I left the J. Michael Bloom agency that day with my tail tucked firmly between my legs (see previous post). But I was determined I would get invited back.
Rehearsals for The Winslow Boy went into full gear and we opened three weeks later. A team of women produced the show and several of their friends helped out in various ways. One, Barbara Bloomberg, made cookies and brought them to the theatre to serve at intermission. I didn’t know who Barbara was; she was just a nice lady I’d say hello to on my way into the theatre. Turns out she was the casting director for one of the largest advertising agencies in New York. After we opened, she called all of the agents she worked with and said, “There are three guys in this show you should see.” And they all came. See what I mean about being lucky.
A few weeks later I booked my first commercial – a Birdseye spot. On the day of the shoot I went on and on about all the money I was going to make. I was so poor — even though I was working — I was barely scrapping by. The gentleman playing my father gave me a great piece of advice. He said, “Count on the money you make today.” He was right, the spot never ran and the only thing I got was the session fee for the day.
That isn’t quite true. Money-wise, yes, it’s true, but I got something much better from the experience. The director told the casting director what a good job I did, and the casting director, not Barbara, called in me for every project she felt I was right for. And I booked more work. Word got around I was a “go-to-guy” and more and more casting directors requested me and I booked even more work.
I was free-lancing at the time, I hadn’t signed with an agency, and it worked out well. A casting call would go out and the various agencies I was working with would submit me. Often the word came back, “John has already been submitted,” and the agents that had been slow to submit me made sure they got my name in first for the next call.
About this time I remembered why I came to New York in the first place. To study. I started looking around and found HB Studios where I met Aaron Frankel, my first real acting teacher. Aaron had a major impact on my work as did two other amazing teachers, Michael Shurtleff and Nikos Psacharopoulos,
While I was studying I continued to book commercials and I started getting soap opera work as well — a lot of “soaps” shot in New York back then. You know the expression, “When you’re hot, you’re hot.” It’s true. I booked more and more work. And the work came in a variety of ways, some bizarre and strange. A gentleman, Joel Egan, who had been an assistant at one of the agencies I free-lanced with, was hired to be the casting director for the soap opera, The Edge of Night. He hired me to be a cop on the show. The uniform fit perfectly, so every time they needed a cop – which was often – Joel would book me.
Things continued that way for a couple years. I was studying, learning my craft; I fell in and out of love at least twice; I was working steady, making good money — J. Michael invited me back and I signed with his agency — I had my own apartment in the West Village; life was perfect. But then, as often is the case with me, I got antsy, and I started thinking “Maybe the grass is greener somewhere else. Like Hollywood. And I should go there.” Actually, what happened is I got a little too big for my britches and…(to be continued)