(chapter 19) The Casting Couch: Myth or Mack Daddy

post #2...

i have so much work ahead of me. i can't lie. i've been second guessing my decision to post pieces of the book. i realize it's the only way i can start seeing this book clearly, though. i won't lie. i'm a bit disheartened and scared to share, but a promise is a promise.

i'm stacking up a couple of months to sort out the words i've written and try again. this is now a reference point to be used as blackmail later when my book is actually publish ready. thank you friends for your brains. seriously... this book needed your red pens. 

background info i should have mentioned in the first post

structure = a post from blog, followed by words inspired by said blog, followed by lessons learned and picture. (i like picture books)
The highs and lows are tough

So today has been a real hard one. I know that I need to be thankful for how far I've come and how generous Shannon has been to me for allowing me to stay at her place, giving me a roof over my head and giving me things to fill that space, but I'm a spoiled brat at heart, which means when someone offerered a free fridge to me today I accepted it, but I wanted to cry the whole time I was cleaning the old and nasty thing out...It's a relic let me tell ya. Why am I so shallow that I can't accept a nice gesture that's going to save me a gang of money? I have no clue. I need to get ten times more humble here.

That's no the low for the day though...So I'm sitting there cleaning out the fridge when my phone rings and there's a man on the other end saying he's looked over my resume and wants me to come in for a job...um, I'm exstatic and say yes, get ready and head on over (he wanted me to interview that day and I didn't think that was odd at all.) So I get to the seedy little building right off of Hollywood and Vine and he begins to tell me about all these hustles his business does...and how I am a very attractive woman and he wants me to do porn...yes you heard me right! I just wanted to crawl inside a hole and die. I've never felt so cheap and dirty before. I came home with my head down and a heavy heart. I hope things start to look up. I'll never apply for jobs off of Craigslist ever again!! It's so hard to be a woman...I hate it that the wrong kind of look from a man take pieces from you...I was wearing a conservative skirt and top and he still had the ability to cheapen me...people it's hard out here...It's hard!

I thank God that I'm smart and strong enough to know and refuse gimmicks like that. I feel for the girls who do get trapped in that mess. Ugh! Monday, not so good. Tuesday is looking great though. It's a brand new day...Maybe one filled with legitimate job interviews I hope. : )

Sometimes I feel like the smokey-eyed heroine in a classic film. I'm the gal that lights a long cigarette and says some classy clever line about how a lady has to watch herself around the pervies in the business.  

I'd like to say that man was the alpha and omega of creeps I encountered in LA, but I've managed to attract a plethora of colorful individuals since the porn fiasco. Now that I'm a seasoned creep magnet, I'm no longer shocked and bothered. That was definitely not the case on that first interview, though. 

I'll never be too numb to recall the fear that plummeted into my chest when I realized the shady guy could possibly harm me. I was alone in a big city with no one to turn to; no one to hear me scream. He pulled out pictures of sad naked girls proudly; his pinky nail stabbing the air as he spoke with his hands. I remember scanning the girl's faces for signs of life as signs of my life started flashing warning signs to leave. I don't know how I got out of that room. I don't know how I was able to graciously bow out, but I do remember zoning in on my resume that he kept smoothing over. I asked if I could take my resume with me...That I had left areas blank that I wanted to verify before filling out. He handed it back, I ran out the door and cried tears of relief that I had recovered my social security number, address and modesty. 

I drove home, head hung low. I didn't know if I could call my parents and tell them what had happened. My mom's consistent pleas to "just move back home, Tish" would have worked. I wondered if after only weeks in LA I had made a mistake. I was in over my head. That feeling that comes over a woman when she's walking through a dark area at night or jogging alone...I felt those fears stab me in the gut as the realization that there could be more interviews like that took shape.

It's common knowledge that shady worlds exist in areas of Hollywood. I beat myself up for a long time over that situation. It's as if I had assumed that bad men in bad places would come with flashing red signs warning the innocents of the world to stay away. This fellow was located in a relatively decent area of Hollywood. Yes, he had a slicked back pony tail and one long, dirty pinky nail, but I was trying that whole not judging technique. (Now I judge the heck out of folks. If my "Danger Family Robinson!!!" alarm starts going off I'm out faster than a pimp can yell "Get back here trick!".)  

Sadly, I couldn't escape the casting couch either. Somehow, I assumed I could avoid all the cliched horror stories concerning sad little girls from small towns who encounter the big bad scum of the earth, but failed I most certainly did. I'm a smart woman with what I believe to be a fairly sensible amount of common sense. I try to make sure I wear my "I'm not buying your bull shit" sticker when I go out each day, but sometimes I guess I forget. 

My favorite scenario is me walking into a club/bar/whatever. Normal looking gentleman approaches. He asks me my name and I reply Che'nelle. He asks me where I'm from (because no one's actually from LA) and I say the Midwest. "Actress?" he asks and I reply yes. (Annoyance is growing because I know where this is headed.) He smiles and says he had a feeling...I have the look...and then he hits me with it. He leans in suave-like and whispers, "You know, I could get you a SAG card if you don't already have one. My brother's sister-in-law's cousin twice removed was an extra in the Spike Lee's last joint. You wanna go somewhere and talk about it?" Smile flashes, my eyes roll and I walk away.

You can't just hand over a SAG card to someone, although there are some pretty special working actresses nowadays that beg to challenge what I just wrote. There are rules and thousands of dollars worth of fees you have to pay in order to join that heavenly club. The sad part isn't the hardships it takes to obtain one of those bad boys. Pity is reserved for the women who fall for that kind of line and end up scratching their watches and winding their butts the next morning when promised card isn't resting on the nightstand. 

It's gotten to a point where I lie about my reasons for moving. I try to avoid any and all situations that leave me feeling powerless, frustrated and murderous.

Why others don't do the same astounds me. I'd like to warn men before they start throwing stones at all the SAG card crazed women out there, that they're not immune from such Rumpelstiltskin behavior. I went out on a couple of dates with this one fellow that wanted to be a musician more than anything else in the world. He'd play his piece on the streets of Santa Monica, night and day, waiting for the moment when the right person would hear him blow. We had mutual admiration for each others' passions, but somewhere along the way, he started listening to an old friend's promises of stardom. I noticed the glances she gave him when he played "Umi Says" one night. His light bounced off and smacked her in the face, but I closed my eyes to listen to the music. 

When I opened he was gone; chasing the dreams she said were waiting for him in her arms. Months later he called me to apologize. She had promised him a music career and he had followed her blindly. He moved in and that's when her Yoko Ono came out. She told him to get rid of his twin brother/band mate and the record stopped. He moved out, pissed and ashamed for believing it could have been that easy. Like I said, men you are not immune. 

I haven't avoided the casting couch cases either. Part of the dream involves discerning how to bat away the vultures, but it sucks when every move you make could affect your career's direction. The couch is a conundrum I have no earthly idea how to manage. 

An up and coming director kissed me once in a random deli on a random day. I was stunned it had happen and from the look of Mr. Deli Check out Guy, I wasn't the only one.  I seriously didn't know how to react to the kiss nor the words he whispered in my ear proclaiming how I had intrigued him. Days went by and texts were exchanged. I admit I was curious and flattered. I thought the world of this guy's mind. I had watched him work and viewed his film. Someone doing something I loved was talking to me. I spinned and twirled and thought about the what iffs if I could just go with the flow and believe him. 

Then one phone call stopped me in my tracks. Turns out that my bullshit detector responds quite well to ultimatums, which is what he gave me. He calmly told me one night that he felt used by me. I had refused to sleep with him and he felt like he was helping me in vain. I commended him on the spin he gave his pimp nasty offer and that was it. I did not realize I had gone from sitting on the couch to flat out being pushed down into horizontal polka position. I felt grateful I had snapped out of the mess, ashamed I wasn't quicker at weeding out the bad eggs.

The last, and most annoying species of scum, is the dreaded scene partner. I swear there are actual people who go into acting to land free kisses. I once had a scene partner with the power to twitch a thousand butts. The first night we rehearsed was at his place. His girlfriend sat on the couch, watching us go over scenes and offering up forgotten lines. It was nice. I had fun. Next practice was at my house. We went over our lines robotically, making sure we had it all memorized; high fives when we got through the scene without referencing our pages. We acted out the scene and did a quick peck when the script called for a kiss. I pulled away and moved on to the next part. He put his hand up to stop me. "We should go over that kiss a couple more times. Really practice it to make sure it's believable."  

A beat went by. I sized up his face looking for signs of dedication and found a mischievous glance instead. I told him I'd  take a chance and save the passion for the coach's watchful eye and called it a night. Mad and annoyed I asked another girl from my class if she had had issues with him in the past. She grunted into the receiver and told me about his pleas for kisses, the CD he had made her--songs that reminded me of the kisses they had shared. I puked in my mouth a little bit that night.   

They’re vultures--simple minded kissing bandits sent to the Planet Earth to make the lives of actresses miserable and crazy. I don’t know when actress became synonymous with easy, but I’ll gladly frolic in the complicated if it keeps the skeezers away.

Turns out the casting couch is as dirty and uncomfortable as they say.
Word to Your Mother--Lessons Learned:
    Carry a big stick. I never have a big stick when I need one. Sometimes when guys hop on the train of disrespect I want to knock them out with a big smack to the head. Maybe if LA purses grow a little bit bigger I can pull it off.
    Don’t question my purity. Luckily, I found my smarts before the casting couch  could taint me. I am very thankful and relieved of this fact and I’m sure my parents are too. The fact that I’d die of embarrassment if my dad saw or heard I had played the bird and bee game is mortifying. Yes, I realize I’m grown but age flies out the window when papa bird reads that one interview where you fess up to sleeping with so and so to land a scene. 
    I’m no Helen of Troy. People that are really interested in finding the next some body are actually going to do their research and make sure cute girl with short dress can indeed act or rather generate dolla bills at the box office. So since I’m not Helen of Troy I’ll continue to make sure my talents are up to par.


  1. It's just so easy to read your work. It flows beautifully Tish!


  2. stalker from the bowling alley :) MelissaJune 24, 2010 at 7:20 AM

    I wish I had some smart/wise comment to leave for you to help you or whatever... but I have really enjoyed both posts from your book and also your blog for some time! We all have struggles with anything we choose to do, and just to see your strength, and perseverance is greatness for me! I admire you for choosing your dream and sticking to it even through the tough times. You give me a new prospective to look at my own life and to tell myself I can try harder than what I am doing now, and that I don't always have to look for the easy route in things!
    (well I hope my random thoughts make a little bit of sense, I love what you do girl!!)

  3. melissa your random thoughts make perfect sense : )

    you can do the darn thing too! we'll do it together...

    ready,steady GO!

  4. Tish, this is just so good! So. Good.

    I know it's scary to take a risk on something unknown, but please keep putting your book out here. I am really enjoying the read and I am REALLY enjoying the reintroduction to my long lost Kiwi. :)


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