Freudian Slips: June 2008

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

June 29, 2008

Little Miss Sunshine

Olive at 5 weeks old
The newest addition to our household is Olive. Let it be told that I have never been endearing to felines but this little kitten is growing on me exponentially.
Her mother was a stray cat who used the garage of a Voorhees home for shelter during her pregnancy. Surveying the litter, Olive acted like the only docile cat among the ragtag clutching, clawing, hissing bunch.
Our first trip to the veterinarian revealed the following: She wasn't docile, she was dying. The vet diagnosed that she had an infection, that if left untreated, would claim her life in days. Now that she has received proper medical care and has rebounded...we are waiting to see if Olive will remain Little Miss Sunshine.


June 26, 2008

Not Happening Decorum

A successful letter writing campaign enticed Cinemark Theatre to donate a movie prop from the movie The Happening to me. Nearly ten feet tall and six feet wide, the movie poster depicts an ominous scene pressed on three dimensional cardboard that came assembled in four sections with hardware.
The only place in my house that could accommodate its grandness was the open foyer. My wife kept shaking her head in disagreement to my grandiose plans of its installation in our otherwise tasteful home. I knew what she was thinking…all this for a seven second sliver as an actor in a major motion picture that reviewers rated no higher than three stars and as low as one and a half stars.
One twelve foot ladder, picture hanging parts, and handyman rigging got it up on the wall but my vain efforts did not help its permanent installation in my home. What I needed was high rising scaffolding and an interior designer to securely hang that poster. I had access and funding for neither. While I wrestled it up on the bare wall, like my scene in the movie, it was not for long. The prop was in a general state of decline from the moment I got off the ladder. When its creaking sag threatened to take out our chandelier in a fall, the gig was up.
I gave it all the props that I could but ended up removing what was not happening for me from the wall. The truth of the matter is that I was still making a scene but I could not hold this movie up…no matter how hard I tried. It just wasn't happening.


June 22, 2008

Wheel of Fortune

I slowed my car to say hello to an actor standing in the snaking line for an audition for Transformers 2. A few thousand people strong stood in single file waiting their turn to bat eyelashes or wow with a fabulous headshot. I tooted my horn and waved to a few more actors that I recognized in the line. My car moved forward enroute to becoming the caboose of this gathering crowd.
About a thousand actor’s through the line my eyes caught familiarity standing together in that line. I pulled my car over curbside to say hello to the group of actors that I closely identify with. Five of the six actors I knew very well and considered friends. With my windows down and my car idling curbside, I engaged them in energetic greeting. As my first name was being called and congratulations given for my appearance in the trailer of The Happening, I felt an intregal part of their fraternity. After a few seconds of banter, I drove off leaving the stranger amongst the group to ask, “Who the hell was that?’
One of my friends challenged, “You don’t know Joseph Tornatore?”
“Nah. Should I?”
“Yes, He’s the actor everyone on the set says looks like….”
Their voices trailed away at this point so much so that I had to listen hard at what was about to be said. I axed my car radio and pinned my ear to the grindstone. I wondered who in glorious Tinsletown do I resemble? What actor do I look like so much so that word has spread amongst other actors? The time between like and the actor’s name that followed seemed like a cruel eternity. I may have been even holding my breath.
“He’s the actor everyone on the set says looks like….Pat Sajak.”
That is when the wheel of fortune came off the bus.


June 16, 2008

What is in a Name

By the last day of elementary school, she had been teased so many times by her classmates that if she could accurately count there was cruelty embedded from the first to the last tally. The mildly mentally retarded girl said very little during school hours and her classmates liked it that way. She was timid, unsophisticated, and scholastically challenged. She attracted no friends and her loneliness undoubtably contributed to devaluing herself as a human being. I knew that there was something wrong with her but I did not know what. It was before I had an understanding of what developmental disability truly meant.
On the last day of school, she seized the attention of the class after her teacher called her name. It was an oridinary thing, the teacher calling her name and her not answering. So nobody expected a response from her. In a stern manner unbecoming of her docile nature, she voiced objection.
"My name is not Lorella. I do not care if it is the last day of school, you have been calling me Lorella all year. I forget to cross my t's, my name is Loretta."
Under these strange circumstances is how the class learned her name. One of the first things I learned about disability came by Loretta, hear her roar. I think of Loretta about this time every year as local school's begin to pile out in favor of summer vacation. Funny, what you can learn in a name.


June 13, 2008

All Aboard The Happening

- Joseph Tornatore as J. Dropik.
M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening opened up nationwide in theatres today. Not to be confused with HBO's Entourage TV show produced by Mark Wahlberg, I took my entourage to the movie premier starring Mark Wahlberg. All four signature members of my entourage, including my wife, agree that I am recognizeable in close-up as a train conductor for about 7 seconds opposite lead actor Mark Wahlberg.
My wife apparently thought my acting was to die for when she said, "I wish you were one of the ones to die." It is hard to please everyone. Sometimes I pretend.


June 10, 2008

Driving the DMV Pilot

The DMV Pilot is about a mismanaged state agency that has an insanely familiar ring to it for me personally. Acting in this pilot episode reminded me of the offbeat humor in the long running comedy Night Court. There have been MVP rumors that the DMV humors may be picked up by Comcast. The production company sent me links to outtakes now appearing on You Tube.

This link is to the show intro for the sitcom and how it will open every week. I'm wearing an unpolitically correct American Flag shirt and appear at four blurbs at 6, 13, 18, and 48 seconds. At 48 seconds you can see me first in line at the Division of Motor Vehicles wearing a perturb face. This old lady acting in a Where's the Beef vein was a hoot. I had a difficult time keeping a straight face during the shoot and not watching her antics. I can be seen next to her at 35-40 seconds in line 1 as person 2. I'm all over this one if you look and listen intently. I'm hoisting a girl up to the side window at 5 seconds. I actually have a line in this one at 12-13 seconds grumbling on camera with arms folded "What's wrong with this place?" At 54 seconds you can hear and see me say, "People deserve to have service!" The outtake ends with me going postal in the front of the motor vehicle line while screaming "No way! Ugh!" They separated my voice from the acting, which is really cool dubbing.
If anyone wishes to leave comments on You Tube about the tremendously talented, iron-lunged background actor mistaken a flag for a shirt...please do. Enjoy!


June 08, 2008

A Better Mousetrap

When it comes to technological advances, what comes out of the scientific community no longer surprises me because the world is operating beyond my expectations and understanding. Coming out of the shower, however, a recent news broadcast caught me with my pants down. I watched an ingenious scientist from Wake Forest University working beyond traditional beakers and test tubes of a sterile laboratory. As I dripped dry, I marveled at this scientist’s advances in tissue, muscle, and organ regeneration in both animal studies and human samples. However, the morality of God creating man then man creating man violates some personal sanctity that I have never been able to resolve or integrate.
My television showed this white-jacketed scientist seated at a seemingly ordinary computer workstation. I thought nothing of it because practically everything is done on a computer these days and information is exchanged at such an alarming rate in what is fast becoming a world wide web of a paperless society. Get a load out of this.
The scientist revealed what was in his computer printer, what was inside the printer cartridge. He housed a single mouse cell inside the otherwise empty printer cartridge. From his computer, he was sending the genetic code for a mouse heart to that cell right through the printer. Albeit in ordinary household fashion, the printer arm repeatedly moved that cartridge over the scanner sending critical impulses of information. He touted success being able to grow an entire mouse heart from a cellular level using nothing more than isolated DNA program code received through a Hewlett Packard printer.
While I understand that these scientific advances hold extraordinary promise for amputees and burn victims, I stared into that mouse baby crib and wanted something more from the scientific community. Until the world moves to a totally paperless society, I will blame humans for not inventing a better printer cartridge able to print more than 100 pages before shelling out $50.00 bucks for another container of black dye now suited as a better mousetrap. Besides, what will those human engineered mice harvested from a mother board and printer eat in a paperless society?


June 05, 2008

Flying The Coop

Why did the chicken cross the road? Obviously, to get to the beach.
I thought I looked pale walking the beach last month. Chicken, the other white meat, didn't exactly come out ahead. Talk about flying the coop and then getting sea salt in your wounds.


June 02, 2008

Calling It A Day

He was a brilliant man born with a briefcase in his hand and destined to be a social worker who could advocate for the disabled. Promoted to middle management late in his career, he ventured away from his forte and I think he realized this mistake one promotion too late. So he fought a losing battle to attrition's burn-out at the hands of a bureaucracy that quite possibly lost too many tenets for his good heart to embrace. Let it be told that his demise was never greatly exaggerated. Regretably, I watched the decay of this fellow worker without reaching out to him the way a friend should.

In his heyday, I admired his reliable instincts about people and human behavior. As you might imagine, these strengths aided him in performing social work so much so that many people overlooked the fact that he beat to a different drum with highly idiosyncratic ways. He thought nothing of interrupting my live work-related telephone calls to ask me non work-related trivia like the square footage of my home or the career on-base percentage of an obscure utility infielder for the 1974 Atlanta Braves whose name escaped the catacombs of his mind. In his office, he would constantly stare at the ceiling in solitary confinement for reasons unknown. I thought that his once great mind had left his body for something better to do than what he must have considered stagnate desk duty. He carved his own canoe from a fallen tree and built his own motorized go-cart out of junkyard metal. In the absence of water and off-road access, he rode his bicycle to work in the death-defying shoulder of a highly congested road. He once played soulful Taps on his bugle in the office parking lot after hours as a tribute for all of the disabled clients and staff members who died over the years. His invitation extended to nobody proving by the sound of it, if nothing else, that this was a private ceremony by a man cut from a different cloth.
Our careers had never crossed paths when rumors circulated about him considering retiring. I knew something was up when he shaved his signature beard. In my mind, one thing was missing from my career at the evening shade and five o'clock shadow of his career - he and I had never shared responsibility on a case together because he had never been my supervisor. Low and behold, there we sat next to one another for the same meeting on the same side of a contentious situation regarding one of my clients who got himself into criminal trouble.

Before the meeting commenced, I turned to him with a twinkle in my eye. “With my supervisor out for the day and you dispatched to this meeting in her stead, this means so much to me.” I outstretched my hands to the heavens. “The Gods of social work have lined up the planets to place us in the same meeting room on the same case. I feel blessed. I wanted this day to happen before your retirement and it has finally come to fruition. Let’s have a great meeting.”
I wondered whether his hearty laugh mirrored appreciation for my sentiment or if he knew something that I did not. In either case, he leaned over and my ear crinkled to hear any keen insight and advisement that he had to offer. I had longed for this moment but feared that I had got to him too late. I could hear his throat form his first syllable.

“Joe, I am going to just sit here. You do all the talking.”

While standing pat was not what I waited a career to hear, it was not a fair litmus test for someone who had nothing left in the tank. Even his trusty bicycle was running on empty. A shell of his former self who showed classic burnout symptoms, it begs speculation that he could have been an ultra private man with too much pride to admit to being beaten down ingloriously by a flawed system.
After that meeting, I never saw him again at work and ceiling tile has not looked the same without him. You see, he retired the following Monday without saying goodbye to anyone by basically calling it a day. This twist of fate still rattles me. If I could play Taps, I would have done so years ago.


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