Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bill, Meet Robin, Robin, Meet Bill

Around the time I was in The Groundlings, there were many other improv groups sprouting up all over LA. I wanted to see what the other groups were up to, and so I would go to some of their performances, and if they offered them, would take a couple of classes.

One of the companies I went to see, was called Off The Wall. I remember everyone in the show was pretty good, but then one guy came onstage, and he was like the Tasmanian Devil of comedy, a human tornado, that blew everyone else off the stage. I remember thinking, "WHO IS THAT?" So quick, so clever, what is he going to do next? After the show, we stayed around to chat with the cast, and found out the guy's name; Robin Williams.
This was pre-Mork, but he already had his trademark rainbow suspenders with an assortment of pins attached to them. Very cute, I thought.

When I went to the class, Robin came over to me and picked me up, and twirled me around. I guess he kinda liked me. We got friendlier, and I invited him to the Warner Bros. lot where I was working in the casting department. We had lunch, and walked around the leafy, campus-like setting of the buildings, and sat down on the grass. He was very different off stage. Quiet and shy.

Another time, we went to one of the trendy West Hollywood restaurants, Joe Allen, where all the actors and comedy people went, but the hub bub of our surroundings soon faded into the background, as we looked across the table at each other. Both our eyes were like pinwheels.
"It's exciting, being here with you like this", he said. I felt the same.

There were a few more meetings, and one time he came over to my apartment. We realized we lived 2 blocks from each other. It was just after the Off the Wall show, and we visited for a couple of hours and he said he had to go. He had another show to do! What!?
"Why, I said, you just did one." "Have to", was his reply. Sometimes he would do three shows a night, in three different places. (That's how ya do it, folks, in case you were wondering)

Around this same time, my friend from the Groundlings, Laraine Newman, was visiting from New York. She was hired from our show to be in the very first cast of Saturday Night Live. We were all so proud, and excited for her. She came home frequently to visit, and we would get together, and one time she brought with her, the new guy, Bill Murray.

She said he said to her, he wanted to meet a real nice girl.

So, Laraine, her boyfriend, and Bill and I went on a double date. And what a strange one it was.

We ended up being invited by a high school pal of hers over to a relative's house of his, who happened to be Groucho Marx. The house was one of those wild, over the top, mid-century modern places, that are all the rage now. We were in the den, partying, and I got up to use the restroom. As I came out, there was Bill down the hall, and he motioned for me to come over to a door that was cracked open. We peaked in. There was Groucho, in bed sleeping, with a huge oxygen tank by the side of the bed, and a nurse sitting there, reading! We looked each other with eyes wide, and mouths dropped open, thought balloons over our heads saying, "Can you believe it!?" and we tip toed back to the den.

We went out a couple more times, and I have to say, he is one of the funniest people I have ever been around. Non stop hilarity, pretty much. He would have this running commentary going about everything. He had just been cast on SNL, so he was not quite yet famous. I remember people would come up to him and say, "Don't I know you from somewhere, didn't we go to such and such school together?", and he would just say, "No, I didn't go there".

One night, Bill and I ended up at yet another hip, trendy restaurant, where all the actors and comedy people hung out, Theodore's. (The Groundlings had their own room there!) and I see Robin! So, I said, "Oh, I there's someone I know, let's go say HI, so we went over, and I introduced them.
They both seemed to be aware of the other,("Oh, yeah, you, oh Hi, yeah, Hi") but they had not officially met.

Soon after that, Robin's phone calls stopped, and I later heard he was getting married. Bill and I saw each other, a couple more times, when we both worked on "Where The Buffalo Roam", then I didn't see or hear from him for awhile.

I would run into him again, a couple years later, when I worked background on "Ghostbusters". I was working in a scene, outside the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA, and I hadn't seen him yet, and didn't know if I should say something to him, or not, in case he didn't recognize me, but he jumped out of the Ghostbustermobile, and ran over to me and picked me up and twirled me around! Later, when I was talking with him in his motorhome, he told me he was going to be getting married.

They were both fleeting flings, at a time when the heavens were positioned just right, and there I was, witnessing two shooting stars.
I don't know if they remember that night, but I sure do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Night in Jail

The summer of my 21st birthday, I had gotten cast in a theater group that did musicals in Big Bear Lake, California. A resort town, up in the mountains, 2 hours outside of Los Angeles. I was very excited to be doing this because not only do I love all the old Broadway musicals, I would be able to add some summer stock to my thin resume. I took some singing and dance classes several weeks before rehearsals began to get in shape. I called my agent to tell him the good news, thinking he would be happy for me getting this experience. I was surprised that he was pissed because I was taking myself out of the marketplace for the busy summer. Couldn't go on auditions. I wanted to do it anyway.

We were set to do, "Fiddler on the Roof", "Annie Get Your Gun", and "The Sound of Music", which we never got to, because the whole company fell apart before that could happen. Yes, it was that dysfunctional, crazy and chaotic, but we laughed it all off because we were a bunch of young people away from home for the summer up in the mountains, having a blast!

We rehearsed one show in the day time, under the pine trees, on the lawn behind the big ski lodge. In the evenings, we performed the other show, while patrons dined on mexican food on the outdoor patio. It was a lovely setting.

The company was run by a chubby gay guy, who directed and choreographed. We called him Twinkletoes. His chubby tomboyish sister had the lead in "Fiddler", and her girlfriend played the piano.

The girls were put up in a small motel, 3 or 4 to a room, in 3 rooms. It was a bit crowded, but we didn't mind, we were hardly there. The guys were all staying in a 100 year old miner's cabin, that didn't have running water, so they had to come shower at our place in the morning.

After the shows, we'd usually hang out in the little bar of the ski lodge, and party with Gary, the tall, lanky, gay, alcoholic bartender I had a crush on. He later became Frank Butler in "Annie", because the actor who was cast left. Later, the kid who was doing the lights, who never acted in his life, took on a small role when another actor bailed. A new girl showed up, to replace someone else who had left, and she was telling us how she had a tough decision, because she was hired to work in the new Electrical Parade at Disneyland. We all said, "GO! Go back, if you can still do it, go back!!" The next morning, the director was rather puzzled as to why his new cast member suddenly left.

One night after the show, we went back to our motel, and we had noticed there was a new cute neighbor guy. So we invited him over, and he came over with a bag of pot. Oh Boy! So there was him, and about 6 or 8 girls. Guess he figured, those were some pretty good odds. So, the small room filled with smoke, and the laughter and the music got louder, and I guess it was pretty loud, because after awhile, there was some very loud knocking on the door. THE COPS!!! Everybody scattered. Someone jumped out a window on the other side of the room. I jumped in a closet. Two girls had gone to their room to get a pipe, and when they saw what was going down, stood down. We were all rounded up, and I was pulled out of the closet. We were hand cuffed and put into the police car, and driven to the little mountain police station and booked. The charge was being in a place where marijuana was being smoked.

I went through a range of feelings, at first I thought it was funny, then I started to get a little scared, and then I was mad. I heard the cops in the hallway, talking about the one guy with all those girls, like he was some sheik and his harem, or the leader of the next hippie murder cult.

They let us languish in cells alone, laying on the cot with just the mattress ticking, no sheets or blanket, with the stark bare bulb burning all night long. I couldn't sleep, and was getting very despondent. I wanted my Mommy.

In the morning, Gary, the tall, lanky, gay, alcoholic bartender that I had a crush on, came and bailed us out, and then took us all out for breakfast. Boy, were we hungry! As we walked into the little homey, small town coffee shop, all of the customers turned to look at us. "Oh, they all know what happened", Gary said. "News travels fast around here". Outlaw celebrities, we were.

That night, the show was packed. Before the show started, we looked out into the audience, from behind the sets, and there we saw, sitting in the front row, all the cops that had busted us!