Oscars So Nice: Reflections of a Busker



Oscar has left the building.  My neighborhood returns to relative Hollywood & Highland normal.  Before I head back out in the Vegas 90210 short shorts to protect Hollywood Boulevard from democracy and Jimmy Kimmel, I wanted to kinda sorta quickly share a few thoughts about last night’s notable Oscar’s ceremony.

Keeping it real with LAPD brother law enforcers (one of whom appeared to be the last of the male Ghostbusters) at an undisclosed location in the vicinity of the Dolby Theater.

Bear in mind, I didn’t watch the whole ceremony in a pristine private screening room devoid of distraction.  I watched in a bar.  Because it was Sunday and that’s how Jesus would screen it.  As Chris Rock commenced the 88th Academy Awards, I manfully strode in my short shorts down a Hollywood Boulevard congested with star-struck tourists eager to catch a glimpse of what Joan Rivers is no longer here to assess.  (I took up some slack – “What Are Those” VIDEO).  Late I was, en route to my viewing party at Tinhorn Flats as Lt. Frank FFIREHS of Vegas 90210, taking photos with tourists from around the world delighted to behold the theatrical menagerie of nearly every iteration of law enforcement, from security guard to Secret Service … and yours truly in rainbow tactical leg warmers.  As frequently happens in my daily life, they wanted pictures with “Lt. Dangle”.  (Even though the real Lt. Dangle clearly distinguished me as … well, you’ll see shortly.)

Mark in THR
Mark Roman of Vegas 90210, snubbed by the Academy invite list, as seen in the The Hollywood Reporter Oscars Edition.

Because I’m that guy.  The one Thomas Lennon (aka “Lt. Dangle” of Reno 911!) calmly calls “bigger”.  The one with whom Nick Swardson (aka “Terry” of Reno 911!“) recently spread the news of sweat pants and Super Bowl Champion Minnesota Vikings glory.  The one Thomas Lennon (aka Felix #5 opposite the non-Academy Oscar of The Odd Couple on CBS) screams “MARK!!!” while doing a Wassup Drive-By on Hollywood Boulevard the other week.  As seen in The Hollywood Reporter.  That guy.  The smelly background actor busker guy who never had the decency to study at UCLA or USC film schools, frequent Julliard, or embellish the Bard with the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren or Tom Hardy at The Globe (as directed by Shakespeare understudy Ben Affleck).

We’re not gay and we make absolutely no case for it.  With Greg Proops (the Buddy Holly impersonator from Whose Line Is It Anyways?), after his live recording of The Smartest Man In The World podcast at the Bar Lubitch in West Hollywood.

With all due respect to Greg Proops (whose sober assessment of the vital impact of awards shows led him to retreat to San Jose for a vodcast), here’s a few quick thoughts and reflections, inadequately informed and hastily assembled, but without the Brian Williams compensation.


VIDEO. Nuanced jazz, Chris Rock fired word picture bullets I expect to ricochet across the fruited plain.  Whatever seemed to to others to fall flat actually revealed and highlighted the very points Chris was making about race in America and what’s left to do for Hollywood to get better.  Too funny.  He killed.  As only a master comedian at the top of his game can.  Something I’m clearly not, as my freshman forays into the realm of Periscope (Mark Roman, Vegas 90210 – my handle) reveal.


VIDEO.  When one earns their living in short shorts and rainbow tactical leg warmers, it is a rare opportunity to experience a tiny taste of what women (and some men) struggle with daily: unwelcome advances, sexist taunts and hate speech … to outright criminal assault and rape.  I notice in my daily conversations with other men that most guys are criminally clueless as to what most women have to endure daily.  With “Til It Happens to You” Lady Gaga demonstrated beautifully how art can heal, inform and inspire.  We only hope more men begin to grasp the message.  Men like the several passing strangers (unfit to be labeled “gentlemen”) last night making rude remarks about what they’d like to do with body parts of the elegantly dressed ladies in my Oscars after parties group.  The struggle is pervasive, relentless and real.  Gentlemen, we need rise above our primal urges.  Or withdraw from civilization.


Speaking of which, none other than the Vice President clearly stated HOW.  Not fictional VP Selina Meyer played by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (behind whom you might notice yours truly in an upcoming episode) on HBO’s Veep.  ACTUAL Vice President Joe Biden.  A pledge is one thing.  Taking decisive action when the occasion requires is what saves lives.  It is how we all can Heroteer.


VIDEO.  I’m in it.  In one of the Vegas conventions scenes I’m the featured suit on the down escalator.  Unlike Brad Pitt with all his Hamletesque dialogue, not letting Christian Bale, Steve Carrell or Ryan Gosling get a word in edgewise, I perform.  Without. Saying. A word.  Where’s my Oscar?  I’m also a recovering mortgage broker.  Unlike the dangerously accurate portrayal of mortgage broker douche bags in the film, I charged reasonable fees and become a mostly referral only business.  (I think there’s even a nice review somewhere on Yelp from a previous client.)  I didn’t make nearly as much money as some. But I made enough to be able to see and support my son on a regular basis (unlike the last several years).  And I was never really into it.  (Banking or sales or anything that makes the film Office Space so painfully funny.  And accurate.)  So when the events portrayed in the film unfolded (I remember vividly the day New Century expired), my new found poverty liberated me from sales and enabled me to pursue my passion.  Quite a full circle: to act in an Oscar-winning film that portrays the very industry I escaped … to become a performing artist.


VIDEO.  He’s earned the title.  Well played, sir.  Respect.



VIDEO.  Quite a compelling film.  It reminded me of All the President’s Men.  I’m a former student editor.  When I refused to stop publishing my independent newspaper I was expelled from college, defamed and put on the FBI’s Subversives List.  I’m also technically Catholic, practicing agnostic and recovering from the child abuse of religion (see “Son of Elmer Gantry’s Bitch“).  So this film resonated with me in ways several and powerful. And let’s not forget that Morgan Freeman not only announced the Best Picture winner, he offered this calm assessment of #OscarsSoWhite.


I’m so happy to be back in LA (since November), living in Hollywood, pursuing my craft.  The experiences my career continue to afford me only reaffirm that I’m in the right place doing the right things at the right time.  I may never be more famous than “limited-purpose public figure” per that federal judge in the Hillsdale College defamation suit debacle.  I may never be wealthy.  I may never again return to the income the State of Washington child support bureaucrats imagine I still have from a former industry of mine that no longer exists the way it did (as portrayed in a film that only just won an Oscar and was nominated for Best Picture).  I may not be able to do much for my son these days.  He may feel quite like the daughter of Bryan Cranston’s Trumbo in that clip during the Oscars.  And only for many good reasons.  But I can pursue my passion.  I CAN give my son that.  The example.


Heroteers Saved Me, So I Heroteer to Feed 56k in LA Thanksgiving

Attempting to not only survive the Great Recession but find success and significance as a father and actor/writer, I got mad during a job interview yesterday.  I already have a part-time job telemarketing for NGO’s, after submitting 30+ resumes and job applications.  (Somehow making a difference for survivors of Super Storm Sandy feels so much better than taking a mortgage loan application for someone’s ski lodge.)  So as I interviewed by offering a sales plan that gave back to the community, I realized I was teetering between dream employee and someone who threatened egos.  The interview confirmed my suspicions based on a cursory Google search of the firm: it lives in the old paradigm of profit and banking relationships, the country club members of Caddyshack.  I anticipate an America more like Gangs of New York or Les Miserables.  I see how a business could easily avoid the branding of Bernie Madoff and instead become superhero to those attempting to secure enough income to feed, clothe, house and keep healthy their family.  I pitched ideas not far off the mark of what other Fortune 500 brands implemented years ago.  “You should be in politics” is what I heard, from a man apparently trapped in position and corporate dictates, instructed to give lip service to change, but not empowered to implement outside the current paradigm.

I have as much an appetite for politics as Mark Twain.  Promised a second interview, I left realizing I had to leverage my position for a job that might not even be appreciated.  I thought of researching the competition, perhaps playing one against the other. Why should I fight so hard for a company that clearly does not appreciate it?  How is it I have absolutely no problem taking direction on a film or TV set, but the second I enter any sales organization, I suddenly become the over-achiever, a bit too confident and creative but without the proper pedigree or mercenary results?  Perhaps because I respect directors and film?  Perhaps because I’ve worked for too many sales organizations across the fruited plain?  Perhaps Glengarry Glen Ross and Office Space ring too real for me?  Perhaps the signs of ignorant privilege muttering “let them eat cake … and get a job” I can spot too easily?
So I reflected on the last three months.  I thought of the heroes who stepped up and gave me a hand when I was against the ropes in the eleventh hour. People who were not blood relatives, people who I may have met once.  People who looked more like relations of the re-elected First Family than my own.  People who had their own significant challenges, yet found a way to give me the help I desperately needed.  At the end of August I had admitted myself to a hospital for thoughts of suicide and became homeless.  Now I have a nice $450 place to live in Studio City, weekly therapy sessions, a part-time hourly plus bonus job that feels fantastic, and much of my notoriously optimistic and creative mojo has returned.  When I reluctantly reached out for help, family ignored me or offered trite platitudes and “prayers”.  Some “friends” took offense that I asked for help in a manner that caused embarrassment.  Because I asked.
Others came out of the woodwork, eager to write the obituary to my career as a performer.  (I share Bryan Cranston’s incredulity at what “making it” in Hollywood even means.  I love live audiences and rolling cameras.  I hate selling shoddy products.  The end.  I just want to do what I love without perishing in the process.)  But a few rallied behind me.  Without fanfare or platitudes.  They just helped.  Cash.  Bus fare.  Rent.  Lunch.  Constructive ideas and strategies that respected my mojo.  Truly encouraging words, the ones the singing cowboy imagined.  They honored the hero they still saw in me, even when I failed to see it myself.  The gave me what I needed in a moment of crisis.  They were heroes who volunteered.  They were my heroes.  No, they were … heroteers.  Yes, this culture desperately needs a new word.  It will take heroteers to harness the best in us in spite of our worst.
Heroteers are people who recognize needs and step in with their resources and abilities, solving the problem at hand.  In spite of differences.  In spite of the way things have always been.  Engaging and even enlisting perceived villains.  But by inspiring the hero we all want to be.  Because a human had need.  But it takes courage.  It takes faith of a kind.  Faith that humans who can invent the smart phone, be the Beatles or Stones, learn to recycle or eat organically, create the United States of America or travel to the moon and Mars can end hunger, poverty, homelessness, disease, slavery and war.
I’ve lived in a country club.  I’ve been homeless.  I’ve had a six figure income.  I’m now under-employed, living on food stamps under the poverty line.  I once looked a college president in the eye and refused to fold the independent student newspaper I founded.  I’ve been kicked out of college.  I’m an Eagle Scout on the FBI’s subversive list.  I’ve sold stuff.  I’ve driven taxis and limos.  I’m at my best when I perform before a camera or live audience.  That is my strength.  I have challenges that threaten my success, even my survival.  But I refuse to submit to the failed patterns of this culture.  I choose to find and encourage the significance within all of us.  I’m going to stop focusing on my needs to earn money.  I choose to rally the heroteers and actually help people.  
Heroteer Mission #1 is to feed LA Thanksgiving 2012.  According to the LA Food Bank, 1.7 million humans in LA County struggle with hunger.  In 2012.  Nearly 31 LA Dodger Stadiums FULL of hungry humans.  I don’t know how, but I intend to feed at least 56,000 people in Los Angeles this Thanksgiving.  Yeah.  The one this Thursday.  Yes, Dodger Stadium fits 56,000.  I’m not clear exactly how.  But you know someone who can help.  We all do.  You know someone who can heroteer and help with specific challenges, whether they be the legal, financial, transportation, safety or other logistics of feeding fifty six thousand desperate and hungry people in one day.  Yeah, you’re on the hook now to spread the word.  You can click or call or think for a moment to make a difference in the lives of fifty six thousand of your fellow humans who are literally STARVING.  In America.  In the town of film production and other magic.  I’m heroteering to lead the better angels within the residents of the City of Angels to get this done.  How will you heroteer?  Follow “Mission: Feed LA Thanksgiving 2012” on Facebook for the latest.
So I want us to rally around that new verb “heroteer”.  Like and follow it on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.  Use the word.  Be the word.  Discover the hero within you, and rise up to defeat the evils that remain in this world, one human need at a time.  Quantify it.  Analyze it.  Make it more efficient.  Make it better.  Tap into the power of your own unique emotions, passions and talents.  Overcome faults and fears and differences to cooperate with those outside your cave of comfort.  Transform your lifestyle into a force of overwhelming daily influence and change that replaces hope with joy and significance.  You’ll feel like a superhero in the process.  Because … you are.