Prior to moving to New York City in 1986 to pursue a career in acting, I spent five years in the Delaware Valley area, including Philadelphia, making the most of my three college degrees - a B.A. in Theater (Performance), a B.A. in English with a minor in Irish literature, and a minor in Speech. I had been doing exceptionally well as an artist-in-residence in various schools teaching writing and poetry, taught high school acting classes, Irish history and literature and since I had managed to win a few acting awards in between all that, I was heading off to New York to pursue it big-time. To me at the time, the success in writing (I wrote for several Philadelphia periodicals for several years) had been an accident. But somehow what I wrote always managed to spark anger or love from people (it was never in between) and winding up on regional TV and radio talk shows and panel discussions enhanced my reputation. I was signing autographs. I had people who would drive great distances wherever I was speaking. My self-abbreviated career in journalism had already seeded in me the notion that being famous was not all that it was cracked up to be. I had a stalker. I had weird fans. I got fan mail and some hate mail from those who didn't like what I wrote in my political column. At first it was quite an ego trip but pretty quickly it got old. I stopped having my photo accompany my column in the Irish Edition and then spent a great deal of time stopping people from lifting my material and republishing it elsewhere without my permission. But still, being a famous actor was what I had always dreamed of since I was the hit of the Anna P. Mote Elementary School Fall Class Presentation. Succeeding awards in college didn't quell the dream.
But meeting real big time actors and folks in the business did change my mind over time.
I wanted to take acting classes in New York from one of the renown acting schools in the city. I studied a semester or two with acting teachers who were only famous as acting teachers. A friend talked me into thinking about taking Shelly Winters acting class. Ms. Winters passed away today hence why I thought about all this. I certainly knew of her; my favorite memory at that time was watching Ms. Winters and Orson Welles have a go at each other on an afternoon talk show. They did not like each other. So my friend pulled some strings that allowed me to audit her class twice to get a feel for it and her "style." She was charming enough to meet and briefly talk to but the acting class was all about being Shelly Winters. She was a devotee of the Acting Studio, a method of acting preparation I thought (and still think) to be largely idiotic. I audited two of the classes, did a monologue, she commented on my stage presence and went on about experiences of hers. This sort of acting teacher does appeal to many acting students but not to me. If I am up there performing for the teacher, I want feedback - good, bad or indifferent. So I did not sign up for the class. She was great to listen to but I felt I could just buy the book rather than pay a lot of money for the honor of hearing it in person and getting squat done with my own method.
She was definitely a most entertaining lady. She wrote several autobiographies that offer plenty of dish and character you could check out at amazon.com or maybe at your library. If you love showbiz, these books are not to be missed.