A Musing about Alan and his trip to Hollywood
A Musing about Alan and his trip to Hollywood
I read a story a while back about an actor named Alan. He was born into acting with his father being a legendary actor who got him in the business even as a baby! Alan was an actor of moderate success. He often played supporting roles behind great lead actors such as James Garner in the classic film Up Periscope or The West Point Story with James Cagney and Doris Day.
He also did fill in roles for TV shows like The Andy Griffith Show. Alan also did lots of Westerns which was what he was working on in Utah when his agent got in touch with him on set. He told Alan that he needed to be at an audition in Hollywood at 9am the next day.
Alan said I can’t make it; I am in the middle of a shoot in Utah!
The agent said but it’s a lead role.
Alan thought to himself well if it is a lead then I will never get the part. Yet, something in him said he should not give up on his dream of making it big time. He just wasn’t sure how in the world he would make it to LA by morning.
Still unsure of what he would do, he was only able to get off the phone by promising his persistent agent he would try his best to get there.
Now the director of the Western he was on set for was meticulous. Years later Alan would joke that he had no idea how many times he shot the same Apache off the same horse before the director said, "that’s a wrap." All he knew was it was well past 6pm when they finished, and LA was a 7 to 8 hour drive.
Another problem was that Alan had no car. And no one was leaving the set that night to go to any town. Thus, he didn’t even really have a way to get to the highway to find a ride.
Alan had an outgoing personality and had made friends with almost everyone on the set. He did this on every set he ever worked on. In particular on this set he became friends with the ranch hand that cared for horses. That ranch hand didn't have a car but agreed to let him borrow a horse to go to the highway. The ranch hand would ride alongside him to the highway and bring both horses back to the set.
When they arrived at the highway, Alan was able to hitch a ride from a long haul trucker. The trucker wasn’t going to LA but to Vegas.
Alan decided Vegas was closer than his current location and went with him. During the ride the trucker asked what Alan did. Alan said he was an actor and told some of the films he had been in. The trucker had not seen a single one of them. Alan was disappointed that the man wasn't familiar with a single one of his films.
In Vegas, Alan booked a flight in the early hours to LA. He slept a bit in the terminal and flew to LA. When he finally arrived, he got a cab to take him through rush hour traffic to the audition. The cab driver too asked what he did. Again, Alan said he was an actor and told some of the films he had been in. The cab driver had only seen one of them but said he did not remember seeing Alan in the film.
Alan arrived at the studio at 8:58am and did a cold read of the part of a character named Jonas Grumby. The only prop or costume he received was a funny hat which he was asked to wear. He read the scene with a skinny kid he had never met who was wearing a different funny hat.
Everyone in the room was mesmerized at their chemistry and they both were cast in the production.
By the time the TV series was over Alan was at least as famous as the folks he had played supporting roles for in movies and he had certainly accumulated far more screen time than any of them!
He and the characters he played would become famous. Though his character’s name would change after the first episode from Jonas Grumby to simply the Skipper.
And that skinny kid who he had great chemistry with would be recognized for the rest of his life less by his given name of Bob Denver but more by the character’s name he played - a character named Gilligan.
Of course, the Alan I am talking about is Alan Hale, Jr. better known and loved by millions as the iconic Skipper of Gilligan’s Island!
You may be wondering why I am sharing this story with you. Well, it would have been far simpler for Alan not to journey in the middle of the night to LA. A good night sleep with no fear of being rejected again for a lead role would have been far more comfortable for Alan. Afterall, he had steady work as an actor. He was doing better than many aspiring actors who were waiting tables for a living.
The trip to LA would be difficult if not impossible and after a long day on the set in the saddle of a horse, he was I am sure, quite tired.
Yes, the logical thing to do would be to stay in Utah and have a good meal and a good night’s sleep before going back to work on set the next afternoon.
Instead, Alan took a risk. He did something crazy. He believed in a dream and saw an opportunity. It did not have to make sense to anyone else.
Hale later said when asked about why he made his crazy trip that he had just felt he needed to go and try.
That trip changed his and countless lives. Hale embraced the role as the Skipper and used it to make a difference in lives of many - especially children. He would often visit Children’s Hospitals dressed as the Skipper, give autographed replicas of his iconic Skipper’s hat to charity groups for them to auction and, even when in the hospital dying from cancer, he visited the Children’s ward almost daily so these children might have the joy of meeting the Skipper from Gilligan's Island.
The writer of Hebrews says the following, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed, and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:7-8)
And such crazy acts of faith continued throughout scripture - be it fishermen leaving livelihoods, a sick woman reaching in hope to touch the hem of Jesus’s garment, or countless other stories of radical faith.
And these radical faith stories have continued to this day. They are the stories of folks with dreams and an undeniable sense of call. Even if they call is impractical and the dream crazy, they reach out in faith.
Such is the calling of all followers of Christ – even if perhaps it means traveling over night from Utah to Hollywood via horse, truck, plane, and taxi.
But in so doing such crazy journeys can change the life of both the one called and maybe even the world!
May we all be willing to seek such dreams and step out in faith. Perhaps we will discover some new role whose final journey will send us out on a three-hour tour to a deserted island whose fictional adventures changed the actual world for countless people.