Monday, November 22, 2010
"No man is free who has to work for a living. But I'm available."
Anybody left? Ask any madman, but the real pleasure in life is turning your own personal obsession into an occupation. This can be really tough at the beginning. Certainly, my early attempts at interacting within the real world were minor trainwrecks of embarrassment. Being a box boy at Alpha Beta with my much too long Illya Kuryakin haircut was my first experience with deceit used as financial incentive. "Oh, I just love those strawberries," sez the overweight checker to the elderly woman purchasing said fruit product, with yours truly placing them in the extra-sturdy paperbag. The happy pensioner leaving the store, pleased that her purchase has been validated by the friendly cashier, the hostess turns to me and says "I can't stand those strawberries, they make me sick." Why am I stunned into a shocked silence of horror? You lying bitch. Who do you trust? Is this to teach me to question the comments made from people that are you paying currency to? A minor event, you say? Perhaps. But if this event had such a profound effect that I remember it 44 years later, how then could I find myself in phone sales, using my talents as a gifted actor to entice unseen, new residents into subscribing to the Los Angeles Times? It's all true. From the entrails of a decrepit building in Whittier, CA, I would dial newly connected phone numbers (received in Langley-like fashion from unspoken connections in the phone company) and greet the unsuspecting recipient with the words "Hello, this is David Hemmings from the Los Angeles Times. How are you today? I have good news for you. The Los Angeles Time has opened up a BRAND NEW office in your area!" (This area included all of Southern California--we were the office.) "And for a limited time only, if you have the Los Angeles Times delivered to your home, you will receive a special free gift." (The gift was a collection of reprints of famous Los Angeles Times covers. Suitable for framing.) "I don't want to subscribe to the newspaper," the doubting customer might hastily insert into my fast-paced spiel. "Oh, this is not a subscription," David Hemmings or Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing would say to the customer, "but only a TRIAL OFFER. You can cancel at any time." But of course it really was a subscription, and the point was to get them to keep the paper for at least a month so yours truly, Terence Stamp, could get his commission. What a dreadful business. I was actually very good at it and was sent to new urban areas of development simply to call recent homeowners and get that valuable, first time, daily paper subscription. Like a field operator, I was removed from HQ in Whittier and phoning out of a distribution office in Claremont. Besides the good pay for a young man, the perks of the job included getting my Sunday paper on Wednesday because the Calendar, comics, magazine and non-newsy sections were delivered early, and the fact that the little mini-mart around the corner thought I was overage and sold me beer with my lunch every day.
(Footnote for underage drinkers: I'm not condoning this, but remembering the fact that the store assumed I was older and I took advantage of it. I should also point out that if you are underage, an effect that will really work is putting baby powder in your hair, giving you that greying temples look. A slight limp can be added for extra effect. It works. Trust me.)
So the paper thing was pretty depressing. Soul diminishing. For years I hated the L.A. Times. Wouldn't buy the paper. Then later I decided why should I sell the crap that's in the paper when I can actually write it? Sorry friends, I went off on a Tangent here (a much smoother ride...better than going off in a Huff). So anyway, I liked music. Thought I had an ear for it. Wanted to play it. Maybe get paid for it. Do what you like. Do what you love. If you can make it profitable, you're blessed. Of course, this also has its dark side. Which explains how Dick Cheney exists. Which is why I often say to people when they talk about sex and violence: "I'm a lover, not a fighter. But I'll fight for love."
"Illya, are you free?"