By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
|Photo by James White|
GROWING UP IN THE SUBURBAN hellhole of California's San Gabriel Valley, I was always painfully aware of the fabulousness of Hollywood that glittered just over the hills. For those of us living behind the Hollywood sign, we knew the illusory qualities that symbol possessed -- from the rear, the Hollywood sign is just a bunch of wood.
Still, as a child so fascinated by television I watched test patterns, I longed to go over those hills. I wanted to climb into the TV and play all the parts myself -- and every color of the test pattern too.
"THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT HAIRcut of my life," I carefully told the hairstylist. I wasn't sure if she really believed me. I mean, if this was the most important haircut of a person's life, would he choose a Vietnamese pink-and-black lacquered beauty shop in Silver Lake with faded 1980s posters of geometric works of hair art adorning the walls?
(Photo by James Dwyer)
"Ten dollars. You like shampoo, 15 dollars."
I quickly tabulated what the $5 difference would do to my budget that week. I had recently moved back to California to pursue my budding acting career and was making $7 an hour stuffing envelopes for the Jurassic Park marketing campaign. I had made $1,000 on my first film, Swoon -- with no residuals because I was not in the Screen Actors Guild at the time. The year between that paycheck and today had been long, and, even though I cut corners, I went wild with the money and blew it on nonessentials -- like food. On the other hand, my work in Swoon got me a Best Actor nomination at the Spirit Awards, independent film's Oscar alternative, and the ceremony was in two days.
"I'll take the 15-dollar one."
My future in show business was in the scissors-wielding hands of a boxy Vietnamese woman named Paulie.
After a quick washing worth every 500 cents, I sat in a black lacquered swivel seat. Paulie stomped a cockroach and swung me around.
"You actor. I can tell. Very vain. Insecure. Your hair is your 'instrument.' I know."
I nodded yes. Anyone who knows anything about acting knows that performing is 90 percent hair, 5 percent makeup and 5 percent nepotism. With no relatives in the business, this increases my hair percentile to a full 95.
Snip snip. Oh my god, she's cutting off a lot, I thought. But I refused to buy into the stereotypical actorish behavior Paulie obviously expected of me, and assumed a cool, devil-may-care façade.
Snip snip snip. My back turned to the mirror; I could only imagine what was going on up there. When she turned me back around, I was not so much shocked by my botched, geometric haircut, as much as my sheepish, haunted, glassy-eyed expression -- like a Robert Downey Jr. mug shot.
I quickly paid Paulie, holding back the tears. My hair looked like an anvil. But, like most impoverished gay indie stars, I bucked up. I was already an hour late back from my lunch break.
I walked into my temp job at DDB Needham, a large ad agency, and sat down in front of my envelopes. Temping was my real career until I started making good money as an actor in my seventh movie, The Misadventures of Margaret, which was only released in Europe. Before that, I had made a combined total of $8,500 on six movies, spaced out over seven years. In other words, $1,410 a year.
"What happened to your hair?" My boss stood before me, his glasses pulled down to study the sculpted black foam that Paulie had crafted.
He moved in closer as if observing a gruesome car crash. My hair was beauty-salon road kill and he wanted to rubberneck.
"Oh, I got it cut." I tried in vain to deflate the anvil.
"Well, I don't have to tell you that it's not exactly a professional 'look.' I mean, I know you're a musician . . ."
"I'm an actor," I whispered.
". . . but this punky funky thing isn't really appropriate for the office."
"I'll take care of it." Stupid asshole. Don't you know who I think I am?
"So, can you work over the weekend? The envelopes you stuffed are ready to be stamped and they need to go out first thing Monday morning."
"I can't. I have something I have to go to. An awards ceremony."
"Oh really? What, the Oscars?" He laughed uproariously at the idea that an anvil-headed homosexual might acquire an invite to the Academy Awards.
"No, the Spirit Awards on Sunday. I'm nominated for Best Actor." There. I did it. I owned my shit and the cat was out of the bag.
"The Spirit Awards? What is that, some New Age thing?"
"It's for independent films."
Nothing. He blinked.
"Like Sex, Lies and Videotape?" I tried.
My boss put his glasses back on his nose and headed toward his office.
"Okay, well, suit yourself. But it's time and a half -- $10.50 an hour."
MY MOM HAD FLOWN IN FROM TEXAS, where we'd moved when I was 12, and was waiting for me at home. She had come to accompany me to the awards ceremony, but mostly she came out to California to clean. When I got home, she was bleaching out my kitchen garbage pail in the sink.
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