In her Soap Opera Digest blog, Louise Sorel — a talented writer as well as a gifted actress — looks back…
Black wrought iron bars come into my vision as I awake from this floor mattress arrangement we have. I’m staring at the fragmented light and shadow on my legs, the only thing that lets me know it’s daylight. The bedroom is the size of a storage rental space that might hold four wardrobe cartons.
This is our domestic bliss in the year of 1960, with our Picasso blue posters and the railroad apartment with one exit out to the garbage cans. I can hear them being dragged out of the basement where we are situated. This happens at midnight and then there is the constant odor. It wafts into three rooms every morning and instead of inhaling the fresh air of the house of my parents where I grew up in California, I inhale the remnants of other peoples’ discarded food.
This morning is the day after I have graduated from the
Neighborhood Playhouse, School of the Theater. Two years of intense acting classes, dance lessons with Martha Graham, voice lessons, fencing and discipline. What a whirlwind. Two years before, in college, doing Shaw, Shakespeare, Euripides, Maxwell Anderson and others. Two years in high school of theater arts and dance and more wonderful playwrights. I could think of nothing else. All I’ve done for six years of school is plan my life upon the wicked stage and now I have no stage and no plans.
My live-in boyfriend, a crazed, possessive, Italian actor is out of town with a play and so I am alone and exploding with excitement and wonder over my next move.
Oh God, I can’t wait to call Daddy. He never thought I could do this even though I was able to get a scholarship and found a way to pay for my airfare. Daddy was so worried about me. I guess that’s what fathers do.
I’m putting on my t-shirt and jeans and sneaks to get to the
phone booth at 90th and Broadway. Someday we’ll be able to afford a phone. I am collecting my dimes allotted for calls, a newspaper and our answering service. At least I can call my parents collect from Los Angeles.
I notice an entirely too large cockroach crossing the doorway. I think I’ll name it June, in honor of the month we’re in and besides a June Bug is a little more palatable.
I gingerly step over her and she follows me to the bathroom, a favorite watering hole for all those creepy, crawly creatures inhabiting the lower depths. Ick! I’m not going to kill her because the sound of the crunch is too unbearable. Oh, she’s gone under the tub. Whew!
I gaze in the mirror. I see my questioning brown eyes, bangs hanging down and sheltering me from shyness. My hair dropping to my waist. I think I’m a little unusual looking. I can’t find my bone structure yet but I really kind of like what I see. This could work. It’s got to work because it’s all I’ve got. Okay. Out I go. Through the basement, through the darkness and out to the phone booth.
Nice June day, think I’ll spring for a cup of coffee at the deli across the street. I’m putting off that phone call. It’ll be over too quickly and then what? Okay — got my Chock Full o’ Nuts with half and half and sugar, in my styrofoam cup, got my dimes, got my top hat and no tails! Here I go!
Hello, friendly phone booth, squeaky accordion door, dirty plate glass windows! And here’s your dime, you inky plastic Alexander Graham Bell invention!
“Operator,” a voice with Elaine May overtones whines.
“Yes, operator, I need to place a collect call to Burbank,
California to Mr. Albert J Cohen at Universal International Pictures — Sunset 48739. His daughter is calling.”
“Thank you, one moment, please.”
Oh God, I hope he’s there. Even though he never wanted me to leave home, never wanted me to go through the angst of being an actress, I hope he knows I can do it now.
I hear the click of the studio operator, the sound of a secretary’s voice, a silence and then Daddy’s voice.
“Hi sweetheart, where are you?”
“Hi Daddy. I’m in the phone booth on the corner of my street. Guess what?” I blurt. “We all graduated yesterday and it was great! I turned out to be a favorite of the head teacher, David Pressman, and I really felt good about the work.” I am motor mouthing as fast as I can, hoping he will get my enthusiasm.
“That’s wonderful, honey.”…Silence…I wait… “What are you going to do now, come home?”
I’m stopped in my tracks. I can’t believe he said that.
“No Daddy”…breathe… “I’m not coming home”…breathe. This is what I start to remember — defeatism, can’t do it, better not try … breathe. He’s not going to defeat me now.
To read Sorel’s past blogs, click here.