Whenever we went out on patrol, every man had a bag of rice tied to his side. Before we passed thru our perimeter wire, hot water was added to each bag. By the time we broke for a meal, each man had a ration of steamed rice ready. Invariably still warm and sometimes augmented with shrimp from bomb craters. This is my counterpart Dai and I sharing a meal in the delta.
The other day on FB, I posted the discovery of a buncha photos of me, never before seen, I found on Google images. I described my career as ‘minor’ and a lot of friends felt compelled to write and offer kind words and pump up my achievements. I really wasn’t trolling for compliments when I posted that. Honest.
We live in this silly place, Hollywood. Some of us earn a good living making believe, pretending. I’ve never been comfortable with the ethos to pump yourself up, pad the resume, behave as tho what I’m doing is all that important. I’d prefer to let the work speak for me. It’s fun…usually. But perspective is pretty critical to me. I pretend for a living; I need my life grounded. My friends have included Sam and Denzel and Morgan going on 40 years. I lost 8 years to madness and sadness and some pretty dedicated badness…which is not to say, without having contended with PTSD, my career might have approached theirs. My aspiration when I began was to be a working actor, respected by my peers. Star? The fuck is that? Poitier was a star as was Sammy Davis Jr. I didn’t have their talent…and I knew it. Not every athlete makes the All Star game or the Hall of Fame. Doesn’t mean they weren’t pretty good but not everyone gets to achieve greatness. So ‘minor’ is just candor, no shame in it, it’s just a relative evaluation.
I came along at a good time, when a committed professional could earn a good living, the mythical “middle-class actor’. Not a star, recognized by many, solvent, could own a home and raise a family. Times have changed. Hard to do that today on scale plus 10% wink emoticon I’ve had my triumphs – 100 national commercials, 1000 v/o, three Broadway contracts. In the time of only three major networks, I had a show on each network, every week. Fewer than 5% of actors qualify for their health and pension benefits in any year. I now enjoy three pensions and have qualified for more than 40 years and counting. So make no mistake: Tucker Smallwood loves him some Tucker.
My father was an inordinately accomplished man. He was not remotely famous. What I’ve done largely is entertain people. No shame in that. But if my words or my example encourage a veteran to seek the help that will heal his suffering, THAT will be important. I hope I always know the difference between attention and accomplishment.