If I was a rich man, I would have a right proper mid life crisis. I suppose that is a very sexist idea that you need to be a male to have a torrid affair with someone half your age and get yourself that expensive vehicle. Both of those things sound like too much work. My back has been acting up. I can’t even imagine hoisting myself out of a sports car that is lower profile than my low-profile hybrid. So instead, I will only have the existential crisis part of my (late) mid-life crisis. That big birthday will be celebrated with a trip to Austin, Texas, because I do in fact realize how lucky I am to have gotten here.
I can’t help but look back and play the “what if” game. There was no one who could have talked me out of an artistic career path. I was delusional when I left college. Thinking somehow, I would be able to break thru with my set of physical attributes and yet the career that followed would have seemed more insane. I ended up dancing enough in tv/film projects to be vested in my union. It was not my dream, but it was “a” dream.
Thirty years ago, in 1993 B.L. (Before Lizzo), no one who looked like me got paid to dance. And that is not my take on reality. I was the only one in the Screen Actors Guild who had my body type getting paid to shake what her mama gave her. If you go on social media or watch film/tv today, you can see women of all shapes and sizes dancing. Recently the dance work has picked back up, and while my body is saying “no” my reality is that I need the check. If I still had to audition for this work, it would be a hard pass.
The word “reality” is pesky. It literally means “the world or state of things as they actually exist.” The word may be absolute, but each set of eyes has its own reality. I view my own reality regarding my career thus far as either a huge failure or a true surprise success. My reality is subject to change depending on how effectively my anti-depressants are working.
If I had gone down another career path, maybe I could afford the red Corvette. I went to college with a now well-known casting executive at a major studio. When we were both UCLA theater undergrads, he pulled me aside and said to me, “Never give up—you are that good.” I coaxed him into lunch a few years ago and I asked him for some help. He did pick up the tab at the commissary. My talent was the same, but our realities had changed.
I have always had accomplices to my faulty decision making…I mean supporters. If I am not having the torrid May-December romance, then allow me the delusion of believing in my cheering section. You hear all the time, “Follow your dreams—life is short.” Perhaps it should be, “Follow your dreams—cash will be short.” I knew talent would never be enough; what I couldn’t foresee until now was how much politics and timing would play into an already risky career choice.
This last weekend I decided to brave the rain and try to mute my current reality and go hear some jazz. A celebrated musician who is known for playing traditional jazz was in town. I knew the bill would not be all trad, but the promotional video that lured me in promised some Louis Armstrong.
It was all straight-ahead jazz colored strongly by bebop. At least that was my reality in my seat on that night.
This paper isn’t about that kind of jazz, so unless I twist what I heard that night I really can’t comment on it. Straight-ahead jazz isn’t my favorite kind of music, and I would never seek it out. On the night of that concert, I stayed much longer than I should have. I just kept hoping and wishing for a morsel of hot jazz. Reality was not changing. I felt like an ass.
I had an early birthday lunch with a friend who is also a musician and asked about what I heard, (it’s fun to compare realities) and her entire face got scrunchy and she said “Oh yeah, I could have told you that they have abandoned the early jazz. I heard them play live and ‘Strutting with Some Barbecue’ was called and I did not hear any hint of that melody. I know the chords to that song; those chords were not there.”
The musician I saw on that rainy evening might have felt they needed to bend some reality to sell more tickets and throwing around the promise of Satchmo was good marketing. Perhaps a freer form of jazz brought more joy and seemed like a more lucrative career path. Careers change, morph, and grow. Art is subjective and jazz is the most amorphous because the jazz moniker covers way too much ground. On that evening, I heard nothing even remotely reminiscent of Pops…but isn’t it amazing that more than 100 years after he first started making music, the mere mention of his name can still put an ass in a seat.