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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Brief Encounter

Mark Evanier has an excellent blog ( dealing mostly with show business and animation art. (He's the writer for Garfield . . . is voice coach for many voice over actors in Hollywood). I enjoy his writing a great deal. Here's just one example:

Brief Encounter

I had a sad moment a week or two ago walking in Beverly Hills. I passed an actress I once worked with on a TV show. It was back in the eighties and I don't recall her working much since then.

She was just under 40 then and could have passed for 25. Stunning woman...and I recall her always looking very healthy. She wasn't my type but I could sure admire the view. If she had been my type, we still wouldn't have ever gotten close as she had a long line of suitors. It included movie stars, top athletes and, for a long time, a man who ran one of the biggest movie studios.

One time he came to the set to visit her while we were taping. At the lunch break, they snuck off to her dressing room for a little sexual activity...and what she forgot is that she still had on her wireless microphone and the engineers in the sound booth could hear every bit of it. The director came by, realized what they were listening to and made them turn the mike off...after he'd heard a minute or two. Those who'd heard it were the envy of every man who worked on the show...because every one of us thought she was beautiful. Even one unabashedly gay guy on the staff admitted to having fantasized about her on occasion. That's how lovely she was.

But that was then, this is now. On Canon Drive last week, I passed a woman and thought, "Hey, that lady looks a little like..." Then I realized it wasn't a look-alike. It was her, a quarter-century later. The twenty-five years had not been kind to her but she'd apparently pitched in and help them ravage her appearance.

I'm not sure if it was Botox or surgery or just what it was but she'd had something done — and whatever it was, she should have sued the folks that did it. Her face was puffy, like bees had stung it, but also lopsided and phony. She looked just the opposite of healthy.

We looked at each other but I didn't say hello. I'm not sure she would have remembered my name and we didn't even have much to say to each other on that show we worked on. Later though, trying to get the visual out of my mind, I had a sudden thought. That expression as she briefly looked my could well have said, "I know that person from somewhere." I'd sure hate to think she thought I was thinking, "Boy, she looks hideous now. I'd better not talk to her because I won't know what to say." But that's pretty much what I was thinking.

I was also thinking about the downside of making your living and having your fame and fortune based on your appearance, as she basically had. It doesn't last. Most eye candy spoils with age. Maybe I'm assuming too much here but it's easy to imagine what happened. At some point, men stopped staring the same way they once had and producers stopped calling. A diminishing number of fans were requesting autographed photos...and the ones she did sign were of a person she no longer was. To try and salvage some of her old attention, she went to a doctor she should not have visited and/or had a procedure or two she should not have had.

And now her career is really over.

There's no joke here and no philosophical punchline beyond the obvious. You see a lot of people these days who've done stuff they shouldn't do. I had a friend — an older comedy writer, but not that old. He was working steadily but he kept reading these articles about ageism in our business; how there are no jobs once you're gray or involuntarily bald. That's true to a great extent...though I think a greater disadvantage for some is when you come across as a guy who's still writing for Milton Berle.

Anyway, this writer was working. Producers did want to hire him but he kept reading those articles and becoming panicky that if he didn't want the current gig to be his last, he had to convince everyone he was younger than he really was. So he went in and had a face lift and he died on the operating table. He was 59 years old, which I can't help but note is how old I am now.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to look younger and healthier and there are certainly things doctor-type people can do that are helpful and not risky. There are also the ones that are risky and it's a shame when society or the business or one's own insecurities drives one to take those risks. Whatever that actress I saw in Beverly Hills did, I'll bet she'd look better if she hadn't had it done. She might even have a shot at working again and having people say, "Hey, she looks pretty good for her age."

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