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The Orange, the Soap & the Actress

oranges & flowers smell better than dishwashing liquid & greasy spoons

By Marie WilsonPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 4 min read
Top Story - May 2024
Mae West

I let the peel fall to the dusty black floor. “It was a queer sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs,” I began.

The scent from my orange started to fill the room. As I pulled back its peel I gathered steam: “I thought it must be the worst thing in the whole world, being burned alive all along your nerves.”

My monologue was from the novel The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath’s alter ego, Esther Greenwood, reminisces about her experiences in New York City when she was 19 years old. I was the same age.

Original Cover with Plath's pen name

If directors saw me around town in cafes and bars they were likely to comment approvingly on my audition for them, giving special mention to the orange. The orange became my sidekick. I became known for it. My co-star fruit was my signature, like Michael Caine’s glasses or Mae West's curves.

Michael Caine

I was worried that one day someone would hire my orange but not me. The citrus, they'd say, has talent but not her peeler. Then, I would become my orange’s manager. I’d have to give her a name and negotiate contracts, perks in the dressing room, like a fruit basket... Wait, not that.

By Mae Mu on Unsplash

And then, one day I got a callback. An inside source told me that the director seriously liked me (no mention of my sidekick). So I went orange-less to the second audition, following which I had to call the theatre every day because I didn't have a phone. It took a few weeks and then finally the director told me they went with "a more experienced actress". It made sense. I had zero experience.

I also had no experience waiting tables but I got that job.

When the news came that I didn't get the part, I felt deflated. No part and also working in a hellhole. Then, I got fired. Maybe because I'd used the resto's phone every day to call the theatre, but more likely because I was a lousy waitress who really didn't know what she was doing.

During my short time there, a customer told me: “You’re the worst waitress I ever had.”

“That’s because I’m not a waitress."

"Oh, what are you then?"

"I’m an actress.”

He smiled and left me a big tip.

Joan Crawford & Could-be-Me pretending to be waitresses.

But I kept at it - auditioning, not waitressing. For money, I decided to sell flowers on the street - way more enjoyable than serving food to demanding customers. Whenever I wanted or needed to work I’d head to the flower warehouse on Queen East. A little troop of us vendors got into the back of the truck along with the flowers. It smelled like heaven in there.

Each merchant was dropped off somewhere in Toronto's downtown core with a bunch of posies. I never made much money (my cut was 30%) but I met interesting people - a lot of kind and caring people. And I was outdoors. The flowers were fresh and free for the smelling (which I did often). Also, I could read on the job.

Photo by Aaron Schwartz

I kept auditioning, finally landing a part in an avant garde romp with a cast of twelve or so. Paying fifty bucks a week, it claimed to be an exploration of communication: video monitors were scattered around the stage, cameras roved among us players, songs and text and moves were both improvised and rehearsed.

We invited the audience to participate, which never happened - until one night, while singing a song, I saw out of the corner of my eye two audience members get onto the stage. I glanced over and saw a rakish-looking young man wandering aimlessly throughout the cast members, looking scared.

His partner had something in her hand. As she lifted it up I saw that it was a bottle of dishwashing liquid. She began speaking to the audience, performing a current commercial for a popular soap.

Finishing her preamble she began squirting the liquid on my fellow cast members who were engaged in various activities. I took this as a personal affront and went to defend my thespian cohorts. Thanks to my athletic blood and dancerly proclivities I was able to kick high enough to send the bottle out of her hand.

It went flying across the stage. There was a tangle of limbs as the woman started to fight with me. My director got into the middle of it and told me to get back into the show, which I did, as the couple was escorted out of the theatre.

The Iron Giant

Later, I learned that the bloke with the frightened eyes was young upstart Des McAnuf. Some said he was on acid, some said he was just an asshole, some said he was an asshole on acid. Lore had it that he and his Palmolive squeeze went around doing this sort of things to shows they didn’t like.

For years afterwards when I’d hear his name or see it in some credits I’d think of dishwashing liquid. But then, many years later, when I had kids and we all fell in love with The Iron Giant, a film McAnuf produced, I forgave him completely. I washed my hands of all ill-will regarding the soapy theatrics of my first professional show.

*

Thanks for reading!

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About the Creator

Marie Wilson

Harper Collins published my novel "The Gorgeous Girls". My feature film screenplay "Sideshow Bandit" has won several awards at film festivals. I have a new feature film screenplay called "A Girl Like I" and it's looking for a producer.

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Comments (17)

  • Davina Zinn McKee18 days ago

    ‘During my short time there, a customer told me: “You’re the worst waitress I ever had.” “That’s because I’m not a waitress." "Oh, what are you then?" "I’m an actress.” He smiled and left me a big tip.’ OMG I loved this part. It feels so serendipitous to read. Now whenever I’m not particularly good at something, I’ll think it’s because I’m amazing at something else, which I should be focused on. ‘Some said he was on acid, some said he was just an asshole, some said he was an asshole on acid.’ 🤣 Too funny.

  • Marc Johnson about a month ago

    Intresting post

  • Daniel Mozayaabout a month ago

    It's a testament to the power of advertising and the innocence of childhood belief. Your nostalgia for those simpler times brings a warm smile to your face, reminding you of the joy and wonder of being a child.

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Andy Pottsabout a month ago

    Congrats on the top story. Enjoyed reading that. But yeah, I can relate to feeling more like the peeler than the fruit!

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Nice work. Congratulations.

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    I remember that Palmolive claim from a commercial when I was a kid. Makes me wonder if it was ever proven. I definitely believed it as a kid, lol. Great story/memory, Marie. Thank you for sharing.

  • Caroline Janeabout a month ago

    Great story! Thoroughly enjoyed this.

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Perfect!

  • Oneg In The Arcticabout a month ago

    This was a really fun read, so whimsical yet revealing. There’s charm in this.

  • Rachel Robbinsabout a month ago

    Wonderful!

  • This is a delightfully amusing tale… especially liked ‘ I was worried that one day someone would hire my orange but not me. The citrus, they'd say, has talent but not her peeler. Then, I would become my orange’s manager. I’d have to give her a name and negotiate contracts, perks in the dressing room, like a fruit basket...’🤣 So imaginative ✅

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    “Mahvelous, Darlin’” - loved this story. What an experience. Kick high!! 💕

  • The Iron Giant is my Spouse's favorite movie! Thanks for sharing this craziness, Marie! I couldn't even imagine what this would be like!

  • Aaron Schwartzabout a month ago

    Ah, showbiz.

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    I'm glad they didn't choose the orange over you. I would love to see that high kick. Made me laugh as usual!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Loved it!!! ❤️❤️💕

Marie WilsonWritten by Marie Wilson

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