In her latest blog, Louise Sorel (Vivian, DAYS) lands her first Broadway gig…
“William Morris Agency how may I direct your call?”
“Phyllis Raab, please,” I say.
This is torture. Why didn’t she just leave a message that it didn’t work out? It would be less painful than having to hear it from her. A click of the phone and that twangy voice, then “Hello, Louise. Where are you?”
“I’m in a phone booth.”
“Well, I hope you are sitting down because ya got it, ya got the part.” She giggles as I implode, explode and scream. A very dangerous thing to do in an overheated phone booth, on a June day in New York City. I feel my knees go, my body slides down the hot glass, still holding on to the receiver, which is now starting to look like the biggest piece of soft licorice.
I recover and ask her, “What did they say? Mr. Abbott cut me off. I thought he hated the reading. I can’t believe it. How does he know I can do it?”
“Oh sweetie, that’s Mr. Abbott. He always knows just what he wants. I knew you could do it. Now I want you to come up here and sign some papers. Everything is going to be wonderful. I’m so proud of you and I’m going to call Cy Feuer and tell him. He’ll fall off his chair.”
“Thank you, Ms. Raab.”
“Honey, call me Phyllis. We are going to have such fun. I can’t wait. Come up here tomorrow about 2 o’clock. I want you to meet some other agents. I’ve already told them about you.”
This is not happening. I think I’m losing my balance. I’m lightheaded.
“Thank you, Phyllis, I’ll be there tomorrow.”
I push down the cradle of the phone but don’t let go of the receiver. I drop a dime, get long distance, all but scream out COLLECT CALL to anyone at Sunset 26278 in Los Angeles, Louise is calling, it’s urgent. The phone rings once, twice, three times. Oh no, Mommy has to be there.
“Hello,” she says in her languid, slightly English voice.
“Collect call for anyone from Louise.”
“Yes, I’ll take it. Hello dahling. Where are you?”
“In the phone booth, Mommy, I got a Broadway show! George Abbott is directing, it’s a comedy, I have an agent, I can’t believe this. My first audition.”
“Wait a minute dahling, you have an agent and George Abbott is directing? What is the play called?”
“It’s called ‘Take Her, She’s Mine’ by Phoebe and Henry Ephron.”
“That’s wonderful, when does it start?”
“I don’t know anything yet. I have to go up to the William Morris office tomorrow and sign papers. You know they are the best agency and the lady who sent me up is terrific and funny.”
“I’m so thrilled for you. Call us back with details. I’ll tell Daddy and Mishka and Nana and Ganka. This is the best news. I love you my dahling.”
“Oh thanks Mommy, I love you too, bye.”
Phyllis’ office. There she sits with those owl glasses on and her feet curled up in her swivel chair. We sign a contract for a year on the play and three years with the agency. It turns out rehearsals don’t start for three months. This throws me. Art Carney is playing the lead and I don’t know any of the other actors’ names except Elizabeth Ashley, because she is a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse. I now meet two other agents. The one that makes the biggest impression is Ed Bondy. He is as flamboyant and energetic as Phyllis.
Now that I’ve got a play that is not scheduled to start rehearsals for three months I have to find a way to survive until then. I need a job to pay my part of the rent and food. I definitely decide we are getting a phone. I see an ad for “Browns Temporary Service.” They are a typing service and I call, tell them my typing skills and miraculously, over the phone I get a booking.
These little typing jobs take me through the summer. Some of them were bearable. I work at the Empire State Building for a cough medicine company. My typing is atrocious and my waste basket is overflowing with papers filled with typos but my boss takes a liking to me and keeps giving me assignments that I am convinced are made up. I never see them appear anywhere after I type them. I am having some fun leaving poems on the desks of some of the stuffy people working there. I think they know it’s me. Some of the jobs are airless and chokingly hot with the stench of cigarette smoke. Some are a bit dodgy — men who think they have a little twit on their hands and that they can take advantage. Luckily I can play very snotty and it puts them off. I just can’t think of anything but the first day of rehearsal.
I lunch in Bryant Park despite the suffocating heat. Vince is back in the city and sometimes he meets me and we share a sandwich and a coke. By the end of the summer he has another play and is out of town in Philadelphia and I am about to start the first day of rehearsals. Terrifying. What to wear? How to enter? I think I’ll wear the same outfit I wore for the audition.