I'm Still Here
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?
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.