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Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Be cool to younger kids”.
Everyone was the “younger kid” at one point.
No one was born an adult. At one point in your life, you were that goofy young kid who couldn’t WAIT to grow up. Of course, what you didn’t know was: it’s a trap!…adulthood is a LOT more stressful than being a kid…but I digress.
Many, if not most (if not ALL), of us had someone growing up who we looked up to and who was “cool” with us. Someone who didn’t treat us like a snot nosed kid who was just a pain to be around. For me, that was my Uncle Jim (no, not a crazy uncle, although I had at least one of those too).
More like a big brother
Uncle Jim was my mom’s youngest brother, and he was just 10 years older than me. For a period in my childhood my grandmother and Uncle Jim lived with us. My grandfather had passed away and she was struggling to make ends meet. It was the 1960’s after all and women were not heavily in the work force, my grandmother, in her 60’s, had a rough time finding employment late in life. Consequently, they moved in with us.
I idolized him
Uncle Jim was a teenager when they lived with us, and I was just a kid (6 or 7 years old) so you’d think he would have been all “Go away, kid, ya bother me”…but he wasn’t. He took me under his wing. I remember him teaching me to throw a football and ice skate and catch a baseball. Believe it or not he would take me with him on dates to the beach and sometimes just he and I would go to the local amusement park Geauga Lake.
And I was no prize as a kid
It’s not like I was the best kid to have around. I remember always wanting to wear his clothes (which aggravated him I suppose) and when he shipped a box back home from the army when he was getting out (he was drafted during Viet Nam) I tore it open and “stole” the clothes. I wore them every day for the 3 months till he got back, ruining several pairs of pants. Then I learned once that you could stick a pin through a box and play an album (way back when vinyl was a thing) by resting the pin in the groove and turning on the turn table. Of course, that only worked once as the pin carved vinyl out of the groove. I ruined more than one album that way.
He was a mentor
He’d get angry with me, for sure, but never in a mean or demeaning way. Instead, he mentored me, and took the time to explain why whatever I did was wrong and how to act. He was my mentor growing up. He was “cool” to me. He treated me like a human and helped me to grow and mature.
Even as an adult
He was ALWAYS cool with me, even as an adult. Of course, we developed a much different relationship as I got older, a more mature adult relationship. But he never stopped mentoring me or being a “big brother” to me.
He’s gone now
Sadly, Uncle Jim passed away from pancreatic cancer, likely due to exposure to Agent Orange during his time in the army, more than 20 years ago. He was just 50 years old. But he is still there for me. To this day, at the ripe old age of 61 years, I look up to him and think about some of the lessons he taught me. It’s safe to say that, even though he is gone, he still influences my life.
Even as he was dying
My last memory of Uncle Jim was on a trip to Myrtle Beach, his favorite vacation spot. He was pretty far along in the disease and had a hard time getting around and doing things. Cancer is a HORRIBLE disease, and it took so MUCH from him. As I and my family (by this time I was married with 4 kids) were getting ready to leave I hugged him, told him I loved him and asked if he was alright. He hugged me back, looked me in the eye and said, “Are YOU alright? It’s OK, everything is going to be OK”. He was always looking out for me. Excuse me, I seem to have something in my eyes…BRB.
Uncle Jim’s reputation
Here’s the thing. It wasn’t just me. Ask anyone who knew Uncle Jim and they’ll tell you he influenced them as well. Both of my younger sisters feel the same way about him. He has a reputation as a kind, loving, patient man. He built that reputation over a lifetime of being…well, kind loving and patient. His actual kids may feel differently, but frankly I doubt it.
The entertainment industry
The thing about this industry is that everyone, every actor, voice actor, stand up comic…EVERYONE starts out just like everyone else. At the beginning. Robert Di Niro didn’t BEGIN his career as an award-winning performer. No one does. Each and every one of us in this industry started out as a “younger kid” on set. No matter where you are in your journey, there are those people who have a lot less, and a lot more, experience than you.
Add to that
The notion that the industry is, as I have said before (more than once…here and here for example), built on relationships and you can probably guess where this is going. More experienced actors should be cool to those with less experience, not look down on them as a nuisance.
A story from my experience
Many of you know that I am a relatively new performer. I began my VO career at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, and my screen acting career early in 2021 (January 2nd, 2021, to be exact). My first gig was as a background actor on a limited television series, which BTW was very exciting for me. At one point I was on set with a “name” actor. Not a BIG name, but someone you are likely to recognize depending on what you watch on TV. I was behind him at position 1, standing in a set that was a hallway in an office building.
Apparently, I was too close
I was standing about 3 feet behind this named actor waiting for the scene to begin when he turned and said sharply: “Back up”. I backed up a couple feet. “No, go around the corner! I go on action”. In other words, don’t come back around that corner till after I leave. I was background. The order goes something like this: Quiet on set, Roll sound, Roll cameras, Background…and…action. If you can’t tell, background moves BEFORE the principal actors start. I should have “gone” before him. He was just being rude. I honestly hope I never see that guy on set again, because I will forever have a negative opinion of him. No, I won’t tell you who it was.
In a different scene, I got bumped to “featured” background where I was essentially set dressing for the principals who were acting in the scene. There were 4 other “named” actors in the scene, and each of them introduced themselves to me and welcomed me to set. One, another guy whose name you’d recognize, then made it a point to say hello and chat with me for a moment whenever we passed one another. They made me feel welcome and part of the project, even though I was just a body taking up space for the sake of the scene. It’s noteworthy that the first guy I mentioned was ALSO part of that scene and refused to speak with me.
It’s a small thing
It seems so small and inconsequential, but I’m sure it will stick with me for a long time. One day I may work with that one guy again, and it’s gonna start off awkward for me. He basically said, “Go away kid, ya bother me”. I hope to work with the others some day! On the plus side it made me realize I never want to be “that” guy.
Remember where you began
When you are a famous actor and on set, try to remember where YOU started and instead of looking down on new actors, help to build them up. Be cool to younger kids.
Cynthia Shaw says
Your Uncle Jim sounds like a gem! So happy he was in your life. 🙂
Gary Mason says
He really was just a wonderful guy. I was very fortunate.
Beautifully written Gary! You knew and spend a lot more time with my father then I did, and in a way I am saddened that I was robbed of his presence so early as a child. But that alone makes me hold On to those memories that I have of my dad. They are still vivid in my memory and I hope they never fade!
Gary Mason says
Yes, I was blessed to have had him in my life for almost 40 years! It’s hard for a young girl to grow up without her dad…and I too am saddened he was taken from you so early…but I know he would be proud of the woman you’ve become! Thanks Ashley for reading and commenting, it was a great trip down memory lane for me to write.
Ok that one I needed a box of tissues for. Uncle Jim, what can I say other than he was a great man. I got the honor of him being more my positive father figure. I also idolized him, so much so that I was told I tried to ruin his wedding. I don’t remember as I was only 4-5. Through the years he became someone that I would always go to for advice. I lived with him and Aunt Cher many times over the years from a young teen into adult hood to escape an abusive marriage. They both were ALWAYS there for me. When I was pregnant with Thomas James that is when he was diagnosed with cancer. I will never forget watching this man that was so important to me whither away. It was heartbreaking to say the least. As Thomas got bigger he started saying weird things and talking to his “friend”. He had many likes that Uncle Jim liked, trains were the biggest. He would sit in our basement for hours playing with his train set talking to his “friend”. Finally one day we asked him who his friend was, he said silly Mom it’s Uncle Jim can’t you see that? A few other things happened that I’m sure I’ve told you. I finally went to Aunt Cher and told her all of this. Thomas never met Uncle Jim but he knew him somehow. Aunt Cher said she knew what she was going to do. The day you got married to Kellie, Aunt Cher came into our hotel room and gave Thomas a pic of Uncle Jim and one of his train bells. The look on his face was like he found and lost his best friend all in the same moment. Then he went on to loving baseball. After a few games we realized when Thomas had a game, there was always a train that we could hear. Thomas of course took this as a sign. We did not know this for quite some time that he had a sign from Uncle Jim. Oh I could go on and on but this is your blog. What I’m trying to say is even after his death he still inspired us, even one’s that never met him. He truly was a legend in our family. One of the kindest, loving, giving men around. We sure were blessed to have him as our Uncle, Mentor, father figure and friend. He will forever live in my heart.
Gary Mason says
Yeah, he was truly a special guy. I think about and miss him ALL the time. Sorry I made you cry baby sister!
Sorry, let me add that YOU big brother we’re also the person I looked up to. You never treated me like I wasn’t wanted. I remember you taking me places with your friends mainly over to the Dille road field to watch you play football. You and your friend taking turns carrying me on your shoulders. Using me as your “guitar” or drums. I guess I kind of did the same thing you did when you left for the Navy although I was then a blubbering baby sister. You are one of a kind brother in so many ways. Thank you for being who you are even when you piss me off cause your right about something. Love you more than you know and so very happy that I get to watch this dream of acting come to life.
Gary Mason says
Well, thank you Teen…I love you RIGHT back! 🙂
Cheryl Clarke says
Hi Gary, Teeny just sent me this blog of yours. What you have said truly defined your uncle. Of all his nieces and nephews you and your sisters were very important and special to him. Your uncle looked up to you as well. He was so proud of you.
Gary Mason says
He was definitely one of a kind…and my life is richer for having had him in it…I like to think his influence has made me the guy I am today. It makes me smile to think that he was proud of me, and humbled that he looked up to me. I pray I am half the man he was!
Michael Apollo Lira says
I have always tried to be thankful in some way for a negative experience, because often we can learn how not to be, what not to do, and why that is important (i.e. – “it felt horrible when I was treated like that; I don’t ever want to make somebody feel that way”). When I was new to my profession, I had a lot of these encounters. I was that kid. And it’s helped me to remember to foster the enthusiasm in the brighter eyes, younger generations setting foot in the the field. It’s a much more rewarding experience than being salty, jaded, or eating the young.
Your Uncle Jim sounded like a very special person. However, something may have happened to the later parts of your blog, please check your resolution as it all appears to have gotten blurry and wet.
Gary Mason says
Yes, I had many of those same experiences when first starting on this journey. Apparently it stuck with me, hence this blog post. I think we make a much better, and longer lasting, impression on people by treating them well…even (especially?) when they are asking a question that’s been answered hundreds of times, or seems “stupid” to a more experienced person. As they say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar (although I’m not clear why you’d want to catch flies!). And yes, I have the same problem with the resolution, but I just can’t seem to figure out how to fix it!