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Reflections

'They'd never heard anybody read about mayonnaise like that.'

September 16, 1986|PERRY C. RIDDLE

Krisha Fairchild is getting out of Los Angeles to get into acting. She was a star performer in her Ohio high school and college and at the Goodman Theatre School in Chicago. But, since moving west 10 years ago, she has had many jobs but few roles. Fairchild lives in Sherman Oaks.

I would have stayed with the acting scene in Chicago forever, but I think it was the winter that got me. I got a job with an independent production company that had come there to shoot a feature film. They hired me as production secretary, assistant to the producer, with no experience. I did a cameo in the film. When the film was over, they said, "Come back to the West Coast with us. You can work on the post-production, and the cameo in the film won't hurt you."

So I came here, very naive and very trusting, very much the little fish in the big pond. Working behind the scenes for the producer and for the movers and shakers in the industry was fatal to anyone who wants to be an actor. You begin to see how little the actors matter out here in the whole scheme of things. A star matters, but until you can become a star, you're a dime a thousand.

In the first year I was here, I went to every principal interview, cattle calls. I was never asked to read a line.

I finally said, "OK, nobody's going to give me a chance to act here, so let's make some money," so I went to a commercial agent. They gave me some copy about mayonnaise. I knocked their socks off. They'd never heard anybody read about mayonnaise like that. "You're wonderful, we want to talk it over, we want to think about you, call us tomorrow." The next day when I called, they told me that, although they knew that I was very talented and could really sell mayonnaise, I wasn't pretty enough to be a pretty girl on commercials, and I wasn't ugly or plain enough to be a plain girl on commercials. I really was a spokeswoman. But I wasn't old enough to be a spokeswoman. It was around that time that I said, "I think I ought to find something else to do."

I worked as a cocktail waitress for a while, and a hostess and assistant manager. Nine times out of 10, the people who work in restaurants want to do something else. They either never get out of the trap of the life style or they never get the break that brings them out of it. I saw this happening to me, and I said, "Nope, nope, nope."

So I did something very foolish that I thought at the time was a good idea. I went to school to get my real estate license. I had this image of people moving here from other parts of the country, and I would help them. I thought I was going to be a humanistic real estate agent, which is a complete contradiction in terms, of course. I found a nice ma-and-pa real estate company. I thought, "I'm going to fit right in here." The people all seemed to be nice.

This all happened when the bottom fell out of the market and interest rates were skyrocketing. Even the ma-and-pa people started getting cutthroat. I learned the major thing in real estate is close the deal, no matter what. It was a very big lesson in real life, a la Los Angeles.

There I was, disillusioned, what am I going to do? A friend of mine told me about a celebrity and his wife who had just moved here from New York and wanted someone to keep their lives organized. I interviewed for it and was hired for a nice salary, and it was a very stimulating job. When they moved back to New York, I got an excellent job working with a celebrity on a book she was doing about her family, a very challenging project with a lot going on. Now that project is finished, and I'm ready to move on.

I'm 35 now, and I have enough crow's-feet that I'm ready to go back into acting. I think people will accept me as a character actress. I'm not willing to try to make it in this industry the way it is run in this city. I'd rather go to a smaller place where theater is respected for itself. So it's off to Seattle, even though the weather is supposed to be horrible. I want to be where I can afford to live in a place with trees and a fireplace and dogs and a high quality of life without having to kill myself to attain it.

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