**Photo credit: Melinda Hill & Scott Stapp by Shane Laser
When I started acting in LA, I was constantly cast as the crying girl in plays like Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” weird indie films and the occasional absurd and tragic music video. When I didn’t think I could cry any more, my acting teacher would say, “You gotta walk through that fire, baby.”
I was exhausted from all that walking through fire so when another acting teacher suggested I pursue comedy because I was “accidentally funny” while doing a serious scene in class, I felt initially insulted but ultimately relieved to transition into making people laugh.
Ironically, after 10 years of doing sketch comedy and stand up it was crying that landed me a part on the hit comedy series Reno 911.
Getting on Reno 911 was a dream come true for me, as I’d wanted to be on it ever since I’d placed it smack dab in the center-adjacent of my vision board. They had me come in and pitch a character that would live in that world. Over lattes at Intelligentsia I brainstormed with my bf at the time, a cool director who rode a Harley, and we came up with a girl who fell off the back of a motorcycle.
My audition involved improvising with Reno stars/ producers Tom Lennon and Kerri Kinney who asked me questions as their characters while I cry-answered incoherently. Tom laughed and asked, “What if you did this character on the show but never ended up actually saying any words -- you just cried through the whole thing?” I said that sounded great and Crying Biker Chick was born.
One leather biker get-up and water bra later, I was somewhere in the desert for the shoot. They did one take straight through, no cuts. It was a perfect, easy, fun day. Compared to shoots where nobody knows what they want, the director does a million takes ad nauseum to where it’s not even funny any more and everyone is stressed out, the Reno 911 cast and crew were amazing. I understood why they had a hit show.
Inspired and grateful to be a part of it, I hoped that one day I would be able to run my own projects with the same efficiency, comedic brilliance and kindness that they did.
As I drove home from that awesome desert shoot, I harkened back to a day 10 years earlier when I had been on another desert shoot for my first job in LA, which was also shot partly at the Ambassador hotel in LA.
Let me paint the picture for you: June 5, 1968 -- On the heels of his primary victory in California, Robert Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. 35 years later, the band Creed shot their music video in the same Ambassador hotel and cast me as the girl in it. Coincidence? You tell me.
That’s right, I was in the Creed video for the song “What’s this Life For?” It’s a very compelling piece that sort of asks the question, “Hey, what’s this life for?” In the video I play “Crying Motel Girl” so I’m in a motel room, crying, when I feel a presence. It’s the singer from Creed. I don’t see him but I feel him, and he gives me the courage to run to the Creed concert in slow motion. Once I make it there, I’m overcome by salvation. The director actually said that.
“Do you think you can be overcome by salvation here?”
I said, “I’m going to dip into my emotional reservoir and make that happen for you.”
At this point, as I rejoice-dance under a rain machine with 100 extras in the night desert, you really get the sense in my character’s face that she’s figured out what this life is for: it‘s for Creed.
All day the director kept saying “yo.”
“That’s a beautiful shot, yo!”
“It’s almost time for lunch, yo!”
I was wondering if she fancied herself some sort of a rapper or something but it turns out that the DP was actually named Yo.
Now, some of you may be wondering, “What did you do with all the money from the video?!” Well I’ll tell you, I took that $250 and spent it on veterinary bills in an attempt to save my beloved cat Razzle Dazzle who incidentally didn’t make it. While I don’t blame the band Creed for this senseless tragedy, I also don’t think that they did anything to stop it.
While on set, I was in an elevator with the band and I attempted to banter with them. “Sooo…they’ve been playing your song all day. Are you guys sick of it yet?” They said “No.”
This uncomfortable exchange was followed by silence. And that was the extent of my conversation with Creed.
Years later, I went on a tour doing stand-up for US troops in Hawaii, Guam, Japan, and Singapore when we had a near-death experience. On a flight from Singapore to a military island called Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, our windowless plane malfunctioned and plummeted 30,000 feet. We gasped for air in our oxygen masks. We didn’t know what was happening and could only see eyes bulging out over the top of the masks as the crew ran around yelling things such as but not limited to, “We’re going down!”
They somehow fixed the problem, turned the plane around and landed us safely back in Singapore. Back in LA, I was telling this story to a group of people and a girl said, “Yeah, 30,000 feet’s really not that far.” I didn’t know prior to that that a near-death experience could be inadequate.
People always want to know: What goes through your mind when you think that you’re dying? Well, of course I was thinking: Who’s going to take care of the kids? And additionally, I was wondering: Who’s going to have the kids? Also, I realized that I wasn’t ready to die yet and that I still had stories to tell.
I always thought I’d leave some sort of an artistic mark on the world and if it all ended right then I wouldn’t be able to do that. Then I had an epiphany that calmed me. It occurred to me that actually I have left my mark on this world! I was in a Creed video. So if I can leave you with anything here today, I’d like it to be that which I will be remembered by when I die: