I sometimes wonder what things might have been like for me had I resisted my instinct to personally care for my parents and stayed in Portland or headed to Seattle or LA to further pursue a career in performing.
Where I went to College, Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon, they offered a term-long internship program in New York City. Housing and tickets to shows and museums were all part of a regular term of tuition, as well as a stipend for (Subway) transportation. In my final term of college, 25 years ago, I went on the New York trip after securing an internship at The West Bank “Downstairs Theatre Bar”. I love saying that I did my college internship in a bar. The college set up accommodations for all of the students at The Wellington on 54th at 7th, right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
The daytime doorman at the Hotel was a fellow, about the same age as all of us ‘interns’, named Ned Vaughn who told us he, too, was interested in performing. I remember that he showed us his head shot. He had red-blond hair, a nice smile and pretty good looks. He was a very friendly guy although I didn’t think much about it at the time. But the first time I saw “The Hunt for Red October” I immediately recognized Ned Vaughn as the second radar operator – not bad, I thought.
Well, up until the short lived Jimmy Smits vehicle, “Cane”, I didn’t really notice much of him but he landed a recurring role in that show and was on every week. And lately, I’ve been seeing him everywhere, most recently as the doctor to POTUS on NBC’s “The Event”. It turns out, he landed his first big break just about a year after I was there. He’s actually done pretty well for himself, it seems. Not a household name, by any stretch, but a working actor, which is actually saying a lot. I say, “Well done, Ned!”
As it happens, Ned isn’t the only success story from my trip. The West Bank, at the time I was there was being co-managed by a guy name Lewis Black. I ran lights for one of his one-act plays “Crossing The Crab Nebula” while I was working there. I remember, he arrived a little late for a rehearsal or a meeting or something because he’d had an audition for a toothpaste commercial that he was appalled to admit he’d tried out for. His comedy routine was featured on a Friday Night free show that he hosted with Rusty Magee.
Eventually, I guess Lewis gave up on play writing. But roughly the same comedy routine that he was doing then, eventually landed him on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and has carried him to extraordinary success as a touring comedy act and featured TV and Movie performer. I also remember Lewis as a very nice fellow.
The West Bank, on 42nd Street, in 1986 was in amongst strip clubs and crackheads but the West Bank has had a long history for encouraging developing talent. I believe Bruce Willis bar-tended there for a stretch in his early days.
Anyway, I don’t think there’s a moral to this story. I think about folks like these from time to time. There’s a TV show filming in Portland these days, TNT’s “Leverage”, and I often see folks I used to work with such as Joe Ivy, Janet Penner and Galen Schrick, making guest appearances.
It’s one more thing to look at and think about as I’m continue working on re-establishing a life post-primary-caregiver. I am intending on taking a class on Meisner Technique this summer and eventually looking around, at least locally, for some artistic performance outlet.
I was impressed recently by how David Seidler, screenwriter for “The King’s Speech” lived in relative obscurity until finally writing a masterpiece and achieving astounding recognition. And I’ve also recently learned that Ulysses S. Grant was a failing store clerk before the Civil War, and eventually, of course, he ended up being President of the United States!
Ultimately it reminds me how things can change suddenly. “In a New York Minute”, one might say.