He was the great pretender. For some unknown reason finding himself at the studios of Saturday Night Live at what he surmised was a simple rehearsal. There by no other fact of simply standing around like he belonged. A someone having no business there spontaneously working around the edges worming his way across the floor behind the imrov of the regular players. Sucking up the electric juices that bounced out of the camera off the floor occasionally towards his direction. Slowly drawn to their illumination like the branches of a plant leaning ever closer to the rays of the morning Sun. A silent pantomime that came spontaneously born of both nervousness and hopeful vanity. So much so that he was unable to stop. Inching his way twisting and turning like a nervous caterpillar compelled into slow motion oblivious to the mounting ire of the seasoned performers who found his nagging presence irritatingly inane. But the cameras continued to turn onto his antics as they snuck past the background for they were so off ‘beatly‘ bizarre that their persistence lended itself to universal fascination. To be sure, he could no longer help himself but continue do them. Pissing off Beluchi and another weekly regular who tried mightily to ignore him by silently mocking him with their disdain. The tick starting to become perpetual like some spastic bad impression of a nineteen-fifties spook. An awkward Vampira or inexplicably human SiFi‘ blob! To the other performer’s horror the show’s producer was beginning to see some merit in having him do his wordless ‘schtick‘ on his show possibly as a regular. This upstart from nowhere who like all the rest of the performers was viciously commited to leave an impression before as big of an audience as he could grab on his own at any cost.
The actor who after years of trying, was finally revealed to be only himself. There were some times in my life that I would have done anything to be rid of my father. And now two years hence his passing, I find myself praying without further thought at a strange altar to the contrary. Suppression of depression and emancipation are so easily now bedfellows. Is the process of aging not unlike digging yourself deeper into yourself and final despair? Is there no hope of escape of all the pitfalls, the moat-like walls of which widen with each passing Winter? And does one’s worth diminish in proportion to the wane of their vitality?
For myself, I was a very sheltered pampered protected child, rife with fears that at such an early age could not have been my own? The grail of happiness always elusive and the conquest of same through the usual means simply empty. I was ever too content to be locked within rather than be found without. My father’s shield became my own and I learned o wield it with the dexterity of a sword. I learned to deflect criticism with anger and the threat of hostility. A favorite tactic of the underclass. I learned to take my fear and embrace it as strong drink accustoming myself to its toxicity. And with these skills came another that set my castled walls high up in the clouds as unassailable. I learned how not to feel the slings and arrows of others by non-involvement.
I sometimes think that I would rather die alone broke and penniless in despair than surrender to the grief and sorrow of the eventual loss of those few that I still dare to claim to love. Better to excommunicate them from my feelings than let those feelings grow to a crescendo that might threaten to destroy me. Survival being not to care about anyone anymore. My father would sometimes talk about some of his experiences in Okinawa as part of the ‘fleet’ Marine expeditionary force fighting the Japanese. One of his friend’s head was splattered over my father in the LST as they landed on the beach. Another friend in China got blown up on a bridge after my father had casually refused a ride with him. He also spoke many times of a particular experience where he shot a young Japanese soldier at point blank range after both of them had momentarily froze, his own rifle cleared after a jam. I have to think that this level of trauma had followed him in so many ways through his life and that he unwittingly passed its burden on to me.
But then, I suffered my own sense of angst. Always a very fearful child, long stricken by the unexpected visit of the Grim Reaper come to claim my grandparents. Other children and their proclivity of malicious pranks scarring my ability to trust. The rejection by women leading to a resentment and attitude of derision by the tool of repressed anger. Those times when I innocently left my inner vulnerability out on display ugly incidents that left a deep and never quite healed scar. So I found a convenient persona and took up the craft of acting as per the lexicon presented by the cinema. Here were so many workable pantomimes that I could master and call upon in the heat of the moment. The problem was that along the way, I lost sight of myself. I disappeared from view in my own existence and became simply and address upon which to hang a name upon. No longer able to want because there was no one around to find to respond to. Completely hidden in a foxhole , head down, bereft of any emotional view.
Whatever makes one a good actor violates the foundation of what makes them a good human being. The fight or fuck mentality of drama discovers all one’s flaws at the expense of any notions of their better judgement. Pride is encouraged tot he point of vainglorious. Like any bad joke intended ultimately to provoke the worst conclusion. So too does a great role embody a cold hard bloody rock bottom of spiritual excess. There are two kinds of acting that are allegedly practiced of course, insincere and it’s opposite. And like Satan, no one can deny that the latter form entails a level of personal excavation that tears at the accumulation of every hurt amassed and stored away over the span of one’s existence. Yet, when one is ready to diminish the need for such activities from the public realm the ugly fact comes forth that playwrights and actors are naught but surrogates for the dirty laundry of the rest of us. Society needs to have people who are too willing to engage in this dirty business so that it can feel reauthorized enough to continue as before. The Catholics had confession for two thousand years and the rest of humanity now indulges in the addictive catharsis of drama.
How the process of doping performance with the legitimacy of emotion became the normal most expected form of self-expression seems to speak equally to the governing doctrine of sublimation to the amorphous notion of the state as reflected in the term, WE, as it is commonly used in society. The individual is no longer ceded any privacy in their house or their spirit. In the course of existence, everything must be unhesitatingly revealed. Otherwise the act of defiance infers the guilt of some form of undisclosed criminal intent or past transgression. Only by telling your story can one find real peace from the prying eyes of our own surveillance happy society. Safety comes with the illusion of a solid membership in consensus. The assurance of community support being a fantasy that only a Hollywood director, newspaper publisher or a politician would dare to command. The fact of any public life reduced in fact to pure smoke and mirror feel good illusion. An act that all of us have been carefully raised to appreciate since birth.
It is always easy to writing about something you know about. You feel safe and competent enough to come up with some words that if nothing else sound right. But what about inscribing something that presents no clear conclusion or even the possibility of common understanding? The most accurate map of the universe may be a fractal pattern? There are a number of mathematically based forms of which the most visually recognizable is a Mandlebrot which though it has a definable look actually repeats its own structure infinitively as one zooms in or out. As a functional template, it might make sense in terms of suggesting some quality about the circumstances surrounding rational human consciousness. But what about emotions? Are they equally repeatable at different levels of intensity?
Emotions and the reactions to same are always 20/20 in hindsight but a raging storm tossed ocean at their inception. What could be more arcane than to really sense and track one’s own well of feeling when confronting another human? The onion does not yield more than a layer or two as the ego scrambles even deeper out of sight. Considering the relative level of need versus want and how that is expressed the idea of something novel or mysterious becomes terrifying. Many learn this block and parry technique at the expense of any true awareness of themselves in a present tense moment. That talent seems reserved for sociopaths or schizophrenics. Yet the holy grail for some professional actors is not only to master this ability but to employ it for the sake of being convincing in a role. So they walk through the gate of the unknown following their impulses. Something most of us would not even dare to contemplate on a regular basis without the aid of some internal supervision. Perhaps one begins to wonder if the schtick of improv ensembles like the “Three Stooges” did not have some other internal elements beyond the spontaneity of repetition that though were exhibited in plain view were still less obvious? Were they acting or was what they did was a form of letting it all hang out on the fly?
Some peel like and onion while others are shoveled over sentiments like the layer’s of Schliemann’s Troy. The man in the iron mask, except in his case, it was gold. Except of course as well instead of the sediment of series of lost cites one thinks that they’re all part of one single high rise. It’s alway pin the tail on the puppet. It’s like Kraft Mystery Theater. Great to be impulsive but where does it ultimately lead? A signature standing in for identity. Corpus colosseum aside, will one be found out, found lacking, be expelled? The neighbors above are pounding the floor with a broom handle. What does it really say to claim to really want to break their neck? Reality says that you’ll just avoid their glance the next time you pass them in the hall. The funny thing about acting is not to be caught acting. Let those around you think that it’s the real you! That’s what Brando would do, and he was considered angry as well!