By JC Sullivan
February 21st, 2013
I attended an East Coast college in the late 1980s, and upon graduation, my friends quickly broke into two categories: those who had the well-paying jobs in investment banking, and those who did not. Unfortunately, I fell into the latter category, and I grew tired of people asking me what I would do after graduation. I didn’t know.
This was during the era of uber-successful Van Halen, who had more Billboard Hot 100 hits than any other hard rock or heavy metal band. I recall feeling like lead singer David Lee Roth sang directly at me, “Go ahead and jump!”—daring me to take a huge gamble, be a risk taker after graduation.
I swore that the next time some nimrod asked me the post-college question, I’d retort with the spunky, “Be in good-enough shape to be in a David Lee Roth video.” During the big-hair decade, Van Halen videos showed an unending stream of buxom, long-legged blondes frolicking with the band. I wanted to be one of them.
Instead, jobless (I now prefer the term jobfree), I moved back to live with my parents, until one of my best friends in L.A. rescued me. “Great news!” she said. “David Lee Roth is holding open auditions for his new movie, Crazy From the Heat.” I found myself committing to buying a ticket and moving to Los Angeles, a city that had captivated me ever since I first saw a palm tree. I was going to jump!
Never having been to an audition before, I did not know that an “open casting call” meant that anyone who had ever harbored a secret desire to be in the movies would show up. The line to the stage door snaked for blocks and blocks. Drivers passing by strained for a closer peek at sexy hopefuls rehearsing their gyrations. Some snorted cocaine while others around me slugged tequila out of brown paper bags. Deep down, everyone was convinced that they were about to be discovered by Van Halen at the height of their fame.
My friends and I were a Charlie’s Angels type of crew: Stacy was the leggy blonde, Heidi was an attractive Korean, and I was the one with Irish skin and copper hair. The three of us stood out—we were the only ones fully clothed.
The weather was disgustingly hot. Hours passed. My annoyance grew. What had started out as a cool idea was now feeling ridiculous. Just as we were about to give up and leave, a woman with a clipboard, who looked tired but very official, squealed, “You three are amazing! Please just promise me you won’t take off your clothes.” There was little chance of that. My sweats hid all my cellulite and I was comfortable—as comfortable as I could be at my very first Hollywood audition.
All participants were given one minute to “do what you do best.” The woman who had picked us out encouraged us, “Go get ’em! You’re great!” We headed toward the stage. My eyes blinked as they adjusted to the dark inside. There, smack dab in the middle of the judges, was David Lee Roth. He took one look at our atypical, fully clothed group and said, “Welcome, ladies. Music, please!”
My friends both turned to me. In an odd parody of a precise cheerleading drill, I squawked out, “One, two, three!” and we all broke into calisthenics. David couldn’t believe his tired-of-hookers-and-strippers eyes and howled with laughter. We hammed it up and kept going. The music stopped.
“No, let them go another minute. This is genius!” he ordered the DJ.
We kept going. He kept laughing. We strutted off the stage with utter confidence. We amateurs knew something after all.
Outside, a platinum blonde saw us and broke down in tears. “I have been working on routines my whole life.” Sobbing, she had to know, “What on Earth did you guys do? He let you have a … whole … other … minute!”
I divulged our secret. “Calisthenics.”
She didn’t know what the word meant.
“Exercises. Squat thrusts. Jumping jacks. He thought we were funny and needed a break from hours of pole-dancing perfection.” I hugged her and discovered her body was not 100 percent hers.
“Oh.” She stopped crying.
We left, knowing we’d accomplished something.
The movie never got made, but whenever any of Van Halen’s music plays I can’t help but recall our Crazy From the Heat experience. I do not have the financial wealth of my friends who took that investment-banking path, but for those special two minutes, I helped make David Lee Roth laugh, and to this day, that still makes me smile.
Go ahead and jump!
About JC Sullivan: After discovering a secret “reset” button, JC Sullivan is happily reliving her 20s, confident that she’s doing a better job this time around. Having fled the cubicle, she now takes odd jobs, couchsurfs, and barters to backpack the world. She’s been to over 120 countries and every continent. She has a bilingual blog at backpackingpoet.com.
Film Personal Essay Winter 2013: Classic Hollywood