Richard Seff was there, he was one of them, as Bruce Bigby, a young millionaire on the daytime serial "The Brighter Day" in which his nine month marriage to Althea Dennis ended abruptly when a slight cough developed into an unnamed terminal disease. All this and more is told in a comical voice that pokes fun at the absurdities and the power plays. Though everything in the book could have happened, a clerk in a hardware store may in fact have been an office boy in an under garment showroom, a pretentious understudy may actually have been a woman who had changed her family name to one of her own creation, a raffle ticket may have won its winner a toaster instead of a kayak. Come join Alice and Harold in the Wonderland of Radio.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)|
Read an Excerpt
'TAKE A GIANT STEP'
A Romance in Radio
By RICHARD SEFF, MARK DEAN
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Richard Seff
All rights reserved.
Alice and Harold paused for a moment, and gazed up at the skyscraper in front of them. Then they pushed their way through the revolving doors of the United Radio Society.
"Remember, think like a professional," Harold whispered.
"Yes," Alice answered. She tried, but she couldn't. Not for a minute.
The Information Girl looked up after she had finished a line in her anthology of "Three Plays By Eugene O'Neill."
"May I help you?" she asked.
"Thank you, yes." Harold answered, professionally. "Casting Department, please."
Information looked the pair up and down, suspiciously.
"Do you want to audition?" she asked.
"Bingo! That's what we'd like to do," Harold answered.
"Second floor. Room 207." Information went back to "The Hairy Ape."
Harold pulled Alice away.
"Now remember, they need us," he said. "Without actors there wouldn't be any Industry. We're not asking for any favors."
"Maybe they can do without us a little longer," said Alice. "They've managed till now."
"Never mind that. Let's go upstairs and get it over with."
They turned around.
"Harold, look!," Alice cried.
In the middle of the corridor, there was a large sign. "Please Show Your Pass Before Entering Elevator."
"We don't have a pass." Alice was ready to go home.
"Look at all the other people going in. They're not showing any pass."
"Maybe they work here. Maybe they're pro—" Harold gave her a look.
"Maybe the guard knows them."
"He can only throw us out. Come on, we'll try it."
"Where are your passes?" said the guard as they whizzed past him.
Alice emitted a ladylike burp.
"Don't have them with us this morning, Officer," Harold said. "Just an oversight."
"We can go home and get them and come back later, Harold. We're holding everyone up." Alice left the elevator, and tripped on the door. Harold followed her.
"Why did you do that?", he demanded. "He would have let us go up."
"I can't go through with it", she said. "I don't like my audition material anyway. Why don't we work on it some more, and then come back. When we're really prepared."
"You said that yesterday. We're as ready now as we'll ever be. There must be some way to get up to Room 207."
"I could get a job as a secretary," Alice said.
"What are all those people doing over there?" Harold asked. "They look like they're waiting for the elevator. Maybe he just wanted us to wait in line."
Around the corner there were a hundred people roped in against the wall. Harold spotted a Page and asked him who they were."
"That's the Armstrong Theatre audience," said the Page. "It's on the air in half an hour. If you've got your tickets, you'd better get on line." Alice was thinking how nice it would be to be a secretary with an elevator pass, when she found herself along with the crowd tied up against the wall.
"What are we doing here?" she asked, as she pulled at the rope on her stomach. "We don't want to hear Armstrong Theatre. But no matter because we DON'T HAVE TICKETS!"
"They won't look at the tickets until we get to the studio," Harold whispered. "We can duck out before then."
The line began to move.
"Here we go. Keep your face away from the Starter. He might remember us."
"Yes he will. We're Bonnie and Clyde on a bad day." She felt less professional by the minute.
"Half the battle is believing. Start believing." Harold answered.
The elevator was so crowded Alice had the feeling she was standing on someone. A small boy was under her legs, squatting on his haunches. His hand was stretched out into the people, evidently hanging onto someone. Alice hoped it was someone he knew.
They passed right by the second floor. The little boy moaned, "Mommy, I have to go potty. Now!" Everyone moved slightly away from him, including whoever he was attached to. The elevator was an express and didn't stop until the eighth floor. There the doors slid open and the little boy was whisked away as Harold grabbed Alice's wrist and ran for the first door that didn't have a number on it. This was a bad choice because, after wading through a large lounge, it turned out to be the Men's Room, and there was a small commotion when Alice showed up. But before any big fuss could be made, they fled, ran down the hall and disappeared behind a big red door marked "Exit."
"I don't like how things have been going," Harold said simply. Alice nodded. "We've made a few mistakes," Harold went on, "but nobody of any importance has seen us yet, so all we have to do is find Room 207. Forget about the last few minutes, and let's start thinking like professionals."
So they ran down six flights of stairs. There they stopped another Page for directions.
"I beg your pardon," said Harold.
The Page put down his copy of "My Sister Eileen."
"Do you know where Room 207 is?"
"You're actors, aren't you?"
Alice hid behind Harold.
"That's right," Harold answered.
"Sure," said the Page. "I've seen you in something. What was it?"
"Seen us? You mean in a play?"
"Maybe. You ever played on Broadway?"
Harold thought for a moment.
"No," he said.
"You never did? You sure?"
"I played 'Laertes' in 'Hamlet' at Columbia," Harold offered.
"Well, I'm Cameron Cory", said the Page.
"Hi. I'm Harold Moore and this is Alice Cromwell."
Alice stuck her hand out from behind Harold
"You'd both be awfully right for my new play," Cameron said.
"We would?" Alice asked as she stepped in front of Harold.
"Sure. Would you like to read it?"
Harold said right out, "Yes!".
"Fine," said Cameron, and he took it out of his pocket. "I'm here every day. Let me know what you think of it."
"Well, thanks, Cameron." Harold said. "Do you know where 207 is?"
Cameron closed his eyes and mumbled to himself. "Well, 208 is on the other side of the corridor. Call me. My number's on the script." He was whistling as he walked off.
"Isn't he nice?" Alice asked.
"See? Even playwrights have day jobs," Harold answered.
208 was where Cameron had said it would be, next to 209. Harold and Alice went in.
"Pardon me, Miss. Where is Room 207?" He sounded tired.
"207," the young lady answered. "Gee, I don't know. Isn't it next door?"
"No. No, it isn't."
She turned to the woman behind her. "Winnie, do you know where 207 is?"
Winnie thought for a moment. "We're 209, aren't we?"
"We want 207."
"What department is it?" Winnie asked.
"Talent," Harold said.
"Oh," was all Winnie could come up with.
"Talent. Oh. No," said the other one, and went back to her work.
"Come on, Alice," Harold said.
Then they walked past a supply room, a postage stamp machine and a soft drink dispenser before they found 207, next to a broom closet.
Inside, Miss Ripple asked if she could help.
"We'd like an audition, please," Harold said.
"For which medium, sir?"
"Radio or television?"
"Oh. Well, both, I guess."
"No. They have different casting directors. On different floors. It has to be one or the other."
"Radio, then," Alice said to ease the tension in Miss Ripple's voice.
"Right!". Ripple gave a little salute, which somehow seemed appropriate.
"Heller and Dabney are booked for the next six weeks, but I can let you have Waller on the seventeenth."
"Tomorrow?" Alice was alarmed.
"Next month. July. Nine o'clock. That's good. Mr. Waller gets tired easily. He's like tuna salad in the coffee shop. Catch him early in the day." She giggled quietly to herself.
Nine o'clock on July 17th. I'm available," Alice said at once.
"Uh—just a minute," said Harold. "Let me check."
He opened his appointment book and waded through "July 4th—holiday, July 7th—Aunt Regina's birthday, send card—and July 24th—8:00 am—Unemployment Insurance office."
Then he told Miss Ripple, "Yes, I'm available."
"Good!", she said, and she seemed genuinely pleased. "What are your names?"
Harold told her.
"And your phone numbers, in case we have to cancel?"
Harold gave them.
"Are those your home numbers?"
"Well, yes," Harold answered. "We don't have an office, if that's what you mean."
"You don't belong to a service??" She sounded tense again.
"An Artists' Phone Service!"
"What does it do?" Alice asked.
"It takes messages for Artists in the Industry. You don't sound like you're pro-"
"Oh we're professionals all right," Harold interrupted. "We just find our home phones completely satisfactory."
"Then you'll be in on the 17th—of July. And if you must cancel, be certain to call. However, be aware that cancellation means going to the back of the wait list." She gave them a nasty look. The interview was over. Harold and Alice left Miss Ripple and Room 207 and emerged new-born into the Radio Industry. They hailed an elevator without fear and shot down to the lobby with dignity. The guard who had demanded to see their passes earlier now nodded to them as they left. Information looked up from "The Hairy Ape" long enough to smile in recognition.
Once through the revolving door, Alice spotted a taxi, and jumped in.
"We can't afford a cab, Alice," Harold said.
She grinned up at him.
"You goop, he who laughs last laughs longest."
Alice just wasn't clever, like Harold.
The United Radio Society has a lounge on the third floor which was originally intended as a waiting room for actors who had time off between rehearsals. However, since there are usually many more actors who are not "currently employed" than there are those who are, it evolved into a chat room for all those artists even peripherally connected to The Industry.
There is a reception desk on the third floor, with a telephone and a microphone on it, and a blackboard behind it. Calls come in from the various Answering Services, whence the Lucky Recipients' names are blasted through the mic for all to hear. Should said Recipient not be around at the moment, his name is posted on the blackboard so that when he does show up, he can check with his Service, and accept or refuse the professional morsel that's been offered. This is the way it's supposed to work, but sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes said Recipient is a married man whose wife, knowing she can generally find him in the Lounge, calls to try to reach him. If he is around, he will accept the call and stand there nodding his head professionally, mumbling things like "Yes, I can make it," or "No, I have to pass; I have a conflict" even if Mrs. Recipient is only asking her husband to remember to pick up the spaghetti and meatballs on his way home. But for the benefit of his fellow actors and competitors, who always have one ear tuned to the floor phone, he will answer as he does.
Conversation flows freely in the Third Floor Lounge.
"Hi, Joe", one actor says to another.
"Hello, Jim," might be the response.
"Wonderful weather, huh?"
"Just the greatest."
"You're looking fine, Joe."
"Thanks, Jim. Feel great."
"Good. See you, Joe."
That might be it for two actors who play the same type of roles. If a character lady runs into a young ingenue, it would be different.
"Darling!" says the character lady.
"Hello, Minnabess!" shouts the ingenue.
"Listen, darling—I've just come from Harvey Sapenstein's's office, and he's looking for a sixteen year old Chinese girl."
"Can you do a Chinese accent?"
"It's not my best, but I suppose."
"Well, go on darling. Bluff it. It's a wonderful part, and tough to cast."
"Thanks, Minnabess. You're an angel."
"Any time, Darling!"
This conversation is called "the grapevine," very common on the Third Floor.
The Lounge then is divided into groups of twos and threes, of various types and sexes. On one couch, near the telephone (lest they should miss their names being blasted over the mics) you will find two of the younger members of the profession. You might find Genevieve Howard talking to Fred Hoffman. They are planning their day as they do each morning, but it isn't easy because they don't know anybody except the four people they visited yesterday.
A little further down the Lounge, relaxing on one of the couches, you might find little Marcia Mae who has been in radio for eight years, and whose file card says she will be nineteen next month. Marcia is a prominent radio personality, the star of "Home of Happiness." This morning she is chatting with Byron Black who had been appearing with her until his recent dismissal, after a short run of just three weeks.
"Well, By" Marcia is saying, and very seriously, no giggles this morning. "Freddy was telling me yesterday that he was going to have a talk with Willy about why your character disappeared like that. I mean there you were with Babby in the middle of this plot thing, and it looked good for years. No one can understand it. If Willy were here instead of vacationing on that silly old Cape Cod spending all the money we've made him, you could go and talk to him. I mean when you got the part, my agent was sure it was going to run forever. Why, Henry and Bobby and Janey all said it would."
Byron put on his brave face. "Of course it doesn't really matter. I've socked my dough away so I'm fine. But it does seem a God-damned stupid way to run a program. No offense to you darling, I know it's your show, but I'm sure you agree it doesn't make much sense to introduce a new leading man to the plot line and then send him off to Belgium after three weeks. What can this idiot Will Hammond be thinking of"
"Willy's absolutely unpredictable. By, if you knew the crazy things he does, you simply would not believe them. Last week, just after you left the show, he came down for a visit. Sometimes he can be very sweet, and this time he brought Bobby and me a present. Do you know what he brought me? You won't believe it! He brought me a teddy bear. A stuffed teddy bear who was taller than I. Me!"
"He said it was for his 'little Ella girl'. Now By, I don't live the part of Little Ella. I do get weekends off!. I may sound ten years old, but God knows I am not ten years old, so what can I do with a stuffed teddy bear? If he doesn't stop treating me like a child, I swear I'll leave the show."
"You're absolutely right Marcia. And it wouldn't hurt to leave anyway. You don't want to get typed as a ten year old. Not with your potential for a giant career."
Marcia Mae frowned. "I hadn't thought of that. Is that what they're saying about me? I'd just die if that's what the Industry thought of me."
"Now, now", said Byron as he rose to collect his things.
"I'd just die!", said Marcia Mae.
"So long, darling. When you see Will again soon, be sure to tell him I can't speak Flemish, and I'm finding Belgium very dull."
"Me—type cast as a 10 year old? That would be awful!" was her response to that.
The Third Floor Lounge was at rest. The most noticeable sound on the floor flowed from the telephone dial on the Receptionist's desk, for the mic was a little too near the phone and it picked up the click-click-click of thedial as it sprang back into place. It was summer, anditwas nine-thirty in the morning, and everyone was taking it easy.
So it was that Paul Heller stuck his head out of the Men's Room, and prepared to cross the Lounge on his way back to his office.
"That's Paul Heller!" Genevieve Howard whispered to Fred Hoffman. "He's the strangest man. See the way he sneaks around the Lounge?"
"They say he doesn't like actors. We'll never work for him."
"I had him in the elevator all alone last week."
"No! What happened?"
"I didn't speak to him."
"He looked so frightened. I felt sorry for him."
"That was a real opportunity, Genevieve. You blew that one."
"I had an interview with him a few days ago. He didn't say a word."
"Was it an audition?"
"No. He didn't say a word about my taking one either. I did all the talking. He's very strange."
"Why don't you go see him now? At least you know he's in."
"He doesn't like it when you show up with no appointment."
"Then go make one."
"You only get one. I've had mine."
"Who will we go see today, Fred?"
"Look, Genevieve. over by the Service Phone. That's Babette Saint."
"Really? How do you know?"
"I was on the phone one day when I heard her say her name."
"Look at her writing notes. I'll bet she's getting calls for three shows at once."
"Probably. She works all the time."
"I heard her last night on 'Lights Out.' She played a murderess. She's very good."
"Yes, she is. That's probably why she works all the time."
"That may be part of it. But she has lots of influence too. She's been around the block a few times, let me tell you." Genevieve had Babette all figured out.
"Everybody likes her. She's always doing nice things for kids like us." \ "She's never done anything nice for me. That's because we sound alike. I could have played that murderess last night."
Excerpted from 'TAKE A GIANT STEP' by RICHARD SEFF, MARK DEAN. Copyright © 2013 Richard Seff. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews