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You Think You're So Special
By Dana Gould

I believe that every living person is not special in his or her own way. Especially me. Not that that in any way sets me apart. I admit I may be wrong, but I do know that most of the big disappointments in my life can be traced back to the belief that, at the time, I was somehow entitled to more.

This dangerous perspective is easy to cultivate and maintain if you make your living in the entertainment industry. Show business is full of people who are fed the belief that they were put on this earth to grace the rest of us with their very being. People who, in the words of my father, "think they shit vanilla ice cream out a platinum asshole."

But you can't blame them, for they are fed these thoughts. Agents, mangers, and especially publicists stake their livelihoods on convincing "the talent" that their dumper is a Dairy Queen.

Why? Well, how else are you going to convince people to stay in the business? Show biz needs bodies, and if you told struggling actors they were merely practitioners of an honorable craft, playing long odds for success against an uncaring industry, many would wise up and bolt like ponies.

If, however, they were told they were Chosen -- fated and deserving an extraordinary, glamorous existence once just the right team of agent- manager- publicist- stylist- trainers have cleared the objects blocking Destiny's Path -- "and in the meantime, here's this month's invoice, Caleb. Great job on the audition for Treachery Cove."

I speak from shameful and gullible experience. Years ago, in a sepia-toned time called "the early '90s," I was hot, hot, hot.

I was to be a TV star. Why? Because I was a comedian. Back then, in the days of Jerry and Roseanne and the guy from Home Improvement, comedians automatically became TV stars. That, at least, was the belief at Team Gould, and though my canyon-deep self-loathing prevented me from seeing it too, too clearly, I didn't argue that much, did I?

Many reasonable offers came my way: auditions for this, a bit part in that, two or three lines here or there, but Team Gould always scoffed. After all, I was special, so what kind of career plan is that? Slowly accumulate a body of work and experience? Learn one's craft by doing? Run the risk of failure? Try?

The sales pitch on me was that I was the next Robin Williams, and so I should not accept any offer that fell short of that expectation. The few times I overruled my handlers and actually took a job resulted in a limited body of work now known as My Complete Resume.

In retrospect, it seemed a three-day plan. On Monday, the phone would mysteriously ring. On Tuesday, I would become an overnight, global superstar. On Wednesday, my job on Earth fulfilled, I would evolve into pure energy.

Well I'm still here, and the taste, like a leaky "D" battery dabbed on the tongue, remains. It's why I can no longer read a Vanity Fair profile. Whenever they imbue a burgeoning celebrity's simple actions with Great Meaning ("Brittany Murphy orders a turkey burger. She knows what she wants and is determined to get it!"), I cringe, cringe, cringe.

At the end of the day, one has to admit that most would-be megastars, the pigeons in this behavioral con game, are complicit in their deception. The life of a struggling actor is hard. Look at the daily routine. Based on my observation, it starts out at the gym on the Stairmaster, then segue's to half a protein shake before killing an empty hour watching Boomer run around the dog park. Pretty accurate depiction of their lot in life: killing themselves on stairs that lead nowhere before starving themselves on the way to a beautiful place that's actually full of shit.

And the best of luck to all of you!

Me? I got lucky. After realizing the lucrative-if-anonymous world of writing was a better use of my abilities, I canned the Team and walked off the path. Last week, I was notified that I was nominated for not one, but two Emmys. Don't look for me on the big broadcast, though. Both categories are announced off the air, the week before, at the "Creative Arts Emmys."

It's the award show for us non-special folks.

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