by Lloyd Poast
Remember the name Brandon Quinn. You’ll be seeing it very soon at a theatre near you. And no, I’m not psychic. I’m an actor, or should I say a major star on the horizon. I’m that rare combination of talent plus charisma that equals superstardom.
I’ve heard some describe me as brash, or dare I say cocky, but even I can hardly believe the whirlwind that has been the last few months. Leaving my small hometown for the media staccato of New York has allowed me to showcase my considerable talent in important, albeit small, roles on both Broadway and television. Film is the next logical step and my ultimate destiny.
Right now, I’m sitting in the reception area of a casting office, waiting for my shot at the lead in the hottest movie of the moment. Its release date is set for early next year and they’re looking for a new face.
At the risk of sounding smug, I really do consider this audition to be a minor formality, especially if the cast of characters surrounding me are any indication of my competition. For example, an outcast from The Road Warrior has just entered the room, obviously delusional that his Mohawk and numerous tattoos are leading man material. Meanwhile, the guy sitting next to me, who has been trying to make small talk since I sat here, is balding and has a rather large middle-age paunch, and yet his clothing and speech would make me think he’s fooled himself into being nineteen. He even goes by the eternally youthful name of Ricky.
There are a few of the obligatory matinée idol types with their perfect hair and high cheekbones, but they lack that special something necessary for the jump to the big screen and are more likely to find themselves in a newspaper ad than co-starring with Johnny Depp. The women trying out for the lead heroine role aren’t much better and are all pretty much interchangeable and mostly forgettable.
There is actually one very notable exception that caught my attention the moment she walked in. Her natural beauty is a refreshing change from the much too perfect look of her competition and she has a rather rebellious dynamic that belies the ambience of class and charm shadowing her like lovesick school boys.
She’s spent the last few minutes getting her blue eyes lost in a work of art, a painting that’s hanging lopsided and unkempt on the wall. Her blonde hair looks almost white against the dark landscape that, from my viewpoint, appears to be nothing but a black canvas. Noticing that the eternal teenager next to me is ready to make another attempt at conversation, I decide to go over and talk to her.
As I get closer, the painting begins to take on its true form. It’s actually a very odd image, portraying a large pair of eyes winking at the viewer through a maze of stars. A tree can be seen in the reflection of the open eye with each of the nine planets weaved throughout its branches.
“Do you like the painting?” I ask with my trademark swagger. “It’s very Daliesque.”
“I like the fact that it’s crooked,” she replies without breaking her gaze from the art, “Everything else in this room is so perfect and modern and completely boring. It’s the only thing that seems real. It has character.”
“I like your style,”I say, taking a small step towards her. “I’m Brandon Quinn. You must be auditioning for the part opposite me.”
“I didn’t think any of the major parts had been filled yet.”
“They haven’t. The director just hasn’t seen my screen test yet.”
“You’re very sure of yourself Brandon Quinn,” she says with a smirk, finally turning her head to look at me.
“You have to be in this business.”
“I suppose you’re right. Just don’t let your head get so big that you lose your passion. By the way, I’m Tuesday McGowan.”
My first impression of Miss Tuesday McGowan is that she’s a very enticing cocktail —one part free spirit, one part girl next door, and a splash of rebellion. She has an air of class mixed with an irresistible touch of mystery. She’s one of the few people that I’ve met lately that I actually want to talk to.
“Have you been acting for long?” I ask.
“I’ve actually only been in a few small plays, nothing too serious. I’ve always loved the classics, though. I haven’t seen anything recently that can compare to the pure magic of Casablanca or Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I really feel a connection to the golden era stars, especially James Dean. I get chills every time I see ‘East of Eden’. It’s almost as if he’s right there beside me.”
“You don’t actually see him or talk to him, do you?” I ask, hoping for a sane response.
“No, but last week, I was sure I saw Fay Wray waving from a window in the Empire State Building,” she adds with a smile.
I admire her taste in the classics, but personally, I have a hard time sitting through anything that came out before The Godfather. The old black and white images have always had a certain air of cool on a poster or an art print, but that was as far as it went. The appeal never survived the transfer to film and I’m sure Casablanca would be killer competition for even the best sleeping pills.
Not that I need it, but I’ve just been struck with the most amazing line when the receptionist interrupts our conversation. The line will have to wait, but its brilliance is worth every passing second. Apparently, the auditions have been put on hold. I believe she said the delay will be a couple of hours and that the Director wasn’t feeling well, but I’m having a hard time understanding her. She’s speaking with a pretty thick accent……. Russian I think.
Either way, this little runaround is an inconvenience in any language. I’m supposed to meet with my agent, Don, to let him know how the audition went and talk strategy.
Now the first thing I will say about Don is that anyone that knows him will tell you he’s one of the top five most annoying people they’ve ever met, though seeing Ricky walk past us while lip synching to a Hip Hop tune leaves little doubt as to who has the number one position locked up. Now don’t get me wrong, Don’s truly a great guy; it’s just that he worries beyond all possible comprehension about anything and everything. It really is extremely irritating, but I’ve developed a comfortable, almost evolved, tolerance.
You see, we’ve actually been friends since we were kids. We grew up on the same street and would hang out together nearly every day, and although we’re about as similar as Pink Floyd and Wayne Newton, he’s the best friend I’ve ever had. That’s worth a little tolerance. His worrying aside, the best way to describe Don would be to compare him to the stereotypical superhero sidekick. He’s chubby, short and incredibly loyal. He’ll always be there for me and I’ll always get the girl.
Speaking of Don, my cell phone is ringing.
“If it’s for me, tell them I’m not here,” Tuesday jokes.
I don’t even have to look at the call display to know that Don’s stress radar is in overdrive again. His knack for sensing from a distance, when something isn’t going exactly as planned, is the closest thing to psychic phenomena I’ve encountered. I’m sure the instant they announced the delay; he stopped whatever it was he was doing, broke out into a cold sweat, started pacing, and stressed about whether he should bother me with a call.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Tuesday finally asks after the fifth ring.
“No, it’s just my agent. I think I’ll let him sweat for a while. Wanna kill a couple of hours together – maybe go for a drink?”
“Sure. Are you in an adventurous mood? I recently heard a rumour that James Dean wrote a secret letter and hid it somewhere in this area. I don’t know what’s written in it, just that whoever found it would find its contents very interesting.”
“Are you serious?” I ask, rolling my eyes. “I’m not into urban legends.”
“Oh come on, where’s your sense of adventure? Doesn’t the world seem more interesting with a touch of mystery? Just think of it as research for all your future jobs.”
As strange as it sounds, I may as well go along with it. It has to be more entertaining than sitting here with this cast of characters. I’ve never heard this alleged story about James Dean, but it was probably started by one of the local entrepreneurs, hoping to attract a few more customers.
After I agree, we decide that the most logical places to look would be those with autographed memorabilia displays. If the note exists, he probably hid it in something he signed. What else would he think would last any amount of time? We decide to start our quest in one of the nearby pubs. Some of these places have been known as very hip hangouts over the years.
With our strategy in place, Tuesday and I, with the ghost of James Dean walking shotgun, venture out onto the streets off Broadway. The mid afternoon sun is giving us both a legitimate reason to put on our sunglasses. Before embarking on our journey, Tuesday takes out a cigarette and leans against the window of a vintage record store. The image of her lean figure framed with the lips on an oversized Rolling Stones poster makes me think of the type of classy pop art you would find in some chic Paris cafe. Not that I’ve ever been to Paris, mind you, but that’s the impression I get.
The song playing inside is pure rock n’ roll Prozac, the type of melodic poetry that makes you feel like the breeze over a deserted beach, where all your worries float away on chords of enchantment. It seems like the ultimate soundtrack for Tuesday’s personality.
She impresses me more with every moment I’m with her. She has even turned smoking into a curious distraction. Each puff is unique, almost mesmerizing, and believe me, I’m not one to put smoking and flattering in the same sentence. I think it’s because of the neighbour we had when I was a kid, Miss Shattenkirk. She reminded me of that lonely, middle-aged woman in those old ‘Smoking is Glamorous’ ads – with her drab hair, baggy eyes and constant smoking. I actually don’t have a single memory of her without a cigarette in her hand. I always pictured her sitting by the phone next to a tower of cigarette butts, alone on a Friday night, waiting for someone to call. Tuesday, being the kind of girl that would never have to worry about getting a phone call, is definitely not the second coming of Miss Shattenkirk.
“Well Brandon Quinn, are you ready to start our little quest?” she asks, tossing her cigarette butt on the sidewalk and crushing it with the tip of one of her cherry red high heels.
“Sure, I think there’s a bar at the end of the street. By the way, why do you keep referring to me by my full name?”
“We both know that you like the sound of it.”
She’s being a little smug about it, but she’s right…… I do. In this business, having the right name is almost as important as having talent. Why else would so many actors over the years have changed their birth names? You can have all the talent in the world, but if your name is Ernie Blottsky you’re not going anywhere. My destiny as a superstar was predetermined pretty early. Being born with a name to remember is only one of the many attributes that classify me as a complete package.
The neighbourhood’s a vibrant, concrete carnival of street performers, street vendors, and streetlights. There’s a kid putting on a dance display and a couple of guys wearing Zorro style masks and black bowler hats playing guitars.
“What’s that song?” I ask Tuesday.
“I’m not sure,” she replies, tossing a few dollars in a hat placed upside down on the sidewalk, “but I love it. It’s really happy and mysterious at the same time.”
The song appears to have put the proverbial bounce in everyone’s step and the entire street has become a candy coated dance number from somewhere over the rainbow. I don’t know about Tuesday, but I hate musicals and I’m not about to start singing.
The wistful rhythm leads us down the street and drifts into the open door of the bar. As we walk towards it, the display windows of the passing shops seem to be filming our afternoon together, as if our reflections are being archived for some future documentary or DVD extra. I wonder if Paul Newman and Marlon Brando and all the other greats had moments like this, maybe even walking down this same street, pondering their future and knowing that they could be on the next flight to Hollywood immortality. It may sound a little strange, and maybe the ghost of James Dean really is with us, but I feel the spirit of Hollywood everywhere, and actually, I thought I just saw Brad Pitt drive by in a ’67 Mustang convertible, but don’t hold me to that.
The bar itself is pretty much what I pictured it to be – – old, quaint, and loaded with classic movie memorabilia. There has to be some James Dean stuff in here. Tuesday is talking to the owner, who actually looks old enough to have been in his prime back when Jimmy Dean was king.
“Your décor is amazing. I would love to own a place like this,” she tells him. “Have you ever met any of these actors?”
“I’ve experienced a lot of history over the last forty years,” he replies, shining the tip of a tall crystal glass. “I can pretty much say that I’ve seen it all. And yeah, pretty much everyone on these walls has stumbled out the door at one time or another.”
Tuesday and the owner, who has introduced himself as Sal, continue their small talk. I’m amazed at the easy way she treats everyone like an old friend. Now, they’ve started doing movie impressions, prompting Tuesday to begin speaking with a very sexy European accent.
“Give me a whiskey, with a ginger ale on the side, and don’t be stingy, baby,” she says.
Sal says it’s an uncanny likeness. They both look at me and I give my nod of approval. I really have no idea who would have said it or where it’s from, but it’s a great line. I’ll have to remember to ask Don about it later.
After a couple more obscure movie lines, including one by Paul Newman that I actually recognized, we finally order our coffees and get more on to the topic of why we’re here.
“Sal, would you happen to know anything about a secret letter that James Dean wrote and hid around here?” Tuesday asks. “I’m really curious to see what it’s all about.”
“I’ve heard something about it.” Sal responds in a slightly surprised tone. “If it does exist, I wouldn’t exactly be expecting to find a cure to all that ails the world. It was probably just something he did after a few too many drinks. I’ve heard he’s been in here, but that was before my time. His photo came from an old pawn shop, not from him personally.”
“Oh well, it would be too easy if we found it in the first place we looked,” Tuesday says, her bottom lip slightly curling down into the cutest pout. “There’s no adventure in that.”
Noticing her disappointment, Sal says,” You know, there’s a fellow a couple of blocks away that may have some info for you. He’s a bit of a strange bird, you know one of those secret society types with too much time and money on their hands, but he’s pretty much considered the premier collector of movie artifacts in the city. He has a gallery in the old Fox Theatre on 42nd street.”
“Oooo, sounds mysterious. Maybe we’ll check it out. Thanks a lot, Sal.”
On my suggestion, we grab a couple of drinks and sit in one of the booths. This will give me a chance to get to know the real Tuesday McGowen on a more personal level. Considering how meticulous I am with the people I hang out with, I definitely like what I see so far. I know the feeling’s mutual. The stars are already forming behind her blue eyes, and even behind her shades, I can sense the extra glances in my direction. At this stage, she’s only a heartbeat away from being head over heels, and I didn’t even use my new line.
“Are you excited for the audition?” I ask.
“I try not to think about it or overanalyze it too much,” she says, playing with an ice-cube. “If it’s meant to be mine, everything will fall into place. I actually only want to star in one movie– that special once in a lifetime part. It doesn’t matter how big the role is, I just want it to be memorable. I mean, have you ever seen Mickey Rourke in Body Heat? He was only on the screen for about a minute and that role was brilliantly unforgettable.”
“How can you say that you only want to be in one movie?” I ask, confused. “What better life could there be?”
“When I was little, my brother would tell me what my house would look like and the places I would see when I was a famous movie star. I used to love those stories, but fame comes with a price. Anything that you do is always the most exciting at the beginning, and while I am finding acting to be very exciting right now, a lifetime of beginnings is very appealing to me. There are so many things I want to do. I couldn’t stand to be smothered by the media. Who wants to live in a fishbowl when the ocean is within reach? After I star in a movie, I’d like to do a Broadway play. When my two acting goals have been accomplished, I want to buy a house by the ocean and start painting and writing. I want to live in the most beautiful poem ever written.”
I can definitely imagine Tuesday walking out of a poem written in champagne and fairy dust, but I’m very surprised she only plans to star in one movie. Although I’m sure that once she does make this picture, she’ll be hooked. I’ve been told that Hollywood is as addictive as tattoos……. just not as permanent.
She walks over to the jukebox and casually slips in some change. The song she selects has a strong Celtic feel to it. Definitely Irish.
“I love The Pogues,” she says, “and no relation by the way.”
“To whom?” I ask.
She playfully rolls her eyes over a Friday afternoon smile and begins to dance. It’s kinda like the River dance, except slower and with a hint of the new world……..very hypnotic actually.
“Dance with me, Brandon Quinn,” she says during a break in her silent sing along.
I just shake my head. Like I said, I don’t do musicals.
My cell phone is ringing again. I’m actually shocked that Don has managed to wait almost an hour between calls. The only plausible explanation is that he must have passed out from sheer stress. I answer it and let the poor bastard off the hook.
He said that he went to the audition to find me and heard about the delay, but that the Director’s back and everything’s ready to roll. I tell him not to worry, that we’re just down the street, and that I’ll be right there. We wave to Sal and head for the door, but I’m feeling a little disappointed that my time with Tuesday is momentarily coming to an end. It’s been awhile since I’ve clicked this well with someone.
The music follows us outside, where we hear the Stone’s ‘Ruby Tuesday’ playing from a waiting cab’s radio. Weird. Even from this distance, I can see Don pacing and incessantly checking his watch. I swear the guy’s headed for a one night stand with a heart attack.
The walk back is a serenade of unspoken flirting and some fascinating small talk. She really has the cutest quirks. Her lips sort of prance when she talks, and there’s a swagger in her eyelashes that could melt Antarctica.
All eyes are on us when we walk back into the casting area, and right on cue, Tuesday’s name is called nearly the moment we get back. Really, the Hollywood gods couldn’t have scripted it better.
“Well, this is it,” she says, touching my shoulder. “Thanks for the adventure. We’ll have to continue the quest some other time, when we’re not so rushed.” She turns to walk into the testing area, but quickly turns back to me again. “I’d wish you luck, but I don’t think you’ll need it. You are Brandon Quinn, after all.”
With a Rita Hayworthisque head turn and a wink that would make Greta Garbo proud, she disappears into one of the screen testing rooms. I should be getting called in any minute, but I do honestly feel sorry for these other poor hopefuls. They all have their heads wrapped in stardust, completely unaware that the director’s axe is about to make Crystal Lake look like a four star resort. Really……. they just don’t stand a chance against either one of us.
This afternoon wasn’t about autographs and red carpet photo shoots, but the opening act to a great Hollywood story is being written today. The famous screen pairings of the past are on the verge of being completely overshadowed. The hype will hit next year when all the entertainment magazines will be featuring cover stories on the dynamic new duo heating up the big screen. Everyone will be talking about Brandon Quinn and Tuesday McGowen.
Remember what I told you. This movie is going to change the world.
Lloyd Poast is a former staff writer for Consequence of Sound and Hockey Future, currently residing in Canada with his wife and two young boys.