WHEN YOUR PHONE RINGS IN HOLLYWOOD PART 1 – JULY 2020
If you are an actor in Hollywood, most likely you are waiting for your phone to ring. When it does ring, it could be your agent, manager, a producer, a director, a casting director, any of these could be calling to offer you an audition or even better an acting role and a paying job. They say your phone can ring and change your life forever. For me as an actor, I never felt I had one of those major life-changing experiences, just small ones but nevertheless very exciting.
One of my favorite stories is the one when I was walking down Burbank Boulevard in Burbank, California, one day and my pager (an almost extinct electronic device today) sounded its beep. I looked at the displayed number and didn’t recognize it. It was a Burbank call; I could tell from the area code. There was a phone booth (another blast from the past) nearby. There were no cell phones at the time, but they were coming soon.
I called the number on my pager and Scott (the casting director) for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno answered. It surprised me. He was very professional and courteous. He wanted to know if I could come into work with them the next day. No audition was necessary. Jay was taking the show to Las Vegas the next week and they wanted me for a poker-playing scene at the fictitious Johnny Stunad’s Hotel & Casino. It would be shown on one of the Vegas shows.
I’m going to divert from the rest of this story to tell you about my wife Anita's life-changing experiences. She was doing production work as a production assistant working on several shows for the Playboy Channel until she had to have some minor surgery. While she was recovering from her surgery, most of the shows she was working on were canceled. She started doing temp secretarial work through a temp agency. In-between those jobs, she was also doing freelance production work for Disney when they needed her.
One day, while on a business call with her associate at Disney, an operator cut in and interrupted the call. Anita ended the Disney call and took the in-coming one. They wanted to know if she would come to work at the actor Jimmy Stewart’s business manager's office to work for Mr. Stewart. It’s where he kept an office for himself.
An hour later, she was sitting in front of the long-legged actor taking dictation. They were mostly letters to his fans that wrote to him. Anita was thrilled by the process. Jimmy and the business manager liked Anita and they offered her a job after a few weeks.
I got to meet Mr. Stewart at their office holiday party. It was just a small staff that worked there: his business manager, her son, and Anita. When I shook hands with him, I said, "Nice to me you." He responded, "Nice, to meet you. And yes, he was as nice as his screen image portrayed.
Anita worked there for about six months, until one day her phone rang, again. This time it was someone from Disney calling to offer her a permanent production position in the newly formed Home Video Department. Eleven years later, Anita retired from Disney as a Vice President to relocate to Crested Butte Colorado. For her, that phone call was the life-changing one that they always talk about in Hollywood.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story which will be available shortly.