12. THE LIME LIGHT




You don't know my name, but you'd know my face.

I've been in dozens of movies, TV dramas, in supporting roles. I play bad guys: the dirty cop whose trafficking in drugs, the company hatchet man who hires goons to beat up the workers, the best friend who's screwing his best friend's girl.

The director who taught me how to act says she turns the TV off when a knee goes into my groin for the third time. None of us likes the cardboard villain I've become.

But I make a living. Have succeeded where most of my friends have failed, even though my passion used to be O'Neil and Tennessee Williams.

It wasn't always like this. In the beginning I had good leading parts, even got reviews describing me as thoughtful and sensitive. But it's been so long I don't think I could get it up for that type of work, anymore.

Only kidding. I have a beautiful wife and a marriage the envy of the industry. It's just these alimony payments I resent, that have always forced me to take whatever part's being offered.

If you know the movie biz, it means that once they've got you pegged, you're stuck. You've got to take it when and where they give it to you, or your name's no longer up in lights.

You see my first wife, elegant, slim, devastating alluring, my high school sweet heart, is bleeding me dry as she has for years. She owns a percent of me, I guess you'd say.

When I played Hamlet in college she waited for me in the wings and after my eleven curtain calls, we drove out in her mother's station wagon and spent the night in a pasture making full use of the reclining seats. And I remember moaning like a bull, like Hamlet would have if he'd ever had Ophelia. I knew then that our life was going to be perfect, me in profound staring roles, Pamela at my side waiting for me in my dressing room, a penthouse in New York and LA.

And then I started to actually get the work I wanted. Good parts, major films, beautiful talented leading ladies. But that was the problem, because Pamela became quiet, moody, paced on the edge of the set, suspicious of every woman I touched under the lights.

It got so directors wouldn't let her on location. And I got so I couldn't act if she was there watching me. And then I was distracted thinking about her brooding at our apartment in New York, when I would have to call her at the end of the day and hear a flood of anger, the latest things she had read in the tabloids about my heroine.

So our marriage ended.

And I remarried a woman like myself, who plays secondary characters, who has given me three beautiful children, who loves me and understands the business, who is always there when I need her.

What more could a man ask?

I guess we always think of what could have been, what I was so close to being. I wanted to be like the tragic heroes I used to play,

who aspired to greatness and inevitably failed, whose restless, unsatisfied lives drove them to desperation, so that at the end of the movie they drove their car off a bridge to fall slowly, romantically into a cold churning river.

But I know very little about life. All I've seen since college is the inside of a studio or a trailer, the consuming schedule of being on location. The rest of the world beyond the sets is unclear, undefined, dark. And when I'm finished with a job I mope around our apartment. I feel empty, out of touch, like a cat who's lost its mouse. I have no desire to go out; all my friends are usually filming. The world is flat without a character to play.

You see I'm addicted to my work. Even these villains who don't require me to stretch, whose sneers I can give you on demand; I've grown fond of them in a way. They are so slippery, they have no honor. Unless their caught with the goods, smoking gun in hand, they'll deny everything, convince you their accuser is lying.

"So what'll it be, Jecko? You wanta come in with me on this deal? It's easy. A piece of cake. The cops are so stupid they'll never get it figured and no one gets hurt. No one! You see the insurance'll cover the loss. It the perfect scam. Come on, do it with me, you can trust me."






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Last Modified : 4/20/98 2:41:50 AM