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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!