David Dean Bottrell offers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of show business — with a little help from Irving Berlin.
Like No Business I Know…
Iconic American songwriter Irving Berlin once wrote: “There’s no business like show business, like no business I know.” Having spent my entire adult life in the entertainment industry, I can attest that this is true. However, I can also tell you that “the business” is not quite what everybody thinks it is — but it’s also much more than most imagine it to be.
Sure, I might object a little with that lyric that says, “Everything about it is appealing,” because endless rejection, regular unemployment, staggering competition and excruciating periods of time waiting for an agent to call are not what I’d call appealing. For years, my parents used to try to talk me into moving back home. “They’re hiring at The Mattress Factory,” they’d say. “For God’s sake,” I’d shout, “I’m an artist!” So, at the very least, showbiz is more appealing than The Mattress Factory.
These days, in addition to acting and writing, I also teach a lot of talented young people. I do my best to help them develop their talent, but it’s also my job (I think) to teach them how to hope. When your only desire is to sing, act, dance, write or direct, you’ve gotta believe that your dream job is out there, or you will never last long enough to stumble into it. Show business (much like life) runs on the idea that there’s a sweet piece of luck right around the corner. Also much like life: The best parts often come when least expected. As for the rest of the song:
There’s No People Like Show People, They Smile When They Are Low
I have to say, this has not so much been my experience. Most show-business people complain a lot about their careers, their agents and the general tyranny of the business. One of the unwritten rules of show business is that we silently agree to listen to each other bitch. It’s not that bad really. We’re clever and sometimes very funny people.More Content from Metrosource
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Yesterday They Told You, You Would Not Go Far, That Night You Open and There You Are
Pretty much every time I’m ready to give up, I get a job. It’s insane, the number of times that has happened. At my most discouraged moments — certain I was a talentless, worthless, delusional wretch who really should see if they’re still hiring back at The Mattress Factory — I get a job. Usually, it’s a really good job, too — and then everybody else I know in show business contacts me either to offer congratulations or ask for money.
Next Day on Your Dressing Room, They’ve Hung a Star
The entertainment business loves discovering the next big thing! We love to say we “knew them when.” I was once in a truly rotten production of a Greek tragedy — made even more tragic because we were performing in a damp, freezing basement. Every night, as I lay shivering on the concrete floor, it was the performance of a certain young African-American actress that kept me going. I kept thinking, This show is garbage, but she’s pretty good. She went on to be nominated for an Oscar.
Another of my best friends was a miserably shy but wonderfully weird guy who asked me if he should take acting lessons. I thought about it for a moment and said, “Yes, you should do it.” He later won an Emmy.
When I first moved to LA, my next-door neighbor was a lovely young actress. She had gotten a few jobs, but every pilot she booked tanked. She was getting discouraged — until she booked a little TV show about six “friends,” and the rest is history. That’s what’s so fantastic about the business. Like real estate, speed dating and gambling at an Indian casino, anything can happen if you’re standing in the right place at the right time.
Let’s Go On with the Show
I believe in my business. We don’t always get it right, but when we do, it’s amazing. That’s why people tune in or buy tickets to watch us sing our songs and tell our stories. Our work gives life a little extra meaning. We teach people to laugh at what doesn’t matter; to apologize before it’s too late; to be a little more heroic than they were yesterday. It’s an odd, but incredibly fun career. And I’m so very grateful for it.
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Last modified: May 9, 2019