Monday, December 15, 2003

The Last Bob Column of the Year (Probably)

As experienced as I am at acting (in theory I've been doing it all my life) last week as I performed in my latest role I gotta admit I was a bit clueless at how I should approach the part.

I was supposed to pretend to be an election judge, which is a role that shouldn't have been too difficult to fake since I've done it in real life (if such a thing actually exists). But as you well know often times it's the simplest things that are the hardest to figure out. I've never gone to a fancy acting school so I don't know anything about method acting or studying for a part. So for this particular role what I decided I would do is emulate some of the favorite acting performances, the ones that have effectively stuck inside my craw, in hopes that by faking it, I would, as the girl next door once advised, make it.

Showing up one chilly morning to the shoot site and underneath the glare of the bright lights I took my position in the corner of the room next to my prop, a piece of voting equipment. For the next few hours I watched the crew shoot various takes from the portion of the script that didn't involve me. When the time finally arrived for my performance and the director directed what he wanted to accomplish in the scene I did my best to act dumb- not that it was that much of a stretch. What was I going to use as inspiration? I decided what the role called for was a bit of bemusement and detachment- something like Bob Dylan did as the masked and anonymous Jack Fate in his movie with the same title.

No I didn't have Bob/Jack's pencil thin, Errol Flynn mustache nor do I have his stoic yet mesmerizing facial features (of which the world's finest photographer agreed with me are fascinating) but I went to work knowing that I have successfully taught my cat Thompson to tie my shoes (if only I could teach him to stop tying them together). The director interrupted my Homeresque thoughts with a brusque "Action!" and I did a little Chaplinesque waddle with a hint of a James Dean sneer/smirk/smile on my face. The actress who was pretending to vote approached me and the machine and as she was a rather attractive young lass I really did have to do some acting to pretend I was only sort of interested in what she was doing all the while looking into her eyes and looking away. Like Jack Fate I was trying to create a character who was old for his age but you couldn't tell because he acted so immature.

I was acting my brains out and though I haven't seen the end result I'm sure it was an award winning performance as a few days later one of our state's constitutional officers tapped me on the shoulder and thanked me for my efforts. Look for the award winning performance on your local cable access channel sometime next year.


Speaking of Dylan and acting, I'm a bit of a fan and over the years I have made an effort to watch as many of his television performances as I could. Since his appearances on the medium are so few and far between it might be a bit of a surprise that up until recently I had never seen his 1979 Saturday Nite Live performance. It was only recently I got a copy of the his three song effort and I can't stop watching it. Dylan's appearance on the wacky late night comedy sketch show came a little while after the release of the solemn Slow Train Coming, the first of this three "Born Again" LPs. For those not previously paying attention it was a bit of a shock that all of a sudden Bob was singing the praises of Jesus and a deep found faith. And while many of the songs on the three "Christian" LPs have long been among my favorite Dylan songs (and Shot of Love remains one my top three favorite Dylan CDs) I hadn't quite appreciated this period of Dylan's career appropriately until watching this performance on SNL.

Though his band is sort of nondescript they open with a booming "Gotta Serve Somebody" that clearly means a lot to Bob as the pride he takes in spitting out the lyrics is evident in a smile he is barely able to suppress. It's an energetic performance only diminished by Bob changing the line "You may call me Zimmy" (his one and only reference in over 40 years in the public spotlight to his actual name) to "You may call me Jimmy." His next song is the heartfelt "I Believe in You" and as Bob allows his voice to reach the cracking point several times in the song- it remains one of his most memorable and moving songs, one of deeply expressed vulnerability. The final song of the set "When You Gonna Wake Up?" is a bit of a paranoid rant/sermon "Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools, You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules" but again Dylan's passionate performance wins you over and makes you a believer if only temporarily.

At the end of the last song the crowd goes nuts and Bob coolly looks straight ahead with a look on his face like, "yup exactly what I expected" (even though a more tepid reaction might have been expected seeing the jarring conversion) and then the goofy looking bass player raises his guitar in the air jubilantly as if the applause is directed at him. Misguided perhaps, but it only adds to the unforgettable appearance.

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