The Audition Workshop Salesman, The Church of Scientology and My Life of Crime

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Chris called me and told me the good news the first week of July. He got a job working for a special effects house in Los Angeles. He was basically going to be a PA, but it was something; I was happy for him.  I thought the new job would put him in a better mood.  He told me they were working on the effect of having Cinderella come out of her dress and going back into rags for some video. He said it could lead to a permanent job

In the meantime, I got some good news of my own, petition circulating was starting up again and there was an audience job on Saturday night.  I would be able to eat regular meals again. When I told this to Chris he was unimpressed.

“If you didn’t live in San Pedro you would get audience jobs every day and the petitions don’t pay anything, “, he said angrily. You should look on Craigslist under labor if you want a job in the industry.

“Who said I want a job in the industry? I don’t even like the industry”.

“Well you could get something better than what you have right now if you didn’t live in San Pedro.

We spoke several times on the phone over the next few days. Once again, he got more arrogant with every phone call. He told me that he was going to visit his friend in Big Bear that weekend and couldn’t see me at all. Eventually we just stopped calling each other.

I was scared and wondered where I would live if I lost my job. MacBeth had yet another ear infection and  was scratching himself everywhere constantly . He had to be taken to the doctor which was located in Torrance a ten mile walk from where I lived in San Pedro . The only place I could afford was a discount veterinarian that was open odd hours.

When I got there the doctor recommended that a blood panel be done to determine exactly what it was MacBeth was allergic to. Even the ear infection cost $100 to treat. I knew Macbeth would never let me put the drops in his ears when we got home.  I sprung for a cab on the way back which was $30.00.

I had no choice but to book several audience jobs after work that week I couldn’t afford a dog sitter and I didn’t trust any of my neighbors so I carpeted every inch of the tiny studio with doggie training pads and left out an enormous bowl of food and water.

One of the tricks abject poverty had forced me into was steeling free rides on public transportation. When I couldn’t afford a $5.00 day pass and $1.20 highway express bus fee,  I would often take the commuter bus from San Pedro to Long Beach which was only $1.20  with a transfer to the blue line to LA. Once in LA  I would ride the purple line for free to K town. At night  I would take the train all the way back to Long Beach for free and ride the bus home for $1.00. I never got caught doing this and I must have done it at least a hundred times. This is a common practice among poor Angelinos and the one  advantage of being in a city where the cops were unusually slow and lazy even for cops.

On Tuesday of my long week of after work audience jobs I stole  a free ride on the Red line from K town  to Universal Studios. From there I walked a good five miles to NBC  Studios in Burbank. As I was walking past the old school studios and famous restaurants that lined the street a blond man who appeared to be just a bit younger than me fell into step with me.

“Hi,” he said.

Hello, “ I replied wondering if I should be scared.

“Hey, I was just wondering are you an actress?” he asked.

(As I’ve mentioned, I resemble Tom Petty).

“No, I’m a telemarketer, I said plaintively.

“Oh, common everybody in Hollywood is an actor.”

“World’s a stage”. I replied.

“Hey, would you like to go to an audition?”

“What  for?”

‘Well, you can take these audition workshops. They like acting classes, but they’re taught by real casting directors. If they like you they put you in a part. That’s how a lot of actors get guest starring roles on TV.

“And you’re selling admission to these workshops?”

“Well, yeah I am helping out a buddy of mine who’s a casting director. I actually take the workshops and I’ve gotten several guest stars that way.”

I didn’t say anything to this. I have known several actors in Los Angeles who have taken these “workshops” which cost around $45 a pop. Almost no one ever gets a job that way. When they do get something its one line on a crap TV show. They do get something like $500 and a SAG voucher in the unlikely that this happens. But, by the time you finish auditioning and going for the call back and filming the thing you could have earned $500 at a regular job. It would be one thing if you were doing it because it was a project you believed in or something with beauty and integrity, but a one in a million chance of being on a  crime show; give me a break.

I didn’t vocalize any of this I just said no thanks. He asked me where I was off to and I told him I was working Jimmy Kimmel at NBC.

“Do they need anyone else? I may just come with you.”

“Well you had to sign up, but I’m sure they’ll be a spec line. “
(“a spec line” a line for people not booked for the show. If someone who is booked doesn’t show up or shows up one minute late a spec takes there place.)

He decided against coming with me.

“You’ve got to be an actor with those eyes.” He said handing me a business card and heading into Big Boy’s when he noticed Drew Carry sitting at the counter.

The casting call of Jimmy Kimmel had called for 18 to 30 year olds. I was a bit nervous I would be turned away at the door. As I was admitted into the theater I thank the universe for having a baby face. All the pretty people had to stand around the stage and act like they like the bubble gum band that was playing that night. We goofy looking people all got to sit in the back. I chatted with the man sitting next to me .who was in Los Angeles pursuing a career as a professional skateboarder:only in Cali.

After the show I returned to San Pedro on the bus. I ran into my friend Alex who had long been my bus buddy. Alex was a barista at a Starbuck’s in Santa Monica and made the three hour bus journey from San Pedro every day. He was an aspiring musician who had attended Hollywood High. Half of his classmates were the sons and daughters of film crew people, gaffers casting directors and the like. Many of them had been raised in the Church of Scientology.

Alex was constantly trying to scare me with stories of their strange and violent customs. He told me that all of their children were illiterate and got punished if they questioned anything. He told me that if you were bad they locked you in a closet without food or water.

I looked forward to our bus rides together, I had a little crush  on Alex in spite of the fact that I was ten years his senior. It was rare to meet someone in LA who hated Scientology and was willing to admit it. Unfortunately, he lived with his girlfriend who was the daughter of a rich Beverly Hills doctor; one a year the family took Alex with them on a fabulous vacation.

Scientology is a major influence in Hollywood and even though most people in Los Angeles don’t actually believe in it they are afraid to say anything bad about it. A lot of people join the church to get a head in show business; they even offer acting classes to young minions.

Some people join out of desperation. An old Nielsen buddy of mine was going to join to get a free SRO  room. The church owns several buildings in Hollywood and it is rumored that one can get a free room if one is willing to stand on the street and recruit people.

My Nielsen friend went to the church one day to take a free personality test. They asked him for his driver’s license and social security number.  He said he left them in the car and ran out the door. Apparently he was so freaked out by the questions that the prospect of a free room no longer seemed so enticing. The first time I ever visited LA I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard alone when an overzealous minion seized my arm and asked me if I was happy.

The reaction to Scientology is a microcosmic example of morality in LA. Everyone knows how evil they are, everyone, except the truly crazy knows how idiotic Dianetics is; but no one speaks out of fear. Many actors and writers are afraid of ending up on a mythological blacklist if they should ever say anything bad about anyone let alone anyone as vengeful as the Scientologist. Artist in LA are in fact hesitant to say anything bad about any corporation, religion political group or blatant scam for fear of “the black list They become so determined to be sycophant to anyone in power that they lose sight of why they wanted to be an artist in the first place. It is the job of the artist to rebel against everything.

Petition circulating began again with a dull auto insurance issue and a sexy petition for legalizing pot. I headed to West Hollywood to circulate them. I never had one single person who actually stopped to talk to me refuse to sign and yet it didn’t get passed into law, h’mmm .

I had a little windfall. Several petitions made their way on to my clip board  and I circulated them on the weekends; I never had to do audience work again. I participated in several market research groups and  was in another psychological study at UCLA.

I was glad of this as things were going south at Janitors Inc . It has been about a week since I set  an appointment. I was completely burnt out on the commute and the job itself, I couldn’t believe I had been doing it for nine months.

Mary Jo and Joe got crazier and crazier as time went by she seemed to think I wasn’t trying even though she could hear me calling places giving the same old pitch I’d always given. If she gave me a lead she would ask repeatedly if I had called it. Joe would come in and stand over me while I worked as if that would help. They hired a new girl named Liz and I knew my days were numbered.

I continued to send out at least ten resumes a day. One day I got a call from a company in Torrance that sold vitamins. After a brief telephone interview I went in for an in person interview. I talked to a woman named Julie who was definitely a member of the homely girl sisterhood of which I consider myself a member and A woman named  Tina who I instantly nicknamed Dr. Hibbered in my mind because she chucked after everything she said.

One week later I was on my way to the petition office when I got a phone call offering me an eight to five job at the vitamin company that paid $15 an hour. I felt as though I’d won the lottery, but I was about to enter the land of magic beans.

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