Travel Fare

I’m in my eighteenth year of going up and back every workday from my home in Encino to Burbank. A conservative estimate makes it thirty five hundred round trips, to date. While I love my work… there have been a few times when I really didn’t feel like going to Burbank, for one reason or another. Only once did being ill keep me from the starting gate. In actuality, I did make it to the starting gate. I just couldn’t move when I got there. It was one of those twenty-four hour flu things that take no prisoners. You’re hit, and down you go. Missing one day out of eighteen years isn’t too bad an attendance record. “Ya’ think.”

Psychologists say seventy-five percent of who you are is attributable to the environment you were raised in. I’m inclined to agree with that premise. I often heard my father expound:

“If you’re the owner, being sick isn’t a consideration. There are a great many people depending on you to be there; letting them down isn’t an option. Not when you are the entertainment committee.”

My father believed in team play, at every level. He felt every employee was helping to put bread on his family’s table. If he wasn’t there, and the factory had to stay shut because of his absence, the financial burden to others would have been unconscionable. Dad’s responsibility was to family and team. Everything else was of little or no consequence to him. My mom was somewhat jealous over the relationship my Dad had with his employees. While I was only a little boy at the time, I never the less had a handle on my father’s methods. I described him as “Good King Charlie.” He definitely lead. His factory wasn’t a democracy. The plus side of the way he ran everything was that there never seemed to be any confusion about what assignments were to be conducted by what employee.

In the 1920s, there was no such thing as medical insurance, or in many cases, paid vacations. People were glad to find work.

It kind of sounds like the workers of that time period could all identify with what we go through in our industry. You get a job, you complete the job, and you’re out there looking for work again. And even if the bosses love your work, there’s never a guarantee you’ll be called back to work for them again.

My father’s realm began in 1920. At the time, he was an energetic eighteen year old. He had been in the United States some sixteen years and working since the third grade. In that era, there weren’t any laws concerning child labor. Everyone, without exception, worked together to support the family. At the end of each week, his family members, boys and girls, would report in to their mother, presenting their pay envelope. In those days, there was no such thing as a paycheck. Workers were paid in cash. Grandma would count the money and then give back to each of her kids enough money to cover them for the next week. Most of dad’s schooling was a product of his curiosity as a gifted self-taught scholar.

Even as I write a descriptive of my own father, I find it almost impossible to understand what he and his family were subjected to in the early part of the twentieth century. To get an idea of how it was, go around the house or apartment you’re currently living in and disconnect all of the electric appliances, perhaps with the exception of a single electric cord, which would most likely be hanging down from the center of each room. In the early 1920s, even a radio was an extravagance.

I personally find life to be so ass-backwards at times. So often I’ve day dreamed about having my dad around today, for me to conduct an in-depth interview. I’m sure many of you share the same feelings. What a joy it would be to have the guy in this world that you most admired, respected, and trusted right with you at a time of deep need. Think about the relaxation of knowing the person you are sharing thoughts with is completely, one hundred percent on your side; you’d be playing in life’s game with much less tension and anxiety. My only disclaimer would have to be: Little chance would my father understand my pursuits within the entertainment industry. I know he would have felt life to be tough enough without making it any more difficult by attempting to survive in the art world.

Scenarios like these are part of my thought processes, simply because I have a need to do so. I have a need to gather some extra strength from time to time in order to help cope with some of life’s indignities.

Just about every aspect of this “No Business” comes with a guarantee of highs and lows. Sometimes they come only a few seconds apart. It’s like the love of your life tells you in the afternoon how much they care for you. That same evening you find your clothing out on the street. Don’t try to figure it out. There’s a big sign which reads: “No Comprehension Allowed.” Love is like our subjective art form; I mean it’s for sure “No Business.” Humiliating, ain’t it?

As a writer I would receive rejection notices, which should have come with a warning: This notice should not be read directly after eating.

I remember seeing my ex-wife standing there with the tears rolling down her cheeks as she read what some punk had to say about a book I had submitted to their publisher. The review was the worst one I had ever received. I don’t think anyone could actually write as poorly as how that woman described my work. Her words were cutting and cruel. It took five full years of trying before I gave in to the acknowledgement of failure as a professional writer. In my mind, I had failed myself, and my family.

Once again, my father’s words echoed:

“Kids don’t ask to be born. It was your idea to bring them into this world. It’s your responsibility to provide for them.”

It was the personal credo he followed for his entire life. In my father’s eyes, your children, family, and your employees, were part and parcel of an accepted obligation that went with life’s territory.

An old experienced and rather famous actor told me I was going through a first hand condition of the heart. He was the one who assured me it was a personal thing. Many others had counseled me not to take the rejection personally. I never could understand how to do that. In each and every one of the many positions or just plain jobs I’ve had in this “No Business,” I’ve always taken everything personally. I don’t mean to tell you that any form of rejection cast me into an uncontrollable state of depression. It was mainly a buildup of things which caused the greatest damage. Pounding the pavement in search of work can be hazardous to one’s mental health.

There were times, after a turn down, that I would question my inner being as to whether I would ever work again. How could it not be personal? Actor, writer, director, editor, it’s all personal. Transfusing life into a subjective art form is a very personal endeavor. When the folks say they love your work, the sounds of their voices don’t seem to hold on long enough; it’s so fleeting.

They dislike your work and it’s etched there forever.

Admittedly, some may take it harder than others! Failure isn’t a dignified thing to be tolerated.

“Most men shrouded in a cloth of indignity will rarely experience true happiness or success. Although success is one of life’s fleeting indulgences, the shame of losing one’s dignity may last for a lifetime.”

Each of us has a God-given right to stay in pursuit of our dreams, or leave them in whatever gulch we inhabit at the end of the race. If a human being keeps trying, they earn the respect of all those who have themselves experienced the turmoil of their creative fight for survival. Those who have never experienced combat should never be allowed to sit in judgment of those of us who have. Having a family to support while striving for survival in our “No Business” is as personal an adventure as any man may encounter. In my opinion, not taking rejection seriously will only add to and increase one’s chances for continued failure.

“There’s nothing dignified about failure. But providing for another fellow’s welfare, or attempting to ease another man’s pain by offering a moment of entertainment, is for me the most dignified human attribute anyone can muster. And so, those of us who remain in search of what ever is to ultimately be our God given calling, within our “No Biz,” carrying on might even be considered our obligation.”
– Carrying on,
(I’m) “At A Party”

Imagine this scenario: You’re at a party with a group of friends and acquaintances. While you do know many of them personally, quite a few are being introduced for the very first time. Those who are recognizable figures within our industry will hands down become the most sought after people to be introduced to. “No Biz” people are really liked by those of the so-called normalcy group. (You see, it’s a given that none of us are normal.)

Now that I have set the scene for you, I’ll get down to the nitty-gritty. The fact is… da harv loves statistics. I love doing my own homemade question and answer survey.

Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about. I’ll ask a group of partygoers what would be their least favorite occupation. Of course the answers will vary a great deal, dependent on the makeup of the people in the group.

Recently, I found myself sharing my time with a group of folks who all were members of the same industry, our business: “No Biz.” It was a forty-plus crowd. All of us had in common the early days of struggle in one aspect of entertainment or another; some were extremely recognizable performers, while the vast majority were behind the scenes industry notables.

NOTE: A notable is anyone who makes a living.

For least favorite, there was a variety of expected answers. Creative people across the board disliked the idea of working a prescribed nine-to-five job. Attorneys and undertakers were mentioned. Some said doctors because they couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Many of the answers were predictable, until a very well known female personality literally opened a dam when she called out:

“I wouldn’t work for the f—ing IRS if they paid me a million dollars a minute.”

Let the games begin. The around the room agreement was beyond belief. People took turns recounting stories of actual experiences they encountered while being audited that were almost hard to believe. It was an evening of one-upsmanship. I listened intently to each and every word. The stories being told were not exaggerations of the truth. It was as if the IRS was a separate country, at war with us, and we were paying by way of our tax dollars, in order to keep them solvent enough to win the war against us.

Many of us at that party had undergone or were currently going through an IRS audit. A number of people telling the stories had experienced the ultimate indignity of having been forced into bankruptcy. Without exception, each of us had a track record of paying large sums of money to the tax collector, and our history of charitable contributions is enormous. Without exception all of us had given of our time and energy in support of our country’s needy. The problem is, by and large, what you may have done in the past is meaningless to our IRS. They audit us, and we pay to defend ourselves from them.

Try this one on for size: Internal Revenue reports in a February 2010 issue of The Wall Street Journal: “Americans spend 6.6 billion hours each year on tax preparation; at an annual cost of $194 billion.”

The party consensus: Internal Revenue was considered to be nothing more than a heartless entity of faceless, humorless, parasitic vultures, which derive enjoyment over the suffering of others.

Not one of us at that party would ever choose to be an IRS agent. All of us at that party took what our government was doing to us, by way of IRS, as a very personal affront.

Here’s the most interesting point of fact derived by listening to people recount their IRS audits and aftermaths:

Believe it or not, most of the people at the party who underwent an IRS audit had a similar outcome. I was surprised to hear, across the board, they found it monetarily to their advantage to pay the amount the government was asking for. All of them had high powered tax attorneys and or CPAs advising them of not only the costs of defending themselves, but also counseling them regarding the deliberately disruptive nature of the IRS agents themselves.

I take what our government is attempting to do to us as one of the most personal affronts in my lifetime.

“A fighter in the ring with hands tied tightly behind his back, will undergo far less punishment by rolling over and allowing them to count him out.”

One Comment

  1. Harv, As a former student I enjoy your writings. Even though I'm no loner in LA it helps me feel connected to the world of acting. Plus we seem to be on the same page on numerous issues.Hopefully things will pick up in the future and I'll be back out from time to time.Keep writing for us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *