by Leonard Bishop
When a man believe this he is too old for an additional career, he is really too old for an additional career. An opportunity of that type is beginning to happen for me and I intend to go for it.
Now that the film industry has begun to move some of its projects into eastern Kansas, I am preparing myself for a career in the movies. Not as a writer. I avoided being a Hollywood writer, years ago (one of my novels was the first Movie of the Week) because I did not want to live in Hollywood.
I have never known a fine writer who is able to publish fine novels after remaining as a Hollywood writer for about three years. He becomes used up, burned out, cynical, or his fire is banked beyond revival. Too many become drunks, druggies, and some have committed suicide. I closed my eyes to a career in Hollywood.
I would use my writing experience only as a way of revealing my superb skill as an actor. At the proper time, I will have my literary agent inform some of the film companies that there is a non-drinking, non-drug using professional writer in Herington, Kansas. He is amenable to rewriting poorly developed scripts. But with one contractual stipulation. He must have a teeny-weenie part in the show he rewrites, and one line of dialogue (which he will write.)
My time has finally surfaced and I will not let it pass me by. The older man character actor is a premium commodity. The cameo-role has a significant place in today’s film. And I have all the personal resources needed to be given a wide range of small parts–as long as they are kept within the realm of the sloppy, grungy, beaten-down old man who was born to lose and finally succeeds in achieving his miserable destiny.
Because I have size and bulk, I could be used instead of two actors. My face would become a cameraman’s delight. There would be much drama portrayed in the bags, pouches, wrinkles, and droops. Anywhere he focused the lens, he would find a chin. No one has ever been certain the shape of my nose, making it the universal nose. Beady eyes slightly glazed with mucus are quite provocative. The director would be assured that I won’t move my head at the wrong time since arthritis has stiffened the vertebrae in my neck.
I have an old-fashioned, 1940s physique. Meaty shoulders, burly chest, and substantial girth kept in by a thick pants belt. I move like an overfed orangutan straining to get out of a tub of quicksand. I have the criminal look and the thug way of speaking. From the side of my mouth as though talking from behind bars and worried that the screw on duty might hear my plans for breaking out.
I could easily play an over-the-hill saloon bouncer everyone pities so deeply they never fight in his presence, in fear that he would be injured. Or the former toughie whose son-in-law is a rotten loan shark specializing in destroying respectable people. Every time he sends me out to beat up on some mushy nerd, I get strangled, or stabbed, or shoved out a window. I do a marvelous death-rattle or shriek.
Yes, I’m primed for an additional career. Believing in yourself is more important than knowing yourself. Age is for torn underwear and dusty sofas. No one is so old that he must rely on yesterday’s feat to certify him worthy of today’s esteem. The character of a person is determined by what he is willing to risk in face of a fine accomplishment. Yes, I am an event whose time has come!
I am not limited to the thug and mug cameo parts. Tog me out in cowboy duds and deck me with a 5 gallon hat. There I am, the drunken sheriff of Lawrence, Kansas–trying to redeem himself and be allowed back into church. Col. William Quantrill and his legion of Raiders charge into town. I mosey into the middle of the street, gun hand near my holster, ready to slap leather. I drawl,”Ya murderin’ varmint–git!” Instantly, all his men shoot me and trample me under their horses. Wow! I would bring the audience to tragic sobs.
There I am, bullet ridden and gasping; laying in the blood and the gore and the issue of horses. The local preacher pokes a bottle of gut-rot into my mouth and I guzzle the quart as he asks, “Got a last word, Jubal?” Then, in a manner that would reduce the thesbianic stature of Bogart or Woody Allen, I shudder so hard my spurs and dentures rattle as I croak, “Nope,” and grandly die.
Yes, yes, it’s true. I stand with open arms, toupee, and makeup box in hand, waiting for the Kansas film industry to take me to the heights of a deserved acclaim.
©2013 the estate of Leonard Bishop
(first published April 19, 1987 the Manhattan Mercury)