John Cantu doing the door at the Zoo John doing the door at the Holy City Zoo

Exposing One's Self in More Ways than One! (Part 2)

by John Cantu ©

In Part 1, I wrote about my experience a few months after a television show I had inadvertently appeared in briefly, finally aired. Today, you will discover the lessons I learned from attending the show's post-production party.

If you are a speaker who talks on self-limiting concepts, getting outside your comfort zone, thinking outside the box and all the other variations on "You are not the person you are, but rather you are the person you think you are," you will love this easy.

The post-production party was at Antoinette "Toad the Mime" Atell's apartment. The apartment itself was a classic San Francisco Victorian apartment where you enter and walk down a long hallway finally coming to two doorways, one leading into the room on your right, the other opening into a room on your left.

As I entered Antoinette's apartment, I was surprised to see two or three kids ages five or six. They were in the halls gawking at the guests as we entered. As I got l closer to end of the hallway I could hear voices that I recognized coming from the room on the left.

So that's where I went first. In this room was a lively group of comics in full cocktail party chat mode raiding the various bowls of standard party noshes. So I'm chatting and BS'ing, but after a while I made an observation.

Robin Williams, Bill Raferty, "Toad", Roberta Bleiweiss and Jim Giovanni, local Bay Area stars, would chat a bit and then would individually leave to go into the other room. Ten or fifteen or twenty minutes later they would return.

Two things about me. I am insatiably curious. And I am an astute observer of patterns. I quickly noticed a pattern. The only people going back and forth between the two rooms were the five local stars. And while I could sometimes hear laughter and chatter from the other room, no one but the five local stars would migrate between the two rooms.

So, after about forty or fifty minutes, I went in the other room. And in here were all the performers, our five local stars, the members of the comedy troupe - Duck's Breath, and Lenny "Chickenman" Schultz - another of the cast members. In here also were all the television crew members: The lighting people, the sound people, the various assistants, etc.

That was my first "Aha" experience that night. I realized none of the local comic felt comfortable being around real TV people, and vice versa. From the TV people's point of view, the comics were the Hollywood equivalent of guests, groupies, or part of someone's entourage. I came to understand the reality of the term pecking order.

The five locals performer, however, couldn't ignore their local brethren and sisterhren. But I could see that, while they were unaware of it, they were scooting back and forth out of unconscious social need.

Oh, they had a shared history with many of the local comics, but their future was with the tech and television crew. So there I was in a corner with the tech and television crew, curious, watching and observing. I notice that in this room I didn't know many of people milling about. But even here, there were a few who would also, individually, again not as a group - would chat a bit and then leave to go into the kitchen. Then ten or fifteen or twenty minutes later they would return.

Out of curiosity I nonchalantly made my way to the kitchen and here I saw George Schlatter, the producer of the show with two men and a woman. I found out later that the woman was the casting director for the show and one of the men was a major casting agent for Williams Morris Agency, at the time THE Hollywood agency. The third man was the head-writer for the show.

They were in a tight group joking, chatting. So I eased into the kitchen and stood just off to the side by the refrigerator. One thing I have learned about power, people in power do not seem to notice peons. I was a nobody, but a quiet and unobtrusive nobody.

There I stood, watching and listening. And I discerned yet another pattern. The people coming into where George was, were the department heads: the head sound person; the head lighting person; the costume designer.

And then folks, I had another "Aha" experience. There was another picking order, just higher up the food chain The heads could talk to George, but not the actual laborers. That was quite interesting. Ever since that experience I have tried always, in social situations, to make it a point to talk to all people regardless of where they might be in status in relationship to me.

But then I had my final "Aha." I listened in as George was discussing who was to have hosted the first episode of the New Laugh-In show. (Now, I apologize to my friends who are sensitive to less than ideal language.)

I was watching this scene not just for the gossip, but because I too was a producer. And I was listening to try to understand how a big time producer talked and how he made decisions.

This an almost verbatim replica of the chat. I remember it because the blunt language so shocked me. Mind, you it didn't offend me. I grew up in a black, Mexican, lower blue collar neighborhood. I was a high school drop out. I was an army vet who had spent 15 months in Vietnam. With that background you don't hang out with a lot of Noam Chomsky's peers.

George asks, "What about Sophia Loren?"

The William Morris guy says, "She wants $50K!"

George replies, "50 Thousand?" He does a face and says, "Her tits aren't worth $25 thousand a piece. Who else we got?"

They discussed some other people I don't recall and then George says, "What about Clint Eastwood? He turned to the casting gal. "Hey Mary, he's always been sweet on you. Why don't you give him a B-Job and see if we can get him for 25 thou?" They all laughed.

They discussed other stuff, but that's what I vividly remember. I walked away pleased. This producer bit I could handle. I already had the language down. And there in the kitchen, I had just had my first taste of high powered deal pre-planning.

I felt I could match George Schlatter.

Except financially - there, I was at the $5 per breast level.

NEXT: Spotted at the Comedy Competition Finals: A New Trend in Comedy