It was all my idea. As immodest as that might sound, it’s true. Now that my friend Karen has made it to the big time, she should be reminded that it all started with one of my hair-brained schemes.
Though she laughed it off at first, she eventually agreed. There we were — Lucy and Ethel at it, again. Thelma and Louise headed off on an adventure and there was no stopping us. But first, as usual, I had to convince her of the brilliance of my plan.
It was a few years ago when I called her up. “Let’s take acting classes,” I began. Now, it escapes me how I found these classes in Atlanta but I remember that I was adamant that six weeks of acting would make both us better entertainers — me as a speaker and Karen as a singer. We both make a living in front of live audiences so I believed that we could learn something.
Oh, it wasn’t easy. Things like this are rarely easy with my dear friend. It took many conversations, much cajoling, and finally her husband and children talked her into it.
“Well, OK,” said Karen Peck. “Let’s do it.”
On the first night, we amateurs joined a class of six which included three self-proclaimed professionals. They had been in local theater and auditioned for commercials, facts of which they haughtily reminded us mere mortals. Repeatedly.
That night the teacher — a true professional who had done years on soap operas in New York before moving to guest shots on primetime — paired us off in groups of two, for us to perform a scene from “Fried Green Tomatoes.”
I winced when I was paired with Karen, who tends to giggle a lot so I was certain that she would ruin the scene and make me look bad. She didn’t giggle, though. She plunged with seriousness into the part. When the scene ended, the teacher, clearly moved to tears, came over and said quietly, in awe, “Oh Karen, that was so good. So good.”
She turned to me. Her eyes cleared and her smile faded. “Ronda, let’s do it again because you need to tone it down. You over-acted.”
Nonetheless, Karen became teacher’s pet and much praised for her talent. As for me, nothing much was said, though our teacher did seem to enjoy me. When I wasn’t trying to act, that is.
What happened a while back is pretty much an incredible story. It’s the kind of fairy tale that we all dream will happen to us. An unexpected phone call with news that makes winning the lottery dim in comparison. I’ll make it short. A casting director from New York called Karen up, out of the blue, and asked if she’d be interested in singing and saying a few words in a movie called “Joyful Noise” about a choir competition. A movie, I might add, that starred Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.
“Are you making this up?” I asked, warily. It sounded, well, unbelievable though she, actor that she is, made it sound believable.
“I promise I’m not!” she replied.
She wasn’t. She wound up with a small cameo in the movie and a song that is on the soundtrack. It has been nothing short of exciting for her. Bubbling over with enthusiasm, she talked about it for months. It’s all pretty neat, a chance of a lifetime.
Of course, you won’t see my name in the credits and that is truly a shame because I started her on the road to movie stardom. Yes, I did. It all began with one of my hair-brained but nonetheless brilliant ideas.
And since you won’t see my name anywhere so the world will never know the role I played in all of this, I thought I’d tell you.
After all, someone should know that I’m a star-maker.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the forthcoming There’s A Better Day A-Comin. Please visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.