Casting Couch Blues is a true story written by one of our writers, Eve Gaal. Eve sent us this story a year ago. However, we kept it in our archives, waiting for the right time to share it with the audience. With the release of the new movie, “She Said,” we feel this is the perfect time to release Eve’s story. In the story, she shares her experience as a young woman on a casting call in Hollywood. As you read Eve’s story, keep in mind that her story is not rare. Unfortunately, there are far too many you have had similar or worse experiences. With her story, Eve hopes to educate and empower younger women on their quest for fame. And now... Casting Couch Blues
It was 1978. I was in Hollywood. While I went to an audition for a movie, a friend waited in his car. The role called for tall, attractive women in their early twenties. My unemployed dulcimer-playing friend, waiting in his Buick, had seen the casting call. He signed me up and drove me to the tryouts. All the way up the 5 freeway, he insisted I’d be perfect for this role. The movie was about the beauty pageant business, and there were several speaking parts.
Upon checking in, we were handed faded copies of the rehearsal lines. I sat down to go over it and waited. We all sat in plastic chairs as fluorescent lights flickered in the dimly lit waiting room. “Mr. Mills will see you now,” the receptionist said. I stood up from the uncomfortable plastic chair and glanced at the others to size up my competition. As they waited to be called, these lovely ladies stretched, touched their toes, and took deep breaths. Most of them appeared poised and aloof, dressed professionally in leotards, and with an obvious attitude that indicated they knew the drill. A group of giggling, younger ones whispered, clique-like, as if joining a sorority. To my virginal eyes, they looked like a bunch of skinny, long-legged females wearing a lot of makeup. Not that I had formed an opinion because there’s nothing wrong with lithe limbs and embellished features. It’s just that I was different, and it felt obvious. Bottom line—and yes, that’s sort of a double entendre—they didn’t look like me.
The “It Factor”: Someone once called it “stage presence.” Large bones, wide-set eyes, a big mouth, and curves galore. But my knee-length vintage dress didn’t give too much away. Yet I thought maybe this would be my chance to shine. As an English major, I had to believe in fairy tales.
Up until now, high school plays had validated my acting skills. With several serious leading roles under my belt, I felt it was time to try something a little more glamorous. “I can do this,” I thought, excited and trying not to show it. “Be cool,” I told myself. “Play it sophisticated, like those model types in the waiting room.” I thought, walking into the office.
Mr. Mills, a gray-haired man, sat behind a large mahogany desk piled high with scripts. He looked up at the lady who ushered me into his office and asked her to close the door. “Are you Eve?” he asked in a gruff voice.
Thrilled that someone in the movie business knew my name, I gushed a giant, resounding “Yes,” with an overly generous smile showing too many teeth. The room smelled faintly of cigarette smoke and cologne. Mr. Mills locked his gaze on my blue eyes. He stood, removed his wire-framed glasses, and stepped closer to me.
“Have you had time to glance at my script?” moving slowly toward me like a jungle cat ready to pounce. I stared at his wrinkly, sagging skin as he moved closer. He was not friendly at all. His entire presence exuded something beyond old and cranky. Back then, besides church, I had only read about evil in Shakespeare class. Impatience edged his voice. His eyes looked sinister and foreboding. Goosebumps sprang up and down my arms. I developed anxiety. Fear crept down my throat, like a trapeze artist on a high wire, into what minutes earlier had been a skosh of bravado. “I read some of it,” I managed to squeak.
Between the long, boisterous affair of giggling supermodels in the waiting room and Mr. Mills’ unwelcoming demeanor, my self-assurance had withered. This was the real SAG-card-style enchilada. No amount of high school acting experience could have prepared me for this moment. I questioned everything. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for acting. Maybe I’m not an actress after all. I like singing, and some of the plays I saw were musicals. Could that be different? Maybe I made a huge mistake. I thought. Clearing my throat from the cobwebs of despair, I was just about to explain this mistake to Mr. Mills when he turned and motioned for me to follow.
Mouth agape and eyes like a deer in the path of a semi-truck, I listened and watched his arm move in rapid circles. His smoky voice was tinged with impatience. “Turn around, for God’s sake.” He snared. I turned around slowly. “Turn again,” he motioned—this time in a three-sixty with his index finger. I turned around a second time and faked a smile.
“Very nice.” He nodded and took my hand. He seemed to like what he saw. Of course, I wondered what he meant by ‘very nice.’ I hadn’t read a word, and all the turning around to flaunt my figure made me even more self-conscious. He kept his cold, bony fingers on mine—not letting go.
“Come with me.” He said, leading me through a different door. “Put your purse and the script down,” he said, finally letting go. This room had a tufted blue couch, a small table, and some chairs. Scared of his authoritative voice, I obeyed and put my purse on the chair. “Lie down on the couch,” he ordered, pointing to the sofa with a crooked finger.
I sat, slowly pulling my legs onto the sky-colored leather couch. “Can I read for you now?” I squeaked. My voice shook. I could tell something wasn’t right. It had to be that nasty leer he held, making me uncomfortable. My heart began to beat like conga drums in my ear. Perspiration made me silently question the effectiveness of my deodorant. The feeling that came over me wasn’t simply nerves. It went beyond the anxiety of an audition into the real, dark abyss of horror. Years before the internet and smartphones, this illustrious moment could have been a defining one. A moment that could magically have changed my life for better—or worse—forever.
Mills came closer. He looked like he wanted to kiss or fondle me. “Later, you can read later,” he answered, through nicotine breath. “We have time.” “Do we?” I thought. He had a room full of headliners in the other room, waiting in the wings. Some of these women would have possibly done anything to be famous. I turned toward the wall and inhaled the scent of grass-scented aftershave mixed with tobacco. Inches from my face, he smiled wickedly, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Relax, don’t be so tense.”
I didn’t know much about auditions, but this felt like entering on the wrong side of the freeway. My twenty-year-old mind whirled with every beat of my noisy heart. And there, on that blue settee, in that office off Sunset and Vine, I made a decision. One that meant there would be no paparazzi, no gossip magazines, no yachts, no box office smash hits, and no winning Oscars in my future. I decided to escape this and any other audition, trial, or test that would make me feel uncomfortable in my skin.
Immediately, I knew I had to escape the agony of this interview. But I had to act quickly. Alas, it was time for my one Academy Award-winning performance to end before it had even begun. “Sorry, Mr. Mills,” I said, pushing him away and jumping from the sofa. “What time is it? I’m running late for my next audition,” I lied. Whether it was a white lie or not, he certainly deserved it. Quickly, I grabbed my purse and turned toward the door. In my sexiest voice, I whispered, “Let me know if I make the callbacks.” “Never, ever, ever, would I let this happen again.” I thought as I made my great escape from him and that building.
Once outside, I took a deep breath. The minute I saw the California sun, my confidence returned, and I ran to the sanctuary of my friend’s Buick Riviera. I couldn’t say anything. Although the Congo drums were still beating on my eardrums, I felt relieved, even elated, to have escaped the clutches of that frail, disgusting man. “Breathe,” my not-so-innocent friend suggested, but I couldn’t exhale until I reached home. And, though I had ruined any chances of becoming a princess, this audition changed my life in a good way.
So many years have passed since that fateful day, but I’m still glad about my choice. And, though I am not famous, I am content and have no regrets. Sometimes, when I see celebrities on the covers of supermarket tabloids, there’s a strange feeling that washes over me regarding dignity. What makes me think I’m better than they are? Some of the stars are beautiful, funny, and brilliant. Most are entertaining. Who am I to pass judgment? Balance the hypotheticals, and it’s like a fantasy card game. What if Mr. Mills was young and handsome? What if I was slim and all the actresses in the waiting room were ugly or fat? What if I had driven to the audition alone?
When the chips are down and the bets have been made, it’s a good idea to either risk it all and accept the consequences or hold the cards you’re dealt. It is a gamble either way. Of course, when I took a step back to assess the situation and jumped up from the blue couch, I was holding onto what I knew. Time has passed. This all happened forty years ago. Yet, I am still happy that even back then, my self-respect was more important than being a star.
Be Sure To Watch "SHE SAID" At A Theater Near You...