By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Radio activist David Barsamian listed the numerous pretexts Bush used to invade Iraq, faithfully reported as fact by TV news — “not a single one turned out to be true, all the way from saving Private Jessica Lynch to the al Qaeda connection in Iraq.”
At the end of the rally, the Code Pink chicks held up a “pink slip” for KFI’s owners — a pink negligee bearing the words “Clear Channel, you have failed to respect our airwaves.”
Freda Shen, wearing a neat business suit and heels and holding a parasol, stood cheering. She had a uniquely personal take on the issue. “It’s the base of our democracy, whether or not we’re going to have free speech and free information. And I’ve seen that happen to my cousins in China. You don’t even know it’s happening, because you keep getting just one part of the information.
“Clear Channel’s controlling all the information in so many of the small towns. That’s not democracy — that’s fascism.”
When you put it like that, fascism doesn’t seem like such a bad choice of words.
The Acting Life: Quasimodo Bites the Cheez-It
Last week I was asked to be a fire-breathing, 1930s-style weightlifter, miming to a parody of a tune from Moulin Rouge. It was a carny thing promoting the California State Fair, y’see. The day before, I was a cell-phone-using Neanderthal man for Verizon. Welcome to my life as a commercial actor. My son’s birth was paid for by Prestone antifreeze residuals, but I probably book just one job out of 50 tries. From the standpoint of lucrative, it’s like playing the lottery — you never know when you’ll draw a winning number.
The auditions themselves can be dishwater dull: Show up, give name, turn in profile, repeat maybe a handful of lines or give one look, then leave please. Not only is it anti-Shakespearean, it’s also completely random, because no one has any idea what the clients or casting directors are looking for. You get a few seconds of direction and that’s it, so it can be a real head scratcher when you stumble out of these places. Sometimes, the auditions can get pretty bizarre. Occasionally they’re even fun.
One recent morning I staggered into an audition at TLC/Booth Casting, which is located in a residential house across the street from the LAPD station on Wilcox. The product was Cheez-Its; the setup, some kind of medieval festival. Out on the lawn were a juggler, a sword swallower and a fire-eater practicing their bits, along with various other actors in full medieval dress; inside, women were decked out in “fair maiden” regalia. Naturally, I was in straight-up tee and jeans.
I am not an ordinary-looking cat, what with the gapped teeth and wide torso, so I figured my head shot is what inspired some basic idea outside the realm of the obvious in getting the call to audition. But upon signing in and inquiring about my bit, I got a quizzical look from the lady who runs the joint. That meant trouble — trouble as in they weren’t quite sure what they wanted, trouble as in the dreaded E word . . . extra!
Mama didn’t raise no wallflower, so I had to think fast or be cast as another face in the crowd. Spying copy for the role of “Quasimodo” on the wall, I carefully made my way to the studio door and appeared before the director. I told him I was Quasimodo. He nodded and smiled — sad to say, it really wasn’t that much of a stretch. Grotesque is doable.
Luckily, the director, looking like one of those wild-eyed hippie reprobates one sees in Topanga and sitting amid a sea of conspiracy books all over what is surely his study when not a studio, couldn’t have been more different from your garden-variety moonlighting quasi-yuppie actor on the other side of the lens. Scraggly-haired and totally disheveled, he was the antithesis of the scared bunnies that quake in their boots at these gigs, resenting the pushy and desperate actors on the one hand, walking on eggshells around the suits on the other.
Others trying out for the scene shuffled in, and the director put on some appropriate Renaissance-sounding music for us to act all peasantlike to. Smart-arsed music critic that I am, I told the director, “I bet I’m the only person you’ll see all day who knows what song you’re playing.” He looked up. “‘Steve’s Song,’ a 1966 track by the Blues Project,” I offered. The director was floored. “What ever happened to Al Kooper?” he asked, referring to the New York band’s leader. I told him that the famous organist now teaches at Berklee, in Boston. An obvious ’60s psych buff, the director then quizzed me about the origin of the Arthur Lee and Love tune “Signed D.C.,” which is no mystery to me (it’s about Lee’s heroin-addicted drummer Don Conka).
For all my cleverness, I didn’t get to be hunchback No. 1 in the first read-through — a cat from Texas named George got that honor. I stood in as Terrified Townsperson while George, scrunch-faced and scowling, rampaged past fair maidens and the like — a Laughtonesque nightmare. The director then dismissed everyone but George and me so we could do the Quasimodo scene individually.