Out of Florida and Into California - Moving, part 2
In the fall of 1993 I moved back to South Florida. I found a one bedroom apartment about a mile from my parents’ house. It wasn’t intentional, just how it happened. Though it did put me between my mom’s house and the grocery store which, as it turned out, had some definite perks… “Here, they were sale-ing on chickens so I got you one. Oh and here’s some Oreos too…” You had to love it!! Especially since I knew how much she disliked Rob already.
Never the less, Rob had made his way from his sister’s house in Maryland back to his parents’ house in Alabama and now, with a burgundy 1979 Chevy Malibu station wagon (with a hole in floor), he was headed to Florida to our new apartment. The sum total of our furniture at this point was my futon/couch, papasan chair and 2 end tables I had retrieved from my uncle’s house in Boston, until my mom took pity on us and bought a card table and chairs for Chanukah. As I wasn’t 100% sure, that he was the man for the rest of my life, I remember being very upset at the permanence of such a purchase but in all honesty, I think she was just tired of coming over and not having any place to sit except the floor. Twenty-four years later, Rob still loves to tease me about it, as the table and chairs are still in our garage!
When we met in Massachusetts at The Williamstown Theatre Festival, Rob was the resident sound designer and I was an associate production manager, though we were both trained as theatrical electricians and that is where we found work as we got started on our new life in Florida. The theatrical production managers liked that they could book two electricians with one phone call for their turn-overs (taking one show out and putting the next one in). And with so many wonderful regional theaters in the three South Florida counties, we were able to keep pretty busy.
What I really wanted though, was to work in tv/movie production. So I started attending some networking events in North Miami since, at that time it was a hot spot for the production industry. I met a man named Raleigh and just like that I was a Production Assistant on my first gig! I was finally going to be part of the exciting film industry!! They had hired Rob as well so there we were, filming an infomercial in some man’s home. It was for a machine you could use to turn the metal in your home to gold and it turned out the man’s girlfriend was the star of the show! Everything was going well and as long as we were through filming her part before his wife got home he was happy. But for me, the big moment of the day was when he sat down by the pool to film his “testimony” about how great this machine worked… He just couldn’t get comfortable in the chair and finally he pulled a very large handgun out of the back of his pants, laid it on the table and declared, “yeah, that’s better, now I can do this” (in a very thick New York accent)! Ah show biz…
It was an exciting time for me. I loved being an electrician. I loved being an independent contractor and going from theatre to theatre and I was building a strong production resume as well. I worked on commercials, after-school specials, concerts and finally movies. A girlfriend of mine was working on a show called Moon Over Miami with Bill Campbell. It was kind of a redo of Moonlighting (with Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard) from back in the 80s. But the show was canceled after a single season and she called me because the production company was selling off everything dirt cheap so they wouldn’t have to ship it back to LA. We went down to the sound stage and walked away with 2 end tables and the ugliest couch you have ever seen!! It had been the couch in the main character’s office and was varying shades of tan, cream and brown in geometric shapes. It was literally nine feet long, fuzzy and the most comfortable thing I’d ever sat on! We paid fifty bucks and we finally had some furniture; now we just had to get it into the wagon and up the stairs to our third-floor apartment…
Rob had been working for a local lighting and sound company as one of their sound guys but when their resident lighting guy left, he was asked to move into that job instead. He had done some lighting work in college and the owner of the company wanted to get him trained to work with moving lights; how to design, program and maintain them. It was a huge opportunity for him and that was the moment he became a Lighting Designer/Programmer. We weren’t really working together much anymore but we were both doing well, at least professionally…
We had some bumps in our relationship and to this day he won’t go into a Sizzler restaurant. With our predominantly organic, healthier eating lifestyle that’s not really an issue but, back in that time we met there for dinner one night and I tried unsuccessfully to end the relationship. He likes to tell me “it didn’t take.” In truth, I don’t remember what he said to me that night but we left with a renewed commitment and went home happy.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last and not very long after that night I asked him to move out.
I had been working on a commercial spoof for Saturday Night Live with Rob Schneider and Manute Boll. Talk about opposites! Manute was as nice as he was tall and man, he was tall!! We had spent the day filming on a cruise ship at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale so you can imagine my surprise when I finally arrived home to find Rob on the couch telling me he found an apartment and he was leaving. I couldn’t believe he would do such a thing! I didn’t really want to break up but, I’d never lived with anyone before and we had been pretty much living together from the very start of our relationship. I still wasn’t 100% sure he was the one for forever, and then he moved out...
He was no dummy, he gave me space but didn’t disappear. And it didn’t take long before I was calling… “Hey, I’m going down to the beach to roller-blade, wanna come along?” (yep) “Hey, I’m making some pasta, want some?” (yep) “Hey, I know you don’t have laundry machines over there and I’m gonna do some tonight, if you need to throw anything in?” (yep)
In the Fall of 1994 I was filming what I thought was a little nothing gig down at the University of Miami but it was the first of 2 production jobs that would change my life forever. It was a profile of music students for Nickelodeon but the producer worked on many things for Nick, including Kids’ Incorporated. He liked me and said if I could get to LA, they would have a job for me on the show. I was elated! The idea of moving to LA and working in TV and movie production was absolutely my goal! I knew Rob was interested in coming with me but I still wasn’t sure if we were back together or not…
Shortly after the Nickelodeon show I was at Joe Robbie Stadium (where the Miami Dolphins play) filming a VH1 special with the Rolling Stones, as part of a Pay-Per-View broadcast of the Voo Doo Lounge Tour. The show was a one hour special before the Stones came on, with Moon Unit Zappa and Corey Glover (of In Living Color) reporting live from all over the stadium. including being ON the stage during the Spin Doctors set! From the viewer stand point I’m sureit looked like everything went along ok but on the production side, everything technical that could go wrong DID! About halfway through the broadcast the production truck lost contact with everyone; meaning the director couldn’t talk to the crew, couldn’t call the camera shots or direct the show!
For whatever reason my headset was still working and he could hear me! In that moment, what had been a multi-camera event, with 2 on-air personalities taking turns reporting from different parts of the building suddenly became a one camera event with me writing cue cards and making hand signals as fast as possible so Moon could keep the show going until Corey could get where we were!
It was (up to that point) one of the more insane moments of my life! And, when it was over and we were finally back in the production office trying to figure out what the hell just happened, the director came storming in! “Where is she? Where is that girl? Who was I just talking to?” I thought for sure I was about to get fired but to my astonishment he grabbed me and hugged me! He complimented me on keeping my head in a crazy situation and making sure the broadcast could continue. I knew he did a lot of work for Viacom, (which included MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon etc) and he told me if I came to LA, I could work for him any time!
I wanted to go to LA and at that point I also knew that Rob and I weren’t over. Because of him and the work he had been doing the company he was working for had been able to take on bigger and better lighting projects. He wanted to do more and so did I.
It was time for us to head west!
Thankfully we had traded the station wagon for a super cute blue Capri convertible. We loaded one car and all our belongings into a truck and towed the other car behind it.
It was quite a feat to get that couch in the truck but somehow it all fit!! Cats in the cab of the truck and we were off. No jobs, no place to live, what could go wrong?
Several days and thankfully, very few hiccups later and we landed in what I thought was supposed to be “sunny southern California.” It was an El Nino year and rained non-stop for the first few weeks we were there, including the day we moved in to our apartment. But once we were settled, we got to work.
There were three big lighting companies in town and Rob had the name of the guy who did the hiring at one of them. He told the guy to give him a week where he’d work for free and if he liked him, he could pay him for the week (and hopefully hire him). And if not, it was just a week. He went down there on Monday to work and by Wednesday they had him packing for his first tour!
As for me, I headed over to Universal City where Viacom was located, to meet the guy from Nickelodeon and the University of Miami shoot. When I got there he said, “Oh right! They put that show (Kids Incorporated) in to syndication but hey, don’t worry, come with me.” Um, ok… The building was home to all of Viacom’s networks which included Nick, MTV and VH1, among others so he walked me around the building and suddenly I had a job to work on the upcoming MTV Movie Awards! As the networks were all in one place, it wasn’t uncommon for production staff to work on multiple shows or for more than network. The MTV job led me back to VH1 where I would stay for several years working on things like VH1 HONORS, Storytellers and Duets.
In May of 1996 Rob and I were about to be married and the VH1 Honors that year would be my last show for them. I had been working much more with the on-air talent and I was getting burnt out on the crazy hours and ridiculous attitudes of (some) of the celebrities. Rob was touring more so it started to make sense for one of us to have a job with more regular hours and less travel. I signed a contract with an employment agency thinking that would give me some time to figure out what I wanted to do next. I worked at the Getty Center before it moved to the top of a hill. I worked for several production companies, and then they sent me to The Firm… It was a huge law firm in downtown LA and, if you’ve ever read Tom Clancy’s book or seen the movie, you’ll have an inkling of what it was like to work there.
I temped there for about a week before they hired me and, at first I was happy there. However, it quickly became clear that my boss was ineffective both at delegating and completing tasks so everything was a crisis and everyone was to blame but her. The folks above her were curious as to what was happening and asked me to spy on her and report back. There was nothing about any of this that was ok with me but, she liked me and I was in a unique position to know what was really going on. As you might imagine, this was incredibly stressful.
Shortly before our first wedding anniversary, Rob and I learned we were expecting a child and the pregnancy along with the added stress of my job was taking a toll on my health and it soon became too much for me. I already knew I would not return after the baby was born. The cost of daycare alone would consume the bulk of my paycheck so, even if it meant I had to collect cans to do it, I was not handing over my child for what I knew would be 10+ hours a day for a job I now hated.
One of the attorney’s in my department was also a Consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics. I had already been purchasing the products from her and I thought they were excellent. When I learned more of what the business could offer me I knew it was something I could do when the baby came so I signed up! I went out on maternity leave the minute
I was eligible! Anything to get out of that office! But the baby was being stubborn and still hadn’t come, until a call from my boss sent me in to labor the very next day. Who knows if it really was her, but I like to think so because my stress levels jumped the moment I saw her name on my phone! Forty-eight hours and an emergency C-Section later and we had a brand-new baby boy! My life was about to change forever!!
I just had no idea how much…