My first real job in New York was working for a company called Rysher Entertainment that made and sold unwatchable syndicated television programs. These were the kind of TV shows that air at 2:00 in the morning on local television stations, when they have nothing else to run. Our shows did not have a network affiliation; we sold them market by market. Meaning one of our shows could air on an ABC station in Boston and a CBS station in Newark. In this respect, my department could make or break a show, depending on what kind of stations they convinced to carry it.
I started out as the assistant to the sales department. The guys I worked for were a wacky bunch of old salesmen whose job it was to fly around the country and convince station managers to buy our shows. No one expected huge ratings out of these programs; our primary competition was infomercials. We were going for that audience that was just smart enough to know the difference between a scripted television show and an infomercial, but not quite smart enough to know that their best option was turning off the television.
Which is not to say that the entire field of syndicated entertainment was a wasteland. Some syndicated shows were huge hits; Judge Judy, for example, or Oprah. We’d had some major hits when the company first started — Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Star Search were both Rysher shows — but by the time I got there we mainly produced bottom-feeder programs that turned a profit by keeping their budgets small and relying on my crack team of salespeople to put them on big stations in big markets.
Part of my job was to read the mail that came into our department. It was mostly boring sales stuff that I passed along to the appropriate salesperson, but from time to time we’d get something interesting. Sometimes we’d get letters from superfans of our programs; I’m not sure how they came across our address, but when they landed on my desk, I always made sure to send them a cordial personal response.
Once, and only once, we received a resume and headshot from an aspiring actor. His name was “Brooklyn Abdul” Harris. Yes, both the “Brooklyn” and the “Abdul” were in quotes. How this gentleman decided that the station sales department was the best place to send his resume, I’ll never know, but I’m glad he did, because it was one of the most accidentally beautiful things I’ve ever encountered. Typos, weird descriptions, bad formatting; this thing was brilliant in its ineptitude. It was the Troll 2 of resumes, and it was wonderful.
After staring at it for a few days, I decided the best thing to do was to send it along to Rob, the head of casting in LA. Rob didn’t know me from Adam, but I thought he might appreciate the absurdity of this resume. Here’s what I wrote to him.
November 4, 1998
Enclosed please find “Brooklyn Abdul” Harris’s headshot and resume, which Mr. Abdul was kind enough to send to our offices here in New York. Mr. Harris (any relation to Star Search graduate Sam?) lives in the Bronx, so how he acquired the moniker “Brooklyn Abdul” is anyone’s guess. If you find it easier, you may simply call him “Bro.”
If you’ll take a good, hard look at this young “Sir Larry” Olivier, you’ll see his extensive credits include such memorable roles as “chorus member” from the long-running presentation of The Birds at the recently renovated Dixie’s Gym theater, and the kangaroo in Peter Pan. Other credits include the role of “no one” in a radical dramatic reinterpretation of the British stage smash Noises Off entitled Noise Is Off.
While Mr. Harris is of ordinary stature, he can play 5’11” depending on the height of the floor. Skills include speaking fluent “Forgien,” proper “hand stance,” the ability to play doubles tennis all by himself, conning others into hiring him, convencing, costoming, thinking, and in case you weren’t convinced by his flawless list of credits, some damn good acting.
Although Mr. Harris’s busy schedule takes him all over the world, he is currently between jobs and would be more than happy to fly out to L.A. to show his skills were Rysher to provide the airfare. Here in New York, we’ve all taken quite a shine to this peppy youngster; for the love of Brooklyn, won’t you please give him a chance?
Station Sales Assistant
Rob never wrote back, which is maybe poignant … I was his “Brooklyn Abdul” Harris. But it doesn’t really matter. I’m just happy this resume managed to find its way into my life. It’s posted below; please take the time to sit with it and enjoy its brilliance as I have for the last 13 years. The skills are of particular interest, as are the weirdly noncommital age and height declarations. If you know anything about theater, you might appreciate a few of the unintentional jokes in that section. I still have a photocopy of his headshot, but I’ll leave that one up to your imagination. (Double-click the resume to enlarge.)