I caught the moment live on MTV. I just happened to tune in exactly when the announcer says “Please welcome Bruno!” I see the giant Sacha Baron Cohen soaring over the MTV crowd in white angel wings spanning 10 or 12 feet, and I think “now that’s good TV.” Then, he spins out of control, and precision dive bombs right into Eminem’s face, upside down, like a crazy, hairy, enormous lap dancer. I watch as Eminem mouths “Get this motherfucker off of me!” “Bruno” is fawning “Mine kookensak” “My schvantz!” Eminem’s bodyguards pound at SBC and “Bruno” has all kinds of great lines. “Wassup Eminem nice to meet chu!” “Is the real Slim Shady about to stand up?” and “Hey don’t touch me guys, I’ve already got a boyfriend.” Eminem and crew look convincingly angry, and storm out of the show. “Unt zie vinner iss Zac Efron for High School Musical!” Sacha is still spinning in his white vinyl knee high boots, ass out, in all his creamy winged glory.
All I could think of were my days in radio, where the best stunts were staged. In fact, almost all the stunts were staged. As a kid, and a member of the radio audience myself, I believed everything I heard. I could never have imagined how the best “theatre of the mind” was rehearsed and staged, in other words, FAKE. I don’t think I ever really got over that fact. I remember one of my co-hosts, Brian Eckleberry, doing so many fantastic routines as diverse, and what became to our listeners, beloved characters. Our audience especially loved “Bud Dickman, your roving weatherman.” Bud was a “Mortimer Snerd” type of insecure, yet super brave dork you really root for. Brian created these bits from our radio production studio, and it always sounded just like he was out in a thunder-storm, at the scene of a drug bust, or right in the eye of a tornado. I laughed so hard at Brian screaming over tornado sounds, “This is your friendly weather man Bud Dickman reporting from the eye of the vortex. Can you hear me Mary Tony & Brian?” In fact, most the time, my good co-hosts didn’t even tell me the bits were produced. Was it because they knew what a child I am? Maybe. Maybe it was my lack of acting chops, or, and I like this one better, simply because I just don’t have it in me to lie to people about entertainment. That just seemed wrong. Plus, there was the rehearsal! Are you kidding me? Saying “lines” twice? I couldn’t fathom appearing interested or feigning laughter the second or third time around. It just went stale. I am a responder. An honest responder, not an actress.
I saw that in Eminem. I watched as he looked up into the rafters with phoney disbelief, and then tried to be cool, as a big, white, fuzzy butt ended up in his face. Okay, he wasn’t all that bad. But it did take me back to the time a ‘producer’ asked to turn our radio show, “Mary, Tony & Brian” into a sit-com. Apparently, the guy was smitten with our show, listened every morning, and wanted to translate it for television. He brought a camera crew into the studio, complete with lights, and taped us doing our regular morning schtick. It looked professional enough. But on camera, I was posed and self conscious, and didn’t think the angle was “quite right for my good side.” (My left) Brian, the comic/acting pro of our crew looked at me and said “Mary, you are a horrible actress. The worst.” No truer words were ever spoken. I was slightly incensed, and giggled “I am not!” in my usual happy manner. I tried again to repeat the same routine we had just performed naturally, impromtu, and it fell flat. Brian looked at me. “THE WORST.” I laughed again, but thought, “am I really THAT bad? How hard can this be?” The answer became more apparent as the guy stayed and continued to tape. He even had us come over to his office in “The Hills”. The hills of Council Bluffs that is, for a planning meeting about our “new show.” But all three of us knew, especially Brian, who was the “Cosmo Kramer” of our show, that we sucked. Especially me. It is not the same thing to be a spontaneous, in the moment, radio “sniper” (as I used to call all radio folk because we took shots at the world, and no one could see us) as it is to be in “show-biz.” Of course, the sit-com never happened, and the ‘producer’ just faded away like you do when you dump somebody by staying away from them, only they don’t know it for awhile. We made fun of it all on-air, made fun of him for probably being a fake. But actually, even if he had been Steven Spielberg, we would never have heard from him again.
Real “Show-biz” is rehearsed, the timing, exact. Trained actors can repeat motions and takes over and over, with precision, as if the moment just happened. I, on the other hand, have one good, hearty, honest response to give. After that, it is THE WORST.
I broke both arms when I was doing that show, in a fall at my home. I just sailed down my staircase, at 6am, on my way to work. My heel caught the carpet at the top of the staircase, and the rest was a 2 year ordeal. I ended up doing months of morning radio in two casts, and one morning Brian was trying to teach me more about acting by using my experience in falling down the stairs as an example of real emotion and response. “What did you do when you were lying at the bottom of the stairs?” he said. “What do you mean?” I said. “What did you say? Did you scream and yell?” I thought about it. “No.” “Did you open your eyes real big and pan for the camera?” I smirked. “I just laid there and tried to assess my damage.” He said “Uhuh.” Brian was right.
Although we do have other talents, Eminem and I are no actors.