Tootsie & Me
So, my best friend, who was also a struggling Actor and I, were sitting at the bar called the West Bank Cafe on 42nd St, in Manhattan in the early 80’s, around 1982. We were talking about what we were always talking about… Acting. A gentleman at the bar overheard us, “You guys are Actors?,” he says. “Yeah, ” I said. ” You too?,” I asked him. “Nah, I’m a chauffeur for George Steinbrenner. “Really,” I said, as we moved to the empty bar stools near him. I was thrilled cause I knew that Steinbrenner owned the Yankees, my favorite baseball team since I was a kid.
“You guys are actors, you should go down to that studio down the block, they’re shooting a movie. You should get ‘in it,” he says. ‘There’s no way we can just go down there and, “Get in it,” I said.” We don’t even have agents. “That don’t matter,” he says. “I was down there yesterday, and they had lots of actors just come in and say, ‘Sylvia Fay’ sent them, and they got in the movie.” “Sylvia Fay,” I asked? “Yeah, she’s casting the movie. You should just go down there about 5am and say, “Sylvia Fay sent you.” He looked at his watch, Downed his drink and mumbled to himself, “Shit,” he said as pulled out a stick of gum and put it in his mouth. “I gotta go.,” he said and as he was leaving he shouted back to us, “Good luck!”
“That’s Great!,” I said to JD. “We gotta go there tomorrow!” “I’m not going,” JD said. “What do you mean you’re not going? Don’t you want to be in the movie?” “Sure I would if I knew for sure we could get in it, but how do know that this guy isn’t just full of shit! How do we know he drives for Steinbrenner?,” JD said. “Why would he lie? Why would he just tell us to go down there if he didn’t know that we could get in this movie? Why would he do that?,” I asked. “I don’t know. Maybe just to fuck with us.” “Well, I’m goin’!” I said. And I did.
The next morning I got up really early and got down to the set a little before 5am. As I walked in the front door, I saw a security guard walk away from his post, not seeing me, heading for the bathroom. Immediately a Women with a Clipboard saw me and walked over. “Can I help you?,” she asked? “Yeah, Sylvia Fay sent me,” I said. “Great, just follow me,” she said. I could not believe how easy it was. She walked me over to where the makeup room was, and introduced me to the makeup people. There where 3 people waiting to go into makeup already. She showed me where the caterer was and invited me to help myself to some breakfast, and as we walked she told me that I would be the Cameraman in the scene and they might be giving me a line and off she went. Unbelievable, I thought. I was going to be the Cameraman and get a line, so that would mean that I would get Taft-Hartley’d and be able to get into the Screen Actors Guild. I was woken out of my daydream when Dabney Coleman walked over to me and introduced himself to me. “Hi, I’m Dabney Coleman and I’m playing Ron!” I looked at him in a state of shock, mouth opened and said nothing. “And you are?,” he said. “Oh, me… I’m Tony Montes, I’m the Cameraman, I don’t mean a real Cameraman, I mean, I’m the Cameraman in the scene, I’m playing the Cameraman.” “Well nice to meet you,” he said as he shook my hand. “You should get yourself something to eat, the foods great!” “I will,” I said and he walked off.
I could not get to the pay phone quick enough to call JD and tell him what had happened and that he should come down right away, that Steinbrenner’s Chauffeur was right, and that when he got down here, just say, “Sylvia Fay sent him. Jimmy said he would come down right away and I went over to to sit by the makeup trailer where there was now only 2 people waiting. I pulled out my copy of, A Hatful of Rain, and began to read. Jimmy and I were working on a scene from it for our class at H.B. Studios. After a few minutes, Dabney passed by us and said, “Tony, did you get yourself something to eat? The foods great!” I hadn’t as my stomach was bit nervous and I was afraid to eat anything. Just then, a guy came walking down the hallway and the Woman with the Clipboard stopped him, right in front of us. “Can I help you?” she said. “Yeah, Sylvia Fay sent me.” “That’s strange…,” the Woman with the Clipboard said. “Sylvia sending us 5 when we only needed 4… but, that’s okay, we’ll find something for you to do.” “OH SHIT!” I thought…. Jimmy!
After some time the person to my left went into the makeup room, leaving me to be next with the person who was really supposed to be there sitting on my right. I had thought about getting the hell out of there, as soon as possible before I got myself in trouble, but the idea that I could maybe get my SAG card, would not allow me to leave. And then, JD came whistling down the hallway with his copy of, A Hatful of Rain in his hand. Hearing him whistling, the Woman with the Clipboard, hurried up to him. “Can I help you?,” she demanded. “Yeah, Sylvia Fay told me to come here,” he said. “Didn’t Sylvia tell you to never where all black?,” she demanded. “No, nobody told me anything,” JD said. My heart was in my throat. This was not going to end well. “Who did you speak to at Sylvia’s office?,” she said growing more pissed off by the second. “Mark….,” he said, making it up. “Wait here!” The Woman with Clipboard, stormed off into her office, next to the makeup room. JD came and sat on the other side of the guy who was really supposed to be there. “What’s Shakin’ Daddy’O?,” JD said to me. “Don’t talk to me!,” I snapped, staying buried in my play.
After a couple of minutes the Security Guard came walking down the hallway and straight into the office with, the Woman with the Clipboard. I got up immediately and whispered to JD, “Let’s go!,” “What? Why? I just got here.,” JD said. “I’ll tell you when we get out of here.,” I said. Reluctantly, JD got up and started to follow me. We got about 20 feet when I heard the Woman with the Clipboard shout, “Tony!” JD and I stopped dead in our tracks. The gig was up, I was busted. I’m going to jail, I thought. Slowly I turned to face her. “Sylvia Fay, didn’t send you, did she Tony?,” “No.,” I said weakly. “I’m sorry then, I’m afraid we’re not going to be able to use you after all.,” she said. “I know… Sorry,” I said as I turned and started to walk off. “Daddy’O… What just happened?,” JD asked. Just then Dabney passed us and said, “Tony, did you get something to eat?” “No, I’m good…” I said. After he was out of sight, JD said, “Hey Daddy’O… Isn’t that….” “I don’t want to talk about it I said and we left. As I left I found out the movie was going to be called, TOOTSIE. It would star one of my favorite all time actors, Dustin Hoffman. It would take me many more years before I would finally get my SAG card.