Julia Jean Turner was absent from typing class on the day she became a legend. She was on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and McCadden Place instead, ordering a soda from an employee of the Top Hat Cafe. After putting a few coins in his hand as payment, she rested on a burgundy-colored velour cushion at the Formica counter and daydreamed about ideas other than F,D, S, A, J,K,L,;. Soon, she would be joined at the counter by William Wickerson, the Hollywood Reporter publisher who would stop in for a soda of his own after seeing her magnificent visage while walking past. They would talk, and the interaction would change Julia’s life forever.
These occurrences are rare, but they exist. Lives can change the moment two people pass each other in the city street and say Hello. They can alter the second one recognizes a phone number and answers it with a madly beating heart. They can evolve at any time, transforming any young truant sitting at a counter from a “Julia Jean Turner” into a “Lana Turner.” Chance is the key.
It was near midafternoon on that warm spring day in the twilight of my tenure at a reputable steakhouse on Paxton Road in Cincinnati, Ohio, when Destiny sat at a table under my jurisdiction. Two fair-haired women were conducting business. As I walked by to check on how they were progressing, I noticed a number of black and white pictures of actors pushed just beyond the lips of their salad plates.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” I interrupted,” would you mind telling me who took those pictures?”
One of my diners gently swung her judicious eye my way, sizing me up. She then architected a moment not unlike the fateful scene between Julia Jean and Mr. Wickerson.
“Are you an actor?” she inquired.
Acting had not been my focus for a number of years. After graduating with a BA in the field, I had foundered when I first ventured into it after college, too intimidated by Chicago’s competitive field. Still, I felt compelled to answer affirmatively, and she smiled, extending her right hand.
“My name is Brooke, and I’m a casting director here in Cincinnati. You have a great look.” She then retracted her hand and reached into her black purse for a blue business card. ” Here’s my card. There is an agency in town called H—- that I’d like for you to get in touch with. I’ll make the call today to let them know who you are.”
I called the moment my apron was untied, and my life turned a corner. Before long, I was auditioning for Cincinnati industrials and plays, and eventually left the Queen City altogether.
Reflecting on this fated moment years later while looking out of the dusty window of an actors’ touring van, I concluded that Destiny’s tender touch does indeed exist, provided one is patient and faithful enough to wait. It cannot be experienced as one pokes at the Home Keys, though, living day to day expectantly. Rather, it can be felt only in those extraordinarily rare moments when our pinkies reach into the corners of our lives, minding our “P”‘s and “Q”‘s.