My first actor headshots, age 14
Almost the moment we hit our teens, we become sentient beings. Before that we’re racoons: too clever for our own good (or at least our parents’ good), and basically untamable. Not that as teenagers we’re any more tameable—less so, really—but the difference is that now we disobey with a sense of being right. And since we’re obviously smarter than our parents, or any adults for that matter, the onus is on us to figure out who and what we are.
And so, as I entered the second half of my 8th Grade year, I began to invent myself. I think of it as having been given a Car when I was born. The Car is my life—my body, my mind, my soul (or will), and maybe, just maybe, a mysterious transmitter/receiver of some sort.
Of course, being a child, I didn’t understand what the Car was for, or even that it was for something. I slept in the back seat, swung on the doors, hid in the trunk, played with the knobs and shifter. As I got older, I discovered I could turn on the lights, store treasure in the glove compartment, and listen to the radio!
And then, at puberty, I found the key to that big thing in the front: the motor. When I first turned it on, it scared me. It made the whole Car shake, and got really hot! But it warmed me, and I could cook on it. Then I discovered that, if I moved the shifter while the motor was running, the Car would move! Forward was best, backward was kind of boring (only older people liked going backward).
And so I was off! But to where? Didn’t know. Didn’t care. I had a car, My Car, and I was driving! By age 13, I’d discovered storytelling, art, movies, music, guitars and kissing. I loved roaring around in My Car. It didn’t matter where I went (if there even was a “where”). I was in love with my car and in love with driving!
By spring, I was taking guitar lessons and getting my first actor headshots done at a place called the Children’s Screen Actors Guild, who’d informed my mom that I had “rare talent!” (they were later busted as a front for an overpriced photography studio). I’d also taken over our school’s barely-supervised Advanced Drama class, and chosen our spring drama production. It was a Danny Thomas Show episode, not one that had been made, but a spec script written by my Hollywood writer/producer/actress-wannabe grandmother (yes, I’m a chip of the old grandma-block).
I cast myself as Danny and the prettiest girl in class as my wife. Then I tried to direct, but two things got in the way: 1) The class didn’t see why their fellow-student should be in charge, and 2) I had no clue how to direct a play, especially with a castful of ex-racoons. I just wanted to make people laugh, and to kiss the girl. Neither happened. The spring production dissolved like fertilizer in the school flower beds.
And yet I remained undaunted. I still had My Car and was determined to keep on driving. I mean, that was what you did, right? That was life. It didn’t occur to me until a decade later that I hadn’t actually created My Car, only how I used it, and that if Someone else had, then maybe, just maybe, there was something more to life than simply driving until I ran out of gas…
Something like a Destination.