The Curtain Falls

July 22, 2017
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Everything reminded me of the memories.  They were like a swarm of bees buzzing around my head, reminding me of what my life was like; the times in my youth, when my career began, the years in between, and now.   As I stood with my cane in the wings of the stage, I knew that this would be the last time I would perform and though some of the memories that fluttered around me were those of heartbreak and tears, others were the bliss of sunny days and cotton candy at the fair. I needed to hold all those memories close to me, the good and the bad as long as I could. Because those memories made me who I am.
             As the light faded up, I remembered that I was in the studio. To a  young actor who was beginning his career like I was they were painful,  hot, and blinding; but as that young actor would grow older, those lights that would give him comfort, warmth. The movie studio was where he was meant to be.
             I walked up to the gate of the studio. The hustle and bustle was electric; people sped around in cars trying to get where they needed to be. Actors were babbling away, set pieces were being dragged around, and directors shouted out orders with that ever so charming but grumpy attitude.  “Can I help you kid?” Grumbled an older man with a golfer's hat taop his head, “You look like a lost puppy.”
            “Oh no,” I responded.  “I’m looking for studio six, a Mr. DeMais. I spoke with him over the-”
            “Yours truly!”  He grinned, opening his arms wide as if to present himself. “Is your name-” his sentence was interrupted by a sickening cough that made his Groucho Marx like mustache bounce up and down, making it necessary for him to fussily remove a checkered handkerchief from his pocket.  After his coughing fit subsided, he smiled again.
            “Come on, kid.” he put his arm around my shoulder, “I’ll show you around.”

            It was much later when I realized that my new friend was one of the most well-known directors in Hollywood. Over the next few years I developed a strong connection with Mr. DeMais.  Given that I had basically grown up in foster homes and that Mr. DeMais never had any children, he became like a father to me.  We shared so many memories together and just as my mind faded into a new one, I was brought back to reality by an antsy stage manager milling about.
            The audience silenced and the conductor tapped his baton upon his music stand, a noise so miniscule, it was a rarity for anyone to notice it. But I did, and it brought me back to the evening premier of Castle on a Cloud, my twelfth picture with Mr. DeMais and, of course, I was the lead.

I was in the usual box seat with Mr. DeMais and he was smiling his usual smile, while the conductor tapped the ever so familiar baton (films were silent back then).  As usual, while watching the picture, we smiled, laughed, and even shed a few tears.  But just as the picture finished, something peculiar occurred.
Not the cough, Mr. DeMais never shook that, but the consistency of the cough.  As the credits began to roll, he began to cough lightly, extracted his handkerchief, and covered his mouth; But the coughing did not subside.  It continued, growing and growing until the entire theatre looked up at our box.  I panicked.
I rushed towards the usher sending him to call a doctor.  Mr. DeMais continued to wheeze.  The doctor arrived and rushed him to the hospital.
The next morning was when I heard that Mr. DeMais had passed.  I spent weeks alone sitting in my house, with sadness so enormous that I could not even bring myself to cry.   
    Even now, 75 years later, I still feel a heavy sadness when I remember that day. I was brought back to the present as an actress walked onto the stage and belted out a jarring note.  She was a lady in her early sixties, Salt and pepper hair, and an obsession with using ridiculous amounts of makeup on her face.  She reminded me of Ruth Anne,  my fussy little maid back in the Hollywood mansion.

I remember the years I spent alone in the house.   When Mr. DeMais passed, I was left without a job.   I was a washed up silent movie actor. Each phone call brought a thrill as I was always hoping that they’d invite me back to the studio.  They didn’t.
I would spend days at a time in my den watching my old pictures. One never thinks that they will become tangled in the past, but it is so easy to do.
Of course Ruth Anne cared for me.  She was like my grandmother.   At times she was forceful, making me leave the house and get some fresh air, and other times it seemed like she pitied me, bringing me every baked good imaginable.
            A large regret that I have today is not being as grateful as I should be to Ruth Anne.   For she gave me something much more valuable than the cakes, and cookies, and muffins.  She gave me the hope and perseverance I needed to move on with my life.

“Hello…What!?!...How did-…I’ll be right over.”  I still found the New York accent remarkable.  I had never heard it until I got the phone call, an agent asking me to come and perform in “The City,”  as they called it.

            When I arrived in New York I was mortified.  The smell, the yelling, the honking.  I exited the taxi and immediately wanted to fly right back to Hollywood.  But it did grow on me.  I began having an appreciation for live theater and started blossoming  who I was really meant to be.
            I spent the happiest years of my life in New York and that’s where I am now.  Ready to walk onto the stage in what will be my last show.
            As I prepared to enter the stage I remembered my favorite Shakespeare quote that I will never forget:     -“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts”
    The applause roared.  I was complete.

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