Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, April 19, 1999

Reflecting on a
large body of work

KNOWING my extensive acting background, many people were surprised that I did not audition for a spot on "Baywatch Hawaii."

Four thousand pounds of meat vying for two slots on a TV show is not my game. And, not just because I don't have the cliche "hard body" physique. I have abs of steel. They are just hidden by a belly of tofu. That's intentional. Hollywood doesn't take pretty boy actors seriously.

The thing about me and acting is that, nowadays, they come to me. I'm not bragging, it's just that when you reach a certain level, your rep does the talking.

People still talk about the time I played a corpse in a local stage production. I killed. I set an acting standard that all future corpses will have to meet.

You want to talk motivation, I understood all the deep-seated ramifications of corpse-ification. I submerged myself in the part. I BECAME the corpse. I mean, when I was done being dead, audience members stood on their seats and yelled bravo!

The depth of my portrayal of a dead guy brought tears of joy to serious acting aficionados. I'm embarrassed to say that my name has been mentioned in the same breath as Brando. Maurice Brando.

He played the bullet-riddled corpse in the foxhole in "From Here to Eternity." The man was a genius. Few people could play a bloated, decomposing corpse like Maurice Brando. He was so good it was scary. I'm not saying I was as good a corpse as Maurice. I prefer to think of my portrayal as homage to his greatness.

I also starred in an episode of "One West Waikiki," the detective show that filmed here a few years ago. I played a guy who drank a beer in a little grass shack bar while Cheryl Ladd pretended to investigate a murder.

In one of the "takes" I pulled the beer mug to my lips and casually took a drink. I was told later by one of the key grips that the accuracy and profound depth of my depiction of someone drinking beer was chilling.

Unfortunately, Cheryl stumbled over a line in that take and we had to reshoot the scene. I'm sorry to say that I could not reach that height of acting profundity in subsequent takes. I had put everything I had into the original swig. I was drained. There was nothing left in me to give to the camera.

In the end, they cut that scene and eventually canceled the show. I feel sorry for Cheryl. I think it was just a little unnerving for her to be in the same scene with me. There she was, trying to say her lines, knowing that in the background, I was taking a sip of beer in a most believable way. Poor kid couldn't handle the pressure.

I expect that after the hoopla of trying to cast some vacuous hard bodies to bounce up and down in the surf, the "Baywatch Hawaii" casting people will be giving me a little jingle. Eye candy is fine. But in the end, you have to have the pros. The people to carry the ball. The outside shooters. The heavy lifters.

I've been practicing a few scenes, limbering up, as it were. Yesterday, I washed back and forth in the shore break at Waimea for hours, perfecting my artistic interpretation of "drowned guy." As I toweled off, the lifeguards applauded and tourists asked for my autograph.

I'm considering reprising my role as "man drinking beer in background" but, honestly, the money will really have to be there. And, this time, anyone else in the scene will have to be able to carry their acting weight and, while they're at it, have big hooters.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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