My greatest asset is that I am constantly changing.
It’s five twenty-eight a.m. when I exit through the double glass doors of my apartment building. The cold January air stings my face as I descend the front stairs, but I take my time in the hopes I’ll run into one of my neighbors, perhaps an early morning dog walker, so I can wave at them before slipping into the back seat of the black sedan. But it’s so dang early no-one’s around. This is the first time Another World has sent a car to bring me to the studio. Usually, I take the D train on these ungodly early mornings way out to the far reaches of Brooklyn and barring any unforeseen subway glitches I’ll be there in ninety minutes if I’m lucky. I relax into the backseat, close my eyes, and breathe a sigh of relief. Fifty minutes later I’m at the studio.
I drop my bag in my dressing room and head over to hair and make-up. Sitting in the make-up chair still a little bleary-eyed deep in thought, I gaze at my blurry reflection in the mirror. My once long brown hair is now short and red. I was so devastated when my husband left that out of defiance I cut all my hair off and dyed it red. Marcia Clark, the head prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson murder case recently, out of desperation I presume and due to all the negative press surrounding her looks, permed her hair. I once permed my hair—it was a disaster and I don’t care for it on Marcia either. It takes away from her authority, giving her a somewhat comedic appearance.
My character on Another World, Alyse Brenner, is a prosecuting attorney like Marcia, only I’m working on a child custody case. I’m modeling my character after Marcia and tell myself I’m watching the trial for research, but the truth is, I’m fascinated by the trial and mesmerized by this remarkable tenacious take-no-prisoners woman. Marcia’s been in the DA’s office for thirteen years, and this is her twenty-first murder trial. There she is swimming in a sea of sharks dressed in fancy suits with smug attitudes strutting around the courtroom like they’re God’s gift and she doesn’t put up with any of their BS.
Turns out Marcia and I are kindred spirits. When she was young she lived in New York City and was an aspiring actress. She’s now 40-years old, like me, and currently going through a nasty divorce, also like me. And on top of the huge pressure from this high profile murder trial, she has two small children at home she’s responsible for. I, on the other hand, am just trying to pay my rent. I can’t imagine what she’s going through, but my thoughts are interrupted when the make-up artist hands me a business card and in hushed tones explains confidentially,
“This doctor’s done everybody’s eyes on the show. He even did Goldie Hawn’s eyes. Go see him.”
I take the card, head back to my dressing room, and stash it in my wallet. Once dressed in my navy blue suit and peach blouse I head to set for another day of defending my clients’ right to keep custody of their adopted daughter. At one point out of frustration, my client jumps up and yells at the Judge. I jump up to reassure him, “Let me handle this Charles.” Then trying to smooth things over I say, “My client is under a tremendous strain, Your Honor. I’m sure you’ve not forgotten that Mr. Riviera (the child’s birth father) kidnapped Luisa (the child in question) and lied about it to the court-appointed social worker.” But it seems, like Marcia, no matter what I say or do the case isn’t going well for me or my clients.
After my scene’s done I stop by the production office to say hello and pick up my next script. The perky blond production assistant tells me, “Hey, the producers like you a lot. They want to expand your part.” “Really? That’s fantastic.” I say, overjoyed at my good fortune.
Let’s face it I’ve been knocking around as an actor in New York City for twelve years. For the last ten I’ve done tons of extra, under-fives, and day player parts on the soaps, and now at long last, I have a recurring principal part on Another World.
Gazing at my reflection in the bathroom mirror I figure maybe I do need an eye job–I might as well go see the doctor. During our consultation, I watch as he opens the top right drawer of his large oak desk, pulls out his sketchpad, and begins drawing my eyes. “You know,” he says. “Your eyes are your most distinctive feature. You have Betty Davis eyes,” he chuckles. We chat for about an hour, and he tells me, “You don’t have normal eyes so if any doctor says you can have a regular eye job, you should run for the hills. But don’t worry. I’ll do a great job and have you back on camera in three days, and no one will be the wiser.” “Great,” I say, but secretly I’m terrified.
And it’s odd, but I haven’t heard from Another World to book my next day of work. However, every day without fail I watch the O.J. Simpson trial on Court TV for pointers on my character, of course. One afternoon at 2 p.m. I switch from Court TV over to NBC so I can see what’s going on over at Another World, but instead of finding Bay City, the fictional town where Another World takes place, I discover the O.J. Simpson trial. I immediately switch to ABC and there it is again. Quickly I change to CBS and to my shock and dismay all three channels are carrying the trial.
Seems I’m not the only person riveted to Court TV. Turns out ninety-one percent of the viewing audience is glued to the tube watching the trial of the century. And because of ratings, all three major networks turned their daytime schedule over to the O.J. trial. “Don’t panic,” I tell myself “This can’t go on forever.”
“Damn it,” I scream at the TV. “I finally get a part and it’s preempted by O.J. Simpson! O.J. do you have to take up all the airtime? You’ve had four successful careers: football star, sportscaster, Hertz Rent A Car guy, bad movie actor, and now accused murderer. Okay, dude, your days are numbered. My phone not ringing, I’m unemployed so I’ve got lots of time and I’m going to win this case and put your sorry ass behind bars where you belong.”
Suddenly, Marcia Clark appears in the courtroom wearing a red suit with a really short skirt. “Marcia, What are you doing? You don’t wear red on camera. And that skirt’s ridiculous. And that friggin’ permed hair makes you look by a clown. You need a makeover. I was supposed to have a makeover. An eye job. But all that disappeared because of this stupid trial. So step aside Marcia. There’s a new Sheriff in town. I’m gonna put on my classic navy blue suit, which is what you should be wearing, and win this trial.”
Day after day, month after month, along with the rest of America, I watch and analyze the witnesses and evidence, and become one with the proceedings.
“Marcia, that guy’s an airhead…Brian ‘Kato’ Katlin..whatever his name is…surfer/actor/permanent house guest, dude. Marcia, are you kidding me? Get him off the stand…and stop flirting with Chris Darden? Just stop it. You’re on national TV.”
“Wait…what’s O.J. doing? Are you kidding me! Are you kidding me, Marcia? Why is he trying on the glove? Why did you allow that? Jesus, he’s got his fingers splayed. No one puts on a glove like that. ‘It’s too tight. It’s too tight. They don’t fit.’ Of course, it doesn’t fit. It shrank. Marcia, you need to tell them. Come on. You need to say, “It’s been bled on, and wet, and frozen and unfrozen…leather shrinks, and nothing goes over latex.”
“If it doesn’t fit. You must acquit.” “Shut up, Johnny!” I holler at the TV.
“And this LAPD dude, this Mark Fuhrman guy who discovered the bloody glove. He’s a racist, Marcia. They have him on tape. Why didn’t you vet him? I’m mean, what the hell’s going on over there?”
DNA evidence? That’s your rebuttal? Big yawn, Marcia. Nobody knows what DNA evidence is. And your expert witness, Fung, Fong—whatever his name is. Could he be any more boring? The jury’s asleep, Marcia. A-sleep. The trial’s over. You lost. It doesn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t matter that they found O.J.s blood on the back gate and Nicole and Ron’s blood in his white Bronco, leading up the path to his house, and on his socks. Nobody gives a shit, Marcia. It’s too late. The race card’s been played. That trial’s over, baby. Payback for Rodney King. And with that, I turn off the trial of the century and refuse to watch. And that trial goes on for almost nine months.
Marcia lost, but I don’t feel too bad for her. She did get a 4.5 million dollar book deal to tell your side of the story. And during this entire trial—this entire almost nine months I never heard one peep from Another World. And my little non-contract reoccurring prosecuting attorney principal part I loved and needed so badly simply disappeared back into the immortal ooze from which it came.
Sitting on my antique Victorian cinnamon velvet couch I bought for twenty-five dollars back in 1974 I feel panic start to set in. It rises up and grabs me, “How ya gonna pay your rent? Huh? You’re gonna be homeless. Living in a cardboard box on the streets of Manhattan. That’s where you’re gonna be. You’re alone. Over forty. Unemployed. Your life is over.”
Biting my nails my mind spins, “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Who asked you? Go back to hell where you belong.” Oh God, maybe my ex was right, I should have been an accountant. The panic turns into fear and the fear turns into heat. And the heat travels like a blow torch up my spine and explodes out the top of my head.
And then it hits me. Of course, why didn’t I think of that? I head over to my desk that overlooks the Museum of Natural History where the blue sky, trees, green grass, and daffodils comfort me. Pull out the special envelop from Citibank which houses the magical predatory checks and, for the second month in a row, write a check to my landlord to pay my rent. I place the check into the envelope, address it, and breathe a sigh of relief.
Next, I take out my postcards and begin writing, “Dear So and So, I’ve completed my recurring part on Another World so I’m available for work. Please keep me in mind. Thanks so much, Jill.” Then I head into my kitchen, pull out the Bon Ami, and begin to clean because for some strange reason every time I scrub my kitchen I book a job.