SHOW BIZ FOLKS--A-B-C-D LIST performers who write and want to be considered for a new anthology on the subject of distasteful, repugnant, offensive, or pleasurable, legal or illegal, bizarre or wacky wastes of time that you've endured to stay in the game of making it in showbiz. I want to hear it all.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Juggling Mother of Invention

WHO AM I ANYWAY AM I MY RESUME????? I almost cried when I heard that song sung in the film version of A Chorus Line is a 1985.
That year I was thick in the struggle of trying to make it in show biz.  I had been writing and performing on the fringe of San Francisco and LA for two decades. I was a single mother of a teenage daughter and had had more day jobs then runs in my pantyhose, that is if I had worn hose at all.  I made a point to stay clear of the corporate world since those jobs would require commitment and I was the consummate temporary gal and too creative for my own damn good. Keeping my calendar clear for auditions has always been my excuse for not taking full time permanent jobs.

As a crafty kid who had not yet learned how to knit and sew, my mother caught me plucking all the balls out of my beautiful floral patterned chenille 50s style bedspread. She begged my older cousin Loretta to teach me how to knit as an alternative to curtail my compulsive behaviors.  Years later, I became known as the Knitter to the Stars when I turned a hobby of hand knitting into a business by accident. I’d knit like a fiend in acting class while my fellow acting students did their Miesner exercises.  When the actresses/models who were getting all the big bucks in Hollywood noticed what I was making, the next thing I knew I was in business.

Without a business plan or investors, within a year my hobby went from selling the occasional sweater to having a sales rep in NY and one downtown LA with a full knit line at each showroom made by my very own two hands. This endeavor led to accounts at Sacks 5th Ave., Bergdorf Goodman’s and Bendels in N.Y. along with wearable art galleries from So Ho to Brentwood and boutiques from Madison Ave to Beverly Hills and Vegas. I paid a Mexican man to work on the hand cranked, knitting machine I owned in my dining room while I did all the hand pieces, finishing, and shipping in my living room or bedroom. Yarn was strung from one end of my two bedroom apartment to the next and my daughter would come home after school and find angora fuzz balls in her peanut and jelly cracker snacks. 

I bankrolled this business with the first commercial I ever booked and used every bit of my residual income to make more sweaters.  I was working 24/7 but still never had any money.  To keep my daughter entertained I even took my needles into the movies on weekends and knit in the dark but I didn’t care because I was free to go to auditions if I ever got any. Besides knitting for a living wasn’t so bad, since I could do it on the couch with the TV on, lying on my ass, and with my eyes closed if I needed a nap.

By the late 80’s I was a burnt out knit junkie and created still another business without a business plan called, Tell Mama, a personal assistant agency.  My idea was to provide temporary personal assistants to Hollywood’s A-listers or anyone who could afford a part time temp assistance.  As a cute rubinesque Mama, holding her arms out with her apron strings undone, my logo welcomed requests for virtually almost anything.  Under this caricature of me on the flier, I listed all the services that Mama would do for you from A to Z; Advice to Zipper Repair.   

I never generated enough work to put other Mamas to work and ended up doing all the assignments myself. While passing my fliers among a group of successful friends at the Rose Cafe in Venice one day, a series writer for a popular network show saw my adorable marketing tool.  He turned to me and said, “It’d be a lot easier to write the sitcom.”
To which I replied “Don’t you dare,” and ran home and wrote the outline and treatment for the TV series Tell Mama and registered it with the Writer’s Guild before he could. 
That was always my dilemma the SHOW BIZ dream always came before making a living.  Due to this I've performed for the last three decades like the plate juggler on the Ed Sullivan Show of the late 60’s.  For those too young to know this reference, he was a juggler who kept dozens of plates or bowls spinning in the air on the tops of long sticks.  That was me, the juggling mother of invention wearing more hats than the women in a Baptist congregation on Easter Sunday.
I've toiled under the Tell Mama, umbrella, performing acts of cooking, catering, running personal errands and or waiting for the cable guy. I continued to knit for the stars, when they wanted me, and during that period became Dean Martin’s part time maid for two years.  All done in the hopes that one day I would sit on the couch next to Johnny Carson promoting my new sitcom and tell funny stories about all the jobs I had had until I made it in Hollywood. Well Johnnie retired in 1992 and I’m still knitting and juggling and planning for my appearance on Letterman.

Like Frank Sinatra sang in, That’s Life: "I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king. I've been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing: Each time I find myself, flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race."

Tell Mama what you have done to stay in Show Business; anything, legal or otherwise, I want to know.