LIKE MIKE

LIKE MIKE

There is an Asian restaurant a little north of me I’ve been visiting for 10 or 15 years. You know, a daily variety of hot plates; Kung Pau, broccoli and beef, teriyaki chicken, etc. I’ve watched the owners kids grow up; they now serve me. I stopped into for a late lunch and the son, after taking my order surprised me with, “You were in LIKE MIKE!” I was kinda surprised, for several reasons.

I’ve lived in my home for 23 years now and many of my vendors recognize me from my work and from my patronage. Tho the restaurant has signed photos from Cuba Gooding and Sofia Vergara, I don’t remember ever being recognized there. And also, because tho I AM in the film, not really. All of my scenes were cut pretty much as soon as I appeared on screen. Yet at the very end, because my contract called for “star billing”, there is a full screen closeup of me with the caption, “Starring Tucker Smallwood”. I often joke that viewers probably then look at each and ask, “Who the fuck was Tucker Smallwood in that movie?!!”

As he dished out my food I began to share the story of that experience; it’s generally good for a laugh. They’d not wanted to pay my quote, which was then $2500 daily, said they’d only need me for a couple days but would pay me $1250 daily and guarantee me three days. I said OK. I reported for my first day, met everyone; Lil (then) Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut and the director. This was a cute fantasy about magical tennis shoes and an orphan. I hung out with the NBA stars for a few hours and then was released, having done nothing. The production then went on the road; to Dallas and NY and New Orleans, Philly…

Point is they were gone for about a month. No worries, I was on the payroll. Ka-ching – $1250 every dingdong day. Eventually they returned to LA and I was called back. Now, I played the estranged father of Morris Chestnut, the star of the team. Bow Wow’s character, an orphan was stunned to learn that Morris had a living father with whom he had no relationship, no contact and began to conspire to reunite us. Appreciating how many black children grow up fatherless in America, I wanted our scenes to reflect that reality so he and I did a few improvs and tweaked the dialogue and our interaction. Our work was very good; our scenes were very real.

At the screening, I was kinda shocked to see scene after scene of us begin…and then just suddenly end, on to the next. Then I laughed out loud at my final screen credit. Tho I was disappointed, I appreciated the judgement of the editor and director. This was a lighthearted childrens fantasy; our scenes were too heavy and too real to belong in it.

We shared a laugh and I took my curry and teriyaki chicken back home. Who knows, maybe next visit, they’ll ask for a photo.

TRIBE

I’ve just finished reading a book of profound importance. I’m no Oprah but I have been blessed to have met more people than many, in my journey. I can think of NO ONE I’ve encountered that would not be served by reading TRIBE. On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger.

I used the word ‘profound’. Much like awesome! and incredible!, such hyperbole dissipates the singularity of some encounters in life. My library copy had text underlined. I HATE that…but understand the impulse.

I met Sebastian one day in recent past; I went simply to shake his hand and acknowledge his contribution to human understanding. Many of his insights I have known emotionally, intuitively…but never before, intellectually.

I’ll return my library book tomorrow…and then buy it. It’s insight that I want on my bookshelf and in my life. I encourage – nay, I implore ALL of you to check it out. His earned wisdom regarding PTSD, combat, human society and so much of what presently affects us is riveting. His guidance will serve veterans and their families…but the truth of his learning serves ALL of us, every swinging dick.

As I read, I noted passages that SO resonated within me! In truth I could have quoted the entire work. I will exercise fire discipline and offer JUST THREE, Tucker. ;) This is hard for me, there is just so much I loved in his fine writing.

1. “…something called self-determination theory, which holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others.”

2. “An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain” one of the survivors wrote, “The equality of all men.” “When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose…with a resulting improvement in mental health.” “in catastrophe, self interest gets subsumed into group interest because there is no survival outside group survival, and that creates a social bond that many people sorely miss.” “War inspires ancient human virtues of courage, loyalty and selflessness that can be utterly intoxicating to the people that experience it.”

3. Israel is arguably the only modern country that retains a sufficient sense of community to mitigate the effects of combat on a mass scale. In Israel, reflexively thanking someone for their service makes as little sense as thanking them for paying their taxes.

Speak to me, once you have read it. And please share this.

GUIDANCE

Stopped by a studio tonite to pay respect to one of my first acting teachers. Bill Alderson was there at my beginnings, with Sandy and Bill Esper and Fred Kareman. I met some of his students and colleagues tonite and a few shared that Bill had mentioned me, from time to time. We laughed as he recalled that each would then pull out their cell phone to look me up. ;)

There were three posters on a wall inside and I took a photo of them, cause they were to me a distillation of my entire process. I showed the photo to Bill later as I was leaving. He began to share a memory from my first semester at The Playhouse, fall of 1970. This was probably a month or so into our studies. One day, Sandy called me up to the front of class and told me to sing something. Without any thought I began singing Fire And Rain by James Taylor. By the end of the first verse, I had broken down, tears streaming down my face.

That was my introduction to my Inner Life. Sandy had intuitively found a way to help me leave myself alone, to bypass my intellect and get in touch with my feelings and emotions. Understand I’d now been home from Vietnam for about a year…and I had been emotionally shut down for some time. This was a pivotal moment in my education; I knew that even then.

But to have my teacher tonite still remember that moment with such accuracy, some 45 years later….I found that very moving. Each of us who aspire to artistry have been guided by the knowledge and talent of our teachers. I try never to forget this truth.

Or these Truths…IMG_2130