Thursday, August 11, 2011
And All That Jazz
Growing up in Los Angeles, one of the local tv stations had "The Million Dollar Movie", and they would show the same movie everyday for a week. My sisters and I, if we liked a particular movie, would watch it everyday. One of our favorites that I remember was "Damn Yankees". We liked the swear word in the title, especially. "Let's watch DAMN Yankees again!" Haha! We loved sexy Gwen Verdon, and would imitate her number, "What Ever Lola Wants". Lola gets! Yeah! I learned that choreographer means the one who made up the dances. Bob Fosse. He knew what he was doing. I mimicked Bob Fosse's moves as a moppet.
Imagine my excitement, years later, while working at the beautiful Pantages theater, that we were going to have the premiere of "Sweet Charity"! Starring one of my favorites, Shirley MacLaine, and directed and CHOREOGRAPHED by the one and only, Bob Fosse!
Working the premieres at the beautiful Pantages theater, was so fun and exciting. The girls all had to wear formals, and the guys in tuxedos. I finally got to wear a formal! I never went to my high school prom. (Not that sad of a story; I was not into school at all, but felt like I should have gone, just to go. My social life was at the theater.) But I think a Hollywood Premiere beats a high school prom anyway! (Plus, I got to go to the prom on "Carrie"!)
So, the night of the "Sweet Charity" premiere, my co-worker, Nancy and I decided we were going to talk to Bob Fosse. We were encouraged to mingle, to act as hostesses, so it was not like we were just some FANS--NO, we were working. It was part of the job.
There he was in the lobby, by one of those big, cylindrical ashtrays, with the sand in it, that we had to ever so carefully sweep the butts out of. That was part of the job too. Kinda like Cinderella.
So, anyway, there was Bob, with the ubiquitous cigarette; the smoke swirling around his head, while he squinted. We approached him, and introduced ourselves, and told him how we loved his work, and were thrilled to have "Sweet Charity", at our theater. He was very kind, a bit shy, and somewhat skittish. He shook our hands, and his was a little clammy.
After the premiere, Nancy and I wrote him a letter, and told him how great it was to meet him, and how nice he was. I don't know where we got an address, but back then, I guess it was easier.
Well, we were so astonished when a letter to us arrived at the theater! It was poorly typed, with strike outs, and no proper letter format. It was just a few sentences, but he was very gracious, and said he enjoyed talking with us, and said he was a bit nervous that night. Wow! Really. You're that good, and you still get nervous. I never thought of that before. I think I still have the letter somewhere.
Flash forward, years later, I am on an audition at Paramount. Some Tony Marshall thing. You know, "Happy Days" guy. Father to Penny Marshall, Garry Marshall, and Ronny Hallin. So I go in to read for Tony Marshall. A sitcom. Heightened reality. A lot of energy. Comic timing. Ok, I was in The Groundlings, I think I had the tools to do the job. So, I've got the script, and I'm reading, being all perky, and selling it, and he stops me and says, "Don't act." I was dumbstruck. Um, ok, be more real he means. Lines like, "But Dad, it's the 70's!" I gave it my best shot, and didn't really feel I was connecting with the material. I left feeling a little dejected, and like I did a bad job. So hanging my head walking across the lot, I passed by a row of townhouses, like a little village, and on one of the doors, the nameplate said, "Bob Fosse". Oh, wow. Bob Fosse. Remembering meeting him. I walked in the door, and spoke to the receptionist, and told her I had met him before, and she said, "Just a minute", and she went in his office and came out and showed me in!
He greeted me warmly, and invited me to sit down, and we chatted a bit. I had my portfolio with me, and I asked if he would like to see it. He looked through all my photos. There were some rather avant garde photos included with Joey Arias. We were very much inspired by Dali, and Bob Fosse, in our poses. I thought he would dig it. He said, "These are strange". I thought it strange of him to say that. He asked me if I would like to read for him. Really exciting. I cannot remember what the project was, but he handed me a script, I read it over, and then we cold read the scene together. Yes. Then he said to me, "You did that very well." Cloud 9! I floated out of there. I decided to believe Bob Fosse.
Later, I thought about what a strange experience it had been to feel so awful about one audition, and only minutes later, feel so elated about another one! Hollywood.