Thursday, 12 July 2012

More sunshine! Ten Obscure Facts About Laura A Shamas

I'm a big fan of Laura A. Shamas, playwright, mythologist and author of Pop Mythology: Collected Essays.  She's a constant source of mythological inspiration and that's why I tagged her in the sunshine challenge.  Unfortunately for us Laura doesn't have a blog of her own, but she kindly agreed to let me publish her ten obscure facts on my blog. 

Over to the lovely Laura... 

Thank you, Meg, for this fun opportunity. I loved reading yours!

Ten surprising / Obscure / Unknown Facts About Me
- Laura A. Shamas

At a writers conference I attended a few years ago, some well-known scribes revealed the numerous jobs they’d held throughout their careers. My 10 “unknown facts” are based on my earliest jobs, the ones that I had between the ages of 14 – 22.

1) Flower Seller. When I was 14, I began to sell flowers from a flower cart on street corners. It was a minimum wage type of job, and I enjoyed working with the beautiful buds, all locally grown (but not by me). I could pretend I was “Eliza Doolittle” in My Fair Lady, but with an Oklahoma accent.

2) Seamstress. Also at 14, one of my best friends and I began sewing blouses for profit. We’d invest $1 per shirt in materials, sold them to a retail store for $5, and they’d mark them up to $20 as their price. These were labor-intensive types of shirts, sort of like peasant blouses; it took us about 8 hours of labor per blouse. We embroidered half of them, too. Our mothers couldn’t believe how entrepreneurial we were.

3) Food server at a Mexican Restaurant. At 16, I began to work in restaurants. I won’t name this one, but it’s part of a successful franchise-- a sort of theme park/restaurant type of venture. It was gigantic; hundreds of us were on the floor at a time. I started as a food worker. You had bring to customers seconds from the kitchen and refill their sopapilla baskets. Later, I graduated to door greeter (“Hello! Welcome to Casa --------“), then a seater (“Today, we’re going to seat you in the beautiful Waterfall Room”), cashier (“We hope you had a pleasant meal”), and finally, the penultimate best job: Treasure Room Girl. As Treasure Room Girl, you got to sit on a throne and hand out free candy and toys to children. Who wouldn’t love that? The only downside was you had to answer the phone, too.  There were lots of prank phone calls. Twice, I answered the phone to bomb threats--that fortunately turned out to be false.

4) Waitress at a Pizza Restaurant. Also at 16, I began waiting tables in a pizza restaurant. The tips there were pretty good but the cooks were sort of crazy. I was always scared when I had to give my orders to them—four guys in their twenties. One night, a cook tried to throw me into a dishwashing machine. Another time, when I was leaving the kitchen, I heard a huge THUMP on the door behind me. I flipped back the swinging door and saw a cook had thrown a large carving knife at me as I’d left the kitchen! Fortunately, my brother became a busboy there and these types of things stopped.

5) Movie Theater Cashier. At 17, I began to work as a cashier in a movie theater; I got to sit all by myself in an art deco ticket booth facing a busy street (a thoroughfare infamously known as “the Restless Ribbon” because it attracted mindless “cruising”). I really liked that job because I could read a book in the booth while the movies were on. And I could see parts of movies every night whenever I liked.

6) Singer in a Restaurant. I was also part of a singing duo with one of my best friends. When we were 18, we landed a featured daily lunchtime job singing in a restaurant. Again our parents couldn’t believe it: we were the featured lunchtime entertainment in this cavernous place. We were high school seniors, and got to leave school at 11:30, Monday through Friday, for the job. Thank goodness for senior privileges. Unfortunately, we only lasted as the lunchtime entertainment for a month. I don’t know how many complaints they got, but one day, the restaurant management told us it was over. We took our tip jar and went home.

7) Library Worker. While I attended college, I was a library worker. I got the job at 18--because of my very first college roommate. The position had been hers, but then she decided to go to New York--where she promptly became a Broadway star. She recommended me as her replacement for the library job; I felt so lucky to have it. As a book shelver, I remember being stuck in a service elevator one day for an hour, caught between floors with my loaded book cart. But that was the worst thing that ever happened.

8) Extra in a Sitcom. In college, one of my friends knew a sitcom producer who needed some college students to be ongoing extras for 6 episodes. So about 15 of us got to be on this TV show. Since we were playing college students (I was 19), we got to wear our own clothes. None of us had any lines, but we did get to be in shots with stars. When we watched the show later on TV, if we were on camera, we were so happy: “Can you imagine if we had a speaking line? Oh my God! Oh my God!”

9) Disco Singer on a Demo. I had a friend who was a songwriter, and at 21, I was asked to be a lead singer on a disco demo for a major record label--to try to sell a song to a famous performer. My friend had fired 2 other vocalists from this demo (I can’t remember why). My friend begged me to help him out. So I did it. I had so much fun in that studio; getting paid was icing on the cake. All the other tracks had already been laid down, including an orchestral track. It was as if I were singing with a full band and strings. But I don’t think my songwriter-friend ever sold that disco song.

10) Movie Critic/Stringer. After I graduated from college, I moved back to Oklahoma for a while. Back there, I was reading the local newspaper and I noticed they didn’t have any female movie critics. So, at 22, I wrote a letter to the entertainment editor pointing this out. He wrote back: “Shamas, if you want to write movie reviews for us, you have a job.” So, I became a film critic/stringer. I was given the “C” level films to review, but I got free movie tickets! I think I made about $85 per review, but that’s how I got started in freelance journalism. 

You can follow Laura on Twitter and find her website here

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