MARK’S ARTICLE – May 27, 2010
Looking for “The Look”
Martin had the look, and it took me a bunch of years to figure that out. That’s the only reason he got the part. The guy genuinely looked like Farmer Brown.
Martin had the red hair and freckles going for him. You slap some overalls on that kid and he’d look like he belonged on the side of a can of cream corn. I never realized that at the time. I always thought Mrs. Smith, chose Martin to play Farmer Brown ‘cause she thought he had all the talent.
Martin is the kid hiding just left of Ms. Smith. I'm right in front of Ms. Smith. Whatta gentleman.
Seems the farmer was the only kid in our first grade play who had any lines. Everybody else was a farm animal, a vegetable or a farm implement. All non-farmers just made noise. No discernable dialog.
Normally, I’d let something like that pass, but the whole episode messed me up quite a bit. Fifty years ago and I’m still steamed. There’s Mrs. Smith assigning all the roles for the fall play. She’s already got the parts pretty well down, including the bale of hay, the tractor, goose, horse, cow, chickens and two pigs.
Martin and I are left. Poor sap. Martin’s not even getting a part. Then Old Lady Smith says, “Oh, and, Mark, you get to be the third pig?” -- I’m not joking. Like it was some kind of award. I get to be a pig. Not even the first pig.
That’s when it hit me. I was gonna be one of the Three Little Pigs. I never picked up on the stupid rhyme theme until that moment. Hey, I was six, okay?
Yeah, my first grade teacher took one look at me and decided I needed to be a pig. How do you tell your folks something like that? -- “Well, Mark, what part did you get in the school play? Oh, a pig? Dennis quit laughing at your brother. You’ll be a good li’l piggie.”
So, I ended up standing on stage, wearing a pair of pink cotton pajamas with a plastic mask over my face, standing next to two other jackasses… uh, swine, waiting for my cue, that couldn’t be delivered because Martin was an idiot.
I don’t know how long the pause was. Seems like about 20 minutes. I coulda helped, but I really wanted Martin to mess up. I had issues. Finally, Little Pig #1, Dumb ol’ Darrel, caught onto what was happening and whispered from the underside of a pig mask, “Martin, it’s ‘What are you pigs doing out of your pen?’”
Martin suddenly had an epiphany, delivered the line and The Three Little Pigs said, in unison, “Oink, oink,” and then walked off the stage. That was it. It was three bucks for the stupid pig outfit and all I get was an oink, oink. You couldn’t even tell it was me. I was in Loserville and had just been handed the key to the city.”
It was The Look. Mrs. Smith was looking for “The Look”, and, boy, she got it. He might’ve looked like a farmer, but Martin was really just a goober. It was the longest play in first grade history.
I hoped that would the end of my acting career. But, when you’re in elementary school, they keep dragging you back in. In the second grade I was a Martian standing around in green underwear. In the third grade, I feigned asthma and didn’t hafta be in a play. Fourth grade I played a weird Australian guy, a jolly swagman camped by a billabong… under the shade of some stupid tree. I think Marsha was the tree
When I escaped elementary, I wasn’t anything. Nobody made me act, so I didn’t… not until I turned 40. That’s when I volunteered to be in some Little Theatre productions. Of course, I drew the line at nursery rhymes and anything with dance numbers.
I’ve also been in a few low budget movies. I managed to get most of the parts because of my looks. Not The Look. Just my look. I’ve played an 88-year-old codger, a bumbling patsy, a guy who has a nervous breakdown, and an alcoholic uncle. But the role I’m most often called to do is that of an idio— uh, a mentally challenged guy.
Bottom line, I’ve never been asked to play the guy who gets the girl, or who rides off into the sunset, solves the murder case, or looks like he has more than two brain cells. – Until yesterday. Hey, that’s why I’m boring you with all this stuff.
You see, I got a call from a director who said he needed me to play an expert witness in a murder trial. An expert witness. Me. Pig #3. Expert. I actually got to play a senior medical examiner at a big city hospital.
And, I had a bunch of technical lines to memorize. I had to remember stuff like subdural hematoma and arterial bleeding in the skull cavity. And, get this; I had to act like I knew what I was talking about! And, did I mention that it wasn’t a comedy?
I suppose, in an attempt to make me feel at ease, the director told me that 85 percent of my particular role was “The Look.” I’m not joking. Don’t worry about the acting. Just try to look like a medical examiner. He was looking for The Look.
Turns out, Big Al played the defense attorney. That’s how I got the part. Pretty sure. Al can look like anything he wants to. He was even in a natural gas commercial where he had to say “And that was my eureka moment.” He had to smile and everything. And, he’s on national TV showing the “eureka” look.
I don’t have a eureka look. I’ve got the “guy-who-doesn’t-get-the-girl” look. It’s a gift. One that I’ve really nurtured.
Regardless, I must say that I’ve come a long way. It took me 50 years to go from “oink, oink” to “subdural hematoma.” If Mrs. Smith could only see me now… Right. She’d probably say, “No, I can’t see my li’l pig playing an expert witness. You weren’t even my first pig, were you?”-- Yep, I’ve got some serious issues here!
You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org. To listen to Brad Meyer and Mark’s latest restaurant review go to http://www.hcnonline.com/media/Flemings.mp3