"Jacob Marley: It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men! If it goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death!
I wear the chain I forged in life!
I made it link by link and yard by yard! I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it!
In life, my spirit never rose beyond the limits of our money-changing holes! Now I am doomed to wander without rest or peace, incessant torture and remorse!
Ebenezer: But it was only that you were a good man of business, Jacob!
Jacob Marley: BUSINESS? Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business! And it is at this time of the rolling year that I suffer most!"
~~Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol"
I was lousy at reading out loud as a kid. Dyslexia was not yet in public awareness. There was nothing in medicine that explained "confused reading" in the late '60's.
I figured if I forced myself to read out loud, in front of people. I would get better. I saw an audition for a play at Lincoln Park's, Miles Playhouse across from St. Monica's where I went to school. I was eight and half years old and in third grade. I read badly but I could read. I just got so nervous and confused. I made choices that were against my nature in confusion. Such has been my life.
My first play was "The Bad Seed". Popular in the late 60's because of a very
over acted "B" movie version of the stage play. All the women in the film had bourbon
and branch water voices. Tallulah Bankhead's permeated the scenery until it was like a swarm of squaking sirens. All the actresses framing their scenes in very screechy
suburban housewife hysterics. The acting is painful to watch. The film has become a kind of cult classic for bad acting. Not sure which cult. The "throaty voiced" big acting cult perhaps?
I did not play Rhoda Penmark, the very nasty little "bad seed". No, I was mearly and
quite happily an extra with a couple of throw away lines in a playground scene and at the
boat dock. None the less I caught the attention of my director. She thought I had a great
voice. Sort of deep and very penetrating, when I projected. And I was a tiny tow-headed
little pixie. Or should I say a tiny tow-head "with" a pixie. Do you remember the "pixie"?
This will date me for sure. The "pixie" was a very short haircut for girls. It made
life easy for Mom. No curls or tangles,no headband or rubber bands, just a teeny tiny tossed mop.
This haircut made my gender indistinguishable. If I was not wearing girl clothes,I was often mistaken for a boy. I hated my life as a boy.
Truly. The agonizing public humilation of little old ladies rubbing my head. Like a puppy. For luck,saying ,"nice boy." Argh!
This strange affliction of the cross gender hair do, lead me to my next role. Despite my vain attempts to be girlish and dainty. Fate would take me in a slightly different direction. I auditioned for Charles Dickens , "A Christmas Carol". I love this play. Simply adored it. I was hoping to play Ebenezer Scrooges fiance , Belle or one of the Crachit girls. I had fallen in LOVE with Albert Finney in the 1970 film musical, Scrooge. ( I still love Mr. Finney:kisses if you are reading this AF)
Alas, I was cast as Jacob Marley. The ghost of Scrooges deceased partner. Abundantly draped in black and drab pink swags. I accended, chains and all, onto stage from a second story scaffold. BIG entrance. Very effective. Scared the poo out of everyone.
The next play was " The Silver Thread". I played a troll. Yep, a dark
hole dwelling, fury headed,grubby troll. A hobbit. My mom put an entire jar of Bonnie
Bell bronzer on my face for a beard.Making little peaks with the gel,like icing on a cake .
And of course, as many of us know,having had experience with bronzer,it is a stain.
So for the next week I looked like a tar baby or a throw away from an Al Jolsen revival.
Tow headed and black faced. A tow headed tar baby. I
know it is not PC to say tar baby,but it was used as an insult to me,I am just owning it.
The look went especially well with my blue and grey, plaid wool, catholic school uniform. The nuns could not resist using me as the "Pagan Baby" in Baltimore Catachism class. The Pagan Babies are the babies that die before they are baptized and end up going to Limbo. A sad Catholic mythe, created especially to make us naive little Catholics remember to baptize our babies. Catholic of course. How simple and stupid white people can be when describing race or culture. Where did tar baby come from?
After playing roles as the wicked step mother in "Cinderella" and "Huck" in "Huck Finn". I was content to play either gender. Truth be told I accepted it
rather well in the theatre. It only depressed me a little in real life, when old ladies bald me out for not giving them my seat on the bus. "Well mannered boys give their seats to "nice" ladies". To which I just scouled and then reluctantly moved out of my seat on the Big Blue Bus, as I mummbled, " Cripes! I'm a girl!"
When I was in sixth grade I was in a talent show. I sang the, then very popular,
" Coke " song, " I'd Like to Teach The World to Sing" . It was about peace and love. My accompanist was my friend Linnea. I wore a pink dress with no back and layer of see- through, white velvet embosed chiffon. (We knew these two sisters who were gypsies that had a dress shop around the corner from our house on Chelsea)
It was my first "grown up" dress. It was fabulous.
I had no boobs to fill in the darts. But it was fabulous just the same.
During the evening performance I lost my place in the song and kept getting Linnea to start the song over. I was yelling at Linnea like a fish wife from the stage,
"start over at the right place, dimwit!~"
I kept saying all kinds of stuff to her.
The audience was in hysterical laughter.
I finally got "the hook" and left the stage.
I was crushed.
Completely ruined. Completely humiliated. I cried my heart out as my mom walked me
down Chelsea street to our home. Wretched with grief, I did not want to go to school the
next day. And I would certainly never speak to Linnea again!
I went to school the next day. It was awful. Folks laughed and joked and pointed.They sang the song to me, slinging it at me like mud. It was truly miserable.
When I got home from school that day. My mom was at the dinner table. Toying
with a pencil and pad of paper. Her dark hair reflecting the cascading light of sunset as it came throw the balcony window. She was sort of smiling with a kind of quizical look as she asked me to come sit at the table with her. She had on my favorite outfit. An olive green skirt and sweater set. She asked me if I knew who called today. I shrugged, too exhausted from my day of humiliation to speak.
Cautiously she continued, "a talent agent" she said. "In fact, four of them". I stayed quiet and tilted my head and squinted to examine her face and make sure it was not another jab at sarcasm. As I crept closer to her I could see it was true.
I screamed and jumped up and down. When I came to my senses, I felt puzzled. "But why", I asked. " were they there last night? Last night! I was so awful. I forgot the words to the song and they pulled me off stage. I don't get it? "
"Yeah, well this guy says he thinks you are a great comic. He thought it was an act.".
"Why would anyone think I messed up that bad on purpose." I muttered to myself. "He also thinks you look a lot like :I forget. He said the "tom boy" thing is in. You could be another: Jodie Foster."
So if that were actually true. If a parallel universe exists. I would be the "other"
Jodie Foster".The one that moved to Georgia at 13 and had her first beer at 14. The one
who lost her brother in a tragic suicide and became a cheerleader in order to "cheer" up
her parents. The one who was a stunningly gorgeous sixteen year old.With an amazing
body. Only to become over weight and "never been kissed" at 17.
The "other" Jodie Foster, the one who acted her way into Goveners Honors Theatre Arts Gifted Program by giving brilliant performances of Ibsens,"Hedda Gabler" and Tenessee Williams Alma,in "Eccentricities of a Nightingale".
Only to blow it in last round because she had a hang over.
The Jodie Foster that ends up with an addiction to food and alcohol and men.
If we live in parallel dimensions and it is all happening right here, right now.
Why don't I feel as balanced and brilliantly confident as the real Jodie Foster?
She is so amazing and it is painfully obvious to me that her choices have always been good.
It may just be a matter of choices. Just mysterious little bends in the road. The yin
to her yang, perhaps? And yet I cannot help but aknowledge the triumphs of this "almost
famous" life. For it's brilliant moments. For it's brave choices. Hard choices. And
amazing and beautiful gifts.
For if I had not lived my life as I have. Then who would have been me.
And me, I am finding, is sort of fun to write about.
In an insanely clever sort of way, I love my weird life.
My accidental ascendance into motherhood because I got pregnant after having an affair with a producer while on location for a film in Savannah.
My fall into writing.
My backfire into love.
I think life has a lot more in store for me. I am nine chapters into writing a non-fiction therapuetuc comedy about my colorful journey.
Maybe Jodie Foster will play me when the book is turned into a film?
Now wouldn't that be a twist of fate.