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Work Is A Many-Charactered Thing or Resume! Resume! Who’s Got The Resume?

Hello, Much Appreciated Readers!

I think I’ve told you that I was – once upon a time – an actress, myself.  I haven’t really said much about it – but I will from time to time.  I’ll talk about being a regular on GENERAL HOSPITAL and THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, and about guest star work I was lucky enough to do . . .back in the day, as they say.  And I’ll probably talk about one of my most thrilling experiences:  Being on Broadway!

As all ends seem to bring one to beginnings, the ‘end’ of my acting career began my coaching and wrangling career – which sometimes brought me full circle back again to the acting.  (Whew – that was a REALLY BAD run-on sentence.  Sorry, Mr. Jacobsen, English teacher par excellence – Maryvale High!!!)

But, to continue!

As I told you in an earlier post, the BABY WRANGLER  is actually the person responsible for the performance of the baby: needed to coax, cajole, encourage and deliver the reactions and actions called for by the director, the script, the client, the ad agency, the producer, the producer’s wife . . . . well, you get the picture.  Depending on the director, and his or her comfort level – a baby wrangler sometimes actually directs the baby.

And, there are amazing directors who have trusted me so completely, that they are far off behind a monitor, while I’m right there, standing right next to camera, eliciting all the responses necessary for the scene.  Often, I’m “acting off-screen” saying the lines of whichever actor is actually in the scene, so that it ultimately looks as if he or she is interacting with the baby.  But all along, it was me.

The same thing often happens with young actors I am coaching on tv or film.  You’ll never see me, or hear my voice – but I would say that the first 5 years at least on 7th Heaven, Mackenzie Rosman (“Ruthie”)  almost never talked to anyone but me on her close-ups.  Wait a sec . . . .  come to think of it, you could actually both see  and hear me on three different episodes our executive producer Brenda Hampton gave me:   a co-star role with Mackenzie in which I played her first school teacher,  a GUEST star role with Mack that she and her writers created with me in mind – (SNAPPY the Dinosaur . . . .hmmmmm, what does THAT say?!!!),  and one Christmas episode in which practically the entire crew had funny cameo appearances. But that’s a different situation all-together. Pretty amazing of Brenda, yes??

However, as lucky as I have been through the years that I was still acting, lemme tell ya – because of the situations I’ve described above – my off-screen resume is wildly, stupendously much more impressive!

I have been

Jim Carrey,

Yes - I was Jim Carrey!

Yes – I was Jim Carrey!

Meryl Streep,dawn

Billy Connolly,            Yes, I was even this Sexy Scot!

Timothy Spall,

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and Martin Lawrence, Doris RobertsEmily Proctor, Shaquille O’Neil, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Catherine O’Hara, Phyllis Diller, Barbara Rush, Ashlee Simpson, Andrew Keegan, Steven Weber, Rebecca Demornay, Melvin Van Peebles, Rick Moranis, Ed O’Neil, Lindsey Wagner, Shirley Knight, most of the cast of THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY,   and the entire cast and most of the guest cast of 7TH HEAVEN at one time or another including Happy The Dog, a guest chimpanzee  AND a horse. Don’t ask!  

And these are just the ones that I can remember!!!!

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FAST FORWARD – THEN AND NOW – THE CHILDREN WHO COMPLETE ME!

If you’ve read previous blogs, you know I have a habit of going back and forth in time. The Kiddie Time Traveler am I!!  And, here I go again . . . .

As someone who has had the extreme good fortune to actually keep doing this coaching/wrangling thing  for a living for more than a few years – – –

Well, it kinda makes me feel like Auntie Mame, ya know???

Nurture a child, teach a child, love a child . . . . then watch them go on their way.  Or you leave them, because the film is over, or the series , or  . . . whatever.

It’s kind of devastating.  Heart breaking, actually.

Hundred of babies and children come to mind.

But one – – –  one in particular – – – comes to heart.

At this particular moment – one particular child.

It’s not that I haven’t loved others . . .  I have.  With all my soul.  AND I’ll be telling you about them, too.

it’s just that THIS one . . . .She was my first.

And, well, in addition to spending highly formative years of her life with her on the first seven years of 7Th HEAVEN . . . Well,

. . . . . she’s Mack.

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Mackenzie Rosman entered my life starting at barely age six . . . . .and she left my life – never.

Do I see her all the time?  Do we communicate often?  No.

Will she forever be the first daughter I never had?

Does it make my day – hell my WEEK,  when she calls, or drops me a line or an IM saying she loves me and misses me?

YES.  Oh, YES.

See her through my eyes . . . .that first episode together.

we’re on location on the front steps of the “CAMDEN HOUSE”  or The Alta House as we called it.  (that’s the street it was on in Santa Monica)

The cutest damn little munchkin you’ve ever seen . . . Shirley Temple curls.  Great big HUGE eyes.  Little Buddha belly, WICKED sense of humor, more mischief in that little body than in any 10 kids I worked with prior to her.  (Maybe after, as well!)  Cute little sailor blouse, if I remember correctly, cute little shoes and socks . . .

And . . .

OH CRAP.  She’s wearing a  short skirt.

SITTING

on the steps . . . .

With the camera level with her little face which is in pretty close proximity to her lap.

“Psst, Dawn” . . . . comes a summons from Video Village, and director Duwayne Dunham (to whom I’ll forever be grateful – he brought me on to 7th Heaven for his episode – and I didn’t leave for 7 years!) ANYway . . .

Another “PSSSSSST, Dawn”.  A little more forceful this time.

Me:  “yeah, Duwayne?””

Duwayne:  “Ummm . . . . Mack’s skirt . . . she . . . . can you get her to sit , um,  . . well, a little more lady-like?

Small pause.  LOUD silence.

Me:  “OH.  Uh…. Sure.”

I trot back to the steps, where Mack is squiggling on and off of her mark like a jumping bean.  Lord that child had energy!!!   How to  get a little girl to “sit properly” without making her aware of those kinds of things? She’s only six, for Heaven’s sake, and shouldn’t EVEN be worrying about stuff like that.

I get an idea, and much to our camera operator -Ronnie High’s – relief,  I go in and gently help her sit more ‘lady like” so that “we can see your pretty skirt better, Mack!” (!?)

And I keep doing this.  For about two hours.  No kidding . . . . sitting like a lady is just not something that a little kid remembers  to do:  for them, there’s no logic to it,  it’s not fun to remember all that stuff, and it isn’t comfortable to be seated so stiffly.   And as I said, in a perfect world, young kids shouldn’t need to think about all that.  (tho I seem to remember 9 year old David Gallagher singing something about seeing London and seeing France . . . sigh.)

Ronnie spent half that shooting day with a red face, little desperate whispered “Dawn”s escaping from him regularly,  to signal  that I needed to step in again.

Thus,  I spent most of the day whispering – “Mack, Honey, show your pretty skirt …”

As I write this, I’m sitting in a jury assembly room in Van Nuys, CA at lunch break , approximately 15 years later– remembering  and hooting out loud.

Boy – that would make the attorneys use their “pass” card if I was sitting in voir dire right now!!!  More on the jury duty another time . .

Thus began my first episode on the show . . . .I was to go on to do 150 episodes. I have the celebratory champaign glasses from the 100th and 150th episodes to prove it! I had no idea what a wild ride the next years would be.  I wouldn’t change it for the world . . . . though there WERE days I wasn’t so sure of that.

As I said – I was blessed to stay with 7TH HEAVEN for seven years . . . seven seasons of a hit show . . . . seven actual years of straight employment – practically a miracle in my business . . . . . but more importantly – seven years with my Mack!!

Next time – I’ll tell you more about our relationship –  and what SHE taught ME.

Mackenzie and the Very Long Day's Work

Comforting Mack and her co-stars on a very long shoot day.

PS   Typical for me – though I wrote this a few weeks ago, I’m just posting now.  It’s that back and forth in time thing . . . I gotta get a handle on that!

 

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So – Why “Will Work For O’s”? And What The Heck is A Baby Wrangler, Anyway???

574583_10151129293579817_299316635_n132_ShelbyInTheCageLEMONY SNICKET

Welcome to my new blog!  It’s just LOVELY to see you here. This first one is pretty wordy – – – but I’ll get the hang of it!

Perhaps you are asking yourselves, ‘Why “Will Work For O’s”?’  Well, even if you are not – I shall endeavor to answer!!!! 

Because, you see, I would not be where I am today without A).Casting Director and treasured friend, SHEILA MANNING (I’ll go into detail about that later)and B). CHEERIOS!

I really want to do a commercial (starring me, of course!) about a baby wrangler and CHEERIOS.  Never mind the cholesterol and heart-healthy stuff, let’s talk about the REALLY  importance aspect of that cereal from Heaven: I CAN GET A BABY TO DO  PRACTICALLY ANYTHING FOR ME FOR CHEERIOS!!! (More to come on that, to be sure).

And re What The Heck is A Baby Wrangler, Anyway: (Are you envisioning chaps & a lasso?)

I am, in my blogs, going to tell you lots of baby wrangling stories, and coaching with slightly older kids stories . . . and stories of me, too.  My husband – amazing acting coach, Shawn Nelson,  says that if I leave me out of the stories, I am leaving out some of the heart..  Of course, he’s biased – (is that GREAT or what??!!!!), but I will trust him for now.  When this (hopefully) becomes my book – we’ll see what the editor leaves in!.

SO- onto the definition portion of today’s blog:

1.   BABY WRANGLER – the ACTUAL definition:  a paid fool who can have no pride, no ego, must break into song and dance, or make embarrassing faces and sounds at any given time or place,  must have roughly the mentality of a 6 – 10 month old person, must generally face humiliation and possible ridicule, and ideally fits into small, cramped and sometimes yucky places.

For Example:   there was the time I spent approximately 3 weeks squished into either  the bow of a little sailboat, hidden under a dusty, dirty heavy canvas sail, or squished under the bench- like seats of the little sailboat under a dusty, dirty heavy canvas sail with Meryl Streep’s feet on my tush.  Or with Liam Aiken or Emily Browning accidentally stepping on my head.  Or my hand,  Or my foot. Or all of the above.  (never could quite figure out how they accomplished THAT!)

Below you see a good example of the above mentioned yucky place . . .  but spending time with Meryl, Emily and Liam was a delight!

Above mentioned yucky place!

In addition, the baby wrangler is the person that you can yell at if the baby doesn’t do what the director needs (I mean, come on – what kind of monster would yell at the actual BABY??)  However, truth be told, though I have been yelled at – it hasn’t happened very often.

Oh wait a minute – here’s an exception: we were filming at Burbank Airport. It was Season One of my miraculous gift from God and Aaron Spelling – seven seasons as on-set acting coach for the WB mega-hit, SEVENTH HEAVEN. It was a very long and very wide establishing shot, which means that everything was being seen in a radius of about a gazillion miles.  My little Mack (Mackenzie Rosman aka “RUTHIE CAMDEN”), barely six at the time, had dialogue and needed me close by to prompt her, but there was NO place to hide.  Our Director, the late great Harry Harris,  said, “Dawn – get way close to the kid (meaning Mack) over by that bench.”  I said, “Harry, if I do that I’m gonna be in the shot.  He said, “No you won’t.”  I said, “Yes I will.”  He said, “No you won’t.  I said, “Yes I will.  He said, “Dawn, just go to the damn bench!”  I said, “Okay, Harry – but I’m tellin’ ya, I’m gonna be in the shot!”

So I went where he told me to go, our 1st AD, Paul Snider,  said “ROLLing,” Harry said “AKshun” and then, one second later, “GODDAMMIT DAWN, YOU’RE  IN  THE  SHOT!!!!!!!”.

sigh.  And here is Mack and Me – a partnership that gave me joy for 7 years.  And sometimes drove me crazy.  But that’s another story.  And believe you me, you’ll hear it!

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And here he is – the amazing Harry Harris – and me, on one of hundreds of happy days on 7th HEAVEN.  A truly incredible, lovely man – and an incredibly talented director.  I love him . . . and I miss him!  You can ask anyone from our family-crew of that wonderful show – they’ll say the same thing.  We all loved Harry.

7TH HEAVEN - HARRY HARRIS and Me

Back to my original point  (and I warn you, I digress a lot) – I was defining “baby wrangler”.   Above, I supplied the actual, factual definition.

Now here’s . . .

2. BABY WRANGLER – the TECHNICAL definition: the baby wrangler is actually the person responsible for the performance of the baby: needed to coax, cajole, encourage and deliver the reactions and actions called for by the director, the script, the client, the ad agency, the producer, the producer’s wife . . . . well, you get the picture.  Depending on the director, and his or her comfort level – a baby wrangler can actually direct the baby.

And this is part of what I do for a living.   I’ll be telling you lots more in the blogs to come.

Am I a lucky girl or what????????

© Dawn Jeffory-Nelson

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