Friday, December 15, 2006

1993 - 1995: Aspirations for Stardom Fall in Seattle


I dreamt about Seattle last night: I was on a business trip. One of the lawyers from work was driving and got us lost. I was trying to remember the highway to take to the airport but couldn't remember if it was I-5 or 95. I had to call X for directions.

Not sure what it all meant but it got me to thinking...

In 1993, shortly after X and I first met we decided to move west. Washington state with all its green, lush splendor soon became our new home.

We didn't really move to the Seattle area for any particular reason other than we thought it would be a cool place to begin "our" musical careers - him being a pianist me the singer - and for me to pursue more acting. I was frustrated with New York, didn't want to be in Boston and he was up for a challenge. X had a great thirst for adventure - one of the reason I fell in love with him so we settled on Tacoma.

Before leaving Boston, in our little studio apartment, everyday Monday night we'd watch the show Northern Exposure. We both loved it. We found out it was filmed in the Seattle area (Rosyln, Washington to be exact) and I had it set, in my twenty something year old head, that I could and would get be a role as Fleishman's younger brother on Northern Exposure. That wasn't the main reason for moving but it didn't hurt. Unfortunately, the following year Northern Exposure got canceled.

Yet in Seattle I did manage to get some work with James Earl Jones on a flop television series (lasted three or four weeks) called "Under One Roof". It was there that I grew an affection for veggie burgers. We'd work late nights often till 1 or 2 in the morning and at mid-nite they would send out for veggie burgers for the entire cast and crew. I remember the first day I arrived on set I was shown to my "trailer". The room was no bigger than a small bathroom but I didn't care. I walked in, "Wow! This is cool I get my own trailer and dressing room. It's tiny but hey I ain't complaining." Five minutes later, the door opens and another actor is thrown in with me..two minutes later another and then another. The "coolness" of working on a film set quickly lost its appeal. We sat around literally for hours. I would work maybe all of ten minutes and then go back to waiting around, watching monitors, watching the lead actors. We were always outside and it was always cold and damp - that's Seattle.
Rob Morrow as Joel Fleischman in "Northern Exposure"

Seattle is where my aspirations for acting began to take a nose dive. Being in new territory, not knowing anyone we found it difficult to get by. The newness of being away from home quickly wore of as did our savings. We still had to pay the bills which required full-time work - the number one interference with being available for auditions. The once aspiring actor soon became business manager of a temporary agency called Evergreen Staffing in Federal Way - now only in Tacoma. Back then it was called Evergreen Temporaries run by Bill and Jan Rogers. The work was challenging but there I found an affinity for business. I was good at it.

I grappled with the dichotomy I felt inside: aspiration for the arts and making a decent living. Someone once asked me "what were you not willing to do in order to become the actor and performer that you once wanted to be." Essentially meaning that you can do whatever it is you can conceive and believe that only you hold yourself back. My answer: I wasn't willing to live the life of the financially struggling artist, living in a cheap apartment, perhaps even in a bad area, not knowing if I'd be able to pay the bills, just squeaking by in order to "make it". I wasn't willing to damage my credit rating. I had huge student loans to pay. I couldn't afford to do what it took to become the performer that I wanted to be. I had no one to help me pay the bills. I couldn't ask my parents for money. In fact, I gave them money. They weren't savers.

Yet I didn't let hope die. I worked hard juggling both careers. I'd run around to clients and meetings during the day and at night would sing and do theatre. I got a really good lead role in off-off-off Broadway musical (okay it was at the Tacoma mall's theatre) called "Les Vampyres". I played Harold the vampire. It was an original musical written by these two brothers whose names escape me. It was fun, campy and had some really great songs tailored for my range. I have pictures somewhere. I think I made $50 out of the deal. Woo hoo! You say you don't do it for the money which is true but when you want to make a living as a performer $50 ain't going to get you nothing. Discouragement sets in fast.

Do I regret not persevering with my acting and singing career? Sometimes. But had my life taken a different turn I wouldn't be where I'm at today. I'm happy with who and what I am.

Maybe someday I'll get a night gig, doing some lounge act. Until then...there's work.

Over and out...

7 comments:

dbv said...

as karen walker said "oh honey, woulda, coulda, prada!!!" lol... amazing where the choices we've made have led us to today!!! i should never have gotten out of the back of that car in paris... oh wait, that wasn't me, that was that movie with anne hathaway and meryl streep... lol...

Spider said...

It has made you what you are today - and that is a really fantastic guy! I think it was all worth it...

Mikey said...

Choice choices choices. We all have to make and live with them, but at least we have them. Thanks for the great story and hopefully one day I will see you name up in lights.

DonnieJvilleNC said...

That was a great post, Rick! It's great to hear about the experiences that made you who you are today.

Maddog said...

Great post. I'm struggling with the issues you talk about myself. I want to be a lighting designer but am tired of being poor and don't know how many more $500 shows I have in me. Do I sell out, get a real job, and stop struggling financially? Today I don't think so, but I don't know how long I can keep up the struggle.

Scott said...

Oh my...I can relate to this post in SOOOO many ways. I did the same thing actually only is started in my teen years. My thing was, I was NOT goign to uproot from my family. and there aren't a whole lot of acting gigs in Indiana. I do community theater now to fill the void.

steve'swhirlyworld said...

We have all taken roads that might have been different from the ones that we wanted to take, but as you said, they've brought us to where we are today, and we're all okay with that. The important thing is to not just stand in the road, without direction...keep moving forward.