“PLEASE ASK TOM”

If you missed it live last night at Comedy Central Stage – here it is.  Pretend I’m reading it to you.

I’ve booked a small part on a major medical drama and I’m in my car on Laurel Canyon when I get the call from wardrobe.  “I’d like to go over your sizes,” wardrobe guy says.  “Sure.”  And I answer him – height 5’2″, weight, about 123, shoe size 7, pants… I know the next question – it’s going to be “bust” so I attempt to just say it as if I’m simply giving him the answer to his next question, “and I’m going through a breast reconstruction, for cancer, so one of my boobs is a lot bigger than the other, so I’m not sure what my old size card says – probably 34B, but I’m sporting a C… well, a D, a C/D rack these days.  A ‘D’ I guess, for all intents and purposes… ”  I keep talking, like it’s going to help.  “Righty is still a B – but I had a gummy boob for the audition – so I’m sure it’s fine, but…”

I’m hoping really hard he is one of those very gay, very callous, couldn’t be less impressed with any variety of breasts, – ‘even if you covered it in Christmas glitter and shook it in my face,  – I’ve seen it all honey,’ –  kind of wardrobe guys.

And what am I supposed to say?  I didn’t get a manual when I got the lump.  Okay, I did get a stack of medical literature – I didn’t read it – how far in advance did I need to know that part of the reconstructive process would involve having to have the breast in question stretched to the enormous and surreal proportions of 600 cc’s – the size of a baby’s head – and I would have to wear this atrocity around town like a football in a skin bra for 2 ½ months.  That, along with the awkward reality that my other boob, at best an unenthusiastic B, which was fine before – that is why God invented Victoria’s Secret push up bras.  But now – now, next to her impossibly high and round sister, she looked dejected, pendulous.  I name them “Porn Boob and Sad Banana.”

Wardrobe guy says “ok, well, you’ll be wearing scrubs – so it probably won’t matter.”

Oh, crap – TMI – maybe I didn’t have to mention it.

When I show up for my fitting I see my info tacked up on the board – under “bust” it says 34 – then the B is crossed out, then it says C – slash – D, then it’s circled with an arrow pointing to a note in all caps “PLEASE ASK TOM.”

When I booked the part my mother said, “Is it a breast cancer segment?”

My mother doesn’t have a very good track record for being tactful.

Like when she came out to help with my initial surgery.  We were in the West Hollywood Target looking through DVD’s.  My goal was to find a selection of shows that were not too heavy with lots of seasons to keep me busy through my summer of cancer.  Back then the plan was 5 weeks of radiation, and the jury was still out on if I’d need chemo or not.  So – I’m thinking “where are the copies of Ace of Cakes and Psych.”

My Mom picked up Fried Green Tomatoes.

“Mom, really, – have you seen it?  She dies of cancer.”  Ugh, Mary Louise Parker wasting away in that creepy upstairs bedroom.

Then she held up “The John Wayne Collection.”

I said – “died of cancer too,” she said, “well, he smoked!”

Then she picked up Overboard with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn and said “what did they die of?”

But now it’s fall and even though I’m in the middle of my build a boob project I’m auditioning a lot.

This is ironic because for a brief and surreal window after my diagnosis – I feel like I have a giant cancer hall pass.

I remember walking out of my cancer surgeon’s office on this brilliant sunny California day and calling my agents to tell them I’ve come down with ‘a little case of the cancers’ and have to go on indefinite medical leave.

Then hanging up and feeling  – a sense of relief.

For the first time in the 8+ years that I’d lived in Los Angeles I didn’t have to worry that my phone would ring and that I would have to drop everything to show up across town dressed as a soccer Mom or a nosy shopper or the amused wife of an ‘unable to cook unless he’s grillin’ and ‘he’ll only clean if he gets to use the Swifter inept yet luvable overweight husband.’

And this was crazy – crazy – because I love working: I moved 3000 miles, left everything I ever knew and loved to do this – to be an actor.  And I was making a living – I would never leave acting – it was the love my life – …but I had just been fucked by life, so fuck my dream and what a fucking relief.  Maybe I’ll buy an Airstream – drive across the country, write a book, live in the Florida Keys, give kayak nature tours, move to France and live in my friend’s house with cold stone walls that are two feet thick.

Cut to a couple of months later when I realize I need to (quickly, before my next surgery, ideally…) make $6,933.00 to qualify for my Screen Actor’s Guild insurance.*

I tell my agents I will go out for anything, anything, – and shamelessly ask for favors that land my headshots in the audition stacks of some top television dramas.  I go into every one of them like I’m there trying to get a job for someone else.

It’s not about me and my dreams any more.  It’s about $6,933.00.

I book the first job I go out for – the major medical drama.  Then the next one – a certain crime scene investigation show, one set in a warmer clime, notorious for its plunging necklines.  Again, I’m debating full disclosure of my half Anna Nicole chest when the young assistant eyes me up and down holding the flimsy tropical halter she has pulled for my character.  “Was it elective?” she asks.

Was it elective?  Was it elective?  Yes – I decided a single super sized sweater puppy was exactly what I needed to catapult my career to the next level.

Commercially, there are a few casting directors in LA that I’ve worked with enough to consider friends and I want to personally explain my ‘on and off medical leave’ status.

I don’t want to be that girl with cancer, but I am that girl with cancer so I feel obliged to be that girl with cancer!

So I walk in to their offices, hoping I’ve balanced out Bert and Ernie in my bra and say my little line about “the case of the cancers.”

It’s empowering and mortifying.

After an audition for turkey cold cuts ‘so good you think it’s Thanksgiving,’ I have the talk with one of my favorite CDs.  She shuts the door to her office and pulls out her scarred and misshapen breast – she’s just been through the same thing – and I cry, snotty ugly, puffy crying.  in my place of business.

Astonishingly I book four of the six tv auditions.  I make my insurance, thank God because my medical bills – the ones covered by insurance would be over $293,000 and since I didn’t have a small house or a Cessna around to pawn I would have been screwed.

But I do them like I’m on autopilot.  I mean, I should be ‘in the moment,’ I should be happy –- these great jobs, Dude, I live for this I keep reminding myself.

And I try – I joke with the series regulars – trying to be casual and yet witty and memorable over fresh berry smoothies at craft.

But I’m not there, I’m not loving it and I don’t know if it’s because I’m self conscious – I’ve only ever had boobs this big on Halloween or at pimp and ho parties in college.  And then they weren’t all jerry rigged and constantly lopsided.

Or that somehow – I think – even though it’s not possible – everybody knows I have “The Big C,” and that’s how I got the jobs.

Maybe I’m being passive aggressive, maybe I’m still mad at life for jerking me around – the high – the promise of freedom that comes with death – the inevitable and unstoppable

return to the daily grind of work and bills –- the tiny grains of reality that slip in like sand filling life back up to look like what it was before – stifling, and close, with no Airstream trailers or French country sides.

But I don’t actually have to figure it out. Not now anyway.

I haven’t watched any of the shows.  I mean, I made the $6,933.00 – and if I really wanted to – I can just buy the DVDs.

 

*If you are a member of The Screen Actor’s Guild – now, One Union! with AFTRA, you have to make a certain amount of money to be able to pay them for insurance.  I mean I get it, it’s not like they can afford to insure every actor.  But come on – if you need insurance because you are sick, you are probably going to have a tough time working.  To pay for your insurance…

Porn Boob and Sad Banana Go Back to Work!

I’ve booked a small part on a medical drama (yay!) and I’m stopped at the light on Laurel Canyon and Ventura when I get the call from wardrobe.  “I’d like to go over your sizes,” wardrobe guy says.  “Sure.”  And I answer him – height 5’2″, weight, about 125, shoe size 7, pants 2-4 petite, “I’m wearing a 2 now and they are just fine.”  I know the next question – it’s going to be “bust” so I attempt to just say it as if I’m simply giving him the answer to his next question, “and I’m going through a breast reconstruction so one of my boobs is a lot bigger than the other, something I remedied in the audition with a gummy boob, so I’m not sure what my size card says – probably 34B, but I’m sporting a C well, D, a C/D rack these days.”

I hope he is one of those very gay wardrobe guys – callous, sassy, couldn’t care less about women much less breasts, who has seen everything, kind of wardrobe guys.

“Ok, well, you’ll be wearing scrubs – so it probably won’t matter,” he says.  Oh, crap – maybe I didn’t have to mention it…  TMI.  I shouldn’t have said anything.  I shouldn’t have – except for the fact that I have a 600cc boob!  A boob the size of a baby’s head, a porn boob – a size D hooter – and I haven’t changed my size cards in the system because, well because!   I say – “well, you certainly would have noticed tomorrow.”

“Do you have time to come in for a fitting today?”  He asks.  I wonder if he would have asked if all this hadn’t come up.

“Sure,” I say – “when’s good?”

I get there early and am left in the waiting/fitting room where I see my info tacked up with the other cast info sheets.  Under “bra”  it says 34 – then the B is crossed out, then it says C/D then it’s circled with an arrow and a note in all caps “PLEASE ASK TOM.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I wonder what poor Tom said because everyone is supernice at the fitting.  I mean suuupernice.  “How is your day going?”  The costume designer asks.  “Pretty good – how’s yours?”  And now I’m definitely little paranoid.  I mean you get all types in production, but on the friendliness chart a lot of times the wardrobe department falls into the less than hospitable category.  I don’t know if that is because they have to deal with actors lying about their measurements, the fumes from the steamers, or the fact that they are just generally overworked and overlooked, but yeah – usually you need to watch your step – they don’t call ’em wardrobe mistresses for nuthin.’  I end up in a size small super cute set of green scrubs.  Sweet.  Can’t wait to shoot.

Porn Boob and Sad Banana Go to Operation Smile Gala

It doesn’t matter if you call me at almost one o’clock on a Friday afternoon with an invitation to go out that same night.  Not if it is a $10,000 a table benefit at the Beverly Hilton.  “Yes I’m free.” “Sure,  I have cocktail attire!” And “yeah, I know what Operation Smile is and am proud to be a part of supporting such an amazing organization!  It’s for the children!”

Well, maybe I had something to wear.  I hadn’t taken Porn Boob out to a semi formal event.

I pulled out my favorite cocktail dress.   Strapless.  Wow – even if I could zip it over porn boob I had no real solution for Sad Banana side.  I’d been delaying a trip to Santa Monica to Intimate Images the all things cancerous “lingerie” store for a cutlet, making due with the addition of at first, a half a strapless gel bra, then both sides of the gel bra, then both sides of the gel bra, and a sock.  (Dear God, was this thing growing on it’s own between appointments?)  It was working  just fine – especially when I put a sweater on too…  One D cup and a B minus – in a room full of world renowned plastic surgeons – who would notice?  Crap.  There would be more boob jobs than plates there.  Though I do believe I would be the only one with one jobbed.

Nothing in my closet was going to work.

I could do this – it could be like my own personal Amazing Race task.  “With 4 hours on the clock you must successfully navigate through Los Angeles rush hour traffic (it’s Los Angeles, on a Friday rush hour lasts all day), procure a dress suitable for a red carpet celebrity event, milk a camel, stay within a reasonable budget and reach your apartment with enough time to remove all unwanted hair, apply, wash off, then reapply “smokey eyes’ eyeshadow and achieve salon worthy updo hair.”  Okay, there was no camel milking involved but it’s about as likely a scenario as me achieving a salon worthy updo.

I headed to “It’s a Wrap” – a fabulous “thrift store”* where TV and movie clothes go to die.  I love the place, it was especially good to me last fall when I was lucky enough to be the same midget pants size as some actress from “The Starter Wife.”  I knew there’d be some good stuff there from the soaps where women seem to live in a world in which there is no event inappropriate to wear sequins.  “Hmm, pulling the plug on my fake twin’s lover’s father today – what to wear – what to wear…  Wish I hadn’t worn the aquamarine ruched to visit my wrongly accused lover in jail.”

Eleven dresses and 45 minutes later…  After a scary moment in the dressing room when porn boob had me trapped.  The combination of her size and my limited mobility had me flailing about in the phone booth sized dressing room in a really cute white sequined dress like I was Teller in the middle of a Penn & Teller act.  I seriously thought I was going to have to get someone to help me.  Oh, the explaining I would have to do…  I found a dress.

For the stellar price of $20 I ended up with a sassy emerald green satin number that I was not in love with – but it would do.  A dress that I realized I pretty much hated as soon as the clerk handed me the “All Sales Final’ sales receipt.  Crap – “Deal or No Deal” called – they want their dress back. I think it was actually one of the dresses from the show – I mean why else would there have been 20 of them there…  Crap!  I needed something sassy, something sophisticated, something I could feel comfortable chatting with Matt Damon in, say he should show up and magically not be married, not something that looked like I should be carrying a briefcase with dollar amount signs in it!

So – Nordstrom Rack, I had time.  There I found the unlikely, but genius answer to my prayers – a one shouldered, asymmetrical black and white cocktail dress – tight enough to support Sad Banana with a large cream bow cascading from the shoulder over Porn Boob.  I know it sounds like it would be an error to decorate my Mt. Everest in a attempt to hide it, but it worked.  I would have to cheat and not wear one of the obnoxious surgical bras I’ve been trapped in since August – that I’m supposed to wear 24/7 – oh, and I have to sleep on my back or suffer a life long uniboob, and being a side sleeper, sleeping on my back feels about as natural as sleeping hanging upside down from the ceiling like a bat.

But here you go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on the Red Carpet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny enough, Mark Burnett, reality show mogul and Roma Downey chaired the event.  They’re married,  who knew?  They were lovely and gracious and pretty much the only ones to sign almost all of the silent auction bid sheets.  They probably ended up with a dozen Picasso lithographs.  So if you are a friend of theirs heads up come Christmas…

We ducked out early and ended up downstairs at the legendary Trader Vics.  Classy.  An older gentleman introduced himself to me at the bar saying that he had just had to say – he loved my dress.

*I say thrift store – but it’s no Goodwill.  Nothing there is actually cheap.  I wish.