A Studio Tour and the Actor

It is true what Lennon said, that you make all your plans and then life happens. Or life goes on when the plans get funky. Or something. You know what I mean. Oh blah dee oh blah dah. Plans.

For example, I had planned on going to my voice over agency only once today to audition, but after I left they called me and asked me to come back a second time. I went because I am a desperate, desperate actor, and I secretly complained to myself on the way over, but then when I got to the waiting room William Fichtner was there and I love William Fichtner and I thought I was well past ever getting starstruck again…but then when I started talking to him I got all nervous because I WAS TALKING TO BILL FUCKING FICHTNER and wound up talking the poor guy’s ear off about my stupid hometown because he made the small miscalculation of asking me where I was from.

Another example would be when a couple weeks ago I was sitting down to work on my blog and suddenly my wife was standing before me with a flea-ridden kitten in her hands and a look on her face akin to Henry Thomas’ when he decides to keep that alien puppet thing in E.T..

And yet another would be that the other day, despite the fact that I had no plans to do this at all, I wound up going to Universal Studios Hollywood with my five-year-old son and my twelve-year-old niece. Now I know I’ve written about that place before, either in this blog or in my book Don’t Act: 101 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t, and I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself but I should probably do some sort of recap so those who don’t remember every detail they have read about me and those who have never given a fuck to read this blog before can know where I’m coming from. When I first moved to Los Angeles to chase my inane dream, my parents visited and took me to the very same Universal Theme Park (and that was one of only a handful of visits since I moved here sixteen years ago…they tend to come out only for the big things like weddings and babies but this I think was an instance of genuinely wanting to see me because they were probably worried about their kid living on minimum wage on the other side of the country.) It was fun, the tram ride through the front and back lots and dreaming my dreams of one day walking those same paved driveways as a paid professional. At the time “Jurassic Park: The Ride” was under construction, so my dad paid the extra fifteen bucks on my ticket to get me a year’s pass. I went quite often that year because I was broke and couldn’t afford to do anything else, parking in a surrounding neighborhood and walking up the giant hill to save on the eight bucks for parking, but I only went on the dinosaur ride once because when you go alone, all the ride operators shout “We’ve got a single!” at each other and push you to the front of the line so everyone there knows you are all alone and kind of pathetic and then some little six-year-old will pick up her tiny purse off the seat next to her so you can sit down and she’ll look at you all sympathetically and you’ll feel like an idiot. (And then half the animatronics shit on the ride doesn’t work because I’m pretty sure Universal spends way too much building their rides and don’t budget for upkeep.)

Those were different times. Now, when I took the tram tour, the first part of which is just a slow drive past all the soundstages and office bungalows, I jokingly said to my wife as if I was the tour guide, “Todd Robert Anderson has been rejected in almost each and every one of these office structures.” I had paid sixty bucks to get into the park, which is a high price to pay for a slow ride through a studio lot that I normally get into for free. That’s the most expensive bus man’s holiday of all time. My son thought that part of the ride was boring. I agreed. I didn’t tell him this, but it was actually kind of depressing for me as well. It was as if taking a tour of a haunted place filled with the ghosts of my former hopes and aspirations. And it is funny to see all the people walking around the lot, crew guys and producers and actors and everybody, and knowing that I have been one of them. I’ve shot several commercials and television shows on the Universal lot, and two of the series mentioned on the tour for being based out of the lot I have appeared on as a guest star. But not that day. That day I was just a dumb tourist.

The other half of the tram tour, where they get to all the silly amusements like King Kong (I wasn’t a fan of the new 3-D thing because like all 3-D it was terribly blurry and therefore headache-inducing, but maybe it looked better when it first opened because again there seems to be a lack of upkeep at that place) and the Jaws thing and the Psycho house and the fake earthquake (which would be a strange place to be in an actual earthquake,) was a lot more fun because my son had never been on any such amusements, and he was both fascinated and scared enough to cling to his mother’s arm, and do we ever have that certain sense of wonder for Hollywood machinations again after childhood? My niece loved it, too. After that, we waited in line for almost two hours to go on the dinosaur ride, and I had forgotten just how big the waterfall the boat goes over is, and it was way too intense for my boy, but he was so brave about it, he didn’t cry, just said he wouldn’t be going on that ride again any time soon. As it was fifteen years ago, the Waterworld stunt show was still the highlight of the park, and we sat in the splash zone which meant by the end we were soaked to the bone, and we laughed hysterically because my son was so deeply enthralled in the action that he was screaming at the good guys to shoot the bad guys…and then this giant sea plane comes blasting through a wall and lands right in front of us. Wow. Seriously, that show it why you pay the huge admission price. Everything else is blah by comparison.

The best part was of course the kids, dreams and imaginations running wild in their eyes. (And lots of complaining about the long lines, but as soon as the ride was over…LET’S GET IN ANOTHER LINE! THAT WAS AWESOME!) And I suppose that is the reward for being a parent. It is that much easier to remember those times…the times when hope and dreams were enough. The times when life was a series of adventures. The times when all that lay ahead was the future, and everything was fresh and new, and everything was a great mystery waiting to be solved. And money wasn’t everything. That all changes when we grow up. As do our bodies and tolerance for standing around in hot-ass parking lots called “amusement parks” all day long. We can all find that memory, of course, kids or not. But with kids…as difficult as they can be…with them it is just easier. And I suppose that’s the good stuff of life. And had I stuck to those plans, I never would have seen it…and maybe if everything I’ve ever fought for had gone the way I wanted…maybe there would be no kid.

So. I raise my glass to botched plans.


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