One of my first acting jobs shortly after arriving in Los Angeles in January 1986 was in the famous television series ‘The Twilight Zone’. This was the first revival series taken from the original that aired from 1985 to 1989. The original series premiered in 1959 and ended in 1964. It’s the one the Baby Boomer generation grew up on. Now most people are familiar with its famous theme song that is so prevalent in pop culture today. The episode I appeared in was the first of three short stories. It was titled “Take My Life…Please!” It starred the actor Tim Thomerson in the lead role as a comedian in a night club. The audience will decide his fate. I played one of the audience members. Here is my experience from start to finish.
The Casting Call
One of the trade magazines called Drama-logue I bought every week advertised auditions for a management company. They basically were a way for extreme novices, like myself, who were new to LA to learn the ropes of the industry. One thing I learned quickly about my time in LA is I would have to pay for inside information on acting. It never came free. To make a long story short you auditioned for this company and then they sent you on a massive cattle call to be an extra.
I went one weekend to some VFW Hall in Burbank where I was running late, because I did not know where it was. When I finally found it the place it was packed, so I was in the very back. As it turned out the meeting was over and they asked everyone to go to the back. All of a sudden some important people were at the tables I just happened to be standing in front of. I was either the second or third in line. Some gentleman said I would be in “The Twilight Zone.” I would need to go to CBS on this date at this time….Next. I told him “Thank you very much.”
Meeting with the Director and Producer
A few days later I went to famed CBS Studios in Studio City that’s in the San Fernando Valley or also known as “The Valley”. Yes, a famous song was written about it by Moon Unit Zappa called “Valley Girl”. There I met, along with another lady I assumed was from the Burbank cattle call, with the director and screenwriter or was it the producer of “The Twilight Zone”. The information I received from the cattle call said the director’s name is Gus Trikonis. I had heard of him, because he was previously married to Goldie Hawn. That was her first husband.
Anyways, Gus was very nice to me. I’ll never forget him telling me I looked too nice for the part. However, the screenwriter/producer guy came to my defense and it was decided I would stay. This all happened so quickly. Then this lady and I were taken to wardrobe for some fittings. I tried on some nice dresses that were evening wear. There was one gown that fit like a glove on me. It had sequins all over and it was a sexy dress too. We all decided this is what I would wear. In a few days I would report for filming. When I was leaving CBS Studios I saw some of the cast from “St.Elsewhere”, a medical show that was the precursor to “ER”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, etc., walking around.
On Location Shooting at the Queen Mary Nightclub
The day arrived where all of us extras met at CBS. We were told we would be transported to a location for filming called the “Queen Mary”. I automatically assumed it was the grand cruise ship in Long Beach. No, it was an entirely different Queen Mary as in a nightclub. This wasn’t any ordinary nightclub either. Just about all the extras knew of this place and told me it was a very famous drag queen club that everybody went to. It had been around for years. Sadly, this legendary club is no longer in existence today. When we got there the parking lot was set up for catering, along with trailers for make-up, hair and to just relax in. No, I did not have my own trailer. I was then called in to get my hair and make-up done. That is when I met Tim Thomerson, the lead actor in this episode.
He complimented me on my sexy dress I was walking around in broad daylight. There was a constant stream of traffic going by at all times since the club was on Ventura Blvd. Once we were inside the club, filming was going on sporadically. I was positioned to sit in the back of the club all by myself. All the other extras were up front. The ones with SAG (Screen Actors Guild) cards would get to speak on camera. When it was time to film this is when it got interesting. Tim came out to do his comedy routine since his fate would be decided by the audience if he was staying at the club or to burn in hell for all eternity. When he talked about his mother with a great deal of guilt we were to laugh uproariously. Yes, it sounds cruel and insensitive, but “The Twilight Zone” episodes are always offbeat to say the least. The 80s version was no exception. When he refused to talk about his mother the audience chanted very loudly “Mother, mother, mother…….”
Tim Thomerson also played a heckler in the club who was actually his conscious speaking out loud. He heckled the comic to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding his past mortal life. My role was the heckler/conscious’ girlfriend. All I did was sit at the same table as Tim during those scenes. I’ll never forget how many times Tim had to do the scene talking about his mother over and over. He put his heart and soul into that role. He nailed those scenes every time. Basically, the nightclub acted as a weigh station between heaven and hell. The shooting for this twenty minute episode took two long days. It was by far the best acting experience I have ever had before or since. I would have to say it was a definite highlight in my brief acting career.
The Premiere of “Take My Life… Please!”
After filming wrapped they said we could call the CBS Productions office to get the exact air date of the episode titled “Take My Life…Please!” When I did call them they were very nice and provided me with the date, which were a few days after my birthday. The filming for the episode took place in February. It aired on March 28, 1986 during primetime on a Friday night. I called my mother in Florida, because I knew she had already seen the episode. She said she saw it, but that I was mostly obstructed from view by this tall guy. That sounded a tad but alarming, but I was thrilled she saw it anyway.
The episode is about a comedian who steals material from a struggling comic. Billy Diamond, played by Tim Thomerson, uses the stolen material on a late night talk show where he becomes a major success. The desperate comic goes after Diamond by hiding in his car. While Billy Diamond is driving the comic pulls out his gun and demands retribution for his material. Diamond refuses and a fatal car accident then takes place. Diamond is now in a seedy type nightclub where he has to perform his comedy routine or burn in hell. His performance earns him a night in safety, but he has to perform night after night……for all eternity if he wants to stay out of hell. That is “The Twilight Zone”.
List of The Twilight Zone episodes, Wikipedia
ChaZaclsa, “Twilight Zone Opening Theme Music 1962 Rod Serling”, YouTube
Queen Mary Nightclub, Studio City (Closed), ClubPlanet
The Internet Movie Database, Tim Thomerson, IMDb
Tim Thomerson, Google Images
The Twilight Zone – Season 1 (1985 – 1986), Amazon