For actors in NYC, back in the day when i was building a career during the decades of the ’70’s and ’80’s, the telephone messaging service was an essential lifeline.
Mine, where I was known by all the operators who I spoke to more than I spoke to anyone else in my life, was the reliable Talent Exchange at JUdson 6-6300. They knew me so well, I eventually didn’t even have to give my name , because they knew the sound of my voice, and retrieved my messages from agents and casting directors almost before I finished saying “hello”. Judson 6-6300 was my home, my NYC family, the center of my world. I spent many a quarter using the pay phones to call them, every hour on the hour.
Remember pay phones?
Every NYC street corner had several. Cell phones were odd, exotic things that only strange and weird people used, and i swore i would never own or use one. Why would I when there were so many pay phones everywhere?
I smile about that now.
Because now, of course, my cell phone is attached to my right hand and i feel naked without it.
Anyway, one fine Spring afternoon in 1985, using a pay phone on Sixth Avenue at 57th Street, i retrieved a message from my agent Jeffrey and subsequently put another quarter in the slot to call his office and was informed by a bursting- with- pride agent (Evalyn, are you sitting down? he asked) that I had been nominated for the 1985 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for my work in QUILTERS. I sat down after that news…right on the curb at 57th and 6th. Plopped right down !
Right after, I met a pal at the Algonquin Hotel nearby, for a tea date, and ordered a bottle of champagne instead. My pal and I floated out of the A.
I took a cab home to West End and 103rd, amazed that I could navigate by sheer alcoholic wafting, and saw that my phone machine -the other lifeline for actors in Manhattan- was blinking so furiously, it was showing just one long sustained blink.
For the first time in my life, my message machine tape (remember tape?) had filled completely and my mailbox was full. News got around fast, and the next thing i knew, there was a knock at my door and abasket of chocolates and flowers arrived from the Tony Committee. It had another bottle of champagne in it, which i did not need to immediately open.
Chocolates AND a full phone machine….could Life ever get any better?
For an actor, a full phone machine message tape was better than anything, even candy, because it means work, or the promise of possible work, and that’s all i lived for. Work. The next job. A “YES” proving I was worthy of staying alive and upright. And in the game.
I could write and write many many words about that particular time in my career, in my life, and i have written a great many words already in stacks of memoir pages either to be read or burned in the future, , but for the sake of this prompt, suffice it to say: I did think then “this is the most it will ever be”……and for a while it was.
But, you know Life…..surprises both good and not so good around every corner….and show business is not anything if not surprising and unpredictable ….and i was in it for a very long haul.
So, it’s good to dredge up this 1985 memory. Very fun, in fact.
It makes me smile.
There are moments in Life that genuinely define us and are thoroughly unforgettable: i call them Golden Moments.
This memory of sitting down on 6th ave is one of mine.