Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Happy Anniversary

Shortly after I published last week’s entry, I realized that I had missed an odd little anniversary. Two years ago, in mid-February 2008, I began writing this blog. At the time, the Writers’ Strike had just been resolved and I found myself with extremely mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was glad that the strike was over, but on the other, it was clear that the entertainment industry was entering into a new phase. Some big questions were on the table including whether or not my being in show business was going to remain a viable way to make a living. Even after months of walking the picket line, I still wondered if I was the only person who struggled with the ups-and-downs of being a “creative” in what appeared to be an increasingly uncreative business. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to write about it.

“Parts and Labor” was launched as an experiment. I thought I'd give it six weeks. Maybe less. But to my surprise, almost immediately my inbox was jammed with messages from people in the business admitting that they too struggled with many of the injustices and tough decisions that I wrestled with. Many of these folks saluted me for acknowledging the elephant in the living room and encouraged me to continue. Buoyed up by this wave of enthusiasm, I kept the blog going a little longer.

Before I knew it, an entire year had passed and readership had grown substantially. Many of the people reading P&L weren’t even in show business, but related to the tales I was telling. Although that was flattering, it was also intimidating. I began to worry that I’d run out of stories or that the struggles of a none-too-famous actor-screenwriter would get old. Did people expect a happy ending? What if I never achieved any more professional success? Would this turn into a blog about being a big fat failure?

As my anxiety rose, I began wondering if it might be in my best interest to gently back out of this commitment. I wrote an entry hinting that I was getting awfully busy and might not be able to continue the weekly posts. Overnight, I received a ton of messages urging me to keep going; that “Parts and Labor” was a source of inspiration to many of those who toiled in artistic vineyards of Hollywood. Guilt forced me to keep typing. On I went.

Then last week, I was amazed to realize that a second year had passed. Unbelievably, my adventures in show business had again provided me with just enough material to choke up 52 more entries – 52 more tales of small triumphs and minor tragedies. Two entries published in 2009 did however, provided me with something I’d never received before: Hate mail.

The first instance occurred when I published an essay that contained a small reference to rags-to-riches singing sensation, Susan Boyle. In the post, I made the mistake of saying that although I didn’t think she was the greatest singer in the world, I was hugely charmed by her courage, modesty and openness in front of an audience. Well, apparently, quite a few of Susan’s fans have Google alerts up for her name, because by sunrise of following day, I was on the receiving end of some extremely nasty emails. Let me warn you, Hell hath no fury like a Susan Boyle fan scorned. An international network of middle-aged ladies ripped me a new one for having the nerve to criticize their beloved hero. Many of these ladies got extremely personal, calling me an “Shithead," an "Ignorant Twit” and saying that I clearly didn’t have an ounce of the talent that Ms. Boyle possessed – and those were just the nice ones! Stunned, I actually responded to a couple of the more vehement messages and invited them to take a second look at what I’d actually written. This proved to be mistake, because their responses made it plain that I was in the Susan Boyle doghouse for good. Hopefully all these ladies felt justly vindicated when Susan’s debut album sold more than 400,000 copies the first week it was released – more than any other female recording artist in history. And before I get any more nasty emails, let me reiterate once again, I like Susan Boyle. She seems like a terrific lady and I’m very happy for her success.

The second uprising came when I wrote a piece about the ratification of the recent SAG contract and the ridiculous chain of events that had led up to it. Truthfully, I was simply fed up. Acting is a business that struggles for dignity and I was pissed that the leadership of our union had for 18 months waged a very public civil war that had made us look like a bunch of bickering idiots. I posted it just before the SAG elections and made it clear that I, for one, felt it was time to let go of what “was” and to start thinking more creatively about how we could protect our future. To date, that entry scored the highest readership of anything I’ve ever written. Once again, I was treated to some very angry emails from disgruntled SAG members who seem to be accusing me of everything from being in bed with corporate America to having no compassion for old people, orphans or dogs. Thankfully, a few of the more progressive SAG members liked my piece and I even got invited to a big celebrity-laden party where I was clapped on the back and congratulated by a great many actors I deeply respect (not only for their talent but for their intellect and discernment). Although the final election results did not rid us of all the loons and nutcases, I remain hopeful that the next round of negotiations (scheduled for later this year) will include a few more concrete and realistic maneuvers that might preserve our financial future; a future that I care very deeply about.

As I’m sure you know (assuming you read this blog with any regularity) I try to avoid being preachy. I also try to avoid complaining and self-pity. I’m not always successful, but I do try. I’m consistantly very grateful for the feedback I received each week and hope that you’ll continue to send me your thoughts and ideas. And like all performers, I really enjoy praise, so feel free to keep that coming as well.

The goal of this blog has always been the same: To document one guy’s odd, but not unhappy journey through the world of entertainment. As a lifestyle, show business doesn’t always make a lot of sense. The rewards are often quite personal and tend to arrive at irregular intervals (sort of like residual checks). But when they do appear, they are as sweet and satisfying as rain in the desert. A very good friend of mine, who is now a big TV star, recently came to a comedy show I’m currently doing and the next day sent me a very kind email reflecting on the fact that we’ve now known each other for over 25 years. It included this very lovely quote: “So glad we’ve shared the dream for this long. They are years well spent.” I couldn’t agree more. Have a good week, Hollywood!

Copyright 2010 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at http://www.partsandlabor.tv/

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/QuitcherBitchyn

2 comments:

Tammyagnt said...

2 years ago 1998?? Am I reading this incorrectly?

Norma Jean said...

Wow!! Happy Anniversary....we all love you just soooo much!! Ok, I'm saying I LOVE YOU soooo much, screw everyone else's opinions. (Is that in the true Bottrell spirit or what?)

LOL!! Seriously, you inspire!
You biggest fan and student,
Norma Jean