Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Memory in Third Person

There was nothing more intimidating than the corporate offices of ABC Network at Century City in the late 70's.  I was there for final network approval to play Chuck and Bob on a new ABC sitcom called "SOAP". It all boiled down to this final audition. I had passed all the other audition tests but this was the final network test, the only one that mattered.
When I checked in at the ABC receptionist desk a striking woman, beautiful but emotionless, checked off my name and told me to have a seat on the couch.  The lobby entrance to the network office was three stories high.  I looked up at the endless ceiling as I sank to the bottom of a leather couch. The soft cushions engulfed me. I sat eye level with the arm rest. At that moment I could neither feel smaller nor more insignificant.
The producers arrived and were whisk into an office without even acknowledging I was on the couch. Then the director arrived and finally the SOAP Casting agents arrived.  All were escorted to the office. My heart was racing with fear/excitement. It seemed I spent hours alone on that couch until the two casting ladies came and talked to me.
They explained the delay was due to the fact that Pam Dixon, the head of ABC casting was late.   As soon as she arrived we would begin, but no one knew where she was.  They noticed my nerves were on edge so they attempted small talk for awhile but eventually there was only the silence of anticipation.
After a while one of the casting people said, "Let me go see if they know anything yet," and walked to the office where everyone was waiting.  She was gone for awhile and returned with an up date of information.
"Well, they found Pam... she is stuck in the elevator between the 16 and 17th floor of this building.  They are trying to get the elevator fixed. They don't know how long it will take."
"Geez," said the other casting person, "Pam hates confined spaces. She must be going crazy in there.  Will she still feel like doing this reading when they get her out?"
"Don't know.  If they can get her out in the next 30 minutes they will still do the reading."
Again there was silence between the three of us. It must have been no more than 30 minutes but it seemed like days to me.
Finally Pam's secretary came out to us.  She said, "They almost have Pam out of the elevator and she still wants to finish this reading today.  Is that good with everyone?"  We all nodded.
One of the casting people said, "How is she doing?"
The answer, "Don't know but I am sure she is frazzled. She has a phobia for that sort of thing." And with that the secretary walked away.
Both casting directors looked at me and one said,
"Wow, you better be really funny." And with that they went back to the office. What little confidence I had left was gone.
It was finally time for me to "do my thing".  
All my fears were gone when I saw Pam Dixon was laughing and happy as I walked into the room. She had seen my act at a night club in town and knew my work. A tremendous weight lifted off my consciousness. She asked me to do a specific bit she liked, I didn't have to read the script and I got the job.
But wait for it, here is the real story.
Months later I found out why Pam was in such a good mood after the terrifying elevator experience. It seems she was stuck  for an hour and a half inside that elevator with a comedian who kept her laughing the entire time. I wanted to thank that guy, he saved my audition and didn't even know it, but no one was sure who he was.  After years of sharing this story with ABC executives I learned the young comic's name. It now makes total sense how he would have been able to riff on a terrifying real life situation and calm down even the most anxious elevator passenger. He was a comic/actor coming to ABC for an pilot meeting on a show called Mork and Mindy. A year later everyone knew the name Robin Williams.
I never got to thank him personally. It is now, humanly,  too late, but I suspect he is now aware of my gratitude. 
As you were,
Jay 


6 comments:

malicedoom said...

Great story.

Thank you for sharing this.

--Frank

swarlock said...

Wonderful story, Jay.

William Smith said...

Cool...thanks Jay!

John Hardman said...

Damn, Jay....I just love that story !

Kenny Croes said...

great story,jay. wow.

Dawn DuBois6 said...

That is just heartwarming.