If you've only got one arm then Bjarne Reith says you're not typically a guy who's going to be able to be a Hollywood actor. But he emphasizes typically. And he’s real careful not to ask me how I lost my arm, which I appreciate. Bjarne and I are at the Imagine Agency for Aspiring Actors on La Cienga Boulevard. He says, “Listen son, if you want to be an actor in this town, you probably gotta have both arms.”
Bjarne says that there are so many other guys out there with two arms that it puts you at a big disadvantage if you only have one. He says it's really hard on him when he sees a genuine salt-of-the-earth guy like me and he wants to help but he knows that he really won’t probably get me any work and that all he'll do is chase around non-leads and feel bad they don’t produce and it'll leave us both frustrated, so he can't be my agent.
He doesn’t know that I am filming him from a fish eye lens taped to the inside of my shirt.
“You're good-looking enough,” he says, “in the face, and you're white too, it's just a shame.”
Bjarne says that being an agent is totally a dollars business with slim margins especially for agents and he can only take on the very best of what he thinks are the very best guys.
Bjarne says he’s mostly got to have good-looking guys – not that I'm not good looking, he says, also slim and fit guys – not that I'm not slim or fit either, but, just, I've only got one arm. He says the most important attribute in an aspiring actor is that they have an edge. Being edgy is key, but it's hard to find edginess. I say, “Is it edgy to have just one arm?” He says no. He says it's pretty much impossible to get disabled roles because there aren't many of them and they're mostly given to the able-bodied. He says it's a disgrace when you think about it. That the industry isn’t utilising the perfectly good disabled actors out there and is under-representing.
I'm trying to break the mold, I tell him.
He says he's disgusted how disabled people are only used in sitcoms that utilize their disability for a laugh or use it as some kind of over-bearing metaphor for a superpower – to show how a disabled individual is often more able than an able-bodied individual because they have suffered and have a unique perspective on society, etcetera, etcetera.
“Why can't they have normal roles,” he muses. There's no good reason. “Aren't we all a bit disabled?” I say. He says he is.
Bjarne says that an audience would likely be really confronted by an amputee being in a disabled role, so he is pretty sure I wouldn't get a lot of acting jobs. Probably not any in fact. “You're good-looking enough,” he says, “in the face, and you're white too, it's just a shame.”
He asks how old I am. He says you're also pretty old to be an actor you know. He says he hates giving this kind of industry insider news to a genuine salt of the earth good guy like me but he says that a lot of his client list are 25 or younger.
“What's your name?” he wants to know. That won’t do, he says. You’d have to change a name like that. The important thing in a name is for it to be like a lot of other names but just slightly different in an original and edgy way. You want a person to remember your name because it sounds like somebody else’s name who is famous but is a slightly different and more impressive person than you. My name is no good, he's afraid.
I feel slightly bad because I'm filming him and I'm going to make him out as the representative film industry asshole in my documentary.
I see that he's trying to let me down kindly about my prospects of becoming a Hollywood actor; he's trying to pull a few punches about my situation. He's actually got some kind of compassion for what’s going on here. He's feeling bad, like morally, that he can't help me and wouldn't help me even if he could because he's running a business and it needs to make a healthy profit and there is no profit in pandering to the dreams and desires of the undesirable. He's getting worked up.
I don’t tell him he's the only agent that hasn't just shooed me out of the waiting room. And I feel slightly bad because I'm filming him and I'm going to make him out as the representative film industry asshole in my documentary, even though he's been the nicest to me of everyone. I just didn't get enough time in anyone else's office to get film.
He says Hollywood is brutal, just brutal. Look at me, just look at me. And I see that he is practically two men, one pretty normal-sized fat man and also another thinner more anxious guy in there too – he's a giant fellow. I say, “You’ve really lived.” He says hell yes he has, but he’s burnt out by the hell of letting people down and also of being let down.
He stands up and it's clearly an effort of Herculean proportions, and he tinkers with a stoppered crystal bottle of brown booze that I'm taking to be a single malt or I've never touched a drop of good scotch in my born days. “When did you last have a shower?” he whispers, and shoots the whiskey. Doesn't offer. I tell him I’ve been to acting school. He tells me it is a real credit to me that I went to acting school because a lot of actors don't and it says a lot about my temperament and my ability to put my nose to the grindstone. But, I never went to acting school. It seems though that I’m obviously a skilled enough actor to be able to effectively pretend that I've been to acting school.
Hymie is waiting for me outside. He comes racing toward me on his skateboard, his hands madly paddling against the footpath. “Hey!” he yells, “the jakes at Bimbos won’t clean themselves!” “Alright,” I say, the cum stains at Leggy’s don't just evaporate! Okay, okay.”
I hold Hymie’s hand and roll him down La Cienga. Hymie thinks that my idea of a mockumentary about a one-armed guy trying to become a Hollywood actor won’t work. “Why?” I say. “Because it's boring,” he says. “Oh,” I say, “you think unearthing the prejudices of Hollywood is boring?” “It's been done, man,” he says, “done to death, and no one wants to see a one armed guy on TV anyway. I mean why, what do you bring, you're boring, it's the same with the blind, everyone knows that blind and deaf people on TV aren't blind or deaf, no one wants to see disabled people, their watching TV so they don't have to think about that shit.”
Hymie's a real card, but I don't dismiss him. You’ve got to listen to detractors.
It's a real nice sunny day on La Cienga though.