BEING SCARED TO DEATH AND DOIN’ IT ANYWAY
This blog is absolutely, one hundred and ninety-two percent, (I’m totally serious right now, too–really, what else do I have to lose but everything?) going to cover the items listed in it’s irritatingly long title, but first, I must get a few things out of the way, on a most dire issue, one that is a through-line for everything else to be covered here in this blog. Fear. Yep. Chronic, debilitating paralyzing fear. It must be dealt with head on. I’m just one of the many who’ve made the “I’m scared sh*tless, but doin’ it anyway” base-jump without a parachute. I’m looking fear in the eye and not only squaring things up with whatever ails me, which is a lot, got lots of fear, but my biggest fear is fear of what other people think of me…especially upon sharing my mental health struggles with the world. And you know? What I deal with sucks, but it’s not that big a deal guys, people suffer all over the place from things you never heard of, so let’s just drop our preconceived, Mesozoic era notions, grow up, get healthy, reinvest in our minds, be there for others, kick fear in the head, n’ you know, like move on already. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Or maybe you have, I just like the foreboding sound of that.
So yeah, back to fear. Oh goody. Fear stops us all, some more than others n’ if you’re one of the brave game changers sick of sitting in silence in fear’s dungeon-like waiting room, well my hats off (not clothes) to you. It’s a bad room, the fear-purgatory vault, very ugly, no HGTV show could spiff up this fakakta place, we just gotta accept it’s there, move bravely through and out to we find another room…one with a view (another fav flick).
I’m, as well as so many, checkin’ out being courageous, yes courageousness (not the Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider kind, the real life living kind–way scarier and more treacherous by far), this ain’t easy ya’ know–to put yourself out there, knowing you will be judged by all, mainly the ‘educated’ folk who seem to continuously prove they know far less than the ‘ignorance is bliss’ group. The ignorance crew just doesn’t expect too much from anyone or anything I’ve come to notice, they kinda take you for what you are and don’t over think. Very interesting. However, do not misconstrue me; I prefer education, in fact everyone needs a college degree, even if your 98 years old, willing, wanting and able, go back to school by all means! But don’t emulate the peeps who believe being well read, traveled, educated, and accomplished gives them carte blanche insight into your plight. No one can be you. No one can live your life. No one can see through your exact lens. Yet we all suffer fear, and I find the most fearful are always the most critical and hyper actively eager to scare the pants off you, so watch for these emotional vampires (and yes I have compassion for them too, they’re frightened AF).
So, it’s not for everyone, going ‘public or ‘vocal’ with whatever has gotten out of control in life, or scares you…but it’s important, vital even–without those who are vocal, change would not occur, and no change = no growth = no growth = stagnation, and that equals more fear and subjugation of all, and that dear readers = the decline of the western civilization (and no, I’m not referring to the totally bitchen 80’s documentary on the early punk scene). Again, don’t fear me or what my message is here–not everyone who’s ever suffered with any kind of ailment, situation, victimization, discrimination, has to go public with it or write about it, or handle it the way I (not famous) or others (famous) are, however, with that said, for your own sanity (I use sanity here, for my vocal topic is high functioning Depression and all it’s fun friends) you must do something for your own well being in your own way. Baby steps are always a good place to start, no one’s asking you to run naked down the street screaming “I’m scared to death and not gonna take it anymore!” Well not yet anyway.
(mom 3rd from left, Liz Taylor look a like)
MOM & THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT
The women’s movement of today has at last given me a glimpse of what the women’s movement of the 60’ and 70’s was about, only now I get the concepts, then it was all style over substance really—being a roughly 7 or 8 year old dyslexic west coast introvert, I synthesized most my info via a furiously divorced mother on the run from her old, out of control life in LA, to the age of non acquiescence in central park. And yes, it made me a nervous wreck. Being a staunchly easy going (lazy), dreamy (weird) California kid where dad was always the fun, patient (just the best dad you could ask for) guy with trips to Disneyland and Busch Gardens (yes, Anheiser Beer had its very own kids amusement park, with rides, in the San Fernando Valley) n’ who flirted with the idea life on a ranch someday would be ours, well man, leaving Los Angeles was a hard sell for a too fast paced, dirty transit, and verbally angry city. New York: I hated it the moment I crossed one of those big fancy bridges (despite the majestic ‘light-bright’ skyline). Plus, the whole thing was set up for failure from the start–our east side apartment (I’d only lived in a house) wouldn’t consider my 13 California cats (we were allowed a fish) suitable housemates.
New York in 1977, Mom was all up in it. The ex-Broadway showgirl was east coast thru and thru, swore up n’ down she’d channel her hostile energy back in a place that really embraced such female tenacity (toughness) instead of being offended by her strong opinions (LA thought she was a total bitch). I knew she was furious over the gender disparity in Hollywood being a beautiful actress n’ having to put up with creepy producers n’ stuff, but I still didn’t know why the words ‘male chauvinist pig’ came up so often.
Anyway, as far as feminism went, going to New York to explore it’s non legal, women’s lib jurisprudence, was total money as far as mom was concerned–I just had to synthesize my new surroundings which consisted primarily of groups of semi outraged (but super smart) ladies astride crocheted blankets, in a dog dung infested park packed to the gills with steel drums, plumes of reefer, n’ droves of tanners with their weird silver reflector thingies propped under chins in hopes of perfecting the perfect George Hamilton bronze. New York, at that time in my young life, just traumatized the damn pants off me.
So, the revolution as far as I could tell, was really the stripping away of this vacuous female existence, for mom anyway–where being a valley housewife, ‘was supposed to be’ the greatest thing ever—where living only for your man and kids and the perfect (food pyramid) meal was reason to got to ‘Farrel’s Ice Cream Parlor’ and get a banana split cauldron brought to you on a stretcher. Lest not forget, if you were fortunate or unfortunate to work (mom was still an actress but had dumb little day jobs here and there…”dumb” is a very big word with me in this blog, jus’ is), the ol’ boss chasing the sexy secretary around the desk was not only acceptable, but expected (she ended up marrying one of her dumb part-time bosses actually), n’ depending on what the ol’ guy looked like, that could be either really really good or really really…well, my step dad wasn’t too bad–till he ended up moving out and selling our house years later while I was away for the weekend. Not bitter at all though.
(mom and Sammy Davis Jr. NO, he never harassed her, it’s just a cool shot)
…n’ this whole sexual harassment Harvey Weinstein fiasco has me in a terrible mood too, just the whole ugliness of what’s gone down, the women who’ve been preyed upon, the old school dudes who thought this type of behavior was just the nature of the Hollywood environment (or perks). I don’t even wanna talk about it, though it needs to be—it’s just so ugly, all of it. I don’t like thinking that people can be as genuinely creepy as their behavior has dictated here, that so much of the ol’ starlet chasing was from an age long ago (like in one of my fav films, I have a few, LA Confidential), and of course, some behaviors infinitely more disturbing than others.
However, we have to be vigilant that in our present quest to level the field and implement true equality, the lines don’t get blurred somehow. The hope, of course, is to make the lines of conduct ‘crystal clear’ and to protect people from basic human affronts, which sexual harassment clearly is. When is normal male to female behavior acceptable and not deemed harassment? Will we all be suspicious of any and all workplace interactions from here on out? I’m already super paranoid, but awesomely easy going as well…talk about an oxymoron. Will all this ‘fallout’ institute a culture where we walk around putting each other “on notice” all day long? I don’t know the answer, maybe yes? No? Not the point? I’m just throwing it out there–yes, I want equal treatment and to feel safe and free from sexual favors for jobs (no duh), but to also NOT live in a fishbowl where one can’t meet someone special at work, maybe fall in love (mutual of course, the unrequited kind sucks), flirt or joke around (innocently, unless you truly do fall in love and run away together, again, mutually, otherwise that would constitute kidnapping), and it not be considered harassment. And I’m married! Maybe we do need to redefine how we relate to one another, that’s evolution in essence. So, yeah, guess I just answered my own question: All gender roles and interactions have to be re-evaluated, re-defined, and then posted on a job site wall just like OSHA does in a factory or something. Oy. Vey.
MY SEXY STORY
I worked as an actress for roughly 12 years, and even though I’d been through your basic run of the mill creep here and there, it wasn’t anything the likes some of these brave women in Media (the brave women not in the media as well), have shared with the world in just the past 12 months. I’d always been kind of proud I’d ‘dodged the bullet’ so to speak, that ol’ grody, $400, diarrhea brown, Jennifer Convertibles, crap leather couch. The casting couch. Originally, I was under the impression the casting couch was a term long buried like the golden age of Hollywood, the one that Marylin Monroe and her sisters alike had to navigate in order to nab a chance at stardom, yeah that couch. The couch she was once quoted to “never have to suck another c—k on again.” A Bed in $10 dollar a night hotel has less mileage than a starlet sofa in 1950.
Okay, the good stuff…you ready for my little story? Onto my nothin’ compared to what we’ve heard from the big names lately audition, where sexual harassment played a part (kinda a funny one), so hold on, the nerve of this jack-ass will ire you or make you laugh, both maybe? But trust me, the spirit behind any sort of harassment to subjugate anyone based on gender is disgraceful and unfunny, so please don’t take my comedic-ness as anything other than me being funny cause I’m depressed so much (anxiety too) I need to lighten it up a bit more.
I’m 22 at the time, ready to “role” (get it), new to professional auditioning, however, I really wasn’t ready; I felt this creepy pressure in the form of “It’s a young beautiful business for, well, the young and beautiful, so you better hit it while young (over 25 too old if not established) or never get in, “never-ever-never-ever…never”. See, spent so many years in theater school getting sorta well, fat, but highly skilled (OK, thick, n’ good enough for a KCET public access show, but who cared about that), working on stage plays having nothing to do with the real world of acting in terms of a film/TV career. I spent years getting thoroughly unprepared, misguided, not to mention emotionally abused, before we were ever to be turned out…burned out.
So I quit theater school with one semester left (after completing what seemed to be fifty million) and hit the pavement. It was a good thing I didn’t have to go too far (traveling made me kinda nervous), I’d lived in North Hollywood most all my life, so my dreams awaited me right over Laurel Canyon.
Found an agent, got silly lookin’ headshots literally the next day, scored two good audition outfits at Marshals (sexy comedy girl, and sexy-model-ninja-assassin-serious…girl) n’ I get this super low-low-low, as in 50 bucks for a 16 hour day (plus a free subway sandwich), not to mention a shoot location almost two hours one way in the middle of nowhere, audition. And a bikini would be required but not provided, for the job…if I booked it. First ever professional theatrical audition.
I was soon deflated. At least the audition itself wasn’t halfway to Fresno, it had the good sense to be right in the heart of things, Sunset blvd. But not the part of Sunset you might of imagined, this was Sunset west of Hollywood High, in a borrowed, broken down insurance office next to a bail-bonds place and by an hourly rate hooker hotel.
Good news was?
It was also across the street from the ‘Rock n’ Roll ‘Ralph’s.’ You know, Ralph’s supermarket! The one on Sunset was super famous for it’s rock-star subculture who frequented the place, n’ If I was lucky, I could have a kick butt audition (one hopefully I did not book cause of the pay, drive, sandwich and dreaded bikini), then run into Guns’ n’ Roses at Ralph’s while buying a post audition Pepsi. I was pumped.
“Everyone starts somewhere…n’ why does this entry way smell like hobo piss?” I told myself as I climbed the super 70’s rock-wall staircase of the split pea colored ‘tear down’ office building. If the beginning of the joint was that rank, I couldn’t imagine how much worse the rest of it would go. I sure hoped I didn’t have to go the bathroom, a heroin shooting gallery was way more than I could of handled. So you know, Environments really take a toll on me for some reason, it’s kind of a bummer.
Whatever the pee building smelled like, or the potential heroin den I encountered in the john, I had to keep my head on straight; this audition experience was crucial to my development as a professional young actress.
Got to the office suite, opened the crap door with the half rusted off handle, hoping to see other actresses excitedly awaiting their turn to shine or at least talking smack about each other, n’ to my horror, I was all by myself. No receptionist, no one prettier nor uglier, no one to see myself in, no one to commiserate with. What had my brand new C- level agent sent me on?
After 20 minutes of nothing, as in waiting and no one coming out to talk to me, just me by myself hanging out with the not-so muffled sound of Eastern European type yelling coming from behind the audition door (think Tommy Wiseau), some old familiar depressive symptoms started to creep back in: you know, like my self worth issues, deep feelings of lack, no reason to live…that type of stuff. I finally had to get tough, all tough love, like put an immediate stop to the pity party, and you know, bucked up.
Went back to concentrating on the work, which was a good thing. But then made a very bad mistake– checking my reflection in the half melted, heavily warped, buck fifty full length mirror on the wall of this piss flavored insurance/casting suite.
“Oh. My. God. What in the HELL?! My dress! No, ME! It—I, well, did we look THIS bad at home?! Was I blind an hour and a half ago or what?!”
The image being projected back to me caused insta-panick-naseauam and a horrendous cold sweat to suddenly break, and to make it all the worse, my puffy bangs started to frizz from my own humidity.
“Stop it Kelly, you’re going crazy, jus’ crazy…calm down, you have to. I mean, this is a dumb job you don’t even want and I’m no dummy.” And that worked if you can believe it. I’m actually a really effective self talker when I need to be.
Four minutes later I was feeling infinitely better about myself–I’d done a quick method acting dynamic relaxation, got outta my own way, remembered the ‘soul contract’ talk I’d recently had with my friend Paula (we’d been, still are, talking about this topic for years) about people and situations being consistently offered up in our lives in an effort to teach us lessons not previously learned in prior incarnations (I know, you can exclude that part if you want), and you know, I was ready. I was good.
Bravely ready to re-fresh in the fun house mirror, again. So, I teased out my hair even more to counter the new frizz, which was already David Lee Roth to begin with, n’ my new perspective had me even looking not so bad. I actually kinda liked what I saw, I saw Kelly.
Did some positive mantras, more dynamic self talk to my reflection, or like, lied to it effectively enough, n’ got real focused. “Slow deep breath in for 8, hold for 8, exhale for 8.”
“YES!! HELLO MISSES! COME EEN! YOU READ NOW, RIGHT? THIS EESE YOU?” The highly unattractive-medium-plump casting /producer/writer/editor n’ kraft service guy boomed. I almost fell out of my white pumps he startled me so bad. Plus he had on some kind of Barry Manilow get-up that jarred my senses even further.
“Oh me? Uhhh, yeah,… No, yes! Totally. It’s me, I’m her, Kelly I mean…oh my god, I’m sorry, such a spaz… I’m ready, yes.” I cheerfully answered him followed with another overzealous gesture, my hand to shake. Ugh, dude—you never shake these people’s hands by the way, they’re all afraid to get sick n’ usually get super mad if you put them in such a situation. He didn’t seem to notice though, just turned and basically ran back into his office and left me to follow.
Once inside, he pointed then grumbled something rude having to do with me standing on the blue tape on the ground. To my horror, once again, it was in front of another image reflecting device, only this form came in an effortlessly cheap looking camcorder.
“Ok misses, you any questions? NO? good…Yes, yes, say you name, you agency, homes phone numbers, you age, the height, the weight, OK?” He hammered into me while I adjusted my tight, spandex, chocolate brown rocker dress.
“Wait, my home number?” I sheepishly asked. “My agents info is right there on–.”
He hated that. Started to freak out like a crack-head with no crack, “I CALL YOU ON WEEKEND WITH NOTES! YES?! NOTES IF I WAAAANNNT YOU BAAAACK–OK?! Now let’s go.” He barked and turned on the camera than took a seat at his dumb looking desk.
“Oh…Ok, I guess, sure.” I whispered looking around the gross office with the hundreds of headshots depicting hot girls in bikinis and cervix exposing cocktail dresses pinned to walls and all over the place—models, all models, not actresses. I started to worry.
I think he picked up on my sudden heart-failure, for he stopped the yelling game n’ instead opted for an overly condescending sing-song’y thing, “Come-out-come-out- wherever-you’s-are’s…let’s be ready little girl, no?” He sang, badly.
Of course I couldn’t believe my ears, or eyes for that matter, but I had to do this, I couldn’t get dropped by my C level agent after my first bad audition. Talk about disastrous for my already teetering self esteem problem.
“Yes, you want me to read directly to camera or with you?” The question outraged the beans outta him, again, I mean, I’d never ever read on tape at that point, what the hell did I know? He started to berate me in broken English.
“OK, OK, I’ll read right to you, I’m soooo sorry– kinda new at this? like the tape recorder n’ stuff…sorry.” I trailed off as embarrassed as I could possibly be.
I was asked to slate my name and do a whole little twirly thing for the camera, you know ‘my profiles’ and before I could even complete one full turn he went right into the first line. And then it was over. Super Fast, just like the 3 guys I dated in theater school. What an incredibly unfulfilled feeling too, but I dared not ask to read again. That was another ‘no, no’ in the acting world (even at the D list level), thankfully I knew that.
He fussed around his desk for a minute, wrote some scribble on my headshot and didn’t look up for a quite sometime it seemed. So I thanked him, and turned to leave.
But he caught me off guard with a total attitude change and called out to me to come back.
A surprisingly patient hand waved me over–his head gently shaking with a chuckle from side to side. What was this new found jovial-ness? He was suddenly pleasant as a litter of purring kittens. “Come, come…please, to come here.”
He sensed my uneasiness (good thing too, I was ready to bolt), broke into another big warm smile (I decided to stay) and told me not to worry, just to come to the side of his desk.
“Come, come….” He said purring.
My mind was a blank. Go over to’em, why? I fretted without looking directly in his eyes but just between’em.
His body language indicated he wasn’t gonna wig out or nothing, so I acquiesced– uncomfortably smiled back at him even, n’ I mean, he just sat so damn calmly at his dumb looking desk with it’s fifty thousand water cup stains and bikini model headshots.
And I slowly strode up to the side of the desk, arms wrapped self consciously over my ample boobs, n’ planted myself right where he nodded for me to go then stopped. Yep, my pelvis was fully facing this man who just held my gaze. And he started to laugh, a lot.
What in the hell’s so funny? I mean, did I have a massive booger hanging out my nose? Pepper in my teeth? Was this the moment he was finally gonna fill me in on it? Things really weren’t that hysterical between us from the start, so this was just weird.
“Wow, something’s funny, hope it’s not me.” I said or something like it.
And like it always does in situations regarding this industry, the energy changed as fast a Kauai rain storm—sh&t got real serious. Then he just looked at me. All over. When he was done with that, he slowly leaned his upper body (head attached) towards my squared to him pelvis, his dark brown eyeballs penetrating mine, me starting to sweat truckloads of adrenaline out my pours n’ I felt my teeth even start to chatter slightly (that happens when I’m real deeply nervous, kinda a dead giveaway I’m about to freak out), and I instinctively went to take a step back–but not before he caught me by the hip with a fat handed death grip.
Me: Frozen…like yogurt. I couldn’t move.
Him: Proceeded to ask me goofy questions.
“You good actrees, no? Yes, I think good. Better than good, no? Maybe yes, maybe no?… Haha (insert weird over-the-top-laugh here)…But I haves questions for you here…and I want to know this answer, ok…Ees this you favorite dress? Ees new?! What you like eat, hmmm?.”
“Ummm, uhhhh, I dunno….well…yeah?” I answered back one hundred and fifty percent unsure of myself. He liked my response I could tell, cause he started back with the laughing thing again “hahahahahahahaha”—but for only a few seconds. Then, it happened, the bad part.
As his laughter subsided, his mouth settled into an almost solemn grimace–then he looked mad or something (talk about bipolar) and his hand went from just ‘on’ my hip, slid a few inches down, not all the way to my ass, but right above it–and grabbed even harder if you can believe it, onto a big, giant, squishy handful of flank. My. Big. Fat. Flank—or Muffin top, and squeezed the holy cream cheese outta it.
I yelped, of course I did, who wouldn’t, it kinda hurt, but that didn’t stop him, he mulled me, ‘it’, around between his fingers while making the most ‘thinky confused face you ever saw in your whole entire life. Clearly this part of my body mystified the man to no end.
Frozen, still. Oh. My. God. This ain’t happening…dude.
My first real audition for some ultra low-low-low-extra-low budget flick, had me not only nervous, bummed about the job, upset with place, and now utterly fat shamed and humiliated as well…and most likely sexually harassed, didn’t know. It didn’t stop there, after he grabbed onto my fat flank and kneaded it into baking dough, he spoke about it like it was a cancerous tumor needing immediate removal.
“WHAaaahhhhT IS THEESE?!” SOOOOO alarmed he was, amazing reaction.
“Whattya mean?” I stupidly asked walking into his punch.
“THEESE! THEESE EES SO BIG! I CANNOT BELIEVE! SKINNY LEGS, SKINNY ARMS, BIG FAT THEESE! I CANNOT USE….NO! We can’t use…” He went on with his incredulous blah blah blah, jus’ wouldn’t stop. “KERRY (got my name wrong, too), you GOOD, but theese BAD!”
Scrambling for something to say, or comeback to his deplorable decent rights behavior violation, if there is such a thing. I told him off…nicely of course.
“What’s what? OMG, That’s called runners butt, don’t you know? It’s muscle, like it’s just from running and I teach aerobics? You know…like running n’ stuff….”
Boy did that sound stupid, runners butt. Yes there’s such thing, but I most certainly did not have it.
Didn’t matter, my explanation really seemed to do the trick, or turn him on or something weird. I had to make something up, I was easily 15 pounds overweight from stuffing my pie hole in fat-fat-the-water-rat theater college with these Asian ‘Betsy rolls’ we all used to buy at the Korean bakery up the street. And the fat-shaming bastard must a been all up in it, cause he proceeded to ask me out to dinner. Oh yes he did.
“Wait, what? You want me to go to dinner with YOU? Uhhhh—that’d be a no?” I told him somewhat incredibly amused but sad as hell, I mean, I was real caught off guard by his whole bait n’ switch routine.
“Eh, let’s go! Come come…you just loose theese thing, we have good times.” He said encouragingly.
“Ummm…that’d still be a NO. But thanks.”
As I walked back to my car mulling over whether I still had it in me to run into G & R or Motley Crew at the ‘Rock n’ Roll Ralphs’, I made peace with the way I looked. That low budget creeps ideal of what beauty looked like didn’t interest me at all, didn’t even want the stupid job…till I got in my car, cried my eyes out, then went on to loose 27 pounds to the point I was considered too skinny for everything. Of course that led to a two year battle with anorexia and bulimia, but I recovered. However, never forgot the scar the incident left etched on my soul. Literally. Now I just tattoo over the parts of my body I hate. There are no accidents, no experiences I don’t learn something from, and this one taught me to be a more compassionate person. But less fat and I hate that.