Elementary School Drop-out

Steve Katz

Steve Katz

Steve Katz
Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA
November 27
Norma Glamp's
Steve Katz, owner of Norma Glamp's and Memories Gallery, began his career as a school teacher. He has taught art and ceramics at the high school and elementary school levels. His family is in iron and steel. His mother irons and his father steals, In 1988, he took a break from teaching to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. While finding neither, he did manage to secure a recurring role as an extra on the TV sitcom, 'Cheers." Duties performed included sitting, standing and leaning against walls making silent conversation. Returning to the east coast in 1992, he became a full-time Provincetown resident and founded his two galleries to showcase his hand-colored Polaroid transfers and woven photographs. He lives with his partner Herb and his cat Louey in a home located on the most bumpy and rutted road in North America.....are you listening Provincetown Highway Department???????


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DECEMBER 13, 2010 5:44PM


Rate: 29 Flag

"Who me?" Shirley Finkelstein turned around and looked at the  woman holding a clipboard.

"Yes, you dear," the woman replied. " My name is Carolyn Applebee. I represent I See You Productions. We are at the Fresh Meadows Shopping Mall today casting for a commercial. Would you by any chance be interested in auditioning?"

"Would I?" Shirley answered excitedly. "Me? In a commercial? Well fancy that."

"Now I'm not making any promises," the casting director cautioned. "But if you  fill out this contact sheet and allow me to take a few pictures of you, we will consider you for our next project."

As thrilled as she was, Shirley regretted not wearing make-up and her new dress to the mall...but how was she to know that a casting agent would be looking for her?

Carolyn snapped a head shot, a full length shot, and a photo of Shirley from the back.

"Is that enough photos?" Shirley asked. She loved the attention and the stares from the crowd as she posed for the camera. "I have time for you to take several more if you'd like."

"Thanks, Shirley," the woman smiled. That's plenty. We'll call you if we think we can use you.

"Imagine," Shirley mused, "If I hadn't been right here exchanging pantyhouse at the Walmart, I would never have gotten my picture took. Life sure works in mysterious ways."


"Hello? May I please speak to Shirley Finklestein?" the voice on the other end of the phone requested.

"This is she speaking." Shirley answered politely.

"Dear, this is Carolyn Applebee from I See You Productions."

Shirley's heart started to pound.

"We've decided to use you in one of our commercials."

Shirley could not believe her ears. A TV commercial! "This could lead to a whole new career," she thought to herself.

"Yes. yes!" Shirley gushed. "I'd love to!"

"Great," Carolyn replied." Do you have a pencil and paper? Please be at Grand Cental Station at 2am next Thursday. And wear something dressy."

"Something dressy," Shirley repeated as she wrote the instructions on a pad. "Thank you Carolyn. Thank you. You won't regret this."

Shirley thought of one more thing. "Carolyn...what product will I be selling?"

"We are shooting a Cadillac commercial," the director replied.

"Cadillac" Shirley thought to herself after she hung up."Imagine me selling Cadillacs on TV. Well la-de da!"


Shirley called everyone she knew to spread the good news.

"Betty," Shirley practically yelled into the phone. "I'm going to be in a commercial. Selling Cadillacs!"

"Sweetie, I'm so happy for you. And proud." Betty replied. "You must be so excited.  I'm sure you'll do great...maybe you'll even become as famous as Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials!"

But some of her friends were not as kind.

"You? At your age? For a commercial?" Margaret Feeny asked. "Don't make me laugh. Who would want you for a commercial...Preparation H?" 

"Well, it was so nice talking with you," Shirley said, quickly cutting her off. "I'll call you when my commercial is on."

"You do that." Margaret replied.

"Bitch!" Shirley muttered as she hung up the phone.


The big day finally arrived. Because  the call was for 2 am, Shirley decided to forego the F train and take a taxi to Grand Central. Fifty dollars door to door, but it was worth it. "Maybe next time they'll send a car for me."

"I'll just show up an hour early," she said to herself as she put on her bright yellow dress. "They will probably have to teach me to read my lines from big white cards....and my make-up could take thirty mintes. Better early than late."

When she entered Grand Cental Station, the immense main room was practically deserted. The area around the escalators was roped off and several cameramen and lighting technicians were hard at work. She looked around until she found Carolyn Applebee seated at a desk.

"Hi Carolyn," it's me Shirley Finklestein. I know I'm a little early, but..."

"Oh yes, Shirley." Carolyn said. "You are early. Please stand by the escalators until we are ready for you."

Shirley watched the technicians, setting lights, measuring distances, and placing a big taped X few feet away from the camera.

"This must be where I'm going to stand when I do the commercial," Shirley said to herself.

Soon a man in a gray business suit was standing next to her. Then a teenager joined the two of them.

"What do they have to do with my commercial?" Shirley wondered.

As the time grew closer to two o'clock, more and more people assembled at the escalator. By the time two o'clock arrived, there must have been fifty people standing with her.


Carolyn Applebee climbed up on a step stool and began to address the crowd. "Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you all for coming tonight. I know the hour is late, but we needed the station to ourselves." She cleared her throat. "I would like you all to form a staggered line. Groups of one and two. On the call "Action," I would like you all to ride up the escalator. As soon as you are out of camera range, please ride down the adjoining escalator. Keep repeating the process until we yell 'Cut.'"

"Aw Shit," Shirley muttered. "I ain't gonna star in this commercial."

"Here lady," an asistant said to Shirley. "Carry this red shopping bag."

Shirley and her shopping bag joined the crowd as they made their first trip up the escaltor.

"And.....roll 'em," Shirley heard the director shout.

"Cut!" Carolyn yelled. "They're too bunched up. Spread out people!" For two hours, Shirley followed her fellow performers up the escalator, down the escaltor and back up again."

Finally, Carolyn yelled. "OK people, cut and print. We have what we needed. Thank you very much. Please line up at the desk and you will each receive a one hundred dollar bill."

"OK," Shirley rationalized, "I wasn't the star. I guess you do have to start at the bottom... but when my friends see me carrying my red shopping bag, they will be so proud of me."

While collecting her money, Shirley had to ask the obvious queston. "Carolyn, when will my commercial be seen  on TV?"

"It debuts on the NBC Nightly News on the twenty-eighth....and thank you Shirley for a job well done."

Hoping to get another job in the future, Shirley replied, "It was my pleasure, I assure you."


The evening of the twenty-eighth, Shirley was ready. All her friends had been alerted to watch her television debut. How could they miss her? She was the lady with the red shopping bag.

Shirley stayed home alone that night and waitied for her premier. She set out a small bottle of champagne. A tray of Ritz Crackers with spray cheese was placed on a TV table by the television. Why not? It was opening night!

The Nightly News was on! Finally, she heard the words she was waiting for."And we'll be right back after these messages."

Shirley held her breath.

The commercial began. "In this hustle and bustle world we live in..." 


Something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong.

Shirley's eyes popped open. The producers had taken the tape  and speeded it up so fast, the people in the commecial looked like little ants running up and down  a treadmill..

"...it is satisfying to know that there are some pleasures in life that should be savored leisurely."

The scene changed to a young couple driving their new Cadillac down a country road.

"Cadillac, a symbol of luxury."

Shirley watched as the car slowly disappeared into the sunset.

That was it.


She was red yellow blur carrying a red shopping bag.

Shirley began to cry. What ever made her think she was  going to succeed in show business? I See You Productions didn't need Shirley. They just needed bodies.

Shirley was so embarrased. What would her friends think of this fiasco?

She didn't have long to find out.

"Shirley. This is Margaret Feeney. That was some commercial you were in," she chided. "What the hell was that? A bunch of blobs racing up and down an escalator. Tell me dear, which blob were you?"

Shirley hung up the phone and felt rotten.

After all her bragging about becoming a TV spokesperson, how could she ever show her face again?

She curled up into a fetal position and unplugged  the phone for the rest of the night.



The long black Cadillac pulls in camera range.

A tall handsome young man dressed in a chaffeur's uniform is driving.

The passenger door opens and Shirley Finklestein gracefully slides out of the leather seat and closes the car door behind her. She is dressed in a sparkly black gown and is wearing long white gloves with a diamond bracelet on her wrist. There is a shiny tiara in her hair.

"Hello Ladies and Gentleman. My name is Shirley Finklestein and I am here to talk to you about Cadillac."

The camera moves in for a close-up. Shirley smiles.

"A Cadillac is beautiful, it's luxurious and it is very very classy.

Take it from me, Shirley Finklestein.

I love my Cadillac and drive it to the Stop and Shop every day."

Shirley now turns her head to greet the other camera.

"So if you're in the market for a big  expensive luxury car, a car that will impress everyone you meet,you ain't gonna do better than a Cadillac."

The director motions for Shirley to get back into the car. She and the handsome young man look into each other's eyes and then drive off  into the sunset.

" Cut! Perfect. You did that in one take. Shirley."

Somewhere in Fresh Meadows tonight, there is a woman dreaming about a commercial.

"That's the way a commercial outta be made." she mumbled as she went back to sleep.






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I swear Steve I saw every inch of this.. this really needs to be a book.
LOVED it and rated with hugs
Aw, so sweet and sad. . . the best of Shirley Finkelstein. Thank you, Steve - truly enjoyed this. ~R
Poor Shirley.
Stardom is such a fleeting thing.
Good work Steve!
Thanks Linda, FusunA, and Herbivore. Shirley would thank you herself, but she is out tonight auditioning for another commercial.
Knowing you've done extra work, Steve, I suspect some of this came from personal experience. As always, Shirley is delightful to read about.
I have to admit that I was at Grand Central Station trudging up and down the escalator at 2am one night...thanks.
Did anyone else catch the homage to Lucy's friend Carolyn Applebee?
Did anyone else catch the homage to Lucy's friend Carolyn Applebee?
It's a good bet that every one of us has been "Shirley" at some time in our life. I found myself blushing in sympathy with her.

That's some scribblin' there friend; some scribblin' indeed!!

I hope that someday Shirley gets her Cadillac.
Four stars for Shirley!
She coulda been a contender!
Keep dreamin' Shirley, so we can have more stories!
great story, steve! i can't wait to read more from you about her..i'd love to give her a big hug right now...and you, too.
Another great story Steve. There is a product out there somewhere for Shirley to be the spokesperson for. Her day will come. Rated.
"you ain't gonna do better than a Cadillac."
I love Shirley.
You do it every time! Thurber has nothing on you.
Poor Shirley....this is so well written and takes you to the limits again with emotions favoring Shirley and wishing she would just get the big, imaged, break for once.
I'm beginning to develop a real affection for Shirley -- she is sort of the every woman....great story..
Shirley and I thank you very much.
Poor Shirley. But what I love is your good touch on the details: down to the Ritz crackers and spray cheese. Great work, Steve!
Aw, poor Shirley. But at least she got 100 bucks. We OS ants run up and down for free ;-)
Someday, I want Shirley to win . . . and I think she needs better friends . . . but then, maybe she wouldn't be Shirley . . . carry on, Steve!
Poor Shirley, always the bridesmaid never the bride... great read Steve..
Sounds like Margaret and your mother are related! Good story -- and on the bright side: thank goodness it was an escalator!
Pavanne: very astute observation!
The commercial was actually in two parts.
We also had to walk up and down and up and down subway steps until I wanted to faint.
Would I agree to do this now?
Shirley, bless her heart, suffers so much from being ordinary. I love her.

Love it, but I wanted to knock the teeth out of that bitch Margaret Feeney. And I'm not a violent person. Really.

Great story.
Awwww, poor Shirley! Life disappoints, that's when it's nice to have a good dream to fall back on ~ I hope we'll see more of Mrs. Finkelstein.
Shirley is hope, resilience, and there but for the grace of the Universe, go all of us.
So sad. I hate it when fantasy turns into reality.
Interesting story.
Ah Shirley. You and your can of spray cheese break my heart a little. Except for the fact that you keep on going, and that's what it's all about.
Love this story so much, Steve.~r
Maybe next time, Shirley. You deserve it.
Steve, your writing is simply brilliant and so vivid it draws magnificent pictures. I love Shirley.
What's not to love?
What's not to love?