On to Becoming a Special Event Producer
I decided to write about my Hollywood Years to explain the history that set me on my path to becoming a special event producer, starting in the early 1970s and continuing to this day.
When I was a kid I always loved movies and was fascinated by the people who produced them. I wanted to be an actor. If I couldn’t, I wanted to be one of the people who produced them. But my first love was being an actor. My love acting started when I was in High School, and due to having an accident I got a trick knee, so playing football was not going to happen. So I opted to pursue what I wanted to do and that was to be a performer. So I joined the Drama Club and was lucky enough to play the lead in almost all of the shows we produced in high school.
I had been nominated to receive the superlative as the most talented student but didn’t win because the school’s head of curriculum refused to support me in achieving the honor. I have to say that was the best thing that could have happened to me, as it made me understand I needed to adopt a better understanding of how I was influencing others. That said, I have to say that I had great teachers, one of which even paid out of her pocket to send me to acting school in Miami, which gave me the confidence to continue and a deep respect and appreciation to her for helping me to attempt to realize my dream of becoming an actor. I was hoping to be able to go on to college but I scored so low on my SAT that no college would accept me as a student.
I Joined the Air Force
Since I couldn’t get into any college I joined the Airforce (as many of my family members thought it would be a good idea for my future) and ended up in Orlando Florida as a Medic. Long story about how I ended up as a Medic. When you volunteer to join the service they allow you to specify what job classification you would like to perform while in the service. I signed up wanting to be Ariel Photographer and ended up as an X-Ray Technician (well the Airforce told me that they complied with my request as I was getting to take pictures. They trained me to be a medic in North Carolina and then sent me to McCoy Airforce base and gave me a job in Medical Supply.
When I complained, they informed me that when I enlisted I signed an agreement that did not guarantee me a position in the requested job classification I signed on for. So they wasted a lot of time and money training me to be a Medic and an X-Ray Technician. Ultimately, it was a godsend, as my job provided me with an incredible amount of free time, basically, it was a 9 to 5 job for 5 days a week. The reason I loved the job was it gave me time to continue my goal of becoming an actor. I started auditioning for parts at the Orlando Civic Theater and was very successful in getting parts. There was also another theater in Orlando called the Orange Blossom Theater, which was owned and operated by a woman named Lisa Hawley, the heir to the Samsonite Luggage Corporation.
The theater was awesome, and cost a substantial amount of money to build. It had a massive turntable as part of the stage and also seated more than 600 guests. It also had a full shop along with state of the art sound and lighting systems and two rehearsal halls and fully equipped dressing rooms.
I was lucky to be in many productions in the theater. My most memorable role was playing Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie. I was horrible in the part as I couldn’t sing a note no matter how much I rehearsed for the part. However, I did get great reviews and the audience loved the show.
I even met my first wife in a production of the Musical “Little Abner”. Based on my performances, I was approached by a scout for the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts in California who offered me an opportunity to audition for the school, which I did, and was instantly accepted to attend the school. The Playhouse, which at the time was the second most influential (Actors Studio was the # 1) actors’ training school in America. My enlistment in the Air Force was coming to an end and before it did I got married. I planned to move to California and attend the Pasadena Playhouse.
Part of my enlistment in the service entitled me to receive what was then called a stiffen of $125.00 a month for continued education. It was called a GED (Government Education Dispersant. My wife was going to get a job and with the money from the government, we would have enough money to live on while I attended school. We drove from Orlando to Los Angeles and just barely made it with the money we had. We went to Pasadena and got an apartment, which at the time cost us $100.00 a month, was fully furnished, and within walking distance of the school. It was a studio apartment and the landlady lived next door. She was very nice and made us feel very welcome, and the furnishings were first class.
Pasadena was not very welcoming to students of the playhouse and she was kind enough to wave several deposits we would have to make as students and we vowed to be excellent tenants which we were. My wife got a job and we were doing well. I started attending school and was also doing very well. The playhouse was incredible. The teaching staff was first class. The President of the College at the time was a known producer in Hollywood who was producing a sit-com called “Dennis the Menace” and the Dean was also associate producer of another Sit-Com Comedy called MASH. The instructors were, to my knowledge, some of the best in the business. I learned a great deal.
Where my Acting Classes Started
Classes began every morning at 8:00 AM, and started with acting classes. The first thing that happens in acting classes is to break you down to a point where you doubt you have any talent at all. It is brutal and a lot of the students don’t make it through the first semester, and for that matter, the first year. Each day you would be given a scene to perform and your classmates and instructor would critique your performance. Hardly anyone came out of this feeling good about their creativity and performance skills, The reason they do this is to make you see the role you are presenting outside your comfort zone. It’s about the author and capturing the essence of the role and your ability to translate it into your performance and that of the author. Another reason for this approach is to teach everyone how to deal with rejection, which would be critical for your ability to cope as your career progresses.
This criticism of your talent only goes on for the first semester as the instructors begin to encourage your approach and begin to recognize your talent and performance abilities, This becomes very clear to you as you move forward. You have to destroy your ego to start with, so you can build a new sustainable one. This is hard, and you must have a strong inner sense to come through this without understanding the process and it’s important to your future as an actor. The second has your day is role-playing. Your instructor selects scenes and partners you up with other students to perform a short play, The Pasadena Playhouse had the main theater that seated about 650 guests. It also had about 4 smaller theaters that seated about 60 guests and one larger one that seated about 75, (these capacity numbers could be incorrect as it was over 50 years ago.) In addition to acting lessons, you were also required to take ballet classes, fencing classes, phonetics, and scenic design and fabrication. In other words, we were required from time to time to work on the fabrication of sets and props for productions we would be performing in.
Classes would go on until about 5:00 PM and then you were dismissed and required to return at 7:30 PM to rehearse a play you and the cast where given to perform in one of the smaller theaters, on the weekends some students would return to work in some of the productions in the main theater. Also, the main theater was used to present celebrity speakers who would come to address the students.
I did quite well and got straight A’s in all my classes throughout the year and won the Most Talented Student at the Playhouse for my first year. And won it again for my second year. But Acting School was Once so Stressful.