I’m happy to present author Steve Shrott today on Moving Target. Steve’s debut crime novel, Audition For Death, was released by Cozy Cat Press earlier this year. Its protagonist Joshua Mclintock has appeared in numerous films and stage productions, although most of his roles have been dead bodies. But he knows his big break is just around the corner. Then he becomes the prime suspect in a murder case.
I spent a number of years in the entertainment business, and I’ve come to realize that show people are a special and often an off-beat group of characters.
One of the “characters” I worked with was an ambitious actor named George. He and I were cast in a low-budget film—he as a lawyer and I was one of his clients. The scene was the two of us talking and it was supposed to be a tiny part of the movie, lasting about thirty seconds. The filmmakers didn’t have a lot of money so we had to get it right on the first take.
But George thought it was his break to be Al Pacino. Half-way through the scene, he started breathing heavily and pretended to have a heart attack. He keeled over and started writhing on the ground, his face showing every emotion known to man. Oddly enough, the film-makers kept filming. Apparently they weren’t sure if it was real or not, and figured, I guess, that art is more important than bringing in a defibrillator.
At the end of the scene, my acting buddy jumped up, all smiles, and said, “I thought the scene needed a little pizzazz.”
The producer was not all smiles and the two got into a fist fight. They filmed that too. I don’t know what happened with the footage, but I have a hunch it was never nominated for an Oscar.
Another “character,” I worked with, this time in a play, was a famous British actor. (I won’t reveal his name so as not to embarrass him or give him the idea of suing me for millions of pounds.) Whenever I’d seen him on stage, he look dignified and proper. His hair was always perfectly coiffed.
After a matinee performance, an elderly woman presented him with a photo of himself, and asked if he would sign it.
The star looked at the photo, and said it was a terrible. Then he whipped out a Zippo lighter, and set the photo on fire.
The fire got out of control and his sleeve started burning. The proper British gentleman suddenly started jumping around, howling like a jackal. He was moving around so much that his lovely coiffed hair fell into his hands.
And then it caught fire!
The fire was extinguished, and the actor calmed down. We did several more performances that week, but after “the incident” the actor’s hair was always the star of the show for me.
While I performed around town, I also worked as a manager at a major theatre. We had a 70-year-old stage doorman named Larry who sometimes enjoyed a little brandy on the job. Larry had an arthritic limp, but when there were ladies nearby, it morphed into a war injury he received while trying to save six men in his unit.
On a few occasions, Larry became a little confused and wandered onto the stage during a show. This happened during a performance of Swan Lake. The contrast between his limp and the grace of the ballerinas made him look like a comic interlude.
There were giggles from the audience. And more giggles when he imitated the dancer’s leaps. The real laughs, however, started when Larry began disrobing.
My boss told me to grab him when he leapt near the side curtain. I attempted to, but when Larry saw me, he headed in the opposite direction. He didn’t want to get off the stage, apparently enjoying his moment of fame as a Chippendale Dancer.
I finally got hold of him, but not before the audience knew more about his…attributes than I am sure they wanted to.
I’ve had interesting times in showbiz, and I’ve developed ongoing friendships with many people in the community. It’s also given me material for Audition For Death.
Steve Shrott’s mystery short stories have been published in numerous print magazines and e-zines. His work has appeared in 10 anthologies, and he won The Joe Konrath Short Story Contest in 2006. His comedy material has been used by well-known performers, including Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, and he has written a book on how to create humour. He lives in Toronto.