Sometime not too long after Bill and I were married, he came home from a day at the Capitol where he lobbied our General Assembly for 30 years and said, “I think I want to get involved in acting.”
Now, if he said that to me today, after being married to him for neigh on 25 years, I wouldn’t blink an eye. “Acting. Oh, yeah. That’s nice. Could you pass me the salt?” I would respond. Assuming, that is, that I wanted the salt. But you get my point. After 25 years of marriage, nothing Bill McLain does or says really astounds me.
But at that point, I likely responded with something like, “Acting? Acting? Why on earth would you want to do something like that?”
When Bill was a kid, his mother apparently signed him up for just about any kind of lessons you could give a kid. The reason she did this I assume is because he is only 15 months younger than his sister Kathy, and I think the two of them were quite naughty as children and, having completely opposite personalities, fought unceasingly. His mother’s answer: divide and conquer. As a result, he took piano lessons, trumpet lessons, singing lessons, acting lessons, tennis lessons. If there was a lesson to be had, Bill took them. At the end, however, the only lessons that really captured him were the acting lessons. So much so, in fact, that he seriously considered going into the entertainment industry when he approached adulthood. His father quickly put an end to that line of thinking, thoroughly discouraging him from something so impractical. And when I say thoroughly discouraging him, I mean saying something like if you do such a stupid thing, you can pay for college yourself.
But I think a hankering to act was always there. Nevertheless, he went to college, became a lawyer, married, had three kids, and never became an actor. Never, that is, until sometime shortly after we were married. When he came home and said, “I think I want to get involved in acting.”
His friend John had already appeared in a couple of films or television shows that were produced in Colorado. With John’s help, Bill took some acting classes, had some head shots taken, signed with an agency, and sat back to wait for the calls to start coming in.
By the way, the reason I’m telling you this story is that in a blog post last week, I offhandedly mentioned that Bill was a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild. I seriously thought that everyone who knew Bill knew this about him, as he loves to tell stories about his experiences. However, several people mentioned that they were unaware of this fact and were curious.
But back to Bill’s acting career (tongue firmly placed in cheek).
Much to my surprise, calls really did start coming in. Not anything major, mind you. But he was an extra in a number of films, mostly Perry Mason made-for-television movies. He once played a police officer who had to step over the dead body of a person played by Geraldo Rivera. Despite the fact that you only saw Bill from the bottom of his neck down to the top of his legs, he can (and does) honestly say, “I was in a movie with Geraldo Rivera.”
He never actually had any major film roles, but, being Bill McLain, he did frequently have the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of actors. They would be out smoking a cigarette or catching a breath of fresh Colorado air and he would join them to shoot the breeze.
In order to be a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), however, you have to have a speaking role and thereby become a union member. That happened to Bill when he auditioned for and was awarded the main role in a commercial for the Colorado Lottery. He played a husband who, at the beginning of the commercial, was asked what he would do if he won the lottery. He responds that he would take his wife out to dinner. At the end of the commercial, you see Bill and a female actor sitting at a Rockies game and he says, upon cashing in a winning lottery ticket, the following words to an unseen hot dog vendor: Two dogs here!
Two things happened following that commercial: 1. Our niece Maggie got mad at him for being with a so-called “wife” who wasn’t me (true story); and 2. He became a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild.
Once that happened, both he and John, in their inevitable manner, became very involved in SAG, eventually becoming president and vice president of the local chapter of SAG. The main benefit of this role, as far as I could ever see, was being able to meet Mickey Mouse at a SAG convention held in Orlando. That, and being able to screen movies early which will likely be contenders for SAG awards (which are often the Academy Award nominees as well). You don’t have to be an officer to screen these movies; all SAG members screen the movies and vote.
And there you have it folks – the acting career of Bill McLain, who now lives a quiet life in Mesa, AZ and Denver, CO.
By the way, for the small number of you who haven’t heard this story, I will share it with you. At one point in his career, he played a role in a music video for a group called Ugly Kid Joe, whose biggest hit was the love ballad (I Hate) Everything About You. You can take a gander. He’s the man in the blue polo shirt pushing the lawn mower that you see 36 seconds in, 44 seconds in, and 1 minute and 50 seconds in…
His proudest moment was when the music video was featured on Beavis and Butt-head.
And that’s all I’ll say about that.
This post linked to Grand Social.