Seeing that today is my father’s seventy-first birthday, I thought I would share one of my favorite stories about him.
A few years back when I still had aspirations to be an actress of the well-known variety, I auditioned for one of the supporting leads in a clunker called “Pushing Tin”, directed by Mike Newell. It was not famous for its quirky plot cleverly revolving around air traffic controllers who loved to banter back and forth or its ability to once again, showcase John Cusack wearing black jeans and a long coat. It happened to be the infamous film where Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thorton first met and fell in hot, gothic, bloody love with one another, eventually marrying and molesting each other on every red carpet from here to Istanbul.
I had read for a part of the sassy yet masculine female air traffic controller, a part that any out of work lesbian with work boots would have killed for. I had driven to Santa Monica to read for the director himself and had, what could be called, the audition of a lifetime. Dressed like a female security guard, I hit it out of the park with my realistic portrayal of a woman sitting in a chair watching blips on a screen that represented airplanes and delivering quips while talking imaginary tin birds out of the sky.
The moment I finished reading, Mike Newell, the famous director of such classics as Four Weddings and a Funeral and a bunch of other shit no one knows turned to me and asked where I had been hiding and then proceeded to compliment my skill at landing a plane. All the sub par acting classes, horrendous theatre productions and People magazine reading had clearly prepared me for this moment of thespian perfection. If I could convincingly portray a woman who knows the difference between longitude and latitude while wearing work pants, the world would be my oyster!
My agent got the call the next day that Mike (we were now on a first name basis) had loved me and I had put me on hold. This stroke of good luck proceeded to started a weeklong, nail biting, stomach aching, insomnia inducing wait for, what would invariably be, great news. In my mind, I had already become best friends with Angelina, John Cusack and I were now casual lovers, I had leased a new convertible BMW and had just purchased four new handbags made of baby alligator skin and solid gold bullion.
The fateful day finally came but instead of being given a golden ticket to a coke addiction and fifteen minutes of fame, my agent informed me that Mike had decided to go in another direction, a common bullshit Hollywood term for “you did not suck my dick, so you did not get the job” or "I don't remember her". I lost the part to the red headed chick who played Vicki on News Radio and who also ended up living with Nick Nolte for ten years. Yes, she was sassy, funny and painfully inept when it came to choosing sexual companions but she also resembled a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest two hours after hatching and was seven years my senior.
After hanging up the phone, I immediately dialed my parent’s number, hoping to unload all my devastation and drama onto my mother, as I had done since the day I was born. My father, surprisingly, answered the phone, an act so out of character that it actually stopped the flow of my tears for a moment. He hates talking to people so much that years earlier, he had invented a signal ring reserved for immediate family members only. This stealth ring sequence would ensure that he would NEVER have to speak to any colleagues, neighbors, phone solicitors or relatives other than the motley crew that lived under his crumbling, listing roof.
My father knew instantly that something was terrible wrong. Being the drama queen that he was, he assumed I had either been kidnapped and was calling from the back of a van or had lost the ability to see after looking into the sun for too long. I tearfully explained to him that something much worse had just occurred. A relatively unknown actress who had an ankle for a face but a much better agent had just passed me over for my big break. After a few “I’m sorry’s” and “don’t cry’s”, my father said to me in a Brazilian accent as thick as paste, “At least you’re not a prostitute. You could be doing the hooky hooky on the boulevard.”
And with that, he laughed his maniacal laugh and hung up the phone, making me realize how lucky I was to not be a professional dick sucker, just a recreational one and relieved that my father aimed so low.
Happy Birthday, Papai!