Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Story of Rebecca

The Story of Rebecca

Some twenty-two years or so ago, when I was a regular as Marsha Talbot on “As the World Turns,” I received various fan letters addressed to me in care of the studio (ABC). I always personally answered my fan mail. Not that I got that much of it. Some actors actually have services which handle all fan mail, as I guess they get mail bags full on a weekly basis. My popularity was not such that I needed to hire such a firm. Having the role of a killer I’m sure did not endear me to many. And I was short lived on the series because of my evil ways.

Anyway, I once received a letter from a young girl by the name of Rebecca Hockman, who lived in Russell, Kansas. (I’ve still got all the correspondence between us in one of the boxes in the basement which we’ve never unpacked. When we move, if we can ever find a house we love, it will have a place once again.) She included her picture and was very enthusiastic about my performance as Marsha. She saw everything I was trying portray in the character, and understood that this was a case of unrequited love. Wish I had all the correspondence at the ready, then I could track it better, but... as I recall I responded and thanked her. I don’t know how much time went by, but then she wrote me again and sent me her college thesis, which happened to be on George Bernard Shaw. I thought it very odd that someone would send me their thesis - what the heck was I supposed to do with it? But once again I wrote her back and I can’t remember what I said, but I suppose it was complimentary. Never having gone to college myself, and never having writ a thesis, who am I to judge? The fact that somebody thinks I’m worthy of examining their learned material is enough to elicit a pleasant response in my book.

We had moved (my husband to be and I) to Millerton, NY - a small town 90 miles north of New York City, but had kept our NY apartment at the time. One couldn’t live that far away and commute in every day to do a soap. The previous letters I had sent to her I mailed from the city sans return address, natch. But this last letter I dropped in the Millerton post office.

As I recall several months went by. I was upstairs in our bedroom one afternoon and the phone rang. It was Rebecca. “How did you get my number?” I asked rather horrified that she had. “I saw the postmark on your last letter and it said Millerton, NY and I looked you up in the phone book.” Aaaaahhh. I’m beginning to get a little creeped out. Could this be a weird star stalker? She’s smart enough to get my phone number. Hmmm. She thanked me for my responses to her communique and then went on to inform me that she had just taken a summer job as an au pair to a couple in a town, oh, I don’t know, about 25 minutes from me. Ooooooohkaaaaaay. All red flags at that point went up. I was still gracious as I recall, but told her the truth: that this news was rather disturbing to me and that I did not appreciate the fact that she had called and to please NOT call me again.

My husband (to be) was HORRIFIED and immediately had our phone number unlisted.

OK. Years go by. Not sure how many. Then suddenly a letter comes - again from this same girl. Only she’s older now. I don’t remember much about this letter except that she said she was all grown up now and wanted to apologize for her youthful ways and thank me for my several kindnesses. I seriously considered writing her back but thought I’d just open up a can of worms. AND then she’d know I still lived in Millerton. The very fact of my response would indicate such - because that’s where she sent it - so I decided against replying. But it always bothered me that I did that because....well because that’s the kind of person I am. Because I know what it’s like not to have a response.

So now here I am in Greensboro doing “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” and a PACKAGE arrives one day addressed to me in care of Triad Stage. Return address says Rebecca Jamison in NYC. What on earth? I open it up and there is a letter from, yes, this same girl (who has changed her name). She says she has always fondly remembered my kindnesses to her and always hoped to see me on stage one day. She has enclosed a copy of her first book, a biography of Grayson Hall.

It happened that she has friends in Lexington (about 20 minutes away from Greensboro) where she was going to spend some time in writer’s seclusion working on her second book, and they learned of the Triad Production and saw my name.

She said she was planning to come to see the production!

Fate was obviously throwing us together once again and how could I not now embrace it? - twenty-two years later. I wrote her back saying I would meet her in the lobby after the show - that I’d sign her program if she signed her book that she sent me. I really didn’t know what to expect, but not being an idiot I “googled” her and found out a certain amount of information before I responded saying I’d meet her. She currently works for the EPA. At this point in life I didn’t really think she was a star stalker. That and the fact that she managed to get herself published (no mean feat) told me she was legitimate.

I had told several people of this prospective meeting. I mean it’s quite a story - how could one not desire to share it. And they were all curious as to how it would turn out.

So many things were running through my mind. And no doubt hers as well. I would love to have known hers. My thoughts were: how should I present myself? Should I be the “actress” and flounce about, leave my false eyelashes on from the show and be oh soooo theatrical dahling? Or should I just be myself - which is anything BUT that. I never do well attempting to be someone I’m not, but I did opt to leave on my base makeup from the show (tissued off as much as possible) and put on a little eyeliner and mascara. For there is always the fear that being one’s self will disappoint.

We had invited our director over for a drink before the meeting with Rebecca was set up, so Rand went home to be there for Preston. Obviously I had allayed his fears, for he felt no need to come to the lobby to check her out first. But dear Trent did. Just to make sure nothing amiss would happen.

And thence I headed down the elevator to the lobby. I recognized her immediately with her red hair because I had seen pictures of her (while googling). She was with two friends.

I would love to be able to tell a wild tale now of how she was totally weird and groped me and then pulled out a gun and attempted to fire it, but the firing mechanism went awry and so I wrestled her to the ground....

But no. It was just a very nice, normal meeting and she’s a lovely, ingenuous person. Her friend Kivi (I think that’s her name) assured me that she wasn’t some nut case. We had a pleasant chat for about 20 minutes or so. Kivi asked if I minded if she took a couple of photos of the two of us. Of course not. I put my arms around Rebecca and noticed she was trembling with excitement?/nervousness? at finally meeting me I assume. I made a joke about it - trying to ease her nervousness. Gee, I’ve never had anyone tremble in meeting me before. Let me tell you, it’s rather special. I suppose “Stars” must experience this sort of thing all the time. Feeling totally unworthy of generating such a response I then began to wonder whether I could possibly live up to her expectations. Nothing could be worse to my mind than ruining an image someone has of you. Maybe that’s why Garbo was so mysterious. Better to keep the mystery than reveal the reality of the mundane. Sort of like a bar a closing time when they turn on the lights....

Anyway...I led them up the back way to the parking garage through the theatre administrative hallway after our get together. And as we parted I expressed the above-mentioned fears. For in my parting words I said: “I hope I lived up to your expectations.” Twenty-two years is a long time....

Rebecca's blogspot by the way is: and if you want to learn all about Grayson Hall read her very informative book: Grayson Hall: A Hard Act to Follow. (In many ways Grayson's career reminds me of my own....the struggling part anyway.)


Dan said...

Totally. Utterly. FASCINATING! Thanks for sharing that story!

RebJam said...

Got your note. I actually had an update on the hooper which I posted today. Still digesting your latest entry.

Giulia said...

Dan - glad you liked the story. Means it was worth the cyber paper it was written on....

Rebecca - hope nothing I said offended...