Go ahead, Give it to me…

Before I got mind-wanderingly sick, I made those appointments to go in and see commercial agents and, despite the fact that when THursday rolled around I wasn’t really feeling that much better, I went in to the city yesterday and held the meetings.

First was Tracy at Abrams. I was immediately blown away by the fact that meeting with agents in New York is entirely different from meeting with agents in LA, although it would take me most of the day to figure out how different. Abrams Artists has one floor on a building in Chelsea, and it is populated with men and women, young and old, of different ethnicities and, frankly, weights. In Los Angeles, you become an agent when you have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are completely free of acting talent and that you are great to have at a party. In this building, it looked like a professional organization.

Tracy brough me in to her office and I was knocked out by the view. 30 floors up facing New Jersey, I could damn near see my old house in Morristown.

She loved my headshots and then talked to me for a while about my life as an actor. She asked me where I am from, and what some of my skills are, what shows I had done, etc. I pulled out every fucking name I could think of. I was dropping names like I was wearing mittens. It was wierd that none of that meant anything to her, she knew some of the names, didn’t know others, didn’t give a shit.

She asked me how I knew Debbie Brown, and I said we had been friends for years but that I wasn’t sure how we met. No, I had never read for her, I have to guess she saw me in something years ago. It’s the only thing close to a lie I told the whole time, and I’m sure when she checks she’ll catch me on it. Truth is, Debbie is my friend Steve’s cousin, and she just likes me as a dude.

I was too sick to wonder if it was going badly, but I have to guess it wasn’t going great now that I look back on it. My resume looked like I had spent very little time in front of a camera, which is true, and although I am SAG, it was obvious that I had a group of people supporting me in theory and none of them (except for Jace) had come through in practice. Every name I dropped made it sound like I was cool, but since none of those names were on my resume, it also made me sound like I wasn’t a good actor.

She asked me why I had waited until I was in my mid-thirties to push for a career as an actor. I said that in my mid-twenties I was making a go of it in LA and I was married to a minor Soap actress and when our marriage fell apart, I spent a few years drinking, I moved to New York, I watched the towers fall and I licked my wounds. I mean, I said it better than that, but that’s the sum total. And then I said, “after the election last Tuesday, I realized that I had to make a difference in my life.”

She hooked right up with that. The election has been a disaster for New York intellectuals, actually intellectuals anywhere. Anyone who can think clearly has been crushed by the staggering stupidity of an electorate who votes against their own self interests. Tracy is Jewish, and I let it be known immediately that half my family is, and we talked for some time about the few Jews we know who voted in line with southern anti-semites, voted in favor of an escalating sense of desparation in the Middle East, and voted that way because they thought they were helping Israel.

We had found common ground. She asked me about acting.

I’ve written about it here before, I don’t know if I was quite as rhapsodic, but you probably know what I said. We were in there for an hour and a half, talking about the practice, the art, the patience, the beauty. You know what I said, read other entries from this blog, it’s practically all I talk about.

I told her I had been cast in an Adam LeFevre play several years ago (technically true), and she told me about how he got the Best Buy gig. Apparently, it was to go to another actor, but this other actor was an LA type who threw a fit about stuff, and they immediately replaced him with this New York playwright. It’s no wonder you see Larry Pine hocking stuff, it’s huge money and people outside of New York don’t recognize him.

I said, “I’ve done two shows at the Access Theater on Broadway, three blocks south of Canal. It’s four flights up, four long long flights of stairs up, and I went up and down those stairs in the middle of the summer four or five times a day for weeks. Then I did it the next summer. When I got my residual check from Law And Order, I was stunned. I’m used to working my ass off for car-fare.”

All of that should be familiar to anyone reading this blog. She said she would start submitting me tomorrow, she made an appointment for the “on-camera guys”, and she agreed to put a cover letter from another agent at the agency if I found anything in the breakdowns that I thought I’d be good for. She said, “guys are like Gold around here, especially a guy your age with your look. You have a little weight on you, which is fantastic, and your height and your look and your talent… it’s all good.” I could lose a little weight… “I would be *really* careful about losing any weight,” she said.

I’m not in L.A. any more.

I told her that I had a meeting at Paradigm, and she said, “that would probably be with Doug, right?” Um, yeah. “Doug is the best, send him my love.”

Oh. Okay.

I mean, she does know that he’s another commercial agent, right? I was totally confused. In LA, agents didn’t want you, didn’t want you, didn’t want you and then *BANG* they want you to sign an exclussive agreement with them. I actually *signed* with each of the agents I had in LA, which is amazing since none of them got me anything.

I actually stood there for a while and then said, “so, should I, um, I’ve got…” and she said, “I set you up with the on-camera people, right?” and I sorta nodded and she said, “so, we’ll start sending you out soon!” and shook my hand.

I left and called, y’know, everyone I could think of. Tessa called me back. She said it sounded like they were “freelancing” me, where they were gonna try to get you work but other agents could try the same thing. She was concerned that I was careful signing with too many people, because I could get double submitted. Neither of us know what the “on-camera” people are, but I figure I’ll find out at my appointment, which is in the middle of December.

I had a little lunch with Jordana. She said, “you have a special look that you reserve for Rice Krispy Treats.” My guess is that it’s the same look she gets from me when she’s changing after a shower, but maybe there is an extra special way my face sets when I see a Rice Krispy Treat. I like them a lot.

I met with Doug at Paradigm, and, although it took us a little while of staring at each other, we eventually really hit it off. I told him I met with Tracy and he gave me a big smile. These people are obviously really fond of each other. He took my headshot and resume and asked me if there was anything on there I wanted to brag about. “Actually, making the call and meeting with agents is about the most impressive thing I’ve done lately” I told him. He laughed.

He had heard of Suicide/Joke. Go figure. I told him that I hadn’t asked anyone to come because early in the rehearsal process, I wasn’t sure if it was gonna be anything. “I knew it was gonna bea vehicle for me, but I didn’t want everyone to sit through the rest of the show.” He said, “Any chance you can get people to see you in something, you really should,” and I said, “Yeah, but there’s always another show. The show I’m doing now is never gonna be, y’know, the *last show ever*, so I figure I should let people know only when it’s gonna be great.”

This blew him away. He said he would start sending me out. Tomorrow.

I was like, “I’m embarassed about this, but I have no idea how this works.” Here’s what he told me.

There are about 10 or 12 really good commerical agents in New York. I now have two of them. In a perfect world, I would have all of them working for me. For a coupla years, or at least until I really started firing with one of them. At that point, maybe I will decide to stick it out with just one, but until then, it’s good for the agency to have me on their rolls because, frankly, they want to be associated with good actors who have a good work ethic.

Doug said he would work with Tracy to get me work, and that it’s good for either of them for me to be getting commercials. He said it was capricious as hell. “Twelve people will be making the decision, and if you are everyone’s third choice, you’ll probably get it.” He and Tracy would both submit me, without any problem from one another. Fucking awesome.

And then he, like Tracy before him, warned me not to lose weight.

What did I do right? Well, I took Jace’s advice and figured they were either going to like me for me, or they wouldn’t. I was totally myself, in fact I wasn’t even me at my most charming, I was just the boring incredibly sick, on cold medicine me. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to an age where “me” is pretty well set and I’m okay with “me”.

I spent years trying to be cool and sexy, years spent wondering if I could compete with the cool dumb guys I was hanging out with. All those years I spent doing my hair, and I spent a lot of time doing it. Even when I grew my hair long and didn’t wash it, that was my own private rebelion against the world. My life, for years was like the Dada poems on light poles in France. The Dadaists thought they were undoing poetry, that the citizenry would be up in arms. The French just ignored it.

Doug, the last agent, said that he thought it was important for actors to take a month here and there, to do some artistic work. Take a show in Cleveland, tour with a one-person show, do something artistically satisfying. I said, “I’ve been an actor for fifteen years and I’ve never gotten a job through an agent. I’ve been doing downtown theater for four years, and I’ve been brilliant in front of twelve like minded downtown artists. If I need to make art in the future, I’ll be able to, and I’ll let you know. For now, I want to make some goddam money.”