But from the humblest of beginnings. When some scantily-clad morsel whispered in my ear that I had good bone structure in my face. It changed everything. You could get an agent, she said. You could be a model, she said. So I did. Got an agent and everything. Life changed. Fame beckoned. I would become famous and powerful and rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
See, what actually happened ....
I became an extra.
I blame it all on the weak Canadian dollar.
Not the dollar's fault that I didn't become wealthy and famous and powerful. No, no. That was a function of LACK OF TALENT. No, the fact that I got to be in an EXTRA is because Hollywood started farming out its productions to cheaper places and one of them was mine. On account of the weak Canadian dollar, you see.
So more and more, here come the movies. To my home town.
And you out there, yes YOU! You like all the behind the scenes stuff, don't you. Sure you do. My mission then is to employ this ultimate object of virtual self-importance and ego-feeding and pass onto you all the little morsels of my little successes.
No, not the scantily-clad one.
I have some back-story to catch up on, you'll pardon me for not bringing you the latest quite yet. I'm just getting started here! For crying out loud....
Cast your mind back, Johnny and Janey. Back into the farthest reaches of time.
Not that far.
Here's me in a dim stairwell, confidently striding up the stairs to a murky office, a dim vestibule, it was the agent's lair and they seemed to agree with the scantily-clad morsel about the bone structure and sent me out to get pictures. And so I did. Pictures of me in a white shirt and a thin leather tie. Smiling. Skinny little face on me that's still there but hidden by an extra, oh, twenty pounds of fat. Triumphant return to the dim vestible and oh my...
... the agency's out of business.
Big sign on it.
"Out of Business."
You know, they must have known when they sent me out for pictures. They must have. It was only a couple of days ago. I blamed the photographer, the only one who made money on this deal. A greek guy, named George. Last name also George, but greek. George with a lot of opopulopulous after it, some such thing. I couldn't blame the agent (but I did) he was gone. So I blamed the photographer. Measly, money-grubbing, rashinfrashin....
Here's me at the start. Already ground on the rocks of defeat and rejection. Get used to it, son. You're in show bidness now.
On to Agent Number Two.
Buy courses and more photos and get trained and .. hey! There's a picture of my hand in a newspaper ad, by god! And another one of my hand in a mineral water ad. Stupid little morsel didn't say ANYTHING about my hands, how do you like THAT, huh?
My agent had a policy of holding back performer's money. You needed to have a good excuse to get it from them. I had a trip to Montreal coming up, so they gave me most of mine. And so later, when the husband and wife team ran out of town with everyone's money (honest to god I'm not making this up), what they took only included about a thousand or so bucks that was mine. Little over a thousand bucks.
Agent Number Three. And I still haven't met anyone famous.
So. The first breakthrough.
A beautiful little story to demonstrate how absurd it all is.
It's a lottery commercial. This far back, the movies haven't really found us yet, so all us amateur players keep meeting at all the same auditions and compare who's done what. By and large, it's commercials for the lottery. Or for the phone company. Either - or. My very first work was for a lottery commercial. I was an extra around a card table, playing a fake game of poker with another chronic extra, Fat Dick.
Anyway, the breakthrough. There I am in the audition for another lottery commercial doing a slate (my name, who's my agent). They're looking for a Billy Crystal type for a lottery ad. I don't know what's a Billy Crystal type except that I ain't it. But I go and I slate and then at the end of the slate I mimic Elvis and say, "Thank-yuh. Thank-yuh ver much".
The ad agency sends all the tapes to New York to the director with their recommendations for the four principle roles that they're casting. The director takes three and ignores the fourth. Instead of who was recommended, he picks ME. During the wardrobe fitting (my colour will be blue) the director asks me if I knew why I won the audition. I stammered something unintelligible that I no longer can recall. He said, "No, it was that Elvis thing you did at the end of the slate." As a result of seeing it, he decided on the spot that the role wouldn't be a Billy Crystal type, it would be a guy named Eddie who thought he was Elvis.
Such are the vagueries of luck and showbiz.
I laughed my ass off the whole drive home.
It remains my best work and my biggest paycheque, that lottery commercial, even though I've since done a starring role on TV (high up on the cable dial mind you) which got me into TV Guide. That first one, the lottery commercial with Bill Carr still remains the biggest and best.
"Another Scratch 'Em game, Eddie?"
(me, doing Elvis, sitting on a giant , paper-mache kaiser bun): "Hit me, baby. I'm on a roll!"
You know, I heard later on that there's a guy in the city - all he does is Elvis work. He's a for-real Elvis impersonator. He saw our commercial and he was PISSED. How come they were doing an Elvis thing and he never even got a look?!?!?!
Because ... (say it with me, class) the role was for a Billy Crystal type.
During this, my first real shoot, I learned the two most important words in the film business: CRAFT TABLE. (Bagles with cream cheese and strawberry jam. BLISS!!!!!)
So there I am, on set. Day three of the shoot. The scene had me in this big blue 1960 Ford Galaxy convertible. Saying my lines. "Hey, Jimmy. You playing that lottery scratch and win sports game aGAIN?" Like Elvis, remember. Over and over and over. Thirsty work. During a brief pause I got out of the car and went to get a drink.
"Whoa, whoa whoa!" the assistant director (A.D.) says to me. "Where are you going?"
"I'm just going to get a drink from the craft table."
"No, no. You stay in the car and someone will go and GET that FOR you."
So time passes, I'm still sitting in the big blue car, still doing my lines (new camera angle) and I'm working on a new thirst. It's a hot, hot day. I say somewhat meekly, "Can I get a water or a juice please?" In a flash there are two people there at my window, one with a water, one with a juice. One might begin to see how this type of power could corrupt the weak-minded.
Four days later I'm Joe Schmoe again. Working as an office clerk. Arranging invoice payments.
Missing my craft table.
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