True Tales Of An Unknown Actress: The Dying Agent
When I was twenty years old, I was well into my second year of surviving NYC as a wannabe actress. In addition to pounding the pavement between several part time jobs, I spent my time scouring casting notices on Backstage and Playbill. One day while browsing, I came across a casting notice that seemed perfect for me.
“Seeking non-union women 18–25 for agent’s 2004 roster. Jobs throughout the year include modeling for trade shows, T.V. and commercials paying up to $8,000 a gig. Please email to make an appt. for an in person interview. We will only respond to those who meet our criteria.”
I quickly threw together an email with my headshot, resume and a cover note and sent it out. About a week later, I was suprised to actually get a response with info on when and where to show up for an interview. I was so excited that I was actually going to get to meet with an agent for the first time. I figured this was for sure the launching point for my career. My big break. In about two month’s i’d be the next Julia Roberts and on the cover of People Magazine.
I spent about an hour that day fixing my hair and makeup to perfection and hopped on the subway to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The address I had been given was all the way on West End Avenue, so it was a bit of a walk from the train stop. When I arrived at the location, I was suprised to find that it was a huge apartment complex. I walked inside and was met with the doorman who asked me who I was here to see. He nodded knowingly, and quickly chaufered me onto the elevator to the 15th floor. I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head as I approached the apartment door to ring the doorbell. “Does this apartment building have offices in it?” “Do agents typically work out of their apartments?” “Is my cell phone charged in case I need to call 9/11?” I took a deep breath and told myself that if I wanted to be the next Julia Roberts on the cover of People Magazine, I had better just suck it up, go inside and wow them.
I nervously lifted my finger to the small, ornate round bell outside the door and pushed it. A frazzled woman opened the door and led me into a fairly large living room. It looked like a hoarders episode. There was furnature and a T.V., but also headshots, folders and file cabinets everywhere. Everything was old and musty. I was somewhat relieved to find another girl inside who was just leaving her interview. The woman told me that the agent would meet with me in a few minutes and to wait outside the door. I waited anxiously outside while clutching my headshot and non existent resume.
When the door slowly opened, I expected to be led into an office-probably with a desk and the agent sitting behind it. But what was on the other side was something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.
The room had sun streaming in, but through semi translucent white curtains which produced a dreamlike, foggy quality inside. To the left of a large window was a tall metal IV bag holder, and an oxygen tank. The tubes all led to an overweight, pale man lying in a hospital bed directly in front of me. The room was silent aside from the low sound of oxygen flowing, a beeping heart rate monitor and his heavy breathing. A fold out chair had been placed on my side of his bed, and his home care aid meandered around the room in her scrubs. The man was staring off into space and had hardly noticed my presence. The woman from the living room nudged me forward to sit in the chair next to him and closed the door behind me.
I was totally freaked out, but was most annoyed that the girl who had just left the interview didn’t warn me about the whack ass shit I was about to walk into. So much for the sisterhood of the struggling actress.
“Ummm…hello?” I said, trepidatiously. The man became a bit more alert and slowely turned his head toward me. “Hello beautiful, what’s your name?” he croaked out. His voice was gravilly and thick with a touch of muscus rattle. He struggled to talk, and doing so made him gasp in large gulps for more air.
I told him my name and he called to his home care aid to bring over his clipboard. I peeked at it and saw a handwritten list of the girls coming to meet him along with their appointment times. “Please check off Renée” he rattled out to her. He then pushed a button on the side of his bed which slowly lifted him upright toward me. With his whole face in clearer view, I could see that he was a very sick man. He was was extremely puffy and his eyes were jaundaced. “Do you have a resume?” he asked. I handed it to him and he glanced over it quickly. He asked me to tell him a bit about myself and I did. Then, through his struggle to speak and breath he told me about how he got girls work all the time and had the more connections in the industry than anyone else. I could tell this probably wasn’t true, but indulged him. He kept drifting off into space so the meeting took what felt like an eternity. All I wanted to do was get the hell out of this very creepy room and situation. My brain was more focused on the beeping of this guys heart rate monitor than what he was saying. I was worried that he was going to flatline and die in front of me at any second. The meeting ended with him saying he would add me to the roster for work, and they would call me if and when they had something.
I was so relieved to get out of that musky apartment and back into the fresh air outside. My head was spinning because I was still so shocked by what I had just encountered. As I took the subway back to my apartment, I just knew that I was most releived he hadn’t whipped out his dick or died in front of me.
I never did get any work from that meeting. That day taught me a major lesson about doing much more research on the reputation of the “agent” you are going to meet with. Once again my hopes and dreams of becoming a famous actress on People magazine were blown out like a match.
Whether or not this had been some random guy fullfilling a dying wish to look at pretty girls all day, or an actual agent who wanted to keep working until the end is still a mystery to me.