When the Circus Came to Town

My agents called to check my availability for a few days in November.  Shouldn’t they know?  Yes, I was available.  Apparently, a director I had once worked for, Walter Topel, was shooting a Hallmark commercial in Chicago.  That’s where he lived and worked.  No auditions necessary.  He knew he wanted me.

First call I made was to my friend Paul who was in college at Northwestern.  This will be fun, I thought — Paul and I can hang out in Chicago.   He said he wasn’t going to be in town but that I should call his roommates.  He said he knew we would all like each other.

As soon as I got to the hotel, I called Paul’s friends.  They invited me over.  But once I was there, I got the sense that they were judging me and decided they wanted nothing to do with me.  They had already written the story.  To them, I was a spoiled rich Beverly Hills brat who now had a commercial acting career.  They thought they were better.  But they were truly wicked.  Fucking with me.  I left there bewildered.  I had never been treated like that because I’m so friendly, I can disarm anyone.  I’m a really regular person.  I was never some spoiled kid from Beverly Hills.   Didn’t they know I lived south of Wilshire, the wrong side of the tracks?

My dad was a great friend of Irv Kupcinet (Kup) so he threw me in his column!

I would have never seen them again, but my dad called and told me he got me four freebie tickets to the circus.  Ringling Brothers was in town.  Would I like to take three others?  I called my new frenemies and invited them.  They swiftly accepted.  Anyway, I needed a ride and would never have gone to the circus alone.

First, I spent the day shooting the commercial.  We shot in this stunning, Victorian building.  I was supposed to play a newlywed and I looked 15 years old.  It was magical because suddenly it started snowing outside.  It was a Hallmark commercial that would air at Christmastime.  The snow was a good omen. Snowflakes were exciting to a native Californian who never gets to see them fall.

My new so-called friends picked me up at the hotel and off we went.  I think they might have already felt bad about their collective behavior.  From the moment we were all together that night, you would have thought it was me that was their closest friend and roommate.  Everything I said was met with such uproarious laughter.  They suddenly got me.  They all admitted that they had judged me before we even met and were so sorry for their treatment that night.  We laughed the night away until I literally made one of the girls pee in her pants.  She actually did.  Peed in her pants from laughing so hard, and she told me I was the nicest, funniest person she had ever met.  Boy, did I turn that one around.

Before I left the windy city, I decided to leave my hotel, hop in a cab and go to the zoo.  Sure, why not take full advantage.  See everything I could in a few short days.  At the zoo I fell in love with this black panther.  Deeply in love.  I was so absorbed in this new relationship, that I lost all sense of time.  The cages for the wild cats were indoors.  When I left, it was nearly dark outside.  And there were no cabs.  No people.   Nothing around for miles that I could see.  So, I started walking.  I walked and walked, but saw nothing.  No cars.  No pay phones.  No buildings.  Nada.  I started to get scared and then in the distance I saw what looked like a car dealership.  Or was it a mirage?  I kept walking towards it and hoped someone was in there.  Yes, it was still open.  I walked in, kind of frantic at this point.  I said “Oh my God, I just wanted to visit the zoo, but when I left there were no cabs and before I go on and on, do you happen to know Ross Gilbert, he owns the Beverly Hills dealership, I’m friends with his kids?”  They said, sure we know Ross, let’s call him.  And we did.  Small world.  Good thing I spotted that mirage.  I asked if someone could maybe call me a cab, but one very nice man offered me a ride instead.  I got a ride back to my hotel in a nice new Mercedes.  This might have been the start of my dad giving me his highest paid compliment.  He said I was a “good road manager”.

Food in the Windy City

A very famous restaurant called the Pump Room is back. The Pump Room restaurant offers reasonably priced, delicious favorites in a relaxed, comfortable, and exciting environment. The new food concept was created by world-renowned chef and 2011 James Beard award winner Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Original Pump Room menu classics were reinvented and recreated by Jean-Georges providing his special touch and amazing style. He will support local purveyors, regional flavors and offer a “farm to table” experience. At night, the restaurant’s bar transforms into a supper club recapturing the glamour of the 30’s and 40’s with a modern twist. Offerings include late night tapas style small plates as well as local, domestic and international draught and bottled beer; exotic, specialty cocktails by our own mixologist, and great music.


Big, lifelong joke with my dad about us being good “road managers” so I wrote it on his grave—sure hope he’s laughing!!!!!

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6 Responses to “When the Circus Came to Town”

  1. Hoov says:

    Two thumbs up. This is the first of your acting life that I missed. Aloha hoov

  2. Hoov says:

    Oops my fav… Walt Disney sunday night special was the story of a couple black panthers that mate for life. How they worked together to hunt and take care of theirs cubs. I have never forgotten that two Sundays story. Further I always have to hang at the cat house at the zoo. I have not thought about those cats in a very long time. Mahalo wakko for the mem…….

  3. Julie Phalen says:

    Another great adventure! I love the commercial, I remember it.

  4. pauli says:

    Such a vivid recollection of a past slight turned around. I admire your ability to make friends of frenemies. Not my forte.
    The way you bring such diverse elements together to create a whole is really interesting and triggers other memories. Thanks for sharing another great chunk of your life patchwork.

  5. Mitch says:

    What a story! Walking around Chicago at night. Glad you made it back. Forget the commercial, that yarn could be the basis of a Hallmark Hall of Fame.

    I’ll try the Pump Room next time I’m out there. You’ll have to check out Superdawg in Gladstone Park.

  6. Elise Peterson says:

    Google searched my grandfather to learn about my lineage – this article popped up 🙂

    RIP Walt Topel <3 1930-1987 <3

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