For most of my adult life, I’ve worked as a freelance court reporter, and back in 2000, I received a call inquiring if I’d like to try out for a television pilot. The woman on the line explained it was a half-hour, true-life courtroom show along the lines of The People’s Court. The hook? This one would be all real-life professionals–real judge, real bailiff, real attorneys arguing for their clients, and a real court reporter in case they needed testimony read back. My initial mental reaction was: EEEK! Noooo! Scary! But since I was coming off my first cancer experience and had recently returned to work, one of the agreements I made with myself was that I would explore new things and try to push myself out of my comfort zone (because cancer has a way of reorganizing one’s life and priorities in a major way).
The next week, I met with the show’s producers, and they ended up calling me back when they’d narrowed the field of applicants down to four. On the day of filming, I showed up, two suits in hand, to a studio in Burbank. A young production assistant in his early twenties took charge of me, showing me around and taking me to my dressing room. He wore a headset, and sometimes he’d be looking right as me as he spoke sharply to someone on the other end. Everyone in the studio was running around with a sense of urgency, as if the work they were doing was vitally important to society and not just another sucky daytime show. The general atmosphere was tense. I tried to keep an open mind (but I kind of immediately hated everything).
I was taken to Makeup where the aesthetician did things to my face that I still don’t understand, and the hair stylist styled my hair. I cleaned up well, I thought. My segments wouldn’t be filmed until after lunch, so Headset Guy took me to where craft services had laid out penne pasta with marinara sauce, salad, garlic bread, cookies and brownies. (How is it that I still remember the food all these years later?) During lunch, I was introduced to the bailiff for my segments, a handsome guy whose dad was also a bailiff, and the two of us went over to meet our judge, Andrew Napolitano (who I learned was a regular legal contributor to the Fox News Channel). The judge gave me a polite hello before turning his attention to the young bailiff. The judge knew his father, so the two chatted like old friends as I stood their feeling the wind whistle around me, thinking it was a bad sign for my prospects that the judge found the bailiff more attractive than me.
A little before it was time for cameras to roll, I sat in place behind my steno machine and computer. A woman stopped by, introducing herself as the court reporter from the morning’s tapings. She said the proceedings were virtually unreportable–the attorneys literally argued over the top of each other–and told me to just focus on getting the questions and answers of the witness in case I needed to read back. (Court reporters–sticking together.) The attorneys got into their places behind their tables–Gloria Allred (nationally-known women’s rights attorney), and Bill Handel (local character with a radio program). The gallery of observers was brought in, and the cameras rolled. The cases were your run-of-the mill rent disputes, or cars bought and not paid for. Junk like that. Judge Napolitano was serious and painstakingly thorough with his questions, the attorneys yelled over the top of each other, and… zzzzzzzzzzzzz. The main problem with the show is that it was extremely boring. I sat there tapping away through two tapings, waiting for the director to call “cut.” Afterwards, the people on set disappeared in what seemed like seconds, leaving me alone to pack up my things.
Even though the money would have been great, all I could think was: “Please, don’t pick me. Please, please, Universe. If you love me, let me go.”
The Universe listened. Maybe my bad attitude somehow was felt? Honestly, I tried not to show my feelings outwardly. I smiled and at least pretended to enjoy the experience. But I got my wish. They didn’t call me back. Months later, I caught an airing of the show on one of the local channels, and it was as bad as I thought it would be. I don’t think it lasted more than a season or two.
I gave myself points, though, for pushing myself to try it in the first place. My introvert side may have screamed Nooooo! But my new, improved post-cancer, slightly braver self said yes. I listened, and I will try to keep listening to that voice that tells me, “It’ll be okay. You won’t know unless you try.”
I will try.
I also know that if I am in the position to make the choice between money and happiness, I will always pick happiness.