I’m currently in the middle of a book written by a stand-up comic/journeyman actor named Fred Stoller who describes his career as basically consisting of cameo appearances on 70 something sitcoms, never quite achieving his goal – that of actually starring in one. In pursuit of his dreams, Fred has been humiliated or failed miserably on more than one occasion. It’s not that I can relate to Fred as I’m not an actor…but reading his book did remind me of one disastrous experience I had long ago in his realm.
I know I’ve mentioned my days as ad salesman and editorial contributor to an egregious taxi rag – and that its owner and publisher sent copies of the newspaper to all the New York media outlets in his quest to attain fame and notoriety. And to a certain extent, his effort worked. We at the office became go-to media sources on anything taxi-related.
So one day, a Hollywood guy contacted the paper looking for a taxi driver to be a guest commentator on a talk show pilot named HE SAYS SHE SAYS. The discussion was to be centered around why women drive like shit and of course, what better guest to have than a New York taxi driver…a clear authority on the subject? There would be a give and take between men and women on the panel as to whether there was any truth to the mythology. You get the idea.
This was a long time ago so I can’t really remember all the details…but I do recall relating an anecdote (to the producer on the phone) in which I was stuck in traffic on 6th Avenue during one rush hour observing a totally oblivious woman blocking “the box”…and thinking “look at this moron” only to realize it was my mother! He loved the story (by the way, it was true) and immediately offered me a ticket to go out to California for the taping. While it didn’t pay, you know this was a big deal for a lowly cabby. And I jumped at the chance.
And so…a few days later, I boarded a plane and met my chauffeur at the airport who drove me to a nice enough hotel where I’d be staying for a few days while all this got worked out, rehearsed and taped. I don’t remember much activity beyond visiting Venice Beach (I think mostly I drank beer with my driver) but I do recall (vividly) the moment I stood in the wings for the actual taping.
I’d done a fair number of appearances on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Channel 35 as a guest on my boss’s Taxi Talk show…and had been fine. But that was in a studio in front of nobody. Somehow…and for some reason I’ll never quite understand…I got the worst bout of stage fright ever as I waited in the wings to come on stage.
Whatever…I managed to get to my seat without fainting to tell me story (which elicited just a few tepid laughs owing to my horrible delivery)…and then contributed virtually nothing for the rest of the show. A sculpture could have done a better job! It was awful! All I wanted was off that set! The show was stupid…and I was mortified!
The producer who was initially enthusiastic about having me as a guest, said nothing to me afterword. And I was not invited to the big party he’d promised everybody would be attending after the show wrapped. I had a fair idea why!
Fortunately, I did retain my driver and ticket home, and returned the next day to resume my duties as salesman, reporter and most of all taxi driver. Whew! What a fucking disaster! Boy was I happy to be home and stuck in traffic where I clearly belonged. So much for my 15 minutes of fame – which turned out to be 15 minutes of stark humiliation and terror.
If the pilot or show ever aired I don’t know. And if it had, you can be sure I’d have been 1000 miles from a TV set. Brutal is the only work I can use to best describe the experience.