“I Want To Be A Soap Star” had me remembering a time long ago, far away,
when I, too, wanted to be an actress.
The new SoapNet original reality-TV series – begun in earnest early last
month – has managed to tap into my unrealized, unfulfilled early childhood
ambition, one of them anyway.
My first aspiration had something to do with taking my blue hairbrush,
watching out for little brother, hitting play on my tape recorder and
pretending I was Karen Carpenter, singing along in my cracking soprano to
“Superstar.” Music filled my world a half-step before soaps did. My
parents listened to big band, show tunes, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass,
mellow listening ‘70s hits, classic rock, while they puttered away at home
and I pored over the Sears Roebuck catalog, the Norman Rockwell picture of
In our household, happiness meant dad whistling and mom humming along to
their favorites on the radio or stereo, euphoria when they danced too. I
lived for those days, because they meant the temporary postponement of
verbal and physical abuse for me and my brother. In the bargain, I grew up
with a heightened sense of appreciation for musicians and singers, my
brother became a proficient saxophonist, guitarist and rock singer in his
Me... I bought a lot of albums and CDs, married a jazz musician, and lip
sync in the church choir. I cannot sing, no matter what my husband Eddie
or a soprano buddy Terrie says. I cannot hold/read notes or stay in pitch
long enough to last through a “Mulan” soundtrack, much less the Christina
Aguilera hit, “Reflection” – however often and in private I’ve tried.
Since soaps quickly followed the music, then blockbuster movies and CBS’s
movie of the week, I next turned my attention to acting (when I wasn’t
wondering what it’d be like not to have to do anything but stamp books in
a library or mark up grades with a red-penned flourish in English class).
The acting bug lasted well into high school, until I attended a drama
workshop at Punahou in Honolulu as a junior. I wanted to sign up for the
performance portion of the annual series, which drew an obscene amount of
fellow wannabes different and more outrageous than me. But the good
classes were taken, so I had to settle for stuntwork.
A newbie teetering on the edge of total humiliation at even going on the
stage as a tree much less in the lead has no business starting off in the
dramatic world of poseurs and clowns learning how to take and give a
punch. I felt like a complete fool, slapping my chest as I lunged my right
fist forward (some things I never forget), or falling on my rump too
numerous a time to mention trying to drop-kick an opponent in the sparring
“Is this how Vivien Leigh started out?” I wondered, pulling up my beige
corduroy pants over my butt crack, and sweating like a jungle animal
(thanks, Steve Burton!). “Do I really want to associate myself with these
phony-baloney drama queens?” “Am I the only fat Korean around here?”
“Who’s gonna want me on their TV screens everyday?”
Obviously, the answer rests in the fact that I’m sitting here at the
keyboard, typing out another column for Eye on Soaps, instead of suffering
the slings, arrows and fortunes of fame as the next Vivien Leigh – or
Susan Lucci... with slanted eyes and a flat face.
I chickened out. I bowed out. Whatever it took to disassociate myself from
the cattle calls, the sea of blonde hair, blue eyes and pale faces overly
made up (makeup? I have to wear makeup?!), and general pretensions,
amplified, inherent in the industry in order to survive.
There are more than a few working actors out there I’d share a pork
sandwich with, normal, humble, ordinary people with extraordinary talents
they can’t help but share in an effort to enlighten and enrich other
people not so inclined. But for the most part, either intrinsically or
through fame’s adulterous influence, the greater majority of actors who
make it wind up looking like the drama department of Punahou Schools’
annual show-off fest.
And yet, lately there I am every Saturday night, acting my little heart
out along with the 12, then six, then five, then four, and now three
finalists of that SoapNet reality-TV competition for a three-month GH
contract role. I don’t need the acting coach (from ATWT) to tell me how to
cry on cue, the three judges to show me how to find my motivation,
objective and obstacles, remember my lines, my story, remain true to my
self and just be convincing, adaptable, real and likeable. Okay, the
likeable part may need some work; I’m shy, cantankerous and generally
anti-social by nature, which goes against the actor credo.
I’m also intense, egotistical, overly sensitive and gifted with the
ability to empathize, even with the bad guys, which should make me perfect
for the part.
In my sophomore year at Aiea High School, I discovered Christianity,
varsity line backer Scott Hernan and the power to command an entire crowd
of jocks, valedictorians, cheerleaders and losers in the audience to cry
on my cue. Campus Life recruited me with its banana split parties and
burger barbecues so that I may convert a legion of other lost teenaged
souls like me. I failed in that regard.
But I did discover the only perk to the bi-annual camping trips the Youth
for Christ organization went on: the dramatic portion of the friendly
rivalry of teams formed from the attendees. There was athleticism in the
volleyball games by the beach, choral vibrancy in the choir worship, and
then, there was me as a nobody dying to know God better through the only
friend I had, Lisa, who couldn’t help me in the end because she didn’t
want the enormous responsibility God laid at her feet as a converting
That was the short drama’s premise our winning God Squad team put together
the summer of ‘80.
I’ve told this story so many times, including in this column. But it bears
repeating for the sheer unconscious joy that happened to me when I left my
body to become someone I made up, with the help of my teammates. I went on
our makeshift stage, hit my marks, waited for my turn in the spotlight and
when it came, I disappeared into this character.
Later on, as I left and the show ended, I could hear roaring in the
background, but had no idea where it came from or what caused it. As we,
one by one, stepped back onstage to receive our applause, I saw for myself
that I had caused the roar. My teammates and several members of the
audience came over tearfully, heads shaking in disbelief, to fill me in on
what actually happened.
They told me I broke down and wept, as if being torn apart from the inside
out, prompting them to weep, and for 15 minutes of our play, forget they
were only at a Christian camp to promote God. They were amazed that
someone shy, quiet and unassuming could transform herself so
instantaneously, charismatically and effectively.
I walked on water for the rest of the semester.
That’s a high I understand and a huge reason actors like Maurice Benard
(Sonny, GH) stick around, pushing and pimping for his manic-depression
story, but suffer no Lisa Vultaggio (ex-Hannah) or Angel Boris (ex-Angel)
lightly. He’s there for the same unadulterated high, at once hurtling
toward the heavens from ego and euphoria, not to be distracted or brought
crashing down to earth by a has-been, wannabe or a drama poseur.
I went through several more scenarios such as the one from summer camp, a
scene from “Our Town,” another from an American tale of witches and Salem.
I forgot my place as the other person forgot his lines, rolled her eyes,
treated the entire enactment as homework instead of a life or death
situation that made or broke me.
... Before I gave up entirely, to take up writing – the only means
available where I could hide from yet tap into the world – as a print
journalist (hated interviewing), a trade magazine editor (really hated
transcribing), and now, an entertainment commentator (really really would
love to write for pay).
Writing fits my personal style the best.
I don’t have to look my very best, or even contemplate plastic surgery to
look THEIR very best, white, blonde and perfectly anorexic. I can do my
job in pajamas or naked with coffee and snot dribbling down my face if I
want. I’m judged by the words I choose, not by the words I speak, I emote,
and the package that comes along with it.
Best of all, I CAN write.
More or less... when I’m not constantly being distracted by
penis-enlargement SPAM, a husband wandering in and out of the computer
room, cursing and looking for a pen or a battery or his car keys, a little
two-year-old boy trying to drive a remote-control car over my feet or
launched from the desk over my head.
Besides, what else is there, what else is left?
Nun and porn star?
Thought about those too.