Despite my mother’s ferocious objections, I was a child actor. I began in television when I was twelve. She drove me to auditions, and as we sailed over the Cahuenga Pass to Warner Brothers or east on Melrose to Paramount, I ran my lines and we talked.
My mother rarely dispensed advice about career stuff. She’d suffered at the hands of a stage mother. But she did say one thing to me.
“If this is what you want, never give up. In fact, no matter what you want, once you decide what it is, never give up. Don’t lose heart and never give up.”
She told me a lot of stories about men abusing power. She danced on variety shows and once Frank Sinatra wanted a Polaroid with all the “girls” wearing bikinis and lying on top of him.
She said “no.” The producer told her she took herself too seriously. He told her it was only for a joke. He told her all the other girls had “agreed.”
She still refused.
My mother has a pattern. She won’t give in and she won’t give up. She doesn’t lose heart. She doesn’t know it. She thinks she is weak from pain, from life, from being torn down one too many times.
Her mother abused her when she was small. She performed at Rockefeller Plaza and her mother hit her over the head with a hairbrush whenever she missed a jump. The year was 1946 and someone saw it happen. Nobody calls Child Protective Services in 1946.
A massive bleed irrevocably damages a seventy-year-old brain. Astonishing spirit and strident vanity may pull you out of the grave, but they can’t escort you back to full health. Once you’ve tangoed with Death, his cologne stays on your clothes.
For the full essay, please visit Word Riot .
As for the title of this entry, it is a reference to an episode of "I Spy" on which my my mother first guest-starred in 1966.