The Girl on Tv
It was the late 90’s and in the span of two weeks my father was sentenced to prison, my longtime girlfriend had left me, I had lost my job and apartment, and it looked like my beloved grandmother was about to die. I was circling the drain in the chipped porcelain sink of life and not even the brawny arms of Mr. Clean could save me.
I’d taken to drinking in the mornings and prowling the nights in search of temporary relief in the arms of the wrong woman -- what I liked to think of as Leaving Las Vegas: The Home Game. It was then that the flickering digital image of an angel touched down and danced a pirouette on the concrete of my own private Skid Row. Like an ass, I had fallen for a TV star.
Vanessa Marcil had been an ingénue wasting away in daytime deceptions on ABC’s General Hospital for years. I happened upon her one day while channel surfing and, brother, I was hooked. There she was, the epitome of “my type” staring back at me from a 27’ inch Magnavox screen. Petite, olive-skinned, dark hair...I couldn’t have done better if I'd built her in my garage with power tools. Latin girls had always been my weakness, and unlike all the gangsterlines I'd grown up with, this one didn’t seem like she’d jam a shank into my neck if we disagreed about something. As an adult, this is a quality that I look for in a woman.
I had to learn everything I could about her, which had me reading a lot of those little half-sized soap opera magazines in the market. I’d try and hide the covers behind issues of Hot Rod, but people knew. To Vanessa's credit, the only disturbing thing in her history that I came across was a brief marriage to Corey Feldman. You see, there was a stretch where it seemed that every chick I was interested in had at least one Corey Feldman skeleton in her closet. I shit you not, the guy has boned more than half of the broads in LA. Now it appeared that even my perfect angel had fallen under his spell. What is it you have, Corey Feldman, that makes the curtains part and the panties drop? Spill it! Damn you, Corey! Damn you!
Anyway, I wasn’t about to let this little detail queer my play. I’d heard a rumor that Ms. Marcil was leaving the housewife set behind in favor of that once-hallowed world of teen angst, Beverly Hills, 90210. I saw this as my chance -- at what, I had no idea. I scanned the trades to figure out which casting agency handled the background for 90210 and, a twenty dollar registration fee later, I was in a warehouse in the Valley that had been converted from a porn business into sets for the kids from West Beverly.
I’ll save you the woes of extra work. That ground has seen more traffic than the gates of Graceland. Suffice it to say, it’s shitty money, but it’s not like breaking rocks on the side of the road.
It took me about half a dozen bookings before I hit pay dirt. There was a cattle call for swing dancers -- remember, it was the late 90’s and people were still jumpin' and jivin' their khakis all over the tube -- and I figured the whole cast would be there. Early the next morning, I showed up decked in my flashiest threads topped with my good ol’ black velvet sports coat. Given the ungodly hour, the normally attractive crowd looked like... well, imagine if Sinatra had been in Night of the Living Dead.
Like cattle, we were herded through the entrance, and as I was stepping into the doorway, I passed a dark-haired girl in curlers and big sunglasses who slid her hand across my jacket’s lapel and made a "yummy" sound. A couple of seconds later, I realized that the girl with the velvet fetish was my very own TV Girlfriend. By the time two and two had come together, she was gone in a wave of hair and makeup folks. But that was all right. I had established that she was indeed present, now all I had to do was finagle an introduction.
As the day wore on, I was starting to worry that chances of some face time with my dream woman were slipping away. Meanwhile, I had another very real problem to contend with: I couldn’t dance. I told the casting agents that I could cut circles around the pros who I knew would have to be there, but I lied. Fact is, the only thing that I do well at places like the Derby is drink. I didn't feel too bad, though: everybody lies in Hollywood, so really, I was just fitting in. The only woman who had to worry about it was the one cast as my dance partner.
However, as my lack of dancing ability became clear behind the far wall of the Peach Pit After Dark set, none of my new hepcat homies could wrap their brains around why I'd fibbed just to be one of a hundred in a crowd scene. I was forced to lay it all out for them. Everything. The break-up, my old man in the slam, Corey Feldman. Everything. As a matter of fact, I was just getting to the part where I said, “…hell, the only reason I’m here is to meet Vanessa Marcil,” when guess who comes walking around the corner carrying an oversized coffee cup? Life sucking as it does, do I even have say?
I knew Vanessa had heard me, because she took a stagger step at the sound of her name. She kept walking, never acknowledging the comment, but I was just mortified. So mortified, in fact, that I slumped against the wall behind me in defeat. But remember, it was a soundstage, so that wall wasn’t really a wall at all. It was just a plywood flat that started swaying to and fro, the melody of falling pictures and breaking glass registering as a soundtrack to my living nightmare. I looked down, hoping to find myself naked, so at least I could wake up laughing. But nope, I was fully dressed and it was real life playing out like a bad Ben Stiller movie.
I stood by the shaky wall in complete shock. This was shaping up to take the prize as the worst day in history. With Leslie, the venomous first AD, screaming for the head of the “retard responsible,” I did what any sensible person would do at that point and bolted for the door. I found another group of people mingling about outside and quickly joined their conversation while I tried to figure a way out of the many problems that the day had presented.
I managed to dodge the wrath of the AD for the time being. Lunch came without any kind of calamity, and I was walking past the Starwaggons with the usual plate of tri-tip and rice pilaf when I heard someone ask, “Did they ever find out it was you?”
I turned around to find Vanessa Marcil, the object of my adoration herself, sitting on her trailer’s steps and smiling the kind of smile that proves that some people are just blessed. After a less-than-stellar comeback, we talked and laughed for a few minutes. Get this, she even found the whole thing kind of charming.
The details of our conversation were irrelevant. I realized that merely having it was all I really wanted. My goal was never to try and go out with her -- in truth, I didn’t even care if I ever saw her again. I had been dealing with so much bullshit for so long that just saying I was going to do something and then seeing it through to the end was enough.
Now, years later, she’s on another hit show and the mother of a beautiful little boy, while I’m slugging it out in the trenches of this writing game with a gorgeous girl of my own right by my side. By the way, in a strange twist of fate, her name is Vanessa too.
By Adam Marsh