Do You Know Who I Am?

Hey there, folks, this is Tanja Barnes. I started this whole little blog thingy with accompanying podcast about the great Writers' Strike of 2007. But I thought a quick little snapshot of who the hell I think I am might be appropriate 'cause like on the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog. Excuse me but do I look like a dog to you?

I'll begin with qualifying that I am a paid-up, card carrying member of SAG and AFTRA. Back in the day, I was just a kid from North Hollywood with a dream...to be a rich and famous movie star. I did all that I could to learn my craft. To make ends meet, I began my own massage practice -- therapeutic-and-non-sexual-thank-you-very-much -- after reading an article in the Hollywood Reporter about massage therapists to the stars. After I read that, I thought to myself: I could do that. And I did.

As things turned out, for a time I was more successful at massage therapy than acting. I began working backstage at the Universal Amphitheatre (through the help of a buddy) and got my first steady gig (with the help of yet another good friend) on the Simpsons when they were still little bumpers on the Tracy Ullman Show back at Klasky-Csupo. You know how it goes: one thing led to another and pretty soon I was doing massage for a team of hundreds on visual effects movies like "Babe", "Apollo 13", and "Titanic" just to name a few. I also fell into working on Japanese commercials back when they were spending a fuckton of money to have celebrities star in their ads. Yeah, it was pretty crazy. Crazy fun, too.

The years went on and I continued to work in entertainment in one capacity or another. One thing led to another, and another, and another, and pretty soon I was back in the acting game (with the help of a friend...today they call it "networking") only this time I'm not in it to be a super star although I'll admit that would be kinda cool. I am a working actor because I do...(sotto voce)...background.

(gasp!)

OK, whatever. Being the bastard child of a production ain't always easy. No you can't eat that, that's for cast and crew only, and no you can't sit with us because that's for cast and crew only. Bla-bla-bla. You know what guys? Shut the fuck up! I pay my dues! And where would any show be without some people milling out in the background? A ghost town! And no, I'm not one of those idiots that steals food and sleeps on the set. I come from a entertainment family and I am a professional. That's right! And what matters to me...what matters to me are things like health insurance, retirement pensions, yeah, stuff like that seems pretty damn important to me nowadays.

So how did I get to do podcasting?

Well last year, on October 29th, my daddy died of lung cancer. He never smoked a day in his life. It was years since we had seen each other because the Evil Stepmother archetype is real...and...that's all I'm gonna say about that for now....

Anyway, I started recording the conversations we had while he was in the hospital and making little podcasts on my new MacBook Pro as he would tell me how he got his break in Hollywood as a junior draughtsman and eventually ended up being an art director. During the span of his career, my dad was a member of both the Art Directors Guild (IATSE Local 800) and the Set Designers & Model Makers Guild (IATSE Local 847). It's been over a year since my dad passed and I think about him every day. One of the things I always carry with me in sharing those last few weeks with him was the fact that he had the best fucking health care money could buy thanks to MPIPHP. It's never easy losing a loved one, but I had comfort in knowing he didn't have to worry about his care or how much a procedure would cost or how we would pay for it.

Hey, would you like to hear a story my dad told me about how he got his break in Hollywood? He was only a small-town boy from a podunk town in Pennsylvania called Elizabeth Township. But he came to California on Route 66, met my mom in art school (she was an art model...that's another story) and got his break from a friend who urged him to give it a try. Click the player below to listen. It was recorded 13 October 2006 at St. Joseph's ICU in Burbank. He was getting a blood transfusion at the time but as we lead out, he was about to get this really invasive procedure done called a bronchoscopy.





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