It's what you get for a life in the arts, for wanting that, for dreaming those pie-in-the-sky dreams. I recently spent time in the NY apartment where, back in 1976, I arose early to get myself down to 54th street and a six hour stretch of movement, voice and acting classes at The Neighborhood Playhouse. Dance class was in the basement and we'd sweat bullets. My friend Daniel and I always got to the three-story brownstone early so that we could sit in the top-floor library and discuss life and J.D. Salinger.
It was a six-week course and cost a whopping 400 bucks, I think, which was a deal and a half considering that it was there I met Bill Esper. It was Bill's last session at the Playhouse and that fall he was opening his own studio, two floors above the Metropole strip club in Times Square. I interviewed with Bill for a slot in the new class, got it and spent the next two years with him, staying on for an additional "scene" class. Through Bill I met and studied with Martin Waldron, a vocal coach from the old school whose brownstone in Brooklyn was a shrine to Eleanore Duse. Martin died just a couple of years ago. I miss his voice, when I would occasionally call to check in - "Robert, mmmm, mmmm, and how are you...." The resonance would vibrate the phone.
What an education.
Not to mention NY, a city that will pick you up one moment and then squash you flat the next. I waited tables, ran a freight elevator, worked in a photo store in Grand Central and did whatever else I needed to do. My roommates gave me their rent checks so that I could pay the landlord and for two or three days I could pull up my balance on the electronic screen at Chase and stare at all the money I didn't have. I fell madly in love with one roommate and had a horrible falling out with another. We threw parties in our 7 room apartment that had Gloria, from the floor below, pounding on our door. But when her grandson came to the door one Halloween (we never got any trick or treaters) I happened to remember a one-pound Hershey's Kiss that a roommate had brought home and put it in his hands. It was bigger than his head. Gloria forgave us everything.
But see, this kind of life leads to things like this morning. I awoke at 5, thirsty and needing the bathroom. Suddenly wide-awake, I stretched out on the couch and thought, of course, of this life, this actor's/artist's life and drifted back into sleep where...I dreamed of Meryl Streep, of course, she and I just chatting it up. She'd dyed her hair black for a role and we spoke of that, just two actors talking. And then she complained of a knot in her neck so yeah, I got her turned around and put my hands to work. There isn't an actor/dancer alive who can't give a good neck rub - it's practically a second profession. She seemed grateful and, may I say (ah, the actor's imagination) even mildly turned on.