Thoughts by Richard Bleil
My friends know that my sense of humor is very self-denigrating. The reality is that I don’t want to offend people with my jokes, if you’re willing to allow me to call them as such, so I insult myself. With that in mind, on my social media site, I saw an ad where you can hire an actor to make a quick video for you. I think that the main idea behind the service is to make little personal notes for your friend. For example, you can have your favorite (if available) actor wish your significant other a happy birthday, or anniversary, or whatever you like. The videos can be up to two minutes long, and you write the script. So, I hired an actor that is famously handsome, and was the main character of what he says is the most watched television series in the world. Well, maybe, but it was wildly popular for its time, which, frankly, was about thirty or forty years ago.
I don’t know him, and I don’t follow celebrity gossip, so I can’t say anything about how he is in real life, or his politics, or anything like that, but he always seemed like a genuine and nice guy, so yes, I hired him. I wrote a script where he was talking about me (and, yes, he said my name and, to his credit, pronounced my last name correctly [it rhymes with “style”]). He understood where I was going with what I wrote, realizing that it was tongue in cheek, and he did a great job. “Richard Bleil is so good-looking, so good-looking, he’s even better looking than I, wait, what? Seriously? How much is he paying me again??”
I can’t watch the video without laughing, but honestly, it’s kind of heart-breaking at the same time. All expenses included, it cost me less than a hundred dollars (and I sprung for all of the proverbial bells and whistles), and as thrilled as I was to have him poke fun of me, I can’t help but think about what participating in this kind of service must feel. He was probably one of the most popular actors of his day, and now, here he is, making videos for a nobody like me.
Historically, actors, musicians and others have done quick voice and video clips for advertising purposes for years. I used to listen to a radio station, WDJX in Dayton, Ohio, that is no longer there. Okay, it’s still there, but the station changed its format and call letters, so I feel like I can use the name because it’s technically no longer in business. Every time a huge name musician, like, say, Paul McCartney, would say “This is Paul McCartney, rock on WDJX” or some such little audio clip, they were padding their income. The clips are very fast, so they can do dozens in an hour, and because they’re so short, the clips were very inexpensive for the purchaser. The only difference here is that, instead of a television or radio station, they’re doing these clips for individuals like me.
But what must this do to these actors? Some years ago, I saw a Billy Idol cassette tape (to show you how long ago this was) in the discount bin. I love some of the songs Billy Idol did, but I wouldn’t call me a fan, per se. But he was always, when I was growing up, the punk future of the music I used to listen to, and here he was in the discount bin. I wondered how he would have felt about that. Now these actors are in a discount bin of sorts (in fact, when I paid for this actor, his price was listed on sale for half off). To go from one of the biggest names in television to telling Richard Bleil that he’s asking for too much must have some kind of impact.
Sometimes it is easy to remember that our favorite entertainers are actually people. They can’t always get parts in the entertainment industry as their peak comes and goes, and as their ages betray them, but they still have to eat. They still have to survive. Some years ago, there was a photo posted of a former childhood actor working in a grocery store. The photo was used as a source of humor, but this man was making money, paying his bills, and moving on. If I met him, I would tell him how proud I am of him, and this actor that I hired, I would like him to know that I feel the same about him. But my heart goes out to him and the others on this and other similar services, and I wish them all the best. I know what it’s like to fall from grace. I understand. I’m with you.