My mother was an actress, and her mother was an actress. So my mother somehow assumed that my sisters and I must have inherited vast acting ability. She was wrong. Still, that did not stop her from trying to turn us into major television stars.
She did succeed in getting us into three local T.V. commercials at Channel Eight in New Haven Connecticut. After that success she thought we were ready to hit the big time T.V. stations in New York City.
Of course, the major T.V. networks are a lot more professional than Channel Eight. Just to get in to talk to them you need to have a professionally done portfolio, full of action pictures, head shots, a professionally prepared resume – the works.
The problem is that type of portfolio costs a lot of money. Especially if you want it done well enough to compete with the thousands of other mothers who are all trying to turn their kinds into T.V. stars.
That’s when my mother came up with her Big Idea. She knew some people who were in the process of preparing a brochure for above-ground pools. You know, the type of junk-mail advertisement you get in the Spring showing a lot of happy kind swimming in an above-ground plastic pool while the adults have drinks and hamburgers nearby.
My mother made a deal with the people preparing the brochure. They could set up the pools in our backyard. They could use our home’s water and electricity, and the film crew would even use the kitchen to prepare snacks. In return, my sisters and I would be the stars featured in the brochure and the photographers would also create a complete portfolio for the three of us all free of charge. What could possibly go wrong? It tuns out a lot.
We thought the whole thing was going to take at most a couple of hours. That was a major under-estimate. On Saturday, trucks started rolling down our driveway and unloading pools at 6 A.M. My parents had thought there would be one or two pools set up in the backyard, but the pool company had other ideas. We had a very large flat backyard and they decided to take full advantage of it and set up one of every model pool they had.
I had no idea there were so many different styles, sizes, shapes and colors of pools. Big burly men with hammers and crowbars assembled the pools as quickly and efficiently as a group of carnies setting up a Ferris wheel. As soon as they were done with one, they would put a hose in it and begin setting up the next pool while the last one filled with water. We had 3 outdoor faucets, and all three were running continually at full blast. As a kid, it never occurred to me what that must be doing to our water bill; but I bet my father thought about it. He didn’t say anything, but spent the morning nervously pacing the house and looking out at the mess in the backyard. Finally, he made up some excuse about an emergency at work and left in his car, not to be seen for a good part of the day.
By noon time the pools were set up. Evey square inch of the backyard was covered with pools all filled with water to the very top. The pools were no more than one foot apart. There was just enough room for the photographers to set up their equipment for our big modeling debut. My sisters and I were already in our bathing suits waiting to be told what pools to jump into.
That’s when the barbarian hoards descended. It turns out you can’t set up 50 pools in your backyard without attracting a lot of attention from the neighbors.Kids from miles around were streaming into our yard. The kids were of all ages shapes and heights, and every one of them was wearing a bathing suit.
The director of the photographic shoot was thrilled. This was great for his brochure. Instead of having pictures of the same 3 kids over and over, his brochure would now have lots of different kids of different ages. It would be a much more interesting brochure.
My mother was furious. This wasn’t the deal. Her kids were supposed to be the featured stars. On the other hand, she couldn’t really tell the kids to leave. They were the children of her friends and neighbors. Adults had started arriving too. Many of them were bringing plates of food and coolers of soda. It had turned into a major unexpected block party.
The Director of Photography was ecstatic. He got his wish to have lots of kids in the pictures and my mother had to compromise and make sure that my sisters and I were featured on the cover. Part of the deal was that my mother also had to change into her bathing suit and be part of the photo shoot . After all, she was a legitimate television actress so it was a big deal to get her to appear in a throw-away pool brochure.
My mother may have been upset, but I was having a great time. We may not have been T.V. stars but we were stars in the neighborhood. After all, how many other kids had 50 pools in their backyard, and a giant party? My dad pulled into the driveway, having returned from his work “emergency”. He couldn’t believe his eyes. However, after he adjusted to the idea of the unplanned party, he started having a good time joking and eating with the other fathers.
The best part of the day was the very end. When the photo shoot was over the big men started draining the pools by opening valves at the bottom. Then they told us kids it was time for some real fun. There was one pool which was much larger than all the others. It was blue and round and about six feet deep. It was so big that all of the kids at the party could fit in it at once, although it was a tight squeeze.
The big men told all the kids to jump into the round pool, and we were happy to comply. We thought they were going to open the valve at the bottom and we would slowly float down. But the big men had a better idea.
When all the kids were in the big pool, the two men took their tools and suddenly removed a large side panel from the pool. This caused the entire pool to collapse at once and all the water rushed out onto the lawn in a tidal wave of water and kids. The mothers and fathers watching roared with laughter.
So what ever happened? Did my sisters and I ever become major television stars? I think you already know the answer to that. We did get professional portfolios and while my sisters got no calls, I did actually get one audition. It was for a toothpaste commercial being produced by a major New York advertising company. I went to New York with my mother and we waited two hours to see the producer casting the commercial. I stood in his office and he asked me to say the line “Cleaner Teeth!” while smiling. I had to repeat the line 5 times and then he politely told me he would get back to us. He never did.
I don’t mind not getting the commercial. After all, a lot of children have appeared in toothpaste commercials. How many of them can say they rode a tidal wave of kids in their own backyard?