“I am such a doormat,” I muttered as I patted a second layer of concealer under my eyes. I tossed my hair in a ponytail and wiggled into a pair of faded jeans, determined not to expend any extra energy primping.
I’d agreed to meet my friend, Sandy, at a local bar for one drink and was already regretting my decision.
I couldn’t say no to Sandy, or to anyone. After a tense week at work and a series of unpromising acting auditions across town, I wanted nothing more than a long-anticipated date with my VCR and couch. Yet, when Sandy pleaded for me to comfort her after a run-in with her ex boyfriend, I once again said “sure, why not?” instead of an honest “not a chance in hell.”
Why had I even answered the phone? I wanted to stay home and make love to a family-sized bag of Oreos, not grudgingly show up and listen to my friend’s boyfriend troubles.
Oreos? People? Why did the Oreos always sound like a better option?
A Friday night bar outing with Sandy was never an inexpensive proposition. With $23 in my checkbook, I’d worried all week about the money I was wasting pursuing my acting dreams. Acting lessons, head shots, time off for auditions – I’d spent nearly $1500 over the past few months, $1485 of which I didn’t have to spare.
“Why am I doing this?” I moaned as I checked the mirror for panty lines on my ass and cast a longing gaze at the Oreos on my counter. “Because, I’m an f**king doormat.”
The crowd at the bar spilled over on to the street, people jostling each other for a glimpse of the film crew staking out a corner of the bar. Intrigued by this development, I wished I’d worn better shoes.
I spotted Sandy immediately. Tall, sleek and gorgeous, Sandy held court wherever she appeared.
She looks pretty damn happy to me, I thought, feeling shame for my lack of a comparably fashionable outfit.
“Mary, you’ll never believe it!” Sandy yelled as she waved me over to a small table. “I was picked to be in a Bud Light commercial filming here tonight!”
Perfect. My months of schlepping to auditions around town hadn’t yielded me a damn thing and all Sandy had to do was walk into a bar and a television commercial threw itself at her feet.
“Wow! That’s so cool,” I offered as I slid onto the bar stool next to hers.
The ad agency crew bustled around Sandy and the handful of people selected for the commercial. I steeped in my own envy and planned my exit.
An ad agency representative approached our table, “Ladies, here’s your $1 payment and some forms to fill out. We’ll film you both in the next 15 minutes.”
Wait! This had to be a mistake! I can’t be in a commercial. I’m wearing sneakers!
“Have fun with it, Mary!” Sandy encouraged. “We get to be in a commercial!”
Her enthusiasm bolstered mine, and I decided to enjoy this evening, bad hair and all. And enjoy I did – shouting “I love Chicago!” and mugging for the camera through several takes and many more free Bud Lights. I headed home tired but exhilarated. My Oreo affair could wait another day; tonight, I was a star!
Several weeks later, while opening mail and wondering how I was going to pay for another session of acting classes, I nearly choked on my Ramen noodles. I’d received three checks from the Bud Light advertising agency totaling more than $1400. Apparently my ponytail and big mouth made me some money that night …
“Sandy, can you believe it?” I gushed. “I didn’t know we’d get paid for that Bud Light commercial. My check just came!”
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “I didn’t get a check!”
Apparently, “actors” with speaking parts earn residuals whenever a commercial airs on television while everyone else is paid $1 to keep his or her mouth shut. To this day, nearly 20 years later, I haven’t seen the commercial. It must have aired while I was out having fun (or more likely during one of my Oreo-induced food comas).
I’m not the only family member to be “discovered” on Chicago’s streets. Check out my daughter’s experience on the Food Network, Blink & You’ll Miss Her!