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Wow, this takes me back. Not because of Stand By Me but because of Richard Dreyfuss' comment about The Hollywood Monster. You and I are the same age, I think, so back in the early 90's, I was at University of Houston as a theatre student, and you probably well remember what Hollywood was like then. I aspired like crazy to get there myself. At the time, I would have done damn near anything to have your life. We had among us there in our School of Theatre a bright light named Michael Merrick. He was truly gifted, and we all watched him work as though we were lucky enough to have been studying Brando from ten feet away. He was beautiful and intelligent, well-spoken and a surprisingly nice guy. We all hated him as much as we loved him. :) The inevitable eventually happened. Hollywood called, and Michael went. We were thrilled. One of our own, one of our best, in a feature film with names that people on the street actually recognized. I don't remember what it was now. A lot of sleeps have happened since then. Time passed, we heard that filming had started, more time passed, and then about a year after he'd gone to LA, the worst news. Michael was gone, just like that, swallowed down the Monster's maw never to return. How could this have happened? We grieved and speculated and wondered, many of us deciding, in that way you do while you're young and still fancy yourself terribly clever and immortal, that we would have been smarter than that. But really, it could have been any of us. We all wanted what Michael wanted. Most of us were hollow inside in the same ways Michael evidently was. Most of us had no idea who we were. I stood at the crossroads once myself and felt the Monster's breath gusting up from the glittering road to Shangri-La La Land. I spent the end of the summer of 1990 in Southern California and ended up on the Paramount lot to visit Jackie Edwards with whom I had struck up a friendship the year before. I caught someone's eye while bumming around the lot near the TNG trailers and was nearly persuaded to blow off going back to Houston to start my junior year in favor of coming back to read two weeks later for a minor speaking role in a Trek episode. There was a vicious brawl on the spot among my ambition, my drive to finish my degree, and my inner fangirl. Thankfully the academian prevailed in a narrow upset, and I went home. Had I stayed, naive blank slate that I was, that place would have eaten me alive whether I had succeeded or not. Anyway, I think Michael's loss struck a mortal wound to my desire to become a professional actor. It took years for it to finally die, but I had decided that I wanted to live. Spending most of my time telling the people I most wanted to be with, "Sorry, I can't, I have rehearsal/a shoot/a call/a fitting/etc.," didn't sound like such a good plan after all. And you know the truism about needing to love acting more than air and sunlight or don't bother. I didn't love it enough anymore, and we decided to see other people. I didn't get out of the business all together, mind. I'm part of IATSE. There just turned out to be less predator-infested waters in which to satisfy my creative inclinations while I grew up and out of being easy prey. Thank you for this unexpected trigger to memory. Michael was my friend, and although my grief processed through long ago, I am still sad at the silencing of his infectious laugh, the loss of his unrehearsed kindness, and the snuffing out of his magnificent talent before it had fully bloomed. I suppose that's all a rather long way about saying I am sorry for your loss freshly realized. You have my very deepest empathy and my appreciation for the reminder of how precious life is.
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