Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wet your lips and make love to the camera.

The email was an interesting change from the usual “Where can I purchase a Hiphugger in North Dakota?” and “Never make her unsatisfied again! Buy Viagra online!” The email said I am trying to contact Quinn Cummings for an upcoming story I am writing for Los Angeles magazine. I'm on a tight-ish deadline and can give her more details about what I'm looking for. I called her.

The story, as the reporter explained it, went like this. Los Angeles Magazine is doing a new segment called “Archetypes”, which will be an interview with people who really personify L.A. “Like,” she continued, “a trainer or a valet parker”. I think both types exist outside of Los Angeles, but I got where she was going. I also knew it was extremely unlikely I was being approached as the archetype of suburban mom, dog rescuer, or a candy hoarder. I was right; I, Quinn Cummings, was to stand in for all others as the archetype of the Former Child Actor.

I said delicately, “You realize I’m not a car wreck, right?”, which isn’t exactly true, because anyone who has read this knows I am a bit of a mess, but relative to many other Former Child Actors, I am spotless enough to run for office (actually, better; I haven’t found sixteen year-old boys attractive since I was fifteen). If she was looking for the kind of anecdotes which end “…this is when the transvestite ended up in my trunk, which of course was a complete misunderstanding!”, I wasn’t the best candidate. No, she assured me, she wanted a Former Child Actor without an arrest record.

Hey! I fit that profile!

She told me the interview would run in the December issue. Seeing as it was the last day of September, she wasn’t kidding about a tight deadline and pretty much had no margin of error. The interview and the picture would have to done right away.

Um, the picture?

For years, I kept looking at pictures of myself and thinking in a disappointed way, “Oh, I look tired in that shot”; it took until last year for me to realize “Quinn, you idiot. You don’t look tired in that shot, you look tired all the time.” Hard to get excited about something which is going to strip away your illusions about looking lifelike. It’s like owning a jewelry box which, upon opening, intones “Everyone you love is going to die someday”.

Nevertheless, this was free publicity. The more I talk about Hiphuggers, the more Hiphuggers we sell. The more we sell, the more likely it is that someday I will be writing this blog from Monaco, decrying the appalling lack of good servants. So, shot I would be.

She and I got off the phone and I started to plan an attack on Mount Grooming. I needed a facial, I needed an eyebrow wax, I needed to do something with my hair, which was starting to resemble Willie Nelson’s hair-

My hair. My hair, which sits on top of the hole in my head. I promised you I wouldn’t write about this any more, so I won’t, except to say that I have the hole closed this week, but as of right now, it is still a horrible little conversation piece. I was going to have to get a haircut in a public place, which would be one conversation, and then there would be the make-up and hair person on the shoot, which would be another conversation. While my eyebrows were being waxed, I plotted a version of the story which ran less than twenty-five words. I ended up with “I split my head open. They’re closing it a week from today. Yes, that’s my skull. It doesn’t hurt, much. Please ignore any seepage.”

This was on a Friday. The reporter and I planned to meet on Wednesday of the next week, which was the first available day for both of us. The photo editor called me not long afterwards. The photo shoot would also be on Wednesday, after the interview. It was to be a portrait, the photographer was in East Hollywood, and the parking around his place was dodgy. I add all these details because of what I wasn’t told, and didn’t think to ask. I wasn’t told what to bring as far as clothing went. Over the weekend, I went through my clothing with an eye towards the shoot. Portrait means waist up, or even breastbone up. I checked the photographer’s website; his portraits were close-up, frequently framed at the collarbone. Ignoring for right now exactly how little I could stand up to such close scrutiny, I would need shirts with a simple neckline, in either a jewel tone or a dark color. It could not be worn out, and it couldn’t have stains on it.

In my closet, those are limiting requirements. I ended up with three shirts, which seemed sufficient for a portrait shoot for a little one-page interview.

Wednesday came. I dropped Daughter off at school and raced over to the restaurant where I was meeting the reporter. I had chosen the restaurant, which means only I can be blamed for how it was off the main thoroughfare into Hollywood, which meant I was one of fifteen thousand people in a three-block, two-lane crawl to oblivion. Nothing says “The sane child actor” quite like flinging yourself out of your car, throwing yourself into a restaurant and screaming at the first woman holding a notebook “OH MY GOD, I HATE BEING LATE HI I’M QUINN ARE YOU MARY?”

Mercifully, she was.

Also, having chosen the restaurant, I can also be blamed for picking a French breakfast place, which meant endless breaks in the conversational flow while we waited for the cappuccino maker to stop gargling. Not that I was saying anything of consequence. This kind of piece lends itself to brisk and (with any luck) witty little sound bites about What it All Means, but the more I talked, the less I heard Dorothy Parker, the more I heard the woman who sits behind you in a movie theater who won’t stop talking about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. At some point, I just wanted to take myself by the throat and scream, “Oh, would you just shut up!”

I didn’t do that, though. Because I’m the sane Former Child Actor.

I bet you’d forgotten that by now.

NEXT; the photo shoot. Kate Moss rests easily.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...having had no experience as a child actor, the best i can associate it with is meeting a blind date at Denny's.

Which i have.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait to hear about the photo shoot. Know where I can pick up a copy of LA Magazine in Orlando?

9:54 AM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

Quinn, just direct the journalist to your blog.

I can see the header of the story now: "Former Child Star Quinn Cummings Has Got the WRITE Stuff...and Is Busy HUGGING HIPS in Her Spare Time!"

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toronto Pearl should be a copy editor. That's a cute, info-packed headline!

She's right; the profile will provide (additional) excellent exposure for the HipHugger!

Quinn's having astonishingly turned out "normal" (and incredibly compassionate, to boot) reminds me of a memoir I came across in a cool used-bookstore this morning: "Where Did Everything Go Right?", in which a middle-class British dude muses about how on earth he seems to have grown up into a "normal" adult.

2:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Re; Finding the magazine in Florida. I have no idea! My suggestion would be to ask someone at a major chain or a larger newsstand for Los Angeles Magazine.
Re; My relative normalcy. Expat Mom, where did everything go right? Two words: My mom. All the parts of me that are able to function within society are her doing. All the other, less attractive, parts I write about in here, I ascribe to having several concussions in my life.

7:15 AM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

Bangkok Expat Mama: Did you mean copy WRITER? Because I already am a copy EDITOR! That is what I do for a living. (and I like to indeed copy write from time to time, as well)

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see this article. I'm sure you were brilliant and funny as always (and, thank God, not trying to be brilliant and funny which allows it to happen without us hating you).

I'm always touched by the credit you give your mom for the fact that you did not go the way of many other child stars and become a shoplifter of small appliances in East Las Vegas. But this time, it made me wonder how much of the ways I am screwed up can be attributed to my mother. I do believe your mom could've had another child in the biz who might not have fared so well so I'd also posit that your own coping mechanisms and intelligence would have served you well even if you were being raised by Mama Rose. Not to take anything away from your mother—she sounds extraordinary. Can she give Lindsay Lohan a call and tell her to get her act together?

1:18 PM  
Blogger jennpom said...

I love reading your blog. You are so honest and funny. You will have to reprint your article on your blog as I live on the east coast, and doubt I will see it in any magazine here.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Melissa C Morris said...

This is hysterical -- I love being stereotyped for interviews. Reporters call me when they're looking for "a girl who married an old guy" -- thankfully the demand is low for that genre of article.

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your blog after searching "keeping a child actor sane" and am hooked! I will now, quite frankly, have to come up with a multitude of excuses for sitting at this stupid monitor for hours on end, until I get caught up. (Mainly because I'm the one constantly telling my family real life doesn't happen when your butt is planted next to electrical output sources)

Now...what I really need is to talk to your Mother. Would she be available for coffee sometime? (I have an 11 year old so set on acting that it's frightening...and, having grown up in LA, gone to art school while living and working with struggling, starving, drug dependent, out of work actors, it tends to throw me off a bit...)

Thank you for your's wonderful and refreshing!

4:55 AM  

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