Meanwhile the whole acting thing wasn’t exactly going as planned. I had an agent and an acting coach. I had a set of head shots that made me look like Gidget. According to Lillian, my acting coach, my appeal was that I looked so young that I could be hired without the legal headaches associated with hiring minors. Unfortunately, I also had an affinity for big hair, black clothes, and cocaine. My personality was not exactly squeaky clean. But my head shots were, so I was sent out on commercial interviews for companies like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Hallmark. I distinctly remember the audition for McDonalds. I was supposed to be fifteenish and really perky. I was looking jaunty in a red cap, yellow T-shirt, and pigtails. My musician boyfriend and his partner in mayhem gave me a ride. We cruised down Sunset Blvd. in a 78 Charger. The pavement pounded with the sound of our stereo blasting heavy metal for blocks. I hung my head out the window like a German Shepherd so I wouldn’t reek of the joint being smoked in the front seat. The boys deposited me on the sidewalk in front of the casting office and roared off to Guitar Heaven for an hour. I was either really nervous or my brain cells were still stunned from the music, so I lit a cigarette. A procession of young girls in varying stages of puberty filed in the building with their mothers. I eyed them suspiciously. They couldn’t possibly be here for the same audition. I put out my cigarette and went in. The only audition being held that day was for McDonalds. I signed in and looked around the room. It was filled with eighth grade cheerleaders. I was definitely the only person in the room whose mother was charging them rent. My agent was going to die, slowly and painfully. Then I noticed they were all looking at me, too. My cigarette pack was still in my hand like a smoking gun. My purse was in the car. I skulked to the bathroom where I stuffed my smokes in my sock. Back in the waiting room, several of the mothers were giving me the eye. They had seen my exit from the Heavy Metal Mobil Unit out front. I didn’t care. It was just junior high school all over again. None of the mothers had wanted me around their children then either.
When it was my turn to face the casting directors, I went in the room and found myself facing a panel of cool-looking Hollywood yuppies. It was the 80s so that word was still relevant. There was no script for this they informed me.
“We want you to improvise.”
“Here’s the scene,” he said. “It’s your first job. You and your friends are setting up behind the counter. You are laughing and talking about school and friends. You know, whatever it is you girls talk about. Then you turn and face the camera and say, “Good Morning! Welcome to McDonalds. So when I say ‘action’ start talking to your friends,” he smiled “Ready? Action.”
The casting directors stared expectantly. My mind was racing trying to figure out what my girlfriends and I had talked about that I could repeat in mixed company. I was drawing a complete blank. Let’s see, ditching fifth period because we’re too stoned, lost virginity, kegger parties in the rain . . .
“Uhhhhhh Welcome to McDonalds! . . . Should I start again?”
“No, no, that’s okay. We got the idea. Just leave your head shot here. Thank you.”
I saw no reason to waste a perfectly good head shot. They are expensive. I slunk out to the sidewalk. The boys screeched up minutes later.
“Please don’t ask.” I said.
My other commercial auditions didn’t go much better. At Hallmark we all lined up and the director asked us some questions about ourselves.
“So you’re from Seattle,” he said. “Rains a lot up there, huh?”
“Oh, yeah.” I said. “It has the highest suicide rate in the country.”
Good girl. That will sell a lot of greeting cards. At a soft drink audition I tilted my head back to take a long thirst quenching drink. I dumped the contents down my front three times before I gave up.
Back at the counter I expressed my frustrations to Candice.
“You should try being a phone sex operator,” she said. “I make extra money and my boyfriend doesn’t mind. It turns him on.”
I thanked her for the suggestion. My mother wanted me to go back to school. ”You could still salvage your life.” She pointed out. But I was not quite ready to admit defeat. Then something happened that licked the stamp that sealed my fate. A buddy and I were walking up the street. A car came out of a driveway, knocked me down, and rolled over me. There was no one in it. It rolled over my wrist breaking it in two places, and then over my head. In the emergency room, a nurse looked at my chart and said,
“Oh, you’re a Scorpio. This sort of thing always happens to Scorpios.” By some miracle, or just the thickness of my skull, my head was undamaged. But as a waitress, I was out of commission for a while.
I had been rescued from the counter.