The following is the transcript of a story I told at a fun show last month called the Dog & Pony show. I enjoyed regaling the audience (of mostly sympathetic Hollywood aspirants) with the story about the FIRST acting job I ever booked… A job that I thought was a comedy sketch for a late-night chat show (which ended up being a late-night phone sex commercial). Without further chit chat, here is that story:
The audition was in Malibu. I drove 40 miles up Pacific Coast Highway to a run-down apartment complex on the beach. In any other neighborhood, this building would have been littered with rat poison and shopping carts stolen from Ross Dress for Less. In Malibu, this was a $2,000/month villa.
I parked my car and walked down a gravel road and up the stairs into a sort of common room, like the kind you find in a dorm. The room had a microwave, a white pleather couch and shitty print of a Hawaiian sunset that made no sense. Why would you have a painting of a Hawaiian sunset in Malibu, which has its own perfectly good sunsets? That’s like Elton John having a portrait of Billy Joel hanging over his piano.
Anyway, in this room were sitting two people: the casting director, a mid-20s Latina woman wearing a pantsuit that I imagine was made from fabric leftover at the Victoria’s Secret panty factory, and a fat mustached man wearing a white Havana shirt like the sleazy old man in every movie.
For the audition I had been told I would need to wear a bikini. Which of course I had no problem with because I was 22 and had not yet experienced shame.
So there I was in a bikini. There was no waiting area because there was no one else there. So that was weird. But only in hindsight. I didn’t think any of this was weird yet.
Miss Panty suit took my headshot. Sleazy Stash looked me up and down. And that was it. I was told I had the job on the spot. What was the job? I didn’t ask. I didn’t care. I had a job. How much was I getting paid? I didn’t know. I didn’t ask. The e-mail said this was a paid gig so I believed it.
At that time, only thing that struck me as strange about all of this was the fact that it was dead silent in that room. I would have expected some Kenny G. or Coast 104.5 radio but there was nothing. I didn’t have to read any lines. Panty Suit and Sleazy Stache didn’t really talk to each other so the whole thing went down in this sort of depressing silence. I didn’t feel excited that I had booked my first acting job. It felt like we were strangers complicit in some weird crime like shooting a dog and throwing it into the river. (Which, by the way, is actually legal in some states.)
So the job approached. What I had heard was that I would be participating in a some sort of spoof phone sex commercial to appear on late-night TV. And because I trust everyone and I never ask questions, this is what I believed as I once again drove the 40 miles to Malibu.
It never occurred to me to ask why the actual shooting location the exact same room as the audition. That seemed like a totally normal situation. When I reached that awful living room, I was not surprised to find no production assistants , no grips, no signs of any crew. There, however were three large-chested young women of varying ethnicities, all with blonde hair, sitting on the white pleather couch. They were dressed as if they had inherited whatever the other woman had left of the Victoria’s Secret factory. One of them had been visibly crying and another one brought up immediately the fact that she lived in a car. These were to be my co-stars.
I got to know these women as we were left in this room, completely alone, for at least two hours. All the while, we were faced with what appeared to be a craft service table that was stocked only with potato chips and bottles upon bottles of Bacardi Gold. For two hours, that table remained untouched, save for one blonde girl who took a bottle to herself and chugged it as she yelled at her boyfriend from the rotary phone attached to the wall by the microwave.
Sleazy Stache finally appeared. Or rather, he ran into the room panting with a ketchup stain on his Havana shirt. He introduced himself. I don’t remember his name but I do remember that it was something very on-the-nose, like Barry. Barry’s only instructions to us was to: “Have a drink. Have all the drinks you want.” And everyone did. I had never filmed a commercial before. This didn’t seem unusual.
Barry then explained to us that we would be filming in two locations: a bedroom and a pink Corvette that was parked outside. We looked out the window and saw the pink Corvette which looked like an exact replica of the one Malibu Barbie drove, complete with the doors that don’t open. The girls were so impressed by the Corvette that I think they had simultaneous orgasms and Barry had an orgasm watching them have orgasms. I felt like the odd one out, since I didn’t have an orgasm and I don’t drink Bacardi under any circumstances.
We were escorted to the first location, the bedroom. This is where we met the only other crew member we were to meet: a tall man with glasses named Stan. Stan was really quiet and boring, probably on his lunch break from doing someone’s taxes. Stan appeared to be exactly the same age as Barry and the two men seemed more like best friends than colleagues, like they met on the playground at age 6 when Barry tried to steal Stan’s pocket protector so Stan kicked Barry in the nuts they all shared a big laugh over an ice cream sandwich and have been best friends ever since.
So it was me, Barry and Stan, and three fatherless blonde girls in a bedroom. Stan took out a Sony handcam that he rented for $25 from his mom. And that - THAT – is the moment when I thought “this is fucking weird.” There were other crew members. No craft service. There was this guy with a $200 camera and no one has identified himself as a director or a producer.
This is the point where Barry asked all the girls to strip down to their underwear. Since I was told only that I’d be wearing a bathing suit, I simply stated that I would wear the tank top and jeans I had on. Barry seemed really angry, but I hadn’t signed a contract so he couldn’t say much of anything. As Barry instructed the nearly-nude girls to start jumping on the bed, it occurred to me that I maybe didn’t want to be in this commercial… or whatever it was. So I said aloud, in the middle of the take “This is going to be a funny video, right? Like a spoof of a phone sex commercial?”
No one said anything.
After a long pause, Barry said “No. This is not a funny video.” I said, “I thought this was supposed to be for late-night TV.” And he said “Yes, these commercials air during late night TV.” As this was happening, the other girls were staring at me with an combination of impatience and the sudden realization that maybe they should have gone ahead and gotten their GEDs. It occurred to me that all of these girls were strippers.
I wish I could say I cried from embarrassment or yelled at Barry or ran outside and drove the pink Corvette into the patio, but I just didn’t care that much. I felt bad for this fat guy and this tall guy who should have been selling timeshares. And I felt bad for the three girls who had probably left their coke babies with some inept neighbor or cousin for day. So I simply stood up and said “I am leaving. You are to throw away any footage you have of me. And if you try to use it, I will come back and cut off your balls.”
I never found out how much money I would have made that day.