Sunday, June 13, 2010

That's Jaci With A "J", Not Liza With A Zee 6/13/10

I am Liza Minnelli. It’s official.

When I recently walked into a friend’s party, there was huge excitement generated in one corner when they believed that Liza Minnelli had just arrived.

Their delight quickly turned to disappointment upon discovering that no, it was just some short Welsh bird with a similar hairdo, but at least I had my moment in the LA spotlight.

The Liza thing has been following me for some years now. Apart from the fact that she looks about 104 (she’s actually 64, but the years and substances have taken their toll) and old enough to be my grandmother, it’s something of a compliment.

We are both small, we both have short, dark hair and brown eyes, and . . . Well, that’s it, really. I have also had my voice trained, and although I can’t confess to being as good as Ms Minnelli, I have a strong pair of lungs and can belt out New York New York quite convincingly.

On Saturday, a man in the King’s Head in Santa Monica told me that not only should I play Liza in a musical of her life, he could make it happen.

These People Who Can Make It Happen crop up all the time in LA. They know someone who knows someone who once met someone who made it happen for an extra in Star Wars – that kind of thing. They never carry business cards and don’t want to tell you who they really are (or they would have to kill you), but they insist that fame and fortune lurks just around the next corner for you.

Last month, a man at the bar in Mastro’s restaurant told me that he could get me into Days of Our Lives. This is a daytime soap opera featuring impossibly glamorous people on sets that look as if they will blow down if a character so much as whistles.

This man reckoned that Days of Our Lives was just waiting for a Welsh female character and promised to get in touch.

Sure enough, he rang the next day, giving me the number of Bill, who he said was waiting for my call “to do an interview”.

Eh? How did I go from being the new star of the show to interviewing Bill about his own stardom?

It reminded me of my demotion when I was an extra in Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein. I was cast as one of eight grieving widows in the church, but was quickly deemed too short to be a widow.

Despite my protests and querying whether there was a height restriction on grief in Dr Frankenstein’s day, I was sent out into the courtyard to be one of a hundred starving peasants.

The widows were in the nice warm church; I was in the minus four degree weather outside in a thermal vest, surrounded by people boasting about their moment of stardom in a Swiss cheese commercial; so I could see the way my debut on Days of Our Lives was going.

I think I stand more of a chance on the Liza front, even though my new manager hasn’t given me his name, doesn’t know where to contact me, and could only tell me that a planned film about Judy Garland’s life has just been cancelled.

He seems to think that this makes it more, not less, likely, that a Liza project would get the green light. I told him, however, that I don’t want to play the fat, drunken years, although quickly realised that this would probably limit my options.

One tiny thing on my side is that I once met Liza’s co-star Joel Gray, who played the MC in Cabaret. It’s not a huge claim to fame, but I have discovered in this town that you really have to talk up your part in every area of life, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.

So, this morning, I’ve been standing in front of the mirror with my hairbrush in hand, belting out Maybe This Time, and, between verses, penning my Oscar acceptance speech.

I don’t think I’ll be getting the award for Days of Our Lives, and much as I love soap opera, even I am having difficulty seeing how the South Wales plot could easily be woven into the current storylines.

But Liza’s life story could be my way onto that podium. My only real worry is whether I would have to play the David Gest months and, more to the point, who they would get to play him.

I know that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, but even I have my standards.

Anyway, for the moment, I’m just going to practise getting into character. I’ve dyed my hair a darker shade of brown, endured sleep deprivation to get heavier bags under my eyes, and watched the Wizard of Oz, just to get something on the family background.

Now, where did I put that corkscrew?

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