Tag Archives: Audrey Hepburn

Your “First”

4 May

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You will never forget them.  It’s impossible, given the hugeness of their role in your life.

…Today, mine would have turned 85.

I was four years old.

…I still remember the house address we live at, the exact layout of the living room furniture.  I remember a cardboard record sleeve, covered in pink with floral artwork spilling over it, leading to the face of a woman in a giant hat on the front, still photos on the back.  And the record itself, spinning on the turntable by the wall, Mom resetting the needle to a specific song.

“Okay…you wanna try it again?”

“Yuh.”

“Okay…here we go…”

…And the needle went down and caught on the groove, and the intro of a song I will remember…I think even if I were to one day forget my own name…started to play.

…And my eyes, would look hard at the record cover…the picture of this lady…and I’d think about how she looked when she sang this song…that green coat and flat black straw hat, dancing around the wet cobble stones, throwing lettuce leafs in the air, and pretending to be a queen…and I opened my mouth and let it burst out of me.

I was trained to be a character actor, as I trained for that talent show.  My very first time on a stage. I would be five when I performed it for real…just me and a piano, and my own little green jacket, with flat black straw hat.  But I was four when I first met The Lady, first saw the film on VHS, first pointed to the TV screen and said, “I want to be her when I grow up.”

…I didn’t know what an Actor was…nor The Lady, but she talked funny and I liked it.  So I started talking funny, back.  And Mom had noticed. Apparently I had an ear for it.  Apparently, I nailed it.  Which is how we got on a road to a talent show to begin with, which is how I got on stage for the first time, and freakishly won…which is how so much of who I am, all began.

Today The Lady would have turned 85, had she lived.  And for two decades of my life, she was the star I had set my ship to sail towards.  I mean what better role model could a young girl have?  She survived war and famine with grace, was understated, and elegant, classy and joyous,  she was gentle and kind to animals…she spent the last years of her life as an Ambassador to war-torn nations.  I spent the bulk of my adolescence obsessing over her, reading every article, buying every book, seeing every movie…and learning as much as I could about how to be a better person…on total accident.

…My intent, because of her, was to be an Actor. That was what I thought I was studying for…like I did all those years ago, with a record spinning cockney voices into the air. But I learned much more.

…I learned she WASN’T the flower girl pretending to be a queen. She was a queen…pretending to be a flower girl.

…And the more I realized that, the more I opened up to other influences…building my cannon of acting teachers and role models…first in black and white, and later in more contemporary atmospheres.

You see, I realized even at age four, I wasn’t ever going to be the pretty lady walking down the stairs in a white beaded gown on the way to a ball. I was (and am) the scrubby street urchin. It’s more fun, for one…and the joy and limitlessness to dream about the what-ifs, is endless. The pretty lady in white always seemed stuck somehow. Unhappy. Even with all the wealth she was surrounded with. And I’d rather roll in the mud with some mates raising a ruckus any day, than attend Ascot…even if I DID get to wear that hat.

…And so this lesson formed my life. Obviously.

…And The Lady, though my first and best girl, became not my only model for measurement. Eventually I would find Bette Davis, who’s swilling booze and articulate bite of dialogue seemed more a natural to me. And Ava Gardner, who could do these magical things to men by just looking at them in a certain way. And Judy Garland who would be doped up ten ways to Sunday, slurring even, then open her mouth and sob out a song that would make you forget to breathe for a while, it wretched your guts so hard. There were countless others…but all of them who caught my eye seemed to be damaged or dark or simply more complicated than The Lady, who had started it all. I don’t believe it made me love her less, just realize my own place in the artistic arena.

Hardly anyone can be as genuinely a good and beautiful person (inside and out) as Audrey Hepburn. But I’ll be thankful for the rest of my forevers, that in the years when a human is forming their sense of self and ideas of the world in general, I had the fairest lady of them all as a role model and guide. It certainly isn’t her fault I ended up falling off the wagon by way of the Tallulah Bankhead variety. The point is: I can recognize the value, I understand the need, I see the importance of a positive influence.

…What Audrey taught me was to work hard, to live simple, to be kind, to help others, to be gracious. I may not live up to these idioms all the time, but they are there in my head…and when I fall short of them, like a good ol’ Catholic guilt complex, I can still hear her voice in the back of my head, urging me to be better. And maybe that “goodness” was too posh an outfit for me to wear. I know myself well enough to acknowledge that. But I suppose the point is: I am who I am today…whether you can see it or not…due in large part to one of the gentlest, classiest, fashion-iconic, charity-building, humans to walk the earth. She was (and will always be) a very special hero to me…

…And I guess what I’m saying is: “Here’s a toast to a Dearest Lady, very close to my heart…with endless thanks, on her 85th Birthday.”

Cheers, love.

~D

Holy Orders & More

6 Aug

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Callbacks this weekend. The theatre was booked, so we moved to the alternative space. 

Let not the irony escape you, that for at least two of the theatre’s in the area, the “alternative space” is a Church. 

…Historically speaking, whores and actors have been categorized together as equal opportunity offenders to these conservative numbers…(only possibly outdone by actors playing whores), since the beginning of time. Together, (or apart) they may say they accept you as one or both such members of humanity walking through their doors…but you better believe they’re gonna do their damndest to make sure when you walk out again, all that “nonsense” has been wiped clean, and you will be a fully functioning contributor to society once again.

…Unless you’re Lutheran or Unitarian I guess.  Cuz they sorta specialize in the, “whatever works for you,” category. Which is super rare. I know.  I’ve grown up in a whole lotta churches.  This one time?  I even wanted to make it a semi-calling.

…I was like five, and my Dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

“A Nun and Actress!”

This tiny alteration to my otherwise lifelong goal, was a bi-product of having just discovered “The Sound of Music,” (of course.) It, never-the-less,  freaked him the fuck out.  As a student of Catholic Parochial Schools, I think he actually preferred the route I went. Which is only barely the lesser of two evils. At least this way, my “sins against humanity” would only involve making an ass of myself, with a possible last-minute repeal for my soul when the time has come. After all, I wouldn’t REALLY spend my life killing people, stealing their husbands and generally whoreing around…only “pretending” to.  This was better than a career of morbid servitude, beating children with rulers due to strict patriarchal demands and personal sexual frustrations.

…It’s “something,” and one should take what one can get.  Meanwhile, Mom found it hilarious and still likes to tell it as an anecdote at parties.

It was a short lived dream.

Despite the teachings of Julie Andrews (and Rogers and Hammerstein), a person cannot be both these things, sadly. (I’m sorry, it had to be said.)  At some point, this dawned on me. About the time I realized that raising seven step-children would prob’ly suck,  and I’d never actually “fly”, like Sally Field. This all directly coincided, by the way, with my first viewing of Audrey Hepburn’s “The Nun’s Story,”  wherein I was shown quite frankly that a life of almost total obedient silence, and floor scrubbing, in head-to-toe black polyester in the Congo, prob’ly wasn’t gonna allow for much stage time.  Clearly one of ’em would have to go…which is why I am not in Orders today. 

Also: I’m not Catholic.  And, they frown on cussing.

…Sadly, the “celibacy” bit, isn’t the issue…

…Anyway…where I was going with this was: Actors in a church are like one of the most outstanding “wrongs” you can imagine.  Especially when they are plying their trade.  Even if the offenders are “of faith” themselves…(obviously belonging to one of the less restrictive sects), and use their “powers” for good, not evil.  Since I belong to no sect, have my own “deal” with the powers that be, and play a revolving, reoccurring set of baddies, bimbos, bitches and ne’er-do-wells every time I pick up a script…it sorta freaks me out a bit to exercise it all in a place I was taught as far back as I can remember, is “Holy.” 

Also, it’s confusing.  Because I think of theatre almost exactly the same way…which some might call “heresy,” but I just call, “human truth.”

Either way you cook it…the entire experience can just get weird.

…Try doing Mamet in a Church foyer, for instance (been there.) Or play a lesbian putting the moves on someone’s wife, in the Sunday School room (done that.) Or murder a man in cold blood (yep), or ride a dude’s leg while he grapples your boob within three feet of the main sanctuary (achieved.)  Surround yourself with people screaming “Heil Hitler!” (on tour even.) Damn people to hell (check), ruin their marriages (several times), sell your body to the highest bidder (even for beer)…and swill booze in a pub while singing the raunchiest lyrics you can wink at (done, done, and yep.) These are things that might (to some) seem just a little disturbing…and not only to the people who aren’t participating in the events, believe me.  Which just means: when you walk into the building and know you have to do the things you’re gonna have to do in it…you sorta have to divorce yourself almost immediately from the restrictions of reality or you will never win, rehearse or conquer a role, pretty much ever again.

…I don’t know what that means in the mainframe of things…after all…it is only a “building” when you get right down to it. We don’t actually MEAN to “defile” it with our baser-humanity instincts and involvements (sometimes put to song.)  All I know is, this weekend I realized (for the first time) the double irony of it all.

…Think about it: Once upon a time (for about a week and a half), I wanted to be an Actor and a Nun.

And I am.

…Total, dedicated, penniless, servitude…as my calling requires…reaching out to humanity as a whole, without discrimination, in complete observance of all rulings sent down from my betters, as practiced within the walls of the Holy Church.

…Even the celibacy bit: still works.

…Which is all to say: “Look Ma! I made it!”

I’m sure she’s just proud as hell right now.

~D

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