33 when I got my start, I was fairly funny and in target range looks-wise for a gigantic commercial type (i.e., “Young Mom,” 24-34). And I was connected, thanks to the Groundlings Sunday Company and my old career as an adhole, so between the resume at Groundlings and a casting director I’d worked with many times on Gatorade, I got a commercial agent.
I even booked a spot. A horrible test-market spot that went nowhere, but still, a booking. My agent seemed pleased.
So when she got a better gig across the street and was only taking her “bookers,” I was stunned to hear I wasn’t included. And, well…hurt. Yes. I was hurt.
Ordinarily, I would have gone off in a huff with my hurt feelings (“I’ll show her”) but in one of his more useful moments, my dad told me flat out what to do: go to her and ask her if she could recommend me to anyone else. To my great surprise, she gave up four names. I put packages together, sent them off, followed up, and nothing.
And then one of them called me. He is Cris Dennis of Film Artists Associates, and he is one of the greatest guys in the world. It doesn’t usually happen and it’s certainly not a prerequisite of doing business, but we genuinely like each other and call each other friends. He and his wife, Martha, were my staunch defenders while I was sick and then recovering from Crohn’s, offering any help they could and insisting I take off as much time as I felt like, and to hell with it. For years after the onset (because these things are really up and down, especially until you learn to manage them), Cris would accept my “not up to it today” without so much as an audible sigh. Complete, unwavering acceptance and support.
But before all this loveliness developed, I was just the new schmo on the client list. Going out time after time, and not booking. I was so upset at the six-month mark, around the Christmas holiday, that I fell over myself apologizing when I stopped by his office to drop off the only gift I could afford: some small plant or a mixtape. Pathetic. And he could not have been more gracious: “Don’t worry, it takes time. It’ll happen.”
When you are low and desperate, this means almost as much, if not more, than the validation of a booking itself. Someone believes in you. Someone is laying out time and money every day because he believes in you. I never forgot it.
I certainly didn’t forget it two years later, when another agency started courting me, hard. Because Cris had been right: I did start booking. And I had spots running everywhere. Class A, network commercials, good ones, funny ones, with me front and center. Selling cars and tacos and I don’t remember what else. A crapload of crap. I was lousy with TV presence.
The agent who’d been assigned to my case confided that my name had come up in their weekly meeting as a hot person they wanted on their roster. Who is she? Who is she with? Find her and get her here.
Who was I?
I was that person who sent you a head shot and resume two years ago. When I had only the good name of my previous agent and a few paltry credits to recommend me. When I had no spots running and nobody knew my name and no one was willing to take a chance on me.
Well, no one but Cris Dennis. And if you think I’m leaving him to come to you, you’re out of your mind.
I was nicer about it, of course. Even while I was marveling over having this conversation, the dream one, the one where the object of unrequited desire comes crawling back on all fours, I couldn’t be mean. What would be the point, other than giving someone fodder for calling me bee-yotch.
But it was, I confess, a glorious moment. One I never would have had, along, quite possibly, with a career and a great friendship, had I not been shitcanned.
So thank you, old agent, for shitcanning me. And for being gracious enough to pass along those names.
Sometimes, you really do get to see karma in action…