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Friday, December 31, 2010

All About Marilyn: The Novel Chapter 3

I take a deep breath as the elevator doors close. My heart feels like a rock in my chest. I can’t believe what I’m doing. But there wasn’t anything else I could do. I need to work. What other job could I do besides acting?

I’d love to follow Sabrina’s advice and get out of the business. But I can’t right now. I just can’t crack open a copy of the Los Angeles Times and search through the want ads to look for some office job. What am I going to put on my resume? Actress for seventeen years? Proficient in Drama and Comedy? The whole idea of me working in an office job is like a real-life episode of All About Nikki. Except it’s not funny. Most people wouldn’t have the patience to put up with all the mistakes I’d make let alone the disruption to their business from people recognizing me. I’d last a week, two tops.

Bri wants me to go out and have some fun. Not with $515.98 in the bank. Not with bills coming at me every month. Like it or not I’m in this business. With or without an agent I’ve got to find a way to make things work for me.

The elevator opens on the lobby. I hustle through the quiet marble and brass mezzanine and twirl through the revolving door. When I reach the sidewalk, I reach into my pocket and pull out my keyless entry, start up my old faded red 1992 Mercedes convertible and get in. It’s got 185,000 miles and some scratches, but it runs great and gets me where I need to go. And where I need to go is Church. God, I need some spiritual counseling. I hope Lucy can spare a couple of minutes.

The sun beams down on the Burbank city streets as I take the twenty-minute drive cross-town to Burbank Baptist Church. I ease my car into a parking space in front of the squat gothic building with colorful stained glass windows. I get out of the car and hustle up the front stairs. As I head into the foyer, I start to relax. I always feel so peaceful when I come here. In some ways this Church is like my home away from home.

The board states Breakfast at the soup kitchen ended about ten minutes ago, so Lucy should be in her office. I make a left around the back pews and head down the hall. I turn another corner and find the slender young Mexican woman in sitting at her gnarled wooden desk dressed in jeans and a crisp white blouse. Her eyes light up as she peers up from the keyboard of the old IBM PC she’s typing on.

“Marilyn.” Lucy greets with a warm smile. “How’d it go with Sabrina?”

I hate to give her the bad news. “Sabrina is retiring.” I sigh.

Lucy’s face turns gray. She hides her sadness with a polite smile. “It’s for the best. God knows what he’s doing.”

“She says she did it for me to wake up.”

“The life of an actress is like a dream.” Lucy continues. “No matter how bad the fantasy is, sometimes it hurts more to wake up and face reality.”

“She wants me to get out of the business.” I snarl.

“Maybe it would be best.”

“Lucy, what would I do? I’m a 34-year-old woman with a high school diploma and no skills. No one is going to hire me to do anything but acting-”

“You could go to college-”

I put my head down thinking about how I blew that opportunity seventeen years ago. I had a full paid scholarship to Stanford waiting for me right after graduation. Room, board, tuition were all paid for. Me, Lucy, and my best friend Shayla were going to room together in the same dorm and hang out just like we used to do at Burbank High. All I had to do was show up in the fall. Then I got the offer to do the pilot for All About Nikki a week before graduation. My parents got stars in their eyes and all my dreams of college went out the window. They thought the show was a once in a lifetime opportunity and insisted I do it. They told me I could go to college after the show ended. How I was going to have so much money I could do whatever I wanted. Someone should have told me about all the bills an actress accrues doing business in Hollywood.

After I paid Sabrina’s ten percent commission, I had to pay my former manager’s fifteen percent commission. The other seventy percent went to Publicist fees. My former assistant’s salary. My former accountant. My former lawyer’s retainer. Taxes. Property taxes. The mortgage on my condo. The mortgage on my parent’s home. Rentals of gowns for events. Limo rentals. Airfare. Taxis. Groceries. Dry cleaning. Food for parties. Cleaning service. DJs. Clothes for parties. Hairdressers. Make-up. Dinners at four-star restaurants to network with producers. Dinners at four-star restaurants to network with directors. Tips. Gas to drive to auditions. Gas to drive to follow-up auditions. Gas to drive to final auditions. Tune-ups. Oil Changes. Healthcare. Dentist. Photographer. Headshots. Fed Ex. Postage. House Phone. Cell phone. Internet. Hotel Suites. Vacations. Car rentals. Christmas presents. Christmas cards. I’m lucky to have $515.98 in the bank.

“You know it’s too late for that Lucy-”

“Come on, you used to get all A’s when we were back in high school.” Lucy comforts. “I know you could do it.”

I have to admit I was pretty smart back in the day. Honor Roll, Dean’s list. 3.99 GPA. Even voted most likely to succeed. But it’s been years since I cracked a book open. And college costs thirty or forty thousand dollars a year these days. I doubt I can swing that with no job skills and $515.98 in the bank.

“And how would I pay for it Lucy?” I plead. “I’m not exactly making a superstar salary nowadays. I actually do work for food around here.”

Lucy snickers at the joke. “God has always made a way for you Marilyn. He’ll make a way for you to go to school if that’s what you want to do.”

“Yeah, it has been a miracle how I’ve been able to keep my bills paid these past five years. I owe you guys a couple of thousand dollars alone for all the groceries I’ve taken from the pantry over the years-”

“You don’t owe us anything. You work hard around here-”

“Still, I’d love to give guys a big donation to pay you back for helping me out-”

“You do enough. In between helping us cook in the kitchen, serving up meals and delivering groceries to the seniors, I wonder where you have time to go to auditions.”

Easy. I don’t get that many auditions. “I have my car with me today. I can deliver those groceries to the seniors-”

“No. You make it All About Marilyn for a while. Figure out how to help yourself. We’ll take care of ourselves for the time being.”

Lucy reaches behind her desk and puts two plastic grocery bags full of canned goods and cereal on top of it. I give her a look. “Lucy…”

“Hey you were going to mooch it off us anyway. This saves you a trip.”

She makes my day with the joke. “Thanks Lucy.”

As we ease out of our chairs I give her a hug. “Just remember. You don’t have to be a star to be a light.”

I remember when she first gave me that advice seventeen years ago. It was when I told her and Shay I couldn’t go to Stanford with them. It’s kept me humble throughout my acting career and most of my adult life. I wonder how I can apply those words of wisdom to this career crisis.

I smile at her as I take the groceries off the desk. As I leave the church, I check my watch. Nine thirty. I have to get to the Jim’s. I promised to meet Shay at the gym at ten. She hates it when I’m late.

1 comment:

  1. Nice Excerpt from the book! I so enjoyed your screenplay.