On Friday I placed an ad at the St. Louis Auditions website seeking an actress to play the part of Juliet in Joseph Pearce's third season of The Quest for Shakespeare on EWTN. In Shakespeare's script Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is said to be 13 going on 14 (much younger than she is typically played). Joseph makes much of this in his brilliant analysis of the play, focusing on Juliet's vulnerability and the lack of support she receives from everyone around her. Consequently, I am advertising for an actress who can play that age. This, I have learned, is a dangerous thing to do.
As of today, I've had dozens of emails from stage moms all over the country - some of whom are so obviously "pimping" their daughters it's disturbing. It reminds me of the moms and dads who were letting their little boys sleep in the same bed with Michael Jackson, knowing darn well what was going on, all out of their hunger for fame.
Lola Falana, whom I interviewed for my television show here, (and who is pictured above with the aforementioned Michael Jackson) and who has had one of the most spectacular careers in show business, has talked privately to me quite passionately about the damage done to young people in this industry, the abuse she herself suffered as an underage dancer in Philadelphia, and her concern for the teen contestants who are fodder for shows such as American Idol. "They will chew you up and spit you out," she said. "There are predators in this business and they will take every bit of innocence and joy away from you."
And speaking of American Idol, the show's producer Nigel Lithgow was for some reason one of the faux-sincere hosts of this year's MDA Telethon. Not only does MDA pay their public relations director $400,000 a year, not only do they refuse to disavow embryonic stem cell research, not only did they force Jerry Lewis out after fifty years of giving his life to this cause, but they lied about what they did, asserted that he "retired" and mounted a bland quasi-tribute to him to open the show. This is the worst of show business, and it only reminds one of Sammy Maudlin:
Then again, you can't hate the art behind the business, the insight behind the cheats and scoundrels, the truth behind the empty pretense - it's what gives us parodies like the one above, and it's why we do this in the first place.
So I guess I'm not quitting show business after all. But if I do, I have my lines memorized for my next role ... "Would you like fries with that?"