Shuddersome Shorts

Tales of Suspense and Terror


You wanna be a star, kid? Of course you do -- everyone does! But be careful, because when the lights go up and the audience disappears you just may find truth is stranger than fiction -- or is it the other way around...?


That's Show Biz

By Jeffrey Blair Latta

“Well, doctor, to start at the beginning, I guess I’d have to go back to the day I first saw the ad in the newspaper. It was just a little notice on the front of the entertainment section. It said that a film company -- something called ‘Gold Star Studios‘ -- was looking for a teenage male actor to play the lead in their new movie. Then it gave the place to apply; Huntersville. Someplace I’d never even heard of. But, luckily, it gave directions…or maybe not so luckily.

“Anyway, this seemed like a good deal. It didn’t say that I needed any qualifications and, even if I didn’t get the lead, I still might get work as an extra. And I did need work. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to try out.

“The next day I pack up my knapsack and hitched a ride to this Huntersville. And I’ll tell you, it was one tough place to find. Absolutely no one had heard of it or of the Gold Star Studios. After a while I began to think that the whole thing had been a mistake. But, just then, I spotted a tiny wooden sign almost hidden by some bushes beside the road. It only pointed down an old dirt path, but it did say ‘Huntersville’. So I left my ride and continued on foot.

“Pretty soon I found the town, though it wasn’t much to find. It looked like the only reason there was a town at all was because of the studios. There was one road (if you could call it that) and a few houses. Beyond that, there were just the studios. To reach these, you walked under a huge, brightly-painted sign that I guess was the studio’s insignia; a big gold star with ‘Gold Star Studios’ printed in an arc through the centre.

“There wasn’t anybody around, so I went into a door marked ‘Office’. Inside, a wrinkled old lady sat behind a desk. I guess she was the secretary. She told me to take a seat and that the director would see me in a while. I had to sit for an hour, which seemed strange since there was no one else there. I mentioned the lack of hopefuls to the lady, but she just laughed and said it was probably because no one could find the town. Then she took me in to see the director.

“He was a bearded man with a pipe and a toque, and he eyed me up and down like I was his prize catching hanging on a line. Then he nodded, said I would be perfect, and that was that. I had the part.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream come true. I asked him when I would start, and he said right away. That kind of worried me since I didn’t have anywhere to stay, but he said it was all taken care of, and that I could sleep at the studios.

“So everything seemed great. And, at first, everything was great. We began filming the beginning scene an hour later. The character I was to play was a ‘wrong-side-of-the-tracks’ type kid who gradually becomes a juvenile delinquent. I told the director I hadn’t had much acting experience and that I wasn’t quite sure of what he wanted. He just laughed and told me to be myself. I laughed to…a bit.

“So I did my best and things seemed to be going well. We did some scenes of my character at school. And then some scenes at home, stuff like that. And the director said I was a natural.

“But then, a few days into filming, I began to notice…things. Nothing really strange. But, like, I noticed how everybody had taken to calling me by my character name, ‘Kenny’. Not just on the set, but all the time. I know that a lot of actors do that to keep each other in character but, when I asked anyone if they could please call me by my real name, they just said sure and laughed, and they still called me ‘Kenny’.

“Of course, I wouldn’t have minded this too much except that, at the end of the first week, I got my pay check. And some dummy had made it out to ‘Kenny’ instead of me. Well, you can bet I took it straight to the director and told him the problem. He was very sympathetic. He clicked his tongue and said he would fix it. The next day, when I asked him about it, he said he had arranged for my pay to go straight to my bank account. I didn’t think to ask how he knew which bank I used.

“And things got stranger. I started to notice that everybody was treating me differently. They were cold to me, as if I had done something wrong. But I was sure I hadn’t. And the director never seemed to be satisfied with what I did anymore.

“Then, one morning in the middle of the second week, I accidentally slept in and arrived on the set a half-hour late. I couldn’t believe the result. The director blew up at me. He started yelling and asking why I could never be on time and why I had to be so irresponsible. Then he said I had ruined the filming day and he sent me back to my room.

“Well, of course, I was so surprised and upset, I cried for a whole hour before I began to see how weird it was. Why had the director gotten so upset? I thought maybe he had just had a bad night. But that didn’t explain why he had said I was never on time and always irresponsible. I had never been late before and I thought I had been very responsible.

“Then it dawned on me. Those traits fitted my movie character perfectly. It was as if he had been yelling at Kenny, not at me. When I realized this, I decided I should go have a talk with the director. I told him what he seemed to be doing, but he just laughed and he still called me ‘Kenny’.

“Then came what I guess was the last straw. We were to film a scene where Kenny has been arrested for ‘disorderly conduct’ and spends the night in jail. They had a little jail set, complete with real bars. They stuck me in this while they got the equipment ready. After an hour, I began to get impatient and, so, I asked an extra, dressed as a guard, to let me out. I was stunned when he said no. He said he needed the director’s permission and, anyway, he didn’t have a key. I began to get upset and the extra got mad and told me to shut up. Well, after that I began to think he might get violent, so I started yelling. The extra went away and, after a few minutes, he came back with the director who said they were ready to film.

“In this scene, Kenny had been ‘uncontrollable’ in his cell and they turn the hose on him. As the crew got out the hose, I started to get scared. I asked why they couldn’t use a stunt double, and the director said the camera work would be too close. I started to object, but nobody seemed to hear me.

“And then they did it. They really turned the hose on me! And they had way too much pressure. I was flung against the wall and the wind was almost knocked out of me. I couldn’t breathe and I guess I panicked. I started screaming and crying and finally they turned off the hose and let me out.

“That was the last thing. And now I’ve come to you for advice. After all that’s happened, I’m not sure what’s real and what isn’t. Please, doctor, can you tell me? Are they crazy or am I?”

“I’m sorry,” said the psychiatrist. “Your time is up.”

“Cut!” yelled the director. “That was great! How did you two feel about it?”

“It seemed successful to me,” said the psychiatrist.

The boy nodded in half-hearted agreement.

“Good,” said the director, chewing his pipe stem. “Now, what do you think we should do for the next scene?”

“Well, I believe I should diagnose him as a latent schizophrenic,” suggested the psychiatrist . “And recommend a mental institution for an indefinite period of time.”

“Sounds good to me,” agreed the other.

“Couldn’t Kenny maybe be only mildly ill?” asked the boy, hopefully.

“No. I think it works best this way,” laughed the director. “Don’t sweat it, Kenny. We know what’s best for you.”' That's a Wrap!

Table of ContentsPulp and Dagger icon

 The story is copyright the author. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)