Beauty and the best: One prof's legacy
I hadn't seen or spoken to my college suitemate for over 30 years. The day we graduated we just lost touch somehow. That happens.
Her name popped into my head recently and I Googled her. Sent her an email. She'd just Googled me, too, it turned out. So she called me. We talked for over an hour today. Fun.
We were theater majors together. Knew each other all four years of undergrad and shared a suite in the dorm our senior year. She was and is immensely talented. Quirky, funny, cute. Think Kathy Griffin with a touch of Sissy Spacek.
We yakked like teenagers this afternoon about the whereabouts of various college friends. Who ended up in show biz and who got married and had kids. Who died, too. More than should have. Sad.
Then she mentioned a certain acting teacher we had. He was a big presence in the theater department. Students flocked to his classes and begged to be in his productions. He must've been in his 30s then. He was single and though he wasn't terribly attractive, he did cut quite a figure in his tight black jeans and red turtlenecks (hey, it was the late '70s).
"Did he ever hit on you?" my suitemate asked. No, he didn't, I said. I worked on one of his shows and he flirted with all the girls in the show except me. He treated me like one of the hired help. I had to fetch his coffees from the student union and take his messages up to the light booth, which was about 40 flights of stairs up from the stage floor.
I told my suitemate what the guy told me in acting class once: That I was too ugly to be an actress and I needed to rethink my career plans. I've told this story to every one of my classes for the past decade as a lesson in not taking too seriously what college professors give you in terms of criticism.
"You too?" she said. "He told me I had a horse face and would never get any acting work. Then he said something about my red hair and my 'flaming bush.' Gawd, I didn't he get what he was talking about until much later. Disgusting!"
Suitemate went on to work on soaps, sitcoms, movies, stage plays and national commercials. She had a good acting career, just as she'd planned in college.
"Did you know he was fucking *****?" she asked. ***** was another of our suitemates. The slutty one. I didn't know she'd slept with him, too. She did sleep around with teaching assistants, grad students and the few non-gay male theater majors. Hey, it was the '70s, did I mention that? And ***** had enormous tits.
Jeez, I said to the suitemate, how'd he get away with that? Insulting the girl students he didn't want to sleep with and sleeping with all the "pretty" ones. Pig.
The day that prof said that to me, I decided to become a writer. And suitemate said she decided after that always to be judged on talent and always to be the best at the audition. But he'd hurt her, too. Deeply.
"What a shmuck!" she said. "The nerve of that guy! Let's hunt him down and beat him senseless for treating young women like that."
Then tonight I got another email from suitemate. "Let's find him! On behalf of all the girls he fucked or didn't fuck, let's find him and grind his balls in a vise."
So, Professor Robert Baca, wherever you are: Lock your doors and look over your shoulder. One day, you old asshole, one day....