Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Though it was only March, the sun was glaringly bright. My eyes, which had been indoors for so long, had trouble adjusting. Without thinking, I reached for my sunglasses in the holder by the rear-view mirror, hesitating as I remembered I was in my mom's car. Mine was at my apartment, 400 miles away.

I hadn't cried much since my brother died just a few days before. I felt the need to be strong when I was at home, didn't want my parents to comfort me when it seemed they needed every ounce of strength just to keep breathing. And even though it seemed like the three of us would never feel anything but grief, we are, in the end, merely animals, and our stomachs still growled and throats got dry. I needed to replenish the house with bread and peanut butter. Needed to make sure there was toilet paper and coffee and diet coke for the people who might stop by. So I volunteered to go to the grocery store.

Driving down Ventura Boulevard, I marveled at the number of people out in the middle of the day, going about their business. I was shocked that the world looked exactly as it had the last time I was out. A beautiful, young man, an important person, had taken his last breath, and all these people were eating lunch and going to work and getting gas and everyone was just driving, driving, driving.

I wanted to yell at them. I wanted to scream and cry and curse at the world for letting this happen, and then at all these people for going on with their lives. Instead, I found myself singing. Not a prayer or something spiritual, just a pop song, something old and familiar. The radio was tuned to the station I always listened to when I lived at home. And the tune came spilling forth. The words had been etched into my brain for so many years, the singing was automatic, effortless, normal.

Singing was better than crying. It reminded me that the past that included my brother would always be there, no matter how many days would continue to pass without him. It was a small token of regular life, away from the cancer and fear and death that had overtaken my every thought for the last few months. And, ultimately, singing along to the radio was something he would be doing if he still could, something that we had often done together.

I have cried many, many times since that day. But that afternoon, driving in the sun, I sang. And it felt right.

This week's memoir prompt was to be inspired by this sentence: The first time I ________-ed after _________-ing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Best Part I Never Had

My acting career got off to a slow start. I was absent the day they cast our first grade play, Peter Rabbit, and upon my return was given a non-speaking part. I held a pink cardboard bunny in front of me as my costume, and got to nod my head and point. At least I wasn't in the chorus.

The following year, I was discovered at the grocery store by an agent. I had professional head-shots done and started going on auditions. I got a lot of auditions, primarily because I looked younger than I was and had all my teeth.

I landed a few commercials, including one for the original Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I shot one spot for Gwaltney sausages that I never saw because it didn't air on the West Coast. I was also in a TV commercial and print ad for Allstate Insurance. I'll never forget walking into a Sears department store and seeing a huge poster of me and my on-screen dad.

Of course, there were many more parts that I didn't get. My biggest rejection was for a part on Mork and Mindy, where I would have played Mindy as a little girl in a flashback episode. I learned the scene, and brought my own teddy bear to the audition. The bear was called "Mr. One Eye," but I didn't want to tear an eye off my teddy bear, so my dad put a band-aid over one of his eyes. I found the scene on You Tube, and the lines that have been dormant in my mind for so many years, came right back to me.

It was down to me and just one other girl. Apparently, she looked more like Mindy than I did, or had the right color eyes. At least that's what I was told.

A young Melissa Francis did get that part. Missy, who also appeared in Little House on the Prairie, is now an anchor on CNBC, and frequent contributor to the Today Show. In an interview, she said "There was the time I appeared on Mork & Mindy and Robin Williams gave me a doll version of himself, and a teddy bear for my 8th birthday!" She is also considered to be the inspiration for the character Avery Jessup on 30 Rock.

I knew I should have worn colored contacts to the audition.

Most auditions didn't require me to learn a lot of lines, but I did have to learn a jingle for one:
I am stuck on Band Aid, 'cause Band Aid's stuck on me.
I am stuck on Band Aid, 'cause Band Aid's stuck on me.
'Cause they hold on tight in the bathtub and they cling in soapy suds.
I am stuck on Band Aid, 'cause Band Aid's stuck on me.
I've never been a great singer and I didn't get the part.

I was finally offered a part in a movie. Unfortunately, this would have required my mom and I to travel to be on location for a few weeks, and she wasn't willing to leave my three year old brother behind.

And thus, my brief time in the Screen Actor's Guild came to an end.