“Just be careful out there, honey. Don't trust people too quickly, 'cause they'll screw you if they get the chance. You can always use us as your agents. We would protect your money.”
Of course! Why hadn't I thought of that?! My parents could be my new agents! I could just pick up the phone, use my calling card, and check in daily to get the latest auditions! I could hear it now...
“Hi, this is Noel Orput for Gail or Doug Orput.”
“Hi, honey. It's me. Mom.”
“What've you got for me, Mom?”
“Well, I talked to a lovely woman at L.L. Bean and showed her that handsome picture of you that's in my wallet, and she said you could easily be a flannel shirt model in this year's winter catalogue.”
“They're having karaoke at Bruce's Lobster Shack on Tuesday night.”
Gotta love my mom. With a smile and a chuckle, I thanked her for her advice and reassured her that I wouldn't be screwed over by anyone in Tinseltown.
Cue thunder and lightening.
My first few weeks in LA were heaven. I never thought a hamburger could be prepared so many different ways, and I had never seen so many beautiful people per square foot. Without a job, I had sent out about 100 headshots and resumes to various managers and agencies. Then I waited for the phone to start ringing. And on one typically sunny day, while in the middle of sampling some amber beer my roommate had brewed (not schizophrenic and not a drug dealer), I got the call.
“Hi, is this Noel?(like Christmas)
“It's actually Noel.”(like Coward)
“Oh, Noel. Sorry. This is Bruce from over at Agency 2000, or A2K.”
The agency of the 21st century! Hellz yeah!
“Are you there?”
“Uh, yeah, sorry, I was just memorizing some Pinter.”
“Great. Well, we really like your look and we'd love to start sending you out on commercial and modeling calls. If you start booking and you like working with us, then we'll sign a more formal contract.”
“That sounds great, man.”
“Why don't you swing by tomorrow at 2 so we can meet, and you can fill out some paperwork for accounting.”
“Perfect. See you then, Bruce!”
And like that, I had my first Hollywood agent! It didn't even happen this fast for Brando!
I met with Bruce in a respectable office on Robertson Blvd and within 48 hours I had my first audition.
“Noel, it's Bruce.”
“Bruce, my man! What've you got for me?”(Hi, Bruce.)
“You're going in for Brendan Fraser's body double. They're shooting a trailer for this new Looney Toons movie he made, and they want to see you in a tux 'cause he's sort of a James Bond type. You got a tux?”
“How many awards shows have I gone to, Bruce?” (How many catering jobs have I worked?)
“Great. Audition is tomorrow at 3:35pm. I'll email you the info.”
“I'm gonna make you proud, Bruce.” (Thanks.)
My adrenaline was pumping! First audition in LA and I was going in for the body double of the guy from “School Ties” who called Matt Damon a coward! And dressed as 007! I asked my roommate to pinch me, but he punched me instead.
I had homework to do. I finished my beer and slipped into my tux. Since we couldn't afford liquor, I had to improvise on the martini. I filled up a stolen Denny's coffee mug with some Brita filtered water and tossed in a grape. Orput...Noel Orput. With my James Bond swagger, I climbed the stairs of my apartment building to the rooftop. Kicking open the door, I walked with determination to the center of the roof and turned 360 degrees to take in the city around me. I rose my ghetto martini in the air and yelled at the top of my lungs, “COWARD!” I was Fraser and Bond rolled into one. Again, I yelled, “COWARD!” Within minutes, several LAPD choppers were circling overhead. I toasted them all and then quickly slinked off of the roof.
3:30PM the following day. I checked my hair for the 47th time in the rearview mirror and got ready for game time. I entered the small studio and found it swarming with penguins. There were at least 20 other guys who pretty much could've been me or my twin brother at least. I felt like I was in a fun house full of mirrors. But the words of “Highlander” echoed within me...”There can be only one!” I gathered my confidence and approached the monitor.
“Hi. I'm Noel. I had a 3:35 time.”
“Hi, Noel! Thanks for coming in!”
“Thanks for having me.”
“Of course. You look great.”
Two things were weird to me. One, this girl was being way too nice, and two, I knew this girl from somewhere. I started to run through the mental rolodex...did we work together? Did we have an awkward date? Is she the cute cashier from Trader Joe's? I was going crazy trying to figure this out, so I did as Bond would do...
“I feel like we've met before.”
“I get that a lot. Especially from guys.”
“Have we worked together?”
“I don't think so. Did you ever watch “The Wonder Years”?”
And instantly, my heart skipped a beat. Fifteen years dissolved from her face and I realized I was staring into the eyes of the girl I first fell in love with...well, me and every other 12 year-old in America. I was two feet away from Winnie Cooper. Suddenly Bond became a bumbling fool.
“Oh my-oh my God...I like, loved you. I would like, watch that show in my parents room and I would dream of being with you.”
“I know! I know...”
“Wow. That's crazy. So now you're casting?”
“I still act, but I'm helping a friend out with this.”
“That's cool. Well, it's nice to meet you.”
“You too. Actually, if you're ready, we can do you now.”
Do me? My mouth was instantly dry.
“Sure! Let's do it.”
I followed Winnie Cooper into a smaller room where she took my picture and then filmed me doing the classic James Bond walk that plays in the title sequence. Walk, walk, walk, and TURN and DRAW!
“That was so good, Noel. I think they're really going to like you.”
“So just hang out for a few. They're going to make their choice by four, so you'll know soon.”
I return to sit with the other hopefuls, but consider myself special since I know the monitor's secret. Winnie starts to let people go, and before I know it, I am sitting with two other guys. The final three. The door to the studio opens and a guy saunters in wearing a Stones t-Shirt, Diesel jeans, and a pair of burgundy Vans. His attire reeks of producer and he confirms my hunch with his introduction.
“What's up, guys? I'm Nic, the producer.”
We three nod hello.
“So I just want to see you guys do the walk again for me, and then I'll make the final cut. Cool?”
Cool, Nic. Time for a Bond-off!
We all do our signature walks. I'm the last to go. Winnie gives me a smile before I begin, and I have to fight the urge to propose to her right then and there. I do my walk and, not to sound cocky, but I nailed it. Nic takes a second and whispers to Winnie. She nods in agreement as Nic turns back to us.
“Noel, you can stay. Thanks for coming in, guys.”
Booyah! Booked it! Brendan and Bond are in my blood!
The next four hours were a dream. Winnie Cooper escorted me to a hair and make-up trailer. For the next 30 minutes, she hung out with me while a lovely girl named Heidi made me “camera-ready”. Winnie and I exchanged stories, laughed together, and even spilt a blueberry muffin from Craft services. I was falling in love.
The shoot was a breeze. I did my perfected Bond walk in front of a green screen and after about fifteen minutes, we were wrapped. Nic shook my hand and said how pleased he was with my work. I told him he could thank my four years of training. Not just anyone could replicate the walk of Brendan Frasier doing James Bond. Winnie Cooper came over with some paperwork.
“We just need you to sign here saying that we can make payment to your agency, and then they'll cut you your check.”
I looked at the paperwork and an astronomical number jumped out at me.
“$1300? Is that Brendan's fee?”
“No, that's for you.”
“For who now?”
“You. That's your fee.”
I was frozen. $1300. For about 30 minutes of walking. I grew up cleaning pools and washing dishes for $6 an hour. And now I was getting paid $1300?! YEAH, BABY!!!! This was like getting 1.3 million!!! Think of the goods I could get at Target?! I'm livin' the dream, baby!!!
“Wow! That's, uh, that's a lot of money.”
“Well, you earned it.”
“I guess I did.”
With a wink and a smile, I grabbed the pen and signed the paperwork. Winnie and I hugged goodbye. On the way out of the soundstage, I turned back to take one last look. This is the just the beginning, I thought to myself. You're on your way.
Two weeks later. I hadn't had any other auditions. And I hadn't been paid yet. I picked up the phone to call A2K.
“Hi, this is Noel Orput for Bruce.”
“Oh hi, Noel. Bruce actually stepped out for a minute. I'll tell him you called.”
One week later. Bruce never called me back, but I assumed he must've been super busy. I called again.
“Hi, this is Noel for Bruce.”
“Hey, Bruce! I just wanted to check in to see the status of my check for the Bond gig.”
“Yeah, right. I actually have the check here, but I just need accounting to sign so I can cut you your share. I'll get that done today.”
“That would be awesome. I'm dying to get to Target.”
“Love that place! You should have the check by the end of the week.”
The end of the week comes and goes without a check appearing in my mailbox. I was starting to get annoyed.
Monday the following week, I called a third time.
“Noel for Bruce.”
“Bruce actually just ran out for lunch. Do you want his voicemail?”
“No, I just want to get paid.”
“Wish I could help you, but he'll be back later if you want to try back.”
I hung up. What the hell is going on? My roommate was sampling his latest batch of Hefeweizen.
“We should just go to the office and get the check.”
“Totally. He said it's there, so let's just go and get it.”
“Yeah, you're right. Let's do it.”
We drove down to the office on Robertson. Four hours later we found parking and walked up to the office of Agency 2000. The doors were chained shut. Not locked, chained. Looking through the windows, I saw the office in shambles. Chairs were overturned, plants were out of their pots, and headshots were scattered across the floor. It looked like a serial killer had lived here, found out he was made and packed up in under two minutes. I stood as frozen as I had been when I had seen the money I had earned. But my money was gone. And it was never coming back. I grabbed the doors and shook them with the fury of Brendan Fraser.
“Nooooooo!!!! A2K!!!!!! Why??!!!!!!!”
My roommate pulled me away from the crime scene. We went home. I thought of how I could retaliate. Maybe hire a bounty hunter to track down Bruce and make him pay...or call the Better Business Bureau. I went with the second idea.
“Better Business Bureau.”
“They screwed me!”
“Calm down sir...what happened?”
I told them my story. They were sympathetic. But there was nothing they could do. Apparently this happened all the time in LA.
Nooooooo! Don't tell me that! Don't tell me that...that my mom was right!
I hung up the phone. I imagined Bruce spending my $1300 in Vegas. Or probably Reno. Bruce seemed like more of a Reno guy. That bastard.
I picked up the phone to make one more call. As it rang, I swallowed my pride and called my new agent.
“Hi, Mom. So what've you got for me?”