Monday, July 11, 2005

Billy Wirth and The Talent Given Us

Billy WirthHad a great four days with my friend, D -- even though I got put on a 30-minute/day restriction from the Internet -- nice to know how much of an addiction one really has!

She came from Sacramento to get a bit of an L.A. fix -- where dreams, artists and people who are home during the day are the NORM, not the exception. So I told her we had to see this film, The Talent Given Us, an independent film made by a director for $30,000 using his family and friends playing -- themselves. Actually it's shot documentary-style and feels so real you don't know what's scripted and what's not. I thought it would be terrific inspiration for both me and her and our artistic endeavors.

It originally was only playing in one theater until July 6th (the director, Andrew Wagner, was self-distributing it)... but when I found out it was playing for one more week, I told her we should go, you'll really get your L.A. fix at the Sunset Laemmle 5 because it was the big INDIE theater... so we grabbed our friends Jeffrey and Alan, had dinner at CPK and went on up to the theater.

The Talent Given Us Lo and behold, there was going to be a Q&A after the 7:20 showing -- how cool, because I'd missed all the ones on the long 4th of July weekend. Enjoyed the show a lot -- it was a bit slow going in the beginning, but after awhile, his parents -- who played his parents -- were so real it hurt.

As the credits ran the director came out and introduced most of the L.A. cast... "...and my friend, Billy Wirth." Hey, what a surprise! My stomach gut started turning -- first of all, did I not learn yet that when I venture anywhere west of La Brea I need to at least TRY and look like I'm not from Hicksville and comb my hair?! I'm wearing an Occidental t-shirt and tennis shoes after a long day of staying inside and working on the computer... blecch, 20+ years here and I haven't learned that you can meet anyone at anytime! Second of all... hm... should I say hello? Will he remember me after 19 years? Is there anything to talk about anyway? And boy, is R going to kill me because she's not here...

Anyhoo, the Q&A is over -- no real surprises because I'd already read all the press there was on this film (I'm picky about where my $10 movie-going dollar goes) and my friends and I walk out. But then I turn around, cross my fingers and hope my saying hi isn't too weird.

I wait as everyone files out, and here comes Mr. Wirth... I catch his eyeball and he gives me a big grin! YAY... and he's coming over.

"Hi Billy," I say, "I don't know if you remember me... The Ellen Burstyn Show?" (I was the Asst to Exec Prod. Norman Steinberg and Supervising Prod. David Frankel when we shot the 1986 pilot in LA; Billy played "Johnny," one of Ellen's college students. We got to know each other a bit at the dress rehearsals. Of course I have no idea where my copy of that show is... but he did improvise a couple of lines that the Norman and David kept in... we all knew he was going somewhere even back then, his first show.)

"Yeah, of course I remember you," he smiles, "but tell me your name again?"

"It used to be S---- but now it's Madley, like Truly Madly Deeply." Another big smile: "Madley. And how are you doing?"

So I fill him in on a couple of things, but get back right away to tell him it was good to see him in this. He asks if I saw HIS film, MacArthur Park. I tell him unfortunately NOT YET, but that that is how I found about his recent foray into directing. I was looking for a possible producer for one of my plays, specifically a Filipino-American, and I was given the name of HIS producer on MacArthur Park.

The Talent Given Us"Maricel [Pagulayan]?" Yes. "She's great. She's working on Superman now."

I ask what's up next, he says he's going to the indie studios for some bigger $$ to do a film about hip-hop and rap -- with a different point of view. It's still in the early stages... something is happening in September but unfortunately I can't remember what. He doesn't think he'll act in it.

I also ask him, like in the movie, his father did pass away. "Yes, " he says, "about four years ago. I miss him every day."

I started to feel anxious that there might be others wanting to talk to him, but he was quite focussed on who was in front of him -- and boy, is that a relief! You never know when you're at these things if "they" are looking to meet other "bigger" people -- and I'm glad to report it was just a few nice and quiet minutes with an old friend.

I tell him I'd heard and seen and liked his artwork -- "The polaroids?" and ask if there's something on his website where I can be notified if he has a gallery show. He says he should have one soon, and his work is blown up pretty big -- and the webmaster is working on getting a mailing list up (I was too shy to ask for an email address and not be to presumptious.). D has come by and I introduced them (boy, NOW she had a good ole Hollywood story to tell) and I know it's time to get back to Jeffrey and Alan.

"It was really good to see you," I say, "and I hope to see you again soon." He agrees, thanks D and I for coming, gives me a hug and I give him a kiss on his stubbled cheek. "Take care!" I say, and off we go to get our parking validated and out the door.

I have thoughts about that meeting Saturday... but it'll have to wait for now. Lots of old memories flooding back... I went to live in NY that summer for "The Ellen Burstyn Show" and I stayed for two years...

More later. (R, it was nice... we'll see him again, I'm sure!)