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Small Time Actor on a Big Time Night (or the genealogy of a passion)

Okay, I have no idea what it's like for a Denzel, a Jack, a Halle, or a Sally when they're at home watching the Oscars and, without a nomination, they're just stress free observers. Albeit they are stress free observers with all the luxuries their previous victories and nominations have afforded them, but they're not in the running. They, the star, just sit back and root for, or against (Come on, let's be real!), former co-stars or directors or screenwriters with whom they've personally worked and have an actual connection. I, the fan (the 99%), only know what it's like when I'm at home rooting for these larger than life movie stars from the same untouchable distance I have when I've been sitting in my local movieplex or considerably less than 7 figure duplex, munching popcorn, swilling a soda or beer (Or French Martini if I'm feeling Kardashian), and freaking out to an equally ambitious but also universally unknown friend "I want Meryl to win, but I think it'll be Viola..." We wait, anonymous stargazers, with baited breathe for the announcement to be made—then it is and we feel extremely happy or bummed, disappointed or overjoyed, shocked or blasé. I grab a soda—no, an Apple Martini, eat some more popcorn, grimace or slap high fives with my company...and wonder what I'd say if they ever announced my name.

Small Time Actor

My mother loved movies, movie stars, and dancing. She used to say "If I could sing, you wouldn't ever be able to shut me up!" My father had a beautiful singing voice. I remember wanting to be a performer like Sammy Davis or a Michael Jackson when I was very, very young. I remember wanting to be a talented and "dramatic" actor like Bette Davis. I was initially able to pursue this American idolatry by being a smart kid bold and crazy enough to enjoy speaking at school assemblies. Gradually increasing my levels of moxie and desire, I started working with friends in small skits and then volunteering for whatever theatrical opportunity my school made available. By the time I became a sophomore at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington DC, this rush of undeniable ambition and energy often placed me at dramatic odds with my English teacher and play director, Jim Mumford. Every time I grumbled my opinion on what I felt was inequitable casting or defended another of my brilliant over the top comedic choices I felt justified in thinking "I am Bette Davis and she would've done this!" Of course, being a skinny Black kid in Washington DC in a Catholic High School, hardly anyone shared that view with me—I mean the Bette Davis doppelganger part. I could, however, strut, wave a mean invisible cigarette and recite "Petah, Petah, Petah, give me the let-tah!" with the best of them. And I believe was considered talented, although Mr. Mumford told my parents he believed my real talent was in writing.

Days, weeks, months, years and yes, decades later I am yet an unknown wannabe world famous actor who loves movies, the theatre and those that do it well. I fantasize that a break will someday come my way and I can suffer the same highs and lows and public scrutiny Robert Downey, Jr. and John Travolta do. It is likely that since I can not see the future I will always experience this incessant anticipation, anxiety, disappointment and excitement that what isn't might still be. To me, award shows epitomize the desire and belief that all performers and all achievers ultimately want the appreciation of their peers. As I become older, however, I realize that the one opinion you had better learn to respect and cherish is your own or you may never be happy, content or open enough to ever enjoy an awards show worry free.


Academy Awards

"You gotta have a dream,
If you don't have a dream,
how you gonna have a dream come true."

Chris Haley - 3/3/2012 12:35 PM

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