March 10, 2010 | 2:58 pm
Posted by Melanie Chartoff
I’ve been an actress all my life. But, even though I make a fool of myself professionally on stage, radio, screen, cellphone, webisode, and reruns soon coming to a chip in your head, off duty I’m demure. When I’m not playing a “role,” I’m a vaporous mist. Ask anyone, and if they can even remember me, they’ll tell you it’s true. Although I photosynthesized in the limelight all my life, having private, personal, intensely dramatic moments in highly public places for big bucks, in real life I’m shy and retiring. But as my agent is also retiring…from the business…forever….and I can no longer rely on him to get me work, I need a personalityectomy fast.
In an era in which paradigms are toppling faster than we can justify their scarcely remembered value, mystery and modesty are no longer survivable. Join any social network and every narcissist’s bragging; everybody’s entrepreneurial, caffeinated, compulsive in a cacophony of questionable skills. And kids start prenatally, testing for fancy schmancy private schools before they’re born.
My neighbor’s enterprising eight year old twins, Peter and Andrew, sell drinks out of corner lemonade stand for twenty five cents a serving, fifty cents more for kosher. A dollar more and they supply the paper cups. You can bring your own cup, or suck out of the spigot, which they immediately sanitize and have a rabbi bless. You buy one measly slurp, they try to sign you to a three month delivery contract; you supply the bottles, they come with a keg. Or they pour it into your ice cube tray—three bucks a fill—and you can have your own lemonade-sicles any time. And business is booming. Free valet parking is now available for bikes, in line skates and skateboards. These kids have IRA’s and they’re not even in big boy pants yet.
Bobby, the brazen and blessed brainiac next door, is signing with a child talent agency—to be a child agent for children. He’s managing an eight year old prodigy’s piano career, advertising him door to door, selling shares in the kid’s future intellectual property rights and his personal appearances at a party near you or at your house. His older sister Sarah is selling protective masks painted pink and decorated with snouts for swine flu in advance of any possible pigdemic. Saving up for college? Who needs college? These geniuses own their own businesses, attorneys, patents, creative control, and their collective ages add up to less than forty. They’ll buy their own darn college.
Such moxie. Such enterprise. Such Type Triple A’s. These children are the bleeding edge, genetically predisposed to be non disposable by their parents’ financial challenges, charismatized with confidence by their communities, instilled with competitive drive by their schools, role modeled by those aggressive lowlifes on reality tv shows, these kids are forced to innovation by the times. Mom’s laid off? What’s left to discover? Dad’s downsized? What resources are left to exploit? They don’t look to plunder nature for their creations. They look to the internet as their new frontier, as their way out West, staking claims and squatting in unexplored broadband territories. They spiral their brainchildren virally. And they can precog obsolescence like sci fi film heroes.
See, their immigrant great grandfathers were watchmakers and jewelers. They could look through their loupes and see into the entire history of a watch fob and a quartz crystal. They could sniff at a big red ruby ring and declare it paste at three paces. But Seiko ate their shorts.
Their American first generation grandpas were icemen. They’d drive up in a truck, clamp a cube on their backs and into your icebox to cool your summer days with ice cream. But Fridgidaire froze them out.
Forget product futures. These wise childs microfinance, manufacture on order only and with their executive parents taking pay cuts, they see the writing on the deletable wall—me, too.
I’m extroverting my shy flower of a persona into an ego worthy of their times, marketing myself online and via the upstart agent next door who’s hardly as tall as my shoulder. No fool, with a mitzvah of chutzpah, he’s signing me, as his token mature client, as a kind of novelty act, to a series of one day contracts with a daily option to renew, plus a posthumous buy-out on my reruns when I’m dead. Five year plans? Feh. Living for the future? Is there an App for that? Nah. Success is survival for another day, these days, especially in the no business of show business 2010!
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