The first commercial I ever did was for 7Up called “Teen Angel.” It starred an 18-year-old Mandy Patinkin! It was 1969, and I played the part of a young hippie/kid sister of his girlfriend, Betty Lou. I was sitting in the same booth they sat in years ago. I even had the audacity to be drinking the Un-cola! That commercial would fund my move to California three years later to be in the music business. Thank you 7Up! And I joined the union.
In 1990, I did a commercial for a really cool game called Noteability. A sort of “name that tune” game that came with a tiny piano and when you chose a card the first notes of the song were printed for easy playing and your opponents had to guess the song. I was in the commercial with a couple of very funny actresses. Anne Gunn was one of them. Anne and I had done Beehive ~ The ’60s Musical together, and we wore the same crazy wigs in the spot that we did in Beehive. We were the Shmickler Sisters, a very “musically challenged” sister act, but we had no trouble playing Noteability. It was a very fun commercial, and the insurance paid for my son Denvir’s delivery. I love me some SAG insurance!
So, needless to say, I was excited when my agent emailed me the sides (script and what parts they are auditioning for) and story boards for the Velveeta spot. I looked them over, and noticed there was a call for a mom, a couple of guys and two “senior citizens.”
My email to my agent: “Thanks for sending these – am I auditioning for the mom?”
Her reply: “No, Bernice and Tina.”
I look at the breakdowns and realize they’re the seniors, age range 55 to 75.
Whoa. I can honestly say, I did not see that coming. I mean, I knew this day was coming -– it still seemed… too soon. But hell, I thought -– I’d love to get this -– I don’t care if it’s a senior they’re looking for. If I get it I’ll be so grateful. Plus, it’s a funny spot! Well written and fun.
I get to the audition. I’m frazzled because I went to the casting directors old space (they’d moved two years prior), and then I couldn’t find a parking place at the new location. Breathe. Now I’m late, pissed off, filled with self loathing ’cause I’m old as hell, and have self pity and shame oozing from every pore. NOT how you want to go into an audition.
I sign in, get a mild scolding from the youngster at the desk, and look over to see Arlene Malenowski, one of my theater writing teachers from Chicago Dramatists, also there to audition for the part of one of the seniors. She’s YOUNGER than ME! I have to laugh to myself because I’d been thinking about Arlene for about a month. I need some help on the end of my musical memoir, and I wanted to talk to her about it! So that’s why I had to come to this audition!
We hug hello, and she consoles me with – “active lifestyle” – that’s our age group now! Then she asks how I am, and gives me props for finishing my play. She also helps by saying, “We have one person shows. We’re golden.” And I think, you know what? She’s right. That’s what I’m really good at. Don’t get me wrong, I like commercials, I really do. But I think I’m a better singer-songwriter-performer and recording artist than actor.
That’s how I got my SAG insurance this last time, singing a jingle for Yoplait. It ran a lot a couple of years ago. And every time it came on I said “Thank You God”! It was a gift.
So, I’ve had a couple auditions since then, and they’ve been fun. The difference is, now, I work on my play, rehearse for shows I have coming up, study and teach voice between auditions. If I book a national spot, that will be fantastic. If I never do again, that will be OK, too. Because I know what all us seniors know, I’m always right where I’m supposed to be.