From Show Biz to Sunday School
By Sharon Leann Wyatt aka Sharon Leigh
TRY LATER (part two)
I was not yet convinced to take the leap into the world of hurry up and wait, and even my uncle Jack now entered in the conversation. Yet, as the conversations progressed, the pros far outweigh the cons, and it would result before the day was over that I would be going through all the preliminaries of becoming one of those nameless faces in the celluloid crowd. And I would begin working for the common cause or as an extra in 1964. There to join the throngs of aspiring actors and actresses that pass in and out of the vast array of productions designed to entertain, perplex, abuse, or bring passion by providing the background. Yes, watch the background, for you may miss some very amusing action. Oh yes, extras are also referred to as “background.”
“Don’t use your real last name Shari, or you’ll be typecast as an Italian and that will be the only work you get,” Joey advised. The name Castagna may just be a mouthful and being type cast was a fate worse than death, if it meant fewer jobs because of it. I was not at all sure, what” type” I wanted to be? I needed a name that would not “type” me in any one particular ethnic phylum. Having always had a dramatic flair, I wanted a domain name that declared all the sophistication and girlish chaste charm that I surely thought I must process. This name had to turn heads at the mere mention, but underneath it had to be dulcid and intoxicating, intriguing, and above all memorable. Choosing the right name proved no easy exercise, and I must have filled six pages with likely aliases. I had such presumptuous pseudonyms as Vanessa van Horne, Rosalyn Rothchild, and Alexandria Astor, and among the less auspicious titles names such as Annabella Adair, Jennifer O’Hare, and Emily Brentwood or was it Harte? In any case, I could not find a suitable name that said all I wanted in less than 26 characters. Much to my chagrin to this day, I have still not stumbled over just the perfect stage name, or nom de plume for that matter.
After all, my scribbling was over, I still remained nameless. I felt I had betrayed myself for having not had better insight into my ego. I envied all those who had just the perfect name that said it all in just a few characters. There was Capucine, with only eight letters, and in that single word dwelt a complete docier of herself. After much soul-searching and the wrenching pain of “who-I’m-I”, the name I decided upon was my given name, Sharon, and my middle name Leann embellished to Leigh. And so it was on that fateful day I changed the course I had plotted for myself years before, and would become another member of the Screen Extras Guild, known as Sharon Leigh. Perhaps in its simplicity it says as much or more about me than any elaborate handle ever could.
After getting that grueling task accomplished I set about doing what every other extra had to do before being full-fledged. There is nothing difficult about going down to the Screen Extra’s Guild headquarters and filling out the necessary papers to get the ball rolling. Once that was in the works, I simply had to introduce myself to the then casting agencies in Hollywood. Those being Independent Casting, Allied Casting, Hollywood Casting, and the biggest of the concerns, Central Casting. They each took one of those flattering color photos that I gave them and greeted me to the business. And I received special attention when I would start the list of those in my family who I now wish to join on their rosters. I was not ashamed to mention those extras in my family. It was rather like name-dropping and it didn’t lower the esteem of the agents who I would meet for the first time.
When I returned home after making the rounds of the casting offices, my cousin Joey was waiting for me. When I drove up into the driveway he burst out of the front door in the grand manner and pronounce, “welcome to the wonderful world of extra business!” I was a bit skeptical over Joey’s wording of that sentence. But as with any undertaking, I was willing to give it a chance to prove itself, and then I would judge whether it was such a “wonderful world” or not. My nature is to be enthusiastic in my work, and to give it my all. Starting on the morrow I would begin my new career and a true analysis of extra business.
At four o’clock in the afternoon of each weekday, every extra who wishes to work the next day, goes through the ritual of “calling in.” This is where you phone the casting agencies, and when they answer, you reply with only your name. If there is a call out from the studios, and the job could be filled by you, you are given a job on the spot. Or if regrettably there is nothing available they will bluntly reply, “No Work.” But, if there is a call in, and as yet it hasn’t been processed and there is a good likelihood of them being able to place you on the call, you will then hear music to your years in that hopeful retort, “Try Later.”
(Continued next month)
Look for a portrait of Bartimaeus
Envelope Persistence counts!
Try to scan or find a picture of the Jerusalem Cross pendant, got it from Amazon and use either in the letter or on back of response form