Three world famous actors started out long ago as NYC roommates struggling to make it. 3,222 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
New York City — 1950s
Sheldon Dumar, Bo Daggett and Bill Travers live together in the same New York City apartment building as close to roommates as three straight guys can get, all in their twenties and all focused on finding acting jobs.
Tonight, Sheldon is awakened by a pluk, pluk, pluk noise. What is that, the faucet? Geez, can’t a guy get any sleep around here?
“Shut up.” He covers his ears. “I said, shut up, dammit!” Groggily, he rubs the sleep from his eyes and stares unfocused into the grayish darkness. He has to laugh. How does that TV show go? There are eight million stories in the naked city… and now this is one of them: Bo’s shitty leaky kitchen faucet. Then Sheldon remembers all those lessons drummed into him using the Meisner Technique. Learn to improvise, Sheldon, like Meisner says. A phrase. Respond with intensity. Let your emotions flow. Sheldon glares at the faucet. “Are you pluking with me, faucet? Stop pluking with me!”
Sheldon dips his head and laughs. Always on. Always the actor. But he’s thankful Bo doesn’t kick him out of the apartment. Bo wouldn’t, would he? They’ve been pals since meeting at the Pasadena Playhouse, as unlikely a pair as Wally Cox and Marlon Brando.
Sheldon asked to crash at Bo’s pad while looking for a job in New York. Found one, too. Waiting tables. Don’t we all in this profession until the auditions pay off? Now Sheldon is looking for something off-Broadway or maybe a TV commercial. That would suffice until he gets on his feet financially and can afford his own pad. Until then, Bo says Sheldon can sleep on the kitchen floor. What a pal. Pluk, pluk pluk.
The acting career of a 17-year-old Latina takes off. Then her parents interfere. 2,035 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
The next day, an assistant called me to set up an appointment at the end of the week. On Friday I went to the talent agency in Beverly Hills. When I was shown to Eli’s office, he was on the phone.
“One minute,” he mouthed. He was in his twenties and had a hot nerd vibe going on with hipster eyeglasses. After he hung up, he looked me in the eyes and shook my hand.
“Liz told me great things about you. She said you’ve been in L.A. less than a month and already booked a TV commercial. That’s impressive. Want to know what the batting average for commercial auditions is? One in a hundred. Meaning you’ll land one for every hundred auditions you go on.”
“I guess I didn’t get the memo,” I joked.
“Maybe you should come back after you go on ninety-nine more auditions,” he joked back. “It’ll probably take you longer to land the next one.” He grew serious. “Because I don’t want my team to put time and energy into getting you auditions only to have you bail because it’s not clicking fast enough.”
“I don’t know what Liz told you, but I don’t have a Plan B. This is it.”
A Hollywood acting coach makes a dream offer to an inexperienced young woman. 2,958 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
I had no idea who Erwin Eckelson was when I first met him. After I did understand, I was shocked and happy he invited me to participate in a free weekend of acting classes he was offering, Erwin was well-known in Hollywood as an acting coach who’d taught many movie stars over the years. He combined the methodology of both Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler to train over 100,000 students. And in case you were wondering, yes, he’s still alive.
I met Erwin in a way-out-there spiritual class led by a woman who went into deep trances and brought through entities from other realms of life to give pearls of wisdom about life on this planet. My spiritual journey with her changed many of my naive attitudes. Erwin was also into this woo-woo stuff. Who knew?
Not many, because the classes took place in Tucson. There were no actors there. We all sat on chairs and some on cushions around the room. Erwin sat very straight and quietly on a pillow on the floor. Most people got up and told a little about themselves. The very odd thing was they took off their clothes to do it. I did not get the memo. The majority of the attendees were over fifty and I never saw so much flesh pointing south. Erwin did not get naked but he did wear a lovely silk robe that looked just like Hugh Hefner’s.
When I stood up and told my personal story, Erwin noticed me. I was a 5-foot-8 blue-eyed blond 115-pound stick figure at the time. He came over to where I was sitting and said, “You’re so beautiful and such an anomaly. I can’t figure you out. When you speak you have a bit of country twang. You’re like a cross between Grace Kelly and Minnie Pearl.”