One of my earliest memories is looking out from my crib at the cardboard cut-out of Disney’s Pinocchio skipping across my wall and off the school, with Jiminy Cricket close behind. Pinocchio’s life and mine would be forever entwined.
As a child I was a big liar. Perhaps it was an early sign of a creative imagination, but although my nose never grew, I did enthrall friends and annoy my family with tall tales. When my parents returned from a trip to California with home movies of Disneyland, I became obsessed with the image of them riding into Monstro the whale’s mouth on the Storybook Land ride, making my father replay the clip again and again.
The Old Log Theatre in Minneapolis, where I grew up, staged an annual production of “Pinocchio.” Going backstage after the show, I was both fascinated and terrified by the actors who played the Fox and the Cat. I also knew by age five that, “Hi diddle-dee-dee, an actor’s life was for me.”
When we moved to California and my sixth grade class staged a musical version of “Pinocchio,” my dream came true and I got the starring role. I threw myself into every aspect of the production, including creating a putty nose that grew (a stunning special effect) and drawing the overhead projection of Monstro the whale.
I was in every play and musical throughout junior and senior high school and entered the UCLA Theatre program as an actor. I came out a playwright, which is my primary calling to this day. I discovered that I didn’t need to be in the spotlight, but was much more comfortable pulling the strings.
During and after my UCLA years I lived in West Hollywood, my personal version of Pinocchio’s Playland. While none of us turned into donkeys, some suffered worse fates — and I encountered more than my share of asses.
I left that life when I fell in love with and married a young woman. While planning our wedding we couldn’t think of a song for our first dance until a commercial for Disneyland gave us inspiration. At our wedding my new bride and I danced to “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
While raising a family it was hard to get out of the house, so I got a part time job as a film critic for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. This ensured that I got out of the house at least once a week – and it fulfilled my passion for both movies and writing. As you can see, I’m still at it.
Today the walls of my San Francisco apartment are covered with masks that I’ve collected in my travels, reflecting my passion for theatre. On the wall of my study hangs a paper mache Venetian mask of my life-long alter ego: Pinocchio.
While we’ve both been through temptations, challenges and misadventures, I do feel at long last that I’ve also become a real live boy.