Living that L.A. Life: An Actor’s Tale

This happened in 2008. One of my dreams is to write a memoir, so from time to time, I’ll be sharing stories with you. Check out this post, to read more about my move to L.A.

Living that L.A. Life: An actor's tale  of blood blisters and kind strangers.

The plan was simple. I’d move to L.A. and save money by not having a car. Coming from a Midwestern town with decent public transportation, I assumed that a metropolis like Los Angeles would have very good public transportation. Ha.

It was only a few days after working on the set of E.R. that I got my chance to work on my first movie, which was filming in a shipyard about an hour away – by car that is.

The day of filming arrived, and I left my apartment like an intrepid explorer off to make her fortune. The first bus stop was easy to find, but when I got off in the middle of downtown L.A., I was clueless. Aimlessly wandering the streets, I could not find the metro. I would probably still be wandering those streets today if some homeless men had not taken pity on me and pointed me in the right direction.

The metro found, I road it to my next bus stop, where I waited an hour for it to come. Businessmen came and went while I did my best to act like I belonged in the jungle of office buildings and was not in fact a penniless actor waiting for a bus.

The bus finally came, ushering me closer to my life of fame and fortune – but not close enough. Dropped off a mile from set, I proceeded to walk the rest of the way. Now would probably be good time to talk about what I was wearing, specifically footwear.

I’d lusted after a pair of Frye cowboy boots for quite some time, so when I discovered a pair at a ridiculously low price, I snapped them up. Needing confidence, I decided they were the perfect shoes for my movie debut. Of course, I hadn’t broken them in yet, and my feet, which were hurting as I walked to the first bus stop, were now screaming with every step I took. These boots were not made for walking.

No extra has ever been happier to see the tents and Star Waggons of a movie set. I can’t remember if it took me four or six hours to get to set, but after three, who’s counting? I was a hot mess and filming hadn’t even started yet.

Now sporting a blood blister the size of a quarter, I gratefully took a seat in the extras holding trailer and collapsed. Or, I would have collapsed, but there were so many things to see and people to talk to. Background actors are like their own band of brothers, and newbies are quickly brought into the fold. I was given all sorts of advice about Kabbalah and pepper spray and why I should stay far away from the Scientologists.

And, while I was talking to my new friends, mostly middle age men dressed as sailors, it came out that I had traveled to set by bus. Even though I was dreading the journey in reverse, I was still planning on going home that way. The “only” problem was that the buses stopped around midnight and filming would not be over by then.

I was offered a ride home by a man who seemed nice enough.

I hesitated. I questioned.

Is this how those fledgling actresses ended up on milk cartons and missing persons posters? Do they even still put missing persons on milk cartons? Is the alternative, sleeping in a shipyard, safe by anyone’s stretch of imagination?

I accepted the ride.

And, I am happy to report that he was not a rapist, murder, or kidnapper. At least that I know of.

He became my ride for the next day, too, since we were both booked for a two day shoot. And, while his name has long since slipped my memory, his was a friendly face I saw many times on many other sets.

I’m not sure if this is the tale of a naive actress or the story of the kindness of strangers.

What I do know is that wise-me-that-I-am-now looks back on wide-eyed-me-that-I-was-then and thinks, “How did you not die?”

Life has a funny way of working out. Like the intrepid explorer I imagined myself to be, I discovered things I didn’t even know I was looking for. I’d found a magical land called Hollywood, and for the moment, I was home.

P.S. This story in no way endorses getting in cars with strangers. Readers are advised to not be like me.

P.P.S. I did eventually get a car.

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  1. I’ve been waiting for more. THANK YOU!!
    The other day ago my husband and I were talking about stupid stuff we did when we were younger, it makes me shiver, I don’t want my kids to do some of the things we did.

    Thankfully, that man ended up being a chivalrous gentleman. 🙂

  2. Oh goodness! LOL! I think I would have desperately taken the ride, too! Unless I could have called a cab… but, I guess now there is Uber! My husband just used uber when we was in Denver this week for business. I am glad it turned out to be a nice man and isn’t it funny what we do when we are young and just starting out?


  3. What an interestingly tale and look back at that time in your life and budding film industry career. Thank goodness that this tale had a happy ending for you. I too have often looked back at potentially (or full on) close calls and counted my lucky stars, all the while wondering how many other encounters I’ve had that I might not known were as risky as they actually were. Perhaps in that instance, something ignorance really is bliss.

    ♥ Jessica

  4. It’s a good story!
    It reminds me of when I lived in SF and worked at Trader Joe’s. I could walk home, but it was really cold and windy one night. We only had one car and we either had a great parking spot already (you know how it is in major cities) or maybe Cassidy was out with it. So I went out to find a cab and a minivan stopped and offered me a ride, telling me he was a cab. I said I had no money and he said he didn’t care. For some odd reason, I went with him. He was playing Grateful Dead, so I figured no murderer would play the Dead.
    I survived! I wish I could have paid him, or found him again.

  5. Nice anecdote. It’s reasonable to expect big urban cities to have good mass transit. Most (like NYC) do. But LA is a prominent exception. Everyone I know who’s moved there says a car is essential. I like how you create tension in your story by describing the mental calculation you made about accepting a ride from a stranger. That rings so true. In the beginning of our careers and lives, we make those kinds of choices and worry about the risks.

  6. Fun story! I have several moments from my youth that I look back on and think “how did I not die?” ? I look forward to reading more

  7. LOL – love this series of posts. It was different back then and I think we were all more trusting. Nowadays scary stories travel like wildfire via internet making us more cautious.

  8. LA’s lack of public transportation really, really astounds me. That said, it is kind of funny about the whole getting in cars with strangers thing since we know have Uber and the like which is basically getting into cars with strangers. Strangers who have profiles and stuff, so, safer I suppose but still.