Rocky Story Just Doesn’t Go Down

So, my third post on the ROCKY story… Obviously this has touched a nerve…

Today, on a public message board, my friend Mark addressed my last two blogs. I asked him if he’d mind if I posted some it here as I think it’s good for people to hear different points of view. (Below his post is my public response to his words.)

Mark Chaet

“Tom: You and I have known each other for some years, and I have a lot of respect and
admiration for you. Affection too. I read your blog about Stallone’s Rocky story and was tempted to respond. Then I read the post that contradicts the veracity of the story and of Robbins’ take on it. Then I read your current blog about this matter…

…Even if the story is true. Stallone wrote the script in one marathon session.  Nearly flat broke, he turned down $325,000 for the script because he insisted on starring in the film.  Brass balls, totally. A great and inspirational story. Danny Devito, at his final callback for Taxi, jumps on the table and yells “who wrote this crap” and got the role and became a star. There are, I’m sure, dozens of other stories, maybe all true, of people who
stood up against the odds and won.

But here’s where my interest, and my take on this matter comes in. They
rarely, if ever, write about the brave soul who stands up to the odds and
suffers a defeat.  Stallone refuses to sell his script if he doesn’t play the
title role, no one buys it, he doesn’t make Rocky, he’s never heard of again.
Danny Devito jumps on the table, they call security and lead him away. You, or
someone with as reasonable a right to expect decent roles and your quote,
refuses co-star roles…and finds himself without much of an income, and loses
his health insurance.  I’ve had two friends (& I’m sure there are dozens, if
not hundreds of others) who, after producing their own projects ended up broke,
in debt, and had to leave the business in order to pay their debt and live.

I don’t want to discourage people.  But I have a real yearning for people to
look at things as they are.  To make their decisions based on choices they’ve
thought through, not based on wishing and hoping and inspirational stories that
lead them, perhaps, to rash choices.  And stories like Stallone’s, whether true
or not, need to be balanced by stories where similar choices don’t lead to
heroic victories.

Sometimes ya win, sometimes ya lose. This is life, not the script of Rocky.
And in life, Rocky may win the bout, but he may not. I’m not a big fan of
statistics, and particularly the way people tend to apply them to themselves,
because statistics are not about an individual’s chances of this or that.
They’re about the likelihood of an outcome using a large number of examples.
Myself, I figure everything – EVERYTHING – has a 50/50 chance.  It either
happens or it doesn’t.  But you have to make your decisions based on what you
know about the situation, whatever it is, and not based on what you hope, wish,
yearn for…unless, of course, you’re willing to accept the consequences,
whatever happens.  And that’s the case whether you make a rational, informed
decision, or decide devil take the hindmost.”

My public response that I posted on the message board, for others to see, is/was as follows:

“As always I appreciate thoughts and comments… I’ve been in the “biz” for 20 years… I’ve been fortunate to have made a good living as an actor, I’ve had feature scripts optioned, been paid to write, plays produced, and in the past I’ve spoken to large groups of actors as a guest speaker, at both an acting school and a university.

The first thing I tell them is “quit” “don’t start” “learn to love accounting.” Then after they respond, or stew in it for a second, I tell them, if they think I’m right or if something else came to their mind of what they could do, they should…

But if they sat there, saying “F- this guy. I’m going to do this, cause I can’t
do anything else…” Then I tell them to do it, and they should just know that
for most, it can be a long bumpy challenging road, that may test them over and
over, and that very few have any real level of financial success. But there are
people that shoot up to stardom, and there are people like me that have carved
out a very respectable career and living.

The Rocky Story, and Stallone’s success is one of those off the chart stories…
THAT’S WHY PEOPLE TELL IT, WHY IT HAS BECOME LEGEND.

Most of us know the story of DAVID & GOLIATH, and can’t name one single man that
Goliath crushed the life out of prior David’s massive success. And whether or
not you believe the story is true, or have some other info on it, is not the
point here.

I can honestly say I have succeeded, not at the level I initially intended, nor
have I yet settled for where I’ve been. I can point out dozens of stories of
uber talented people who were far more skilled and passionate than I, that are
now doing something else, burned out, or killed themselves (very sadly,
literally).

For the people that have made the decision to do this thing… Or pursue any
dream… Hope is powerful.

Here are two quotes from The Shawshank Redemption. I believe they are both
true…

A:”Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

B: “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever
dies.”

I’m hyper aware of A, but while I’m in this… While I’m still making a grab for
the brass ring… I’m choosing to focus on B.

Anyone that knows me, knows… I absolutely believe in these two things:

1) I hope that my story has, does, or will someday inspire others to do what
they truly love…

2) I will do everything I can to keep my story, (and friend’s stories) from
becoming a cautionary tales…

Tom Kiesche
http://www.TomKiesche.com
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0452622/:”

And really, truly, I always appreciate comments, likes, feedback, and of course love love love when people pass my writing, blogs, videos, stories or “whatevers” on to others…

Speaking of passing “whatevers on to others”… It looks as though Mark is just starting to blog on WordPress (formerly he was blogging on MySpace), but feel free to check out his future blogs at: www.markchaet.wordpress.com

– Quiche Out

PS. A few hours after posting… This was written by another person on that same message board. I like the honest simplicity of it. Again I asked for permission to quote him.

Being grounded in the real world is a fine thing. Reaching for the stars (whatever you define your star as) is a noble thing. Don’t kill the one by doing the other. Not for yourself, not for others.  –Edward L. Green

“Ya want the truth — Ya got heart, but ya fight like an ape”

So, yesterday I posted a blog, Anthony Robbins telling the story of Sylvester Stallone’s rise from poverty to fame, selling his dog in front of a liquor store, demanding that he and he alone star in his screenplay “Rocky.” A story I had heard for decades, but now being told by a motivational speaker, with more details and more touching elements than I had ever heard before…

However, within hours of my posting, someone I don’t know, alerted me that Tony Robbin’s story is and was nothing more than a story of spin, spun off of United Artists’ publicity team marketing campaign developed way back in 1976… Nearly forty years of spun spin…

So, again, I went to the web to see if I could find the truth…

To quote another movie: “Jessep: You want answers? Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them. Jessep: You want answers? Kaffee: I want the truth! Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!”

I really of course have no idea what the truth is… Though, I love the truth… But, as I’ve gotten older, I also realize it’s some times better to be happy than right.  So, maybe if you don’t wanna know any more… Don’t read any further.

Here are some blogs about the story being nothing more than crap, they all pretty much say the same thing, and use many of the same quotes from the same people… http://dontstepinthepoop.com/debunking-crap-the-rocky-story-bs
http://www.hollywoodtoday.net/2006/12/20/rocky-story-revealed-a-studio-myth/
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2006/12/prweb490976.htm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/starsandstories/7918712/Sylvester-Stallone-interview.html

Here are some vids to Stallone talking about his inspiration for the story, writing the script, casting, filming, screening the film…  It’s interesting he doesn’t talk about ANY of the underdog stuff that Anthony Robbins talked about.

And here’s part 1 of a biography on him… Which avoids the Anthony Robbin details as well…

So, once again in life, I don’t know… I don’t know what the truth is.

I would love to see someone interview Stallone and ask those questions. And if someone has, then I would love to see that footage.

-Quiche Out

The Rocky Story… told by Anthony Robbins (could also be called best $25 ever invested)

This is a GREAT TELLING OF A GREAT STORY. Many things I had never heard before… Especially the stuff about the dog and the man at the liquor store.

Here’s a little story from me… Trust me not nearly as dramatic… At least yet.

Only a few days ago I was questioning whether or not to continue working through this current lull of paid work and decent sized checks, and keep investing in my long term dream, or to go out and get a survival job, doing possibly the more sensible thing. Auditions have slowed way down, bookings have slowed way down, and the size of parts have also gone way down… There are I’m sure many reasons for all of these things.

While artistically, I feel so many things are the best they’ve ever been, work in an acting class is soaring, my voice is strong, my scripts are better than ever, it looks like I have another play being done this summer in Kentucky, had a play read just this week in Los Angeles, I now have a manager shopping another one of my feature scripts, a novel I’ve finished is now with a collaborator (waiting for him to do his part)… Oh lots of stuff.

I had cut many expenses, and finally, after much deliberation, I cut one that I overly-enjoy and which was a very difficult decision, because it affected someone else’s livelihood… But I felt that if I could slow my money out, obviously I could go on with less money coming in… And I have to still believe in the long range, the target, the dream…

Within two hours of not a fun conversation, where I let my house cleaner know I was not going to be able to splurge on her services any longer (I had already changed her to once every three weeks)… Two financial things came my way (1 by mail, 1 by phone) that will allow me to live for at least another 6 months without having to touch my investments or savings…Almost like a reward for making the decision.

Now, I’m far from broke… In New York City and when I first moved to Los Angeles I was broke… And since then I have lived below my means for a good many years, building up a cushion for any periods of lack…

So Mom and Dad, there’s no need to worry about me… And while neither instance of money coming in was completely unpredictable, the timing of both of them were pretty ironic. For example: A tax refund.

Also since letting my house cleaner go, a call for a Broadway musical came in… The production team had seen me last year, and want to see me again for the same role.  Cool, eh?  Wouldn’t that be a cool part of the Tom Kiesche story… At least the Closet Singer To Broadway part of the Tom Kiesche story.

Thanks for following my journey… Hopefully, I will one day inspire on the massive scale like Stallone.

-Quiche Out

PS. Here’s the Academy Awards presentation ROCKY Best Picture I just found on line…
Also great: http://youtu.be/sUrSr6Ga6i0

PSS. March 24, 2012 – Someone I don’t know called BS on the Anthony Robbin’s video/story… So, I did some digging, and wrote a new blog today. “Anthony Robbin’s Rocky story I blogged about is BS? ‘Ya want the truth — Ya got heart, but ya fight like an ape’ http://wp.me/p20vxx-ek”

Topic Discovered While Writing?

For you that will say something... Yes, I'm safely stopped at a light. Took just minutes after a haircut this AM... First time in my life a barber said to me, "Just let it grow a little more, and 'perfect.'"

Usually I have a topic or two in mind before I start writing on here… But today, I’m not letting non-preparedness stop me. After all what’s the worst that I can do, NOT PUBLISH? Or write something people don’t enjoy? Bah. BFD.

I’ll just write…

Last night I broke the info on the Closet Singer FaceBook fan page that late next week I have an audition for a Broadway musical. Here, I’ll divulge that it’s actually my second time being seen for the same role and same show… Apparently the same production team will be back in town, and they enjoyed what I did last time and just want to see me again.

Cool, right? Can’t be a “bad thing.” Course my mind starts playing with the information, and wondering what I didn’t do “right” last time they were here that they want to see me again… Wondering if I should change the song I did/do for them, or do the same… In auditions where you’re called back it’s very typical to do the same thing you did the first time, and often even wear the same clothing… Yes, I know, it’s odd.

But this isn’t really a callback… They’re just seeing me again, a year after the first time they saw me… (And if any of you in that particular production are reading this… Thanks).

The first time was great, fun, and odd, as nerves were high, I had no idea what to expect, and it sounded like half of those sitting behind the table seemed to know what the heck CLOSET SINGER was, and had seen it.

According to my agents, they said they enjoyed seeing me last time, and I could do the same song, or whatever song I’d rather or be comfortable doing. Again, cool, right? And don’t ask me any questions or offer advice about this particular information, cause I’d rather not discuss anything more about it till after the audition (which, isn’t for some time).

Enough on that…

Last night, while I was eating dim sum & chow fun and being served by a lovely darker-skinned young woman (relevance to come), I was going over a scene that my current scene partner had chosen for us to do. While it doesn’t matter, the scene is from a pretty well know play called FENCES, written by the award winning playwright, August Wilson… My scene partner is partially black, which I personally don’t believe means anything, but explains one reason why she chose the powerful script (she would totally be cast to play the role)… However, I believe, and know she chose the script more so because it contains a lot of great stuff that would show off her acting skills, and emotions, and also contained challenges that would allow her to find and develop new tools…

Some of the same could have been said true for me. Emotionally, the scene presented elements that would allow me to fly, and also contained challenges that could possibly open up areas of my acting work that I have had a more difficult time accessing. Since the role was/is written for a black man, I’d imagine the chance of me playing the role on stage would be about the same as me singing “Ol’ Man River” in a Broadway revival of Show Boat.

The language was a challenge, not because of the size of the words, or because it was in a different language, but because of the word order and phrasing…

“Go on for it.”
“Don’t you tell that lie on me.”

Anyway, I lost the point…

Wait, the point of this particular blog today is there doesn’t need to be a point… Nothing needs to be “right.”

Why can I get so tied up with that word, “right”?

ANYWAY, while I’m at dinner, looking over the lines, I start feeling even more weird about the script and the character I’m playing. My mind continued fucking with me, over and over and over… “I’m not right for this.” “I shouldn’t be doing this.”

The truth of the matter with regard to the scene… When my talented partner and I did the scene in front of the class, of course my RACE, or the character’s written race had absolutely nothing to do with the scene. I would bet that not one of the people watching were thinking… “Oh, he’s playing a black man…” or “He shouldn’t do this role.” All they saw were two people struggling, in a dramatic circumstance, and fighting for what they wanted.  At best they may have felt we were of a background of lower educational  or social economics, because of the phrasing… But not one comment was about any thing more than praise about the work they had just saw… But my mind… My mind loves to get in the way of things…

While I don’t know if I wrote about anything… And there’s so many more things on MY mind, I think I’m done writing this entry. Both me and my scene partner agreed with our teacher (Jonathan Kehoe) that we should bring the scene back next week, and really get in and tackle it… That, while we did somethings very well, there is always room for more nuance and exploration in ourselves…

And because of my uncomfortably at dinner, I briefly ended up talking and joking with the charming young lady who worked at the establishment where I had my dinner… She’s a fresh transplant from Seattle, here to be an actress, and now I know (only slightly) another friendly face in the never ending sea that is the talent pool of Los Angeles.

– Quiche Out

BTW for the record, the forth song I recorded in my Closet was… “Ol’ Man River” (embedded above).  Some day I’ll have to re-record it, and not hide behind the screen (and a blog posting about why/when I started singing again)… It wasn’t until the next song, “You Raise Me Up,” anyone saw me talk on screen, and it wasn’t until “More I Can Not Wish You,” number 007 that anyone saw me sing (in my closet)… There wasn’t a plan, actually nothing about Closet Singer was planned, it just evolved… Mostly out of economics and convenience. If you want to call it evolution. It was because people were still saying I was hiding in 007 that I did 008, naked, singing right to the camera, “Best Of Burden”… It was a semi-typical reaction to criticism, “fuck you, you say I’m hiding, here’s your hiding…”

Facing The Wall

Headshot
Headshot

As you may have noticed, my blog posting has decreased dramatically as of late, and I’m happy to say that it’s for a good reason…

Lately, I’ve been deeply entrenched in research and rewrites of a feature script so my 30 minutes minimum of writing per day is going to that (hours a day)…

My collaborator and I met for a walk on Hermosa Beach a few weekends ago, and when we talked through an action plan, that was one of the two things we came up with. My collaborator is super busy with his day job and family but I always have time to devote to a worthy project.

Thankfully, within two hours of parting, my phone rang, and coincidentally a manager left a message, mentioning how much he LOVED another feature script the two of us had just completed… And within two days, when we were able to chat, we agreed to terms that he would start “finding interest” from A list production companies and talent. Ironically, getting a manager/agent for that script was another part of my collaborator and my newly printed action plan. Woo hoo!

Anyway, devoting time into this feature script is great, both my partner and I believe the deeper direction is EXACTLY what the script needs. We have had great feedback on what we had written, but no one was jumping into action about it. So very probably we had something that wasn’t quite there… And perhaps with a few tweaks, turns of the screw, and a bit more drama, someone else might see the potential we both already see.

After all, why can’t we, or shouldn’t we aim for that coveted golden statue? Why can’t we write a “socially important script,” instead of just an entertaining one. Heck, look what won the best picture this year… And look what happened to Good Will Hunting all those years ago.

Other happy news with my writing is that a theater in Kentucky is again considering producing yet another one-act of mine this coming summer, and next week a group in Los Angeles is producing a reading of a short film I penned.

Sounds great, no?

So, why the title of this blog…

Well, as I just wrote a friend, while artistically I feel at the top of my game… My writing, my acting work in class has been exciting and risky, my singing feels connected and continues to become more polished… Paid acting work has been not been coming in at a sustainable rate.

Once again pilot season has come and I’ve remained on the bench watching others get up and swing, I haven’t booked any of the guest roles that I’ve auditioned for as of late, and the past three commercials I have booked haven’t run, or haven’t paid very much being regional spots… So, I’m finding myself facing a wall of fading residuals and commercial conflicts (meaning airing commercials) and the distinct possibility of needing to get a survival job (for the first time in about a dozen years).

Many of you have jobs you don’t like, and I’m not at all asking for sympathy here… I’m simply facing a decision… Do I continue to work at my craft, my scripts, my features, my web projects, my voice… Pulling cash from my savings for a period of time, with the hopes that some thing comes along… Or do I NOT pull from my savings, and get a survival job now before I have to pull anything from my “rainy season” funds?

And yes, I have other irons in the fire… That could also catch and explode at any time…

Anyway, I really should and want to get back to my rewrites…

But that’s what’s going on with me this week. Adding up my tax receipts from last year, for my tax prep appointment tomorrow hasn’t helped my mind set at all… And, running over expenses (I enjoy) that I could cut that will slow my spending is never a fun process.

By the way this quote was sent out today by the acting studio I’m currently studying at… I loved it the second I read it…

  • “As an artist, I feel that we must try many things – but above all we must dare to fail.”
    ~ John Cassavetes

Maybe in that is the answer I seek.

– Quiche Out

Research

I haven’t posted in a few days for a few reasons…

The first is that nothing has really stood out for me as of late, and while I have had a few things/events/thoughts that I could have written about, nothing really struck me that I wanted to write about.

And the second, my writing time as of late has been devoted to research. On Sunday I had a great walk and talk with one of my collaborators… In our discussions I decided I would reinvest some time into a screenplay we had worked on together. We both agree the script is solid, but while feedback has been good, no readers have really got passionate about it.

However, before the next rewrite I decided to immerse myself into an abundance of available information.To see what could be heightened, clearer, and more dramatized. So, for the past week much of my writing time has been devoted mainly to that.

Once I tackle the rewrite, the new plan is to shoot parts of the script, and edit together a teaser/trailer to see what sort of interest can be found.

– Quiche Out