I’m about to share with you a video of what may have been the most powerful moment of my year.
But first, the story of how it came to be…
I haven’t written many blogs this year. I needed a break, and I wanted to focus on myself and my mental health a bit. Having surgery and losing my Mom to Alzheimer’s has not been easy. (As I’m sure most people can identify with.)
So over the past year, I’ve tried to do things a little differently.
I’ve tried to do more things that make me feel a bit vulnerable or even look a little crazy.
I haven’t always put myself out there so much but call it an epiphany, call it a mid-life crisis, call it what you want — I’m a little more “out there” these days. And as I reflect on the end of yet another year, I find myself feeling grateful for the break and returning to an unexpected moment that happened just a few weeks ago.
I haven’t had my license for a couple of years. (Long story short: I thought I had to take a test at the DMV to renew my license and I kept going and leaving after waiting in line forever, and I wasn’t pulled over for two years so I successfully played with fire. Finally, I found out I could do the license renewal online. Not my finest navigation of bureaucracy but it got done.) But one of the major reasons I really wanted to renew my license was so I could go on a Bird. You know, those electric scooters all over the West Side — not the Sesame Street character.
So when I got my license in hand, I decided to scoot down to Venice mid-week, fairly late at night. Venice is… well, Venice is something at night. It’s like The Wanderers meets Warriors. But as I cruised through the boardwalk, I saw a few guys dancing on roller skates, guided by the flashing neon lights of their portable speakers. They caught my attention, so I disembarked the scooter, sat down on a bench, and read some emails while surreptitiously watching them dance.
The emails fell to the back of my mind, replaced by memories of going out and dancing as a young buck on the LA scene. I remembered feeling so free and unencumbered, ever aware of a tinge of jealousy from my social circle that they weren’t quite as able to tap into their euphoric selves.
My friends and I would go to Helena’s and I always did the worm. A big guy like me doing the worm tends to turn some heads and I remember my friends looking at me like “what an idiot” but at the same time there was still a little sliver of respect for my ability to just let loose.
Sitting, watching, I became ever more captivated. This year, I’ve been working on myself; playing music every day, exercising, giving more self-care, and somehow this felt like a terminus. Like the moment I’d been blindly, abstractly working towards through all those keystrokes and shin splints. So I said, “What the hell,” and I got up and joined the skaters.
Turns out, a friend was down there, saw me doing my thing, and he started filming. He sent me some footage and I had fun putting it together later:
As a manager, you’re never supposed to be the one in the front. I’ve been conditioned to believe that. At sets, ceremonies, wherever, you represent the star. You’re in the background. I’ve been in the background for many, many years, which is where I like it.
But when that feeling of being secondary starts to bleed into your private life, something is wrong.
On my way home, I couldn’t stop thinking about another guy down there who was filming for his blog. I was nervous about how much footage he got of me. What if he finds out I represent actors? Would he use me to try to embarrass them?
It was right around when the Bird ran out of battery that I thought, “What is wrong with me?”
That is such an unhealthy way to think. What if this guy uses this against me? How? Since when is having fun a bad thing? Who cares?
People should have fun. People should dance like no one is watching and then hope it gets out on the internet, everybody watches, and joins in themselves! Somehow, this unexpected moment felt like the perfect little bow on a year I gave to myself.
It was my mother who truly instilled the arts in me and put me on my life’s path. She was a music teacher who taught dance and she dragged me along to everything she loved, from Peter Pan and Les Mis to Phantom and ice skating events. My mother adored art and the incalculable depths of human expression.
Because of my mother, I grew to love live performance and developed an appreciation for how people can make others feel through art. I talk a lot about things that move me because my mother taught me how to be moved. That isn’t innate; it’s learned.
She was a dance teacher and made me take dance classes for 8 years at Al Gilbert Dance Studio, where the Beverly Center stands today. If I took lessons, she said she’d take me to ride horses at the kid park nearby. Over the years, I didn’t need to be bribed anymore. I grew to love dance, and it’s still one of my favorite mediums.
One of the highlights of my life was going with Cicely Tyson to see Savion Glover on the opening night of Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. I still love watching Fred Astaire movies, behind-the-scenes documentaries of ballet, you name it. All dance is a fun reminder of my late mother, keeping me in touch with a part of myself that she instilled there.
But it’s a muscle, you have to work it. Just getting up and dancing, being the star of your own show, investing in yourself — just plain stepping into the spotlight requires work.
My mother was a classical pianist and instilled in me a love for that, too. Today, I play for two hours every day and I can feel her close to me even though she’s beyond some invisible veil. The immutable truth, however, is that art isn’t going anywhere, and neither is she as long as I continue to experience it with an open heart.
When I play piano I sometimes wish I was talented enough to be in the front. I’m not, but the next best thing is working with those who are. But there’s risk there. You risk becoming secondary in your own life. That’s not just true for talent reps, it’s true for anybody who works for anybody else, or for the truly generous among us.
It’s so easy to fall into a cycle of doing so much for others, you forget to be the star of your own show every once in a while. It might feel more secure to stay in the background, and that’s fine. But don’t stay there forever. Don’t be afraid to get up and get loud from time to time.
So I ask you, what will you remember most about this year? What was your most unexpected moment?
Maybe this will help get the juices flowing.