When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you ...
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true ... Jiminy Cricket
I was a homely child, which is why I was a serious dreamer growing up. My wholesome dreams began the minute I heard that precious little Jiminy Cricket sing "When You Wish Upon a Star" in the animated film Pinocchio when I was six years old. I believed anything would come true for me if I just dreamed that it would happen. My first test dream did come true. I dreamed the cutest boy in my first-grade class would kiss me on the cheek, and on the last day of school it finally happened. His lips landed on my cheek when he accidently fell off the monkey bars.
That same year I decided I wanted to grow up to be Natalie Wood. She was such a beautiful movie star, and throughout my adolescence I used to dream about being in the movies even though I was not a beauty. I was encouraged by the Ugly Duckling story. If some ugly little duck could grow up to become a beautiful swan later in life, why couldn't it happen to me?
It didn't happen ... even though I had very pretty elbows.
Instead of growing up to be a swan, I ended up transitioning into a Hermit Thrush. Hollywood wasn't interested. Not that I ever showed up there to find out, but I just knew. Actresses back in the day were bona fide Movie Stars -- and they were all gorgeous swans: Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Ava Gardner, Vivien Leigh ... of course there was Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, but how many of those parts come along in a lifetime?
As I became a young adult, starting to bear children, I figured my migration to Hollywood to become a movie star was flatlining. Leaving my two children behind with my first husband was just not an option. I couldn't leave my babies with a man who had the parenting skills of a gigolo so I gravitated to my next big dream: writing sitcoms. We all know our own unique talents, and I knew I had the talent to write sitcoms, and how hard could it be to get a writing job in tinsel town? Sitcoms were funny, I could write funny dialog ... perfect.
By the time I decided to seriously pursue the sitcom-writing line of work, I had divorced my first dream buster (traded in hubby number one -- Ed Sell -- for what was behind dream door number two -- Lance A. Lot -- and remarried). I was living on the East Coast but I could write at home, send my scripts to the producers, how simple was that? Hollywood was always moaning about not having enough good writers. Piece of cake.
My first target was Happy Days. Wrote the spec script, mailed it to one of the staff writers who sent it back saying he couldn't legally look at it if I didn't have an agent. But how do I find an agent? He wasn't telling. I hate rejection. I hate when people don't help you. It's easier to find a goldfish in the middle of an ocean than it is to find a mentor in Hollywood. Getting my script returned to me in the mail, gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach ... the kind of feeling you get when prom comes around in high school and nobody asks you because you have bird legs. There is beauty within and talent within! Why can't teenage people and Hollywood people see that?
Living near Washington, D.C., I decided to get a temp job at NBC to get in the door so I could call an agent in New York and show a little clout because I was working for a major network. If you cold-call a high-profile agent, and when the assistant says, "Who may I say is calling?" it's much easier to get through if you say, "It's Pat Gallagher calling from NBC," than to say, "It's Pat Gallagher calling from my living room." It wasn't a lie, I was working at NBC, although as a go-fer, but a job is a job. That Peacock was my ticket.
Got through, sent this nice young junior agent at the William Morris Agency in New York City some of my sitcom spec scripts (three of which were finalists three years in a row in the NBC Employee Writing Contest back in the mid '80s). The junior agent actually called me to say my scripts made him laugh out loud, and he wanted to help me. The scripts were one Cosby Show spec script, a two-part Cheers spec script, a Golden Girls spec script and a Family Ties spec script. Bingo, I was on my way. I was going to make the world laugh out loud.
Not so fast! (Disclaimer: I borrowed that phrase from the great Lee Corso of ESPN's College Game Day.)
A year later, the junior agent calls me and says he can no longer represent me because I wasn't willing to move to Los Angeles (I had four small children ... not going to happen). He tells me, "If you want to build cars, you move to Detroit. If you want to write sitcom scripts, you move to Los Angeles. Producers want you to come across town for a meeting, not across the country."
I believe I was the first person to say 'Bite Me' out loud.
Sitcom dream, up in flames ... very disappointing, Mr. Jiminy Cricket (although I'm still moved to tears when I hear you sing the song).
Being a dreamer at heart, my current dream (besides wanting to be George Clooney's house sitter -- my back-up dream) is to go to work for Ellen DeGeneres. She doesn't need me but would it kill her to be my dream catcher? My kids are all grown and out of the house now so I'm mobile. I can go to L.A. The problem is, Ellen is the funniest woman alive so she doesn't need to pull someone in off the bench three thousand miles away. And I'm guessing she won't let me move into her spare bedroom either.
I may never grow up, and I'll never stop dreaming. I'll be wishing upon a star until I take my last breath (hopefully when I turn 115). The baby-boomer generation is full of dreamers. I'm convinced that one day Peter Pan will show up at my window and throw some fairy dust all over me. And I'll fly into a brick wall.