So an Actress Walks into an Agent’s Office…

The title of this post reads like the intro to a bad joke.  It is.

First, a little background.  I have worked in Hollywood for twenty-some-odd years, both behind and in front of the camera as an assistant and an actress.

With Mike Farrell on the set of "Providence"

In the last few years, I’ve focused more on writing and have let the acting wane (this started somewhat out of necessity during the Writers Guild strike of 2007 when many scripted shows met certain death and even more reality shows — which don’t need actors — prospered).  Since then, many small agencies have seen their profits nose-dive (including my agents) and have gone out of business (ditto, mine).

When the calendar recently turned 2011, one of my resolutions was to look for a new agent. Repeatedly in the past, I’ve attempted to purge the need to act from my being so I never again had to face constant rejection and ridicule, but, alas, acting is one drug I cannot kick. (And a drug it is…  As an old boss of mine — a former television actor — once told me, “Acting is cocaine.”) So, to summarize, I have tried to kick the acting bug (drug), but can’t, so I am looking for an agent.

I send out e-mails (evidently the new media way to go) to numerous agents.  Several e-mails bounce back, from long-established agents who I fear are now defunct as well.  But a few respond.  One requests an appointment.  This agent is new to the business, having set up shop only last summer, so I do some detective work, also the new media way — online.

Clicking on the agency’s website (again, a new media must-have), I am deluged with photographs of (supposed) clients — all young, oiled, studly, and more than vaguely whorish.  I am looking at isolated shots of soft porn.  Has the business changed this much in my three-year hiatus?

With Betty White on the set of "Yes, Dear"

Skeptical, but giving the agent the benefit of the doubt, I keep my appointment and show up at my assigned time.  As I’ve mentioned, his agency is new.  And, as I read in the marketing materials in the waiting area, he is relatively “new” too — only 29 years old. None of this is a deterrent; a 29 year old certainly has more energy than I do, and Lord knows, I need that energy pushing for me out there in the world of professional acting. But I am concerned that the same photos found on the website decorate the wall.  The same photos minus the males.  Displayed in the office are a pair of greased-up young starlet wannabes, wearing looks of angry seduction (and not much else) and posing as if they’re ready to dive into the mud wrestling pool at a third-rate Vegas nightclub.

I can hear the agent interviewing another actor behind the closed door of his office and find myself waiting fifteen, twenty, twenty-five minutes beyond my appointment time.  My thoughts alternate between my old agents (a sweet older couple who I now miss more than ever) and the Amazons on the wall ready to explode from their frames and douse me in baby oil.

When the agent finally opens his door, I am on the verge of walking out to feed my about-to-expire meter and, likely, drive away forever.

He inquires as to why I am there as I am (admittedly) older, heavier, and comparatively more prudish than the women on his wall.  I inform him that I was called in for an interview.  He shakes my hand and says to me, “I had no idea you were an actress.  I thought you were here to audit us.”  I smile.  It is the fake smile I use when I’m dealing with a dill weed.  Or a dick wad.

With Jerry Mathers of "Leave It to Beaver"

I tell him my parking meter is about to run out.  He asks for a photo and resume.  When I hand it to him, he can’t believe my credits — Boston Legal, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Shield, Malcolm in the Middle, Will & Grace, etc. — are real.  He wonders if I have “proof.”   This gives me a clue as to the level of talent he represents and I wonder, seriously this time, how many have just come from giving on-camera blow jobs on a porn set in Chatsworth.  Feeling slightly superior now, I hand him a DVD demo reel full of my acting scenes from nationally televised hit shows and tell him to watch it.  Then I gladly exit, leaving the Crisco twins — and him — behind me forever.

And as I’m getting on the freeway, I can’t help but ask myself, Why, again, did I decide to give acting another try? To go through this again, acting is a powerful drug indeed.  Perhaps my next resolution is to check myself into rehab.