The Miss Jobless Chronicles: The Big Audition!

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read all the posts in the “Miss Jobless” series here.

Background actors needed for Ugly Betty and Law & Order SVU! All races and sizes needed, ages 18 — 99! $200+ per day! No experience required! No headshot needed!

Or so the craigslist ad went. You may have seen it, too. Of course, I responded. And I got a call right away. Like, within ten minutes.

“OK—so let me get this straight,” I say to the woman on the phone. “You want me to come in to meet with a casting agent, but you’ve never seen me, and you have no idea if I have any talent. What’s the catch?”

“No catch.”

“There has to be a catch. You’ve never set eyes on me. What if I’m a beast?”

“Do you want to come in or don’t you? 10 o’clock tomorrow.”

“Of course I do. I’ll be there.”

My desperation-for-any-kind-of-work-vibe is showing. Big time. Like so many of us unemployed types, I’m ready to do just about anything. I heard that Mary’s Fish Camp is looking for an oyster shucker. I’m wondering if I’m qualified.

The office is in a questionable part of town—in the thirties, near the Garment District. It’s so frigid the day of my big audition that my eyes are watering. I dress in layers—long sleeve thermal under a t-shirt, black hoodie, military jacket, and striped scarf. And Prada rock star sunglasses that I splurged on to celebrate the last staff job I landed three years ago—and subsequently got laid off from. My hair is sculpted into fine rows of perfect spikes. I’ll make the perfect, street-smart, New York-style extra, I smile to myself, thinking that hey, it feels great to be me right now. I could be two seconds away from stardom. I make a mental note to remember this moment in time, because I’ll surely want to look back on it fondly.

I pass storefront windows full of mannequins, yards of sequined fabric and faux furs, wondering for a second if I have the right block. There’s little foot traffic, and up ahead I see a Subway sandwich place. Civilization! And there it is—224 West 35th. I check my hair in a car mirror, take a deep breath, and saunter in.

I get off on the second floor, and there is a line of people camped outside of room 216. A hip young woman (think H&M meets Forever 21) says to another, “Can we go in?”

“No, the boss isn’t here yet,” she says in a thick Brooklyn accent.

“Where is the bus taking us?”

“No, THE BOSS.”

“OH! THE BOSS! I thought you said the BUS!”

I chuckle to myself. You can’t write that shit. I scribble notes on my hand.

A short, stocky man gets off the elevator, jingling his keys. Everyone stands super straight, including me, for we know this must be “the boss.”

He opens the office door and closes it behind him. We’re all instructed to take a clipboard and fill out the attached form, a messy questionnaire.

What is your name:
Were did you here of us:
Whom do you aspire to be like: (I wrote Ed Asner)
Do you think you have nice hands and feet:

I look at my feet. Kind of wide, but a little bit charming. I check ‘yes.’

The walls are dusty and faded black, and they’re plastered with dry-mounted movie posters: Sex and the City, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas. It seems like an authentic casting ‘green room,’ I think. Not that I’ve ever been in one.

10:16, they’re 16 minutes late seeing me and they better have a good explanation. Don’t they know there’s a star in this group?

Finally, the creaky door opens and the greasy man pops out and invites the group into a small office full of clutter and dust. It smells like the Subway sandwich shop downstairs. Rumpled headshots of unknowns are fastened to the walls with thumb tacks and yellowed tape. The clicking of the radiator is distracting.

We sit perched on uncomfortable bar stools.

“I’m Brad,” he says. “I take it you’re all here because you wanna get into ‘the biz.'”

We collectively nod.

“Let me show you some of the clients I have discovered.”

He turns his desktop computer around, complaining of the slow connection. He shows us a Rogaine commercial on YouTube.

“Why is that man smiling?” he asks. “Because he made $25,000, plus residuals, and he still has his hair.”

He then shows us photos of B-list celebrities. In every one, he is in the background — kind of like Hitchcock appeared in all of his films, no matter how briefly. But not really like that at all.

There’s a sweet looking kid with a nice smile sitting in the corner. We look at each other and grin, trying not to crack up.

“OK, which one of you was here first?” he asks.

I quickly raise my hand—I want to be seen as soon as possible. The sooner he meets me, the sooner I will be on Law & Order!

The others step out, and I am alone with Brad at last.

“You…” he says, looking me up and down.

Being in a questionably shady situation, the next line, I am thinking, could be, “would look much better without those clothes,” but I am hoping it’s not.

“You,” he continues, “I like your look. I have a client who wants to meet with you today.”

!!!!!

I’m hopeful, but skeptical.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“All it will cost you is $99 for the headshots.”

$99??????

“I’m unemployed. I don’t even have 99 cents.”

“But we’re here six days a week.”

I quickly try to figure out how that statement follows the “I don’t even have 99 cents” one.

“Sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. Let me show you the door.”

And my dream died just as fast as it was born.

He escorts me out “the back way” and watches as I get on the elevator—I gather it is because he doesn’t want me to alert the rest of the group that he is a scam artist.

I left the building slightly downtrodden. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Guess my fifteen minutes of fame will just have to wait.

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page.