Playing to the Crowd

   It was on a short, mile an a half run in South Florida that the Lord showed me something I had been doing all of my adult life. Acting, projecting an image of myself. Namely – acting differently around people when I know I’m being watched. Putting on a show so to speak. I think we’re all aware in a general sense that we behave differently with others than we do when we’re alone. Everybody does. In relation to customs and manners, especially those that show courtesy or respect, it is a good and necessary thing, and helps us all.  But the difference I’m speaking of here is really more a change of focus and direction when people are looking at you. The desire to draw attention to ourselves, and why we do it. Our culture and society have even gone so far as establishing an elite community, a royalty of sorts (in perception only, not Spiritual reality) among those at the top of the profession of acting, which I believe is a reflection of how self centered we have become as a people.

   I’ve been a lover of stories and an avid reader ever since I was a little boy.  In our modern culture and in my generation, it was a completely natural progression to loving Cinema. In fact, we watch more movies at the theaters in my hometown of San Diego than anywhere else in the country. Which isn’t hard to believe since we have a larger population (nationally) of single 25 – 35 yr. olds, along with most of the Pacific Fleet. Here’s my dichotomy. Though I love movies and still see them frequently even to this day, I really have very little respect for the profession of acting, and absolutely none for the exalted position that our society has given its champions. The latter of which is nothing short of idolatry.

   Now the actors themselves are just people and should be shown the same respect as anybody else. And I give it gladly. Showing respect for others and treating people the way you yourself want to be treated is a large part of walking in Love. Regardless of your current station in life – whether high or low.  In fact you cannot live right toward God without living right toward people.  So I don’t really mean the individuals themselves when I speak of the profession, it’s more what we as a people (including the media, which is made up of people) have done with it. Because it really is our choice.

   In this particular context I’m not so much trying to construct a road to social reform as much as I’m attempting to show a somewhat imperfect view of ourselves and where we’re at as it relates to morality. Which of course affects our balance on the tightrope of this life – both individually, and as a whole. Especially the part of morality that is concerned with where we are going. Which has everything to do with what we are looking at and who we’re listening to. Having lived and worked in Southern California all of my adult life (except for 2 years in Hawaii) I have been afforded more than a couple of opportunities for meeting or being exposed to someone famous. Or knowing someone who has.  

   One of my roommates used to be a neighbor of Harrison Ford.  Another guy  who I worked with, met Eddie Murphy when he went up to fix something in his room at a Hotel in San Diego. He said Eddie was crazy (funny crazy), no surprise there right.  Another co-worker had been at a party (in San Diego) where Heather Locklear offered a reward to anyone who would give her a ride back to L.A.. Antonio (another roommate) was working security at Cafe Sevilla when Leonardo DiCaprio came in during a break from filming Titanic, while we  were living in a Loft downtown a few blocks away.  He got to talk to him at the bar for about 20 minutes, and seemed genuinely impressed when he told me the next day what a nice guy he was.  

   My buddy Greg was doing a club called Rockers for a couple of years at the Probe in L.A. (end of the Eighties) when he met Sean Penn on the roof.  A former client of mine is a fraternity brother of Steve Wynn the Las Vegas hotel owner. He and his wife had joined Steve in his suite for dinner along with Whoopie Goldberg as they were waiting for Frank Sinatra to join them. He said that as soon as Frank got there Whoopie went off on him telling him what a jerk he was and how many of her friends he had screwed over – then left. Go on Whoopie!  I’ve met a few myself, like Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, and had a few as clients. Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards had been coming in regular over a period of several weeks (during the summer of ’85) to a club I was a bouncer at in Pacific Beach called the Mannikin. Which in it’s day was pretty cool, as clubs go. 

   The two of them were not known at the time, but seemed like nice enough guys and kept telling me they were making a film (which I mistook for a training film since it was at the Naval Air Station at Miramar) – so that I would comp them. Which I did. I like to get comped myself, so I understand how they feel. One night this black Jeep drives up with Tom Cruise at the wheel, Val in the front passenger seat, with Anthony and Kellie McGillis in the back. Val had recently told me that Tom Cruise was in the movie, and that he would come out with them one night soon. Tom was not the superstar that he is today, but he was known. 

   So when Val waved me over to the Jeep (which was in the street as all the curbside parking was taken), I looked in and saw Tom and said something like ‘ I know that guy ‘, we all smiled (a Kodak moment). Then they asked if there was anywhere they could park, a problem in metropolitan California.  To which I looked up and down the street and replied hesitantly that I had my Truck here (a big Chevy 4×4 on a lift with a 9’ whip antenna off the driver’s side – man I loved that Truck), which the nose of the Jeep was even with. Testingly, but a bit too expectantly, they asked if I could move it. To which I said No, but you can park around back – and they did. I comped them, which I’m sure made them all feel better (even though Kellie didn’t have her ID on her).

Listen to me now.  You do not have to kiss up to people just because they are famous – or will be someday.  You might be too, and you will have to work even harder at being nice than you do now. And I’m not telling you this so I look large for about 10 seconds among the masses of the non-famous for dis’n Tommy an his crew before they was famous. No, they were all nice folks, God Bless ’em. I’ve prayed for some of them many times. I want you to see that the substance of your life, what God is trying to do through you, is in the small stuff.  So much of this life is a test in the small things.

   Not in the glamorous, not in the romantic, not even in the ideal. It is in the reality of your every day, day in day out life. When I met Dustin Hoffman he was a real gent and a very cool guy. I worked on him for an hour, the only time he ever came in during my years at  the La Costa Spa. I believe it was right after his father died, and he had just finished Rain Man. I was told his parents had lived there for many years. I asked him if he had favorite movies or actors . . he said he had favorite performances. Implying I thought, that whether or not you achieved a perceived status of greatness – you could have a great moment. How cool is that.

   I worked on Randolph Hearst a couple of times, what a neat guy. He told me how he and his brother (William Randolph) had donated their father’s Estate at San Simeon (the Hearst Castle) along with 500 acres of staging ground to the State of California.  As it was all too much for them to keep up and neither one of them wanted to live there. But they did keep the 70,000 acres of adjacent ranch land, with some cattle on it. That’s a lot of pasture.  I asked him about the Rosebud mystery on Orson Welles famous film Citizen Kane, which as most people know is about his father. I think he told me it was the name of a prostitute, but I honestly can’t remember. But the most unforgettable thing he said was how he and his brother had both been pilots in the Army Air Corps during WWII.  I mean they flew bombers on combat missions – they went into harms way.  Praise God! That is so cool. Their dad was the richest, and one of the most powerful men in the entire world. But they went anyway.  What a different generation.

   Richard Pryor was very generous, as many people who come from nothing are.  I worked on him for an hour the first day.  He scheduled a second for the next but couldn’t make it, as he was feeling under the weather.  He sent his man to give me a fifty dollar tip anyway, just to say thank you. Combined with the fifty he had given me the day before – that $100 dollars bought the Thanksgiving dinner my friends and I shared (I think it was the next day) at my apartment across the street from Balboa Park, where I was living at the time. Robert Downey jr. was pretty cool and kinda funny, cause he hit me and a fellow masseur (my friend Mohammed) up for some investment capital.  I mean he like asked me for 15,000 dollars, I still think it’s funny. There I am working on him and he is giving me his pitch. What a salesman. One of the technicians who worked at the Spa had went to high school with him.

   I remember him being kinda jealous since he (the tech) had been in the cool crowd in school, whereas Robert had been in the not so cool crowd (according to him). He was not too happy about their opposing positions on the food chain – a recognizable actor with a certain amount of success and (he) a servant at the most famous Spa in the world.  I just want to remind us all that we’re supposed to be happy when others succeed, not jealous. Be glad when you see someone make it – it’s good for your Heart.  And don’t misunderstand, I need just as much help as anyone else when I get around the things our society and culture worship.  But that is my whole point; you have to make yourself do the right thing, even when you feel differently.  Love the way God means it is not a feeling, it is a discipline.

   It has nothing to do with your feelings, it’s a choice. Don’t compare yourself to other people, the Bible forbids it. Be content with who you are and what you’ve got.  All the while be preparing yourself for promotion by preparing your heart – and God Himself will promote you in due time. If you try to promote yourself, you will just end up broken and frustrated.  When God is ready to promote you – nothing can stop it.  When you do finally achieve some level of notoriety in your field, remember to be kind to others and to believe the best about them.  Competition comes out of our fallen nature and it is not from God.

   This growing sense of entitlement in our generation has got to go. It is an infestation, and has ruined the attitude of the youth of this country for the last 40 years.  And quit confusing large amounts of cash and being recognizable to the masses, with success – they are not related. There are many people with millions who are nothing more than poor people with some money.  Because money does not make you rich.  If you had a billion dollars it could not save your soul.  You are a Spirit  remember.  It is in your Spirit you have to get rich.  And the reason so many people are destroyed by fame is because they know the whole thing is a lie and they cannot live up to the lie.  I know the world system counts them as success, but the world system is wrong. It always has been. The world not only does not know how to count, it doesn’t know what to count. The Bible teaches a whole other arithmetic.  One where everybody who wants to win, wins.  Alright, Back to the acting.

   So one of the two major reasons I don’t have a lot of respect for our view of the profession is obviously because I think we’ve made too much of it.  The other reason is that I think anybody can do it, because I believe everybody already does it, to some degree. Not that everybody could be great, listen, most folks are not even great at life.  Being great at anything (in a worldly sense) requires talent skill or experience, or even a combination of the three. That does not guarantee anybody will ever know you are great.  Since what we are really talking about is how good you were at what you did – not how many people knew it (that’s fame).  

   A little over a century ago when Impressionism was just gaining popularity as a new artistic style, Manet was playing Monet while Bouguereau was sticking to classical lines from classical training.  Especially in the hands and feet, which had always been considered the hardest. He alone was a Master (at this) among all of his peers, including Renoir and Degas and they all knew it. But you don’t know his name today, not like you do the others I’ve mentioned.  Not because he wasn’t good.  In fact, he was the epitome of the style that Impressionism was up against. It was because that style was no longer popular within the trend that eventually becomes the masses.  What the people like.  How we feel about things, which can change in a moment. 

   At the same time that European Society was becoming less certain as to exactly what they believed about God and who He was, their lines of Morality started to blur as did color and detail with the Impressionists.  A process of declining delineation. We could no longer tell where we were because we were no longer certain what we were looking at. We had lost our way. Till we end up with painters like Picasso (his later work) and Pollock, whose work any child could equate. At least the Impressionists while not quite giving us the thing itself, gave us something like it.  Now we have corporations that specialize in finding ways to take away what they promise. Everything is connected. Everything.  And everything that happens physically is determined (or happens first) spiritually.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, as I often do.

   I have brought in the comparison of the profession of acting to the acting that we all do, as, being so exaggerated, I believe it is easier to see. Everything in it is phony, stunt, faux, affected, controlled, made up – all established in storytelling through pretense, to produce one thing – a picture. The thing they want me to see.  All the while playing to the crowd. There’s an entire multi-billion dollar industry built around it, and due to the power that God has put into the visual.  Because of this Hollywood (and in an extended sense California) has been for some time the cultural ancient Rome of our modern world.  It is bad enough that we as people find ourselves being phony or pretentious, or making something very large out of something very small, every day.

But as a society we have made one of the world’s largest subcultures out of it, don’t you see.  Out of nothing it makes nothing and accomplishes nothing.  Yes stories are good, I write them my self.  And there is massive employment and gargantuan payroll (especially for those at the top), but for what.  I’m telling you if people would give God half the reverential awe they would give to their favorite actor upon meeting them – He could build on that. He could get some stuff done in their lives. I told you those little anecdotes in the hope of starting the de-throning process of the faming (or framing) of self in our lives. It is all a lie, all of it.  God is supposed to be in that frame, not you or me or anyone like us. Paul says in the Bible that it is good to be excited, but then asks, what are you excited about. And let me add this, it’s good to have a good reputation, but what are you so well known for.  Doing what.

   You know what the two most excellent things were in all those stories. Out of all the completely unrelated random meetings and interactions with some of the rich and famous of the 7 different people whose 12 experiences I related to you.  Only two things were noteworthy, redeeming, or of any virtue at all.  When Richard Pryor tipped a masseur who did not even work on him that day. Went out of his way to do it. One man giving money to another without even receiving the product he was adding to, just to be kind to him.  On purpose.  And on a much larger scale, when Randolph Hearst and his brother served in the military while their nation and their world was at war. They could have gotten out of it, or at least received an easier assignment.  But chose instead to face danger and loss of life for something higher than themselves. And the bombing raids over Nazi occupied Europe had among the highest casualty rates of the war. 

   My how things and people have changed. The common grounds of both examples were men doing something they did not have to do, and doing it for someone else.  With both acts involving the giving of something that was important to the men themselves. Which is the only kind of giving God counts.  Hollywood does not feed the hungry and clothe the naked – the Church does that.  And their best day of Charity (to the wrong ones) is not a fraction of the Church’s worst.  They do not teach our children, teachers do. They don’t prepare the food the cook does, and they don’t grow it, the farmer does that.  The farmer does not provide the soil, the rain and the sunshine.  Most of them know very well that God provides it, and will tell you so.  Just like He provides you and me (and actors everywhere) with talent, ability and intelligence. Which we quickly call our own, without even attempting (personally) to uncover where they came from. 

   Though we can tell you nothing of how they were formed we claim ownership.  As though we really had something to do with the manufacture of our natural strengths and abilities. Yeah like you personally chose how you looked and how fast you could run. Explain that to me. Go ahead I’ll give you a minute. Every good thing in our lives comes from God, every good thing.  We are not supposed to play to the crowd, we are supposed to play to Him.  Even the Church does it. This is not about the crowd – it is all about Him and our returning to Him. Don’t seek the approval of men, seek His.  I’m not supposed to wish the whole world found me sexually attractive and wanted to jump my bones, but it’s right there in the fallen nature.  It is not right that we think this way.  The desire to be desired (or desirable). God put an intense, almost desperate desire for intimacy into each of us, and He put it there for Himself. But we are all doing the wrong thing with it.

   How much longer do you think we as a people can get away with investing so much of our money into entertaining ourselves with storytelling while lusting after or idolizing the beautiful new young boy or girl whose character happen’s to be in the spotlight for the moment, before we are held accountable.  Don’t you see how very much like Rome we are after they built the Coliseum, which was built solely to entertain.  Now we are even more like them right before they fell. Do you know where the money came from to build the Coliseum.  It came from the sack of Jerusalem.  And by it the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, which was the House of God – the Church of the Jews. The place where like all temples, all the gold was kept. 

   Fifty years ago most of the nation went to Church and saw a film occasionally.  Now, we don’t go to Church at all, but watch TV or go to movies daily.  Our very own Coliseum.  Listen to me friend – Judgment is coming. On us as a nation and as individuals.  And I believe very soon on the TV and film industry.  You know the best way to avoid Judgment – to judge ourselves, so we won’t be judged. 

   There is nothing wrong with seeking the approval of men if you seek the approval of God first.  But let me tell you a secret – if you get God’s approval, what follows does not even matter. Though you will have the approval of many men.  But we don’t do that.  We have taken God completely out of the picture and just play to each other.  No wonder our lives are so empty and confused. Meaningless sex and meaningless money, with a craving for all the entertainment we can swallow in between.  Just gimme my next fix.  One more conquest will show how godlike I am. Yeah, that’s it.  It doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it. We must learn to love something more than we love having our own way.  God will help us with that, but only if we are willing.  Learn to be willing.

Brother Greg
Full Grown Ministry

Looking For – Brother Duke

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