Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm Still Here

I hate to sound ungrateful. It’s nice people care about me and all, but man, do I hate “Where are They Now?” stories. I hate being asked to do them for a number of reasons:

1. You’re not being asked because you were on the cover of Time magazine last week. Ergo, you’re not what you once were. And if you’re me, you’re not what you once were when you were nine. I’m totally comfortable with my current level of artistic achievement and wouldn’t change a bit about my life (except getting over this present stage of growing out my hair to bangs-length, please), but “Where are they now?” can only be answered with the question “Yeah, where am I now?”

2. It’s lazy writing. No offense to the editors who greenlight these stories, but stories like this (and, by extension, the people who commission them) are one reason why newspapers are dying. If five hundred words leaves the reader with no stronger sensation than “huh,” then you, the editor, should ask your uncle, the dry-cleaner, if you can start working a few shifts at his plant. And don’t tell me people are curious. If they were curious, they’d have Googled me to see whether I was dead or not. At best, people read pieces like this because someone left the page folded open next to the sugar dispenser at the coffeeshop and they glance over while the person in front of them hogs the cinnamon.

3. I’m inevitably bracketed by people who’ve overdosed or filed for bankrupcy. Again. The only thought more deflating than “Yeah, where am I now?” is “Well, at least I didn’t die in a flophouse in Kingman, Arizona.” These articles are the express-elevator to diminished expectations.

And yet, I did another one if these where-are-they interviews last week. I did it because the last time I held my nose and agreed to one of these pre-obituary profiles, it actually led to my first book deal and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I have a new book to promote. So I told the reporter I’d do it. I only flinched a bit. At least they’d mention the book’s title.

[The Year of Learning Dangerously. Pre-order it now!]

Being interviewed is an inherently weird social interaction. It’s like a blind date. A blind date where only one person gets to ask questions, can ask whatever questions he likes, and the other person can't sneak out the back door if things get too uncomfortable.

“Why did you stop acting?”

“Did it bother you that you never reached that level of fame again?”

“Do you wish you’d been one of those child actors who actually made it as an adult?”

“How are you making a living now?”

Or, as I could also describe it: The Same Intrusive Questions I’ve Been Asked for Two Decades. As I’ve noted in the past, people don’t actually think before they ask questions of people they have seen on television in their childhood. It would be as if they could ask intimate questions of their Atari or their Easy-Bake Oven. I suppose I should be pleased I’ve never been asked about the results of my latest Pap smear or demanded my TRW. Yet.

So, today, I’m going to answer the Question Which Underlies the Same Intrusive Questions I’ve Been Asked for Two Decades: Quinn, why aren’t you nuts? Why aren’t you squatting semi-naked on some street corner, having a weave-pulling battle with a transsexual and huffing Febreeze?

First, I’d quibble about the “Not nuts” part. My own delightful child—who is blessed with both a clear eye and a prodigious vocabulary — when recently asked to describe me in three adjectives, said “kind; hardworking; and fretful.” I have same the innate capacity for joy as a mechanical pencil and can spend an entire evening stewing that I haven’t done enough to save the sea turtles. I’m not anyone’s idea of a fully actualized human being. And yet, compared to some other former child actors, I’m a bedrock of stability. Why is that?

You ready?

BECAUSE MY PARENTS DIDN’T CONFUSE ME FOR AN ATM.

Yes, my parents gave me lots of other advantages. They loved me dearly. My mother took me to see “Fantasia” multiple times, even though she hates animated movies. But the difference between me and many other child professionals was that I was never expected to support my family. If 15% of a child’s income is the parent’s income, the parent is no longer in position to make decisions for the child based solely on what’s best for the child's overall welfare. They might tell you the child comes first, they might even believe the child comes first, but at some point there will be a mortgage payment due or a car to be replaced. Introduce into this mix a job the child might not actually want to do and the parent/manager will make a choice that a parent/parent might not. Soon enough, you end up with a dynamic where even the most woolen-headed kid understands she’s the well from which all benefits spring. She's the anointed one whose fame makes her more valuable than other members of the family but also someone whose desires will only be recognized if they’re in alignment with the bottom line. Eventually, time does its pesky thing and she’s no longer cute, which is when things usually go to hell.

Cue the Febreeze fight.

In case you’re curious, the article for which I was interviewed was titled something like “After Oscars, the Inevitable Downfall.” They neatly cherry-picked the quotes that make me sound most elegaic about a business I haven’t cared about in over a decade. And, of course, they didn’t mention the book’s title. So I’m out of the “Where Are They Now” business.

Where am I now?

I’m here now.

And I’m doing just fine.

31 Comments:

Anonymous Robin Raven said...

I think you are wonderful. You're a comedic genius and an accomplished author, business woman, blogger extraordinaire, and so many things. :) That must be unnerving to be asked to do those things, though. You are a huge success, and shame on whoever was responsible for such a negative spin on a positive story. And how can they not mention the name of your book? Sigh.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

OK, I'm de-lurking just for a second to say, with absolutely NO offense intended, that I know nothing of your film career, save what you've told me about in your book and on this blog. I have, however, been an avid fan of your work for years, primarily because of how very deeply I relate to you on a "kind, hardworking, fretful" sort of a level. I, too, feel I'm never doing enough for the sea turtles, and you help me understand and appreciate the humor in that reality. Thank you. I'm glad you're here now.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Ellen S. said...

Funny you should write this as tonight your name came to mind and I thought, "Look her up. Where is she now?" LOL
In my case, I'm just curious to know what former child actors end up doing as adults. Particularly talented ones, like you were (are?) bring a little disappointment if I find out they just withdrew from life. But that seldom happens. Usually they either stay in acting/directing or do something normal, like have kids, become a vet or real estate agent. Whatever is fulfilling is great. I think we earth people know that showbiz is way more difficult to maintain than it looks. I know now we have hundreds of TV channels and hardly anything to watch! So, I'm glad you're found and doing just fine. :) Ellen S. in MD

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

A Canadian newspaper posted a "Where are they now" article about the original Degrassi actors ... the day after it was announced that one had died 5 years ago and no one knew. Ick. But their exhaustive research consisted of Googling.

4:46 PM  
Blogger ShelleySaysSew said...

Aha, but I did google you. That's how I found your blog! I enjoy reading what you write, I like the way you think, and I will buy your book when it's available! Thanks for being what you are, whatever that gets defined as.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved it. Tweeted it. Facebooked it. Even read it.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Count me in as another one who's glad you're right where you are now. If you'd died in a flophouse in AZ of an overdose or bankruptcy, I wouldn't have gotten to read your first fabulous book or preordered your second. Kudos to your family for not seeing dollar signs instead of a real person, and for being the very capable star of your own show. *applause*

5:35 PM  
Blogger Twisted Susan said...

Where are any of us now?

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Evil Gym Mom said...

I have to admit to wondering if the recent Oscars night would cause something like this.
You were NINE - adults are allowed to change careers, why not a 9yr old? Sheesh.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Juli said...

I started reading your blog because you had the good sense to compliment my dog on his good looks at a local coffee shop. Looked you up online, found your blog, fell in love with your writing, now your avid fan of your excellent writing. Done!

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Lydia said...

Where you are is where you are supposed to be, and that is somewhere terrific, in my opinion. I admire you and how you live your life, engaged in the world around you with kindness and concern. What a wonderful mother you are and role model for your child.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I had no idea you were "THAT Quinn" until I'd been reading your blog for several months. And then it made no difference whatsoever. You called out for a good idea for my miniature poodle, who wouldn't eat since we'd torn up the carpet (she always took her food from the kitchen to the living room, chomped, then went back for more). You had my heart ever since.

Did I watch the movies and TV? Yeah. But they aren't who you are today. Thank God I'm not who I was when I was nine!

1:53 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

P.S. Started carrying my inhaler again due to your previous blog. Used it TWICE last night when we were at a dinner party. THANK YOU.

1:55 PM  
Blogger StevenIre said...

I am sorry that the guy or woman did not mention your book after they said they would. If it is any consolation, after I said I would not make your Hermits recipe, I went ahead and made it. Both my mother and sister said they were great. Okay, this doesn’t benefit you. Karma has a lot of explaining to do if this is how it balances the scales.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stupid pariahs. Best to you,
Beth

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Bruce H. said...

I understand what you're saying, but at the same time I feel moved to note that nobody calls ME up asking where I am these days, and nobody cared where I was in the good old days, either. I think that if you had the great good fortune to once capture the world's heart and attention, then it's not so much to submit cheerfully to the occasional reporter who wants to fill some paper space bringing you to the world's attention again, if only for a few paragraphs. I'm glad you didn't die of a drug overdose in Arizona, I'm glad you have a relatively normal life, I'm glad you've published a book or two. If you're glad, too, then what's so bad about those "Where Are They Now?" articles? After all, nobody will ever write one about Dana Plato.

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Caron said...

I googled you because I watched TGG, which had always been a favorite. I'm not at all surprised that you are an interesting person! Ron Howard's family also reportedly refused to use a penny of his money. I believe you are exactly right in your assessment.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Dear @Bruce H - I sort of get what you're saying (and I'm sorry no one calls you up wanting to know how you are doing), but I wouldn't consider it 'great good fortune to once capture the world's heart and attention.' I mean, it was the audience's good fortune to get to see a delightful young actor, but, generally speaking, capturing the world's heart isn't generally on a child's things-to-do list. What's great good fortune is having loving and sensible parents. Hats off to great parents everywhere, and in particular to Quinn's mom and her late father. (And, oh, no, never 'submit cheerfully' - there are a lot of hack writers out there to whom one should never submit, cheerfully or otherwise.)

6:42 AM  
Blogger Jay Livingston said...

I'm with Shelley. A couple of summers ago, a woman with a nine-ish daughter had the other half of my shore rental. "You know, your daughter looks a lot like . . um, you know what's her name, did you ever see that old movie The Goodbye Girl?" So I Googled for images, found the reference to the blog, and I've been a reader ever since.
(And in paragraph #2, you've got a "than" that should be a "then.")

8:39 AM  
Anonymous ccm said...

I wanted to read the article... here is the link...

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/oscar-winners-nominees-quinn-cummings-294901

Oh my God the article is awful.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Joy! said...

Love how you picked that apart. I stumbled onto your blog somehow and later figured out that you were famous. So for me, the question was backward: where was she then? I slightly remember the movie in question, yes. But meanwhile, I am greatly enjoying where you are now and the writing that ensues. Yay for sensible parents!

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved this!

7:25 AM  
Blogger Runs Like A Gay said...

I understand the need to plug the book, but surely you knew the fork tongued press would write their own story.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Z said...

As a parent it is so clear that when a child becomes the breadwinner of the family the child is no longer treated as a child. Having one's child as an employer is certain to lead to choices which are made for monetary gain and not for the best interest of the child. Being the adult means making some unpopular decisions. That would be hard to do if you fear being fired by your meal ticket who happens to be living with you in the house he or she purchased.

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Z said...

As a parent it is so clear that when a child becomes the breadwinner of the family the child is no longer treated as a child. Having one's child as an employer is certain to lead to choices which are made for monetary gain and not for the best interest of the child. Being the adult means making some unpopular decisions. That would be hard to do if you fear being fired by your meal ticket who happens to be living with you in the house he or she purchased.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Rhonda said...

Why aren’t you squatting semi-naked on some street corner, having a weave-pulling battle with a transsexual and huffing Febreeze- Wow that is funny. I loved you in the Goodbye Girl, I am not going to lie. It is my favorite movie and I have been googling/stalking you ever since. You are awesome and hilarious.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cammie Conlon, who played "Bonnie Blue Butler" in "Gone with the Winds" once told me, "It's pretty weird to peak when you're seven years old & then live another fifty years." I thought you'd appreciate that!

5:14 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

...at this very moment I'm watching The Goodbye Girl on TMC and decided to look you up on Wikipedia...and was so pleased to see that you, unlike many other child actors, survived that grownup profession and grew up in spite of it all to be 'normal' ...and you said it all "BECAUSE MY PARENTS DIDN’T CONFUSE ME FOR AN ATM"...that 9 year old YOU was so very unusual, aware and intelligent and your loving parents allowed you to grow up and choose who YOU wanted to be... like most 'normal' kids. I wish you the best...and now back to The Goodbye Girl

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Timmygingras@yahoo.com said...

QC: I've often wondered about you through these years. From my distance, I really like how you've remained true to yourself as an artist. I really like your approach to "Where are they now," crap, and I agree. So glad to hear you have a child, and what appears to be a wonderfully normal life...I'll get a hold of your books as soon as possible. I gave up performing in 2003 after 27 years, and changed gears myself. My name is Tim Gingras; I'm on FB, and add me as a friend if you're on FB other than your "Like." Again, I don't know you, but I've never forgotten you from my favorite NS film...Thanks for that gift QC, and all the best to you and your family. TG

7:20 PM  
Blogger Kidder said...

Wow.. Awesome... now I know, cool.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I originally started reading your blog after watching TGG and wondering, well, "I wonder where she is now?" Honestly, I forgot about your acting career a long time ago. I come here for the excellent writing.

9:46 AM  

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