Written for the dual purpose of a final course assignment and a special birthday gift, this whimsical tale shares a bit of fact, a bit of fantasy and what I perceive as a bit of truth...
JUST BEA LEEVEA low whirring sound floated inexplicably through Bea’s head as senses heightened by anticipation and disbelief struggled to absorb the blur of bright lights and impeccably dressed magazine pages springing everywhere to life.
The Academy Awards.
It couldn’t be true. A year-and-a-half ago at this time she was just loading her 50-inch-cut walk-behind Gravely mower into the trailer after finishing up her work day with Mrs. Strobel’s 2 1/2-acre lawn.
She’d been acting, attending college part-time and writing poetry, essays, songs, screenplays -- along with monthly landscaping invoices -- for years, always certain her big break would come one day, yet feeling at the same time it would forever wait until tomorrow. At last tomorrow was here, and she made her way on confused and nervous legs to her seat in the fourth row, the same row where further down sat Jack Nicholson, Ed Burns and Diane Lane.
It seemed like only yesterday when her agent had called and fairly shrieked the gleeful news that Bea’s script, Making the Call, had been accepted for production by Paramount Pictures and that three different artists had contacted her, hoping for the right to record and produce her songs for the soundtrack. There had been a bit of fuss over her determination to play the female lead -- unlike in the music business where the artists themselves routinely record the material they write, in film the choicest roles belong only to a "bankable" star. But she and her agent had both lobbied hard and, after what seemed like at least a hundred auditions before different studio bigwigs, they had won. Now her name was among the nominees for Best Actress, one of seven categories in which Making the Call was being recognized tonight.
Although she was grateful for the favor of all these nominations, Bea felt fairly certain that of the categories associated with her, the greatest chance for actually winning must lie within the music. Not only was this where she felt the soul of the project was located, but the dream combination of talent linked to all aspects of the soundtrack still seemed too good to be true. Only last month, just after the nominations had been announced and she had appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman, it had been too much to grasp that the musical guests who concluded the show were singing her song. But then, being on Letterman at all had been such a dream come true that at that magic moment almost anything seemed possible.
As she had expected, "Dave" (as he insisted on being called) had opened the interview with "You weren’t really a landscaper, were you? Come on, just between you and me and the good folks at home, that’s really a crock, isn’t it?"
"No, Dave, that’s entirely the truth. I used to plant trees, mow lawns -- the whole nine yards."
"Wow. Well, I guess that’s why you’re in such great shape. All that outdoor stuff kept you all fit and tan and...fit... Does she look fit or what, ladies and gentlemen. Wow."
"Thank you," she answered, a blush engulfing her face in flame. "What can I say? Except... body by Gravely..."
Dave had really laughed at that remark. "Body by Gravely. Ha! Eat your heart out, Gold’s Gym. Move over Jenny Craig. With that kind of advertisement, Gravely’s about to put you right out of business!
Bea Leeve, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll be right back with Blind Man’s Way and their hit from Bea’s Academy Award nominated film, Making the Call. Stay tuned!"
And now Bea was in an even more surreal situation as she came back from her musings just in time to hear last year’s recipient announce the winner for Best Actress in a Supporting Role go to... Making the Call!
Yes!!! Bea was on her feet, applauding through tears of happiness. Oh, how wonderful...What a moment!
"We’re sure starting off well," Bea thought as she stood again to applaud the conclusion of the acceptance speech. Even though her work had never been written with awards of any sort in mind, still it was wonderful to see the dedicated efforts of the many people involved with it honored in this way.
Several more technical categories followed and although Bea tried to listen attentively to these, she couldn’t keep her mind from wandering to how so many aspects of the project had almost magically come together.
Getting the right musicians had always been her biggest worry. Even being sure of who these were herself had taken quite some time. Then, of course, had come the task of getting them to listen to the seemingly crazy ambitions of a completely unknown artist.
But from the minute she’d heard his first album just last spring, Bea knew she had to try to get in touch with the one person who would not only be perfect for the role of the main character’s best friend, but who was also both a writer and producer of exactly the type of music which would perfectly complete the expression of her lyrics. With this in mind, she’d finally decided to simply put these thoughts on paper and had sent him out a letter. To her delight -- and perhaps a wee bit more surprise than she’d admit -- a few weeks later he had set up a meeting. And when it finally came about, she realized instantaneously that her instincts had been right.
Naturally, with finished songs as well as an established pro on board, reaching the male lead had also become attainable at last. True, in real life the two had hardly been the friends they were about to play onscreen, but thanks to the unifying power of music -- and perhaps a nudge from Destiny -- finally life mirrored art and, although Bea hadn’t spotted them as yet, she had no doubt that they were at this very moment seated side by side somewhere in the auditorium. As she thought back on all the fun they’d had working together, she smiled to herself. Even if the film had gone nowhere, surely their friendship alone made the project a great success.
Bea was jolted from her reverie as she realized the award for Best Song was about to be presented. Despite her firm belief that art shouldn’t be competitive, still somehow she felt her heart pounding inexplicably in her throat as the "artist formerly" [and once again] known as" Prince slowly opened the envelope. " And the winner is...‘Gun Control’...Bea Leeve, songwriter."
The whirring in her ears returned and in an effect similar to that of tinnitus became the only sound to reach her through the blur of clapping hands, smiling faces and gentle prodding of those beside her urging her to rise and make that unimaginable, brief yet endless journey to the stage.
She arrived at last and accepted the award itself along with a warm embrace from its presenter. Overwhelmed with joy and confusion, she then turned to face a crowd which suddenly seemed to number something like the blades of grass on a 10-acre lawn.
"Wow...." she began, glancing down at the award to convince herself there hadn’t been some huge mistake. "Did somebody lose this? ‘Cause I think I must have picked it up by accident."
A wave of laughter rolled through the enormous room, giving Bea a moment to collect her thoughts and try to start again.
"Uh, first I’d like to say thank you to everyone who put this in my hands...The Academy...my incredibly talented friends who worked with me on all of the songs for this project... I’ll never remember everybody to name all of you now but you know who you are. Thank you so much.
"Wow," she said again. "I used to think sometimes while mowing a lawn of all the meaningful and memorable things I’d say when I finally made it to where I’m standing tonight. But I guess they just weren’t memorable enough, because I can’t remember even one of them right now.
"Be that as it may...what I do want to say is that to all of you out there who wonder if you’re ever going to make it here, just stay true to yourself...and to your artistic vision...and remember that even though this award may have my name on it, it isn’t about me. It’s about you. If I hadn’t created something that helped you see yourselves, something to make a difference in some way to somebody else, I wouldn’t be here. Because that’s what art is really all about...finding the courage to share who we are with those around us as so many people have inspired me to do for you, and as I hope I’ve inspired you to do for someone else. So when somebody tells you you can’t, you tell them you can, and when they say you won’t, tell them you will, and when they ask who says, I’m telling you now that I do, so the way you should answer that question is...’Just Bea Leeve!’"
"Thank you and goodnight!" Bea added as thunderous applause shook the floor beneath her feet.
Later, Bea would recall that even more awards had followed. At the moment, however, amidst the incomprehensible sound of continuing applause, she simply allowed herself to be guided off the stage to the area where eager press awaited each of the winners -- a circumstance so foreign she felt momentarily blinded by the explosion of flash bulbs and blur of faces, tape recorders and notepads. And as both she and time stood still in that interminable moment, she pondered all at once the thoughts assaulting her spinning brain.
How had she got here? She and a non-designer gown from her favorite consignment shop? She and her Timex watch, her father’s high school class ring and two pairs of small gold earrings? No diamonds, no frills -- just a person with a need to wear her mind and soul alone, just a spirit searching for the courage to walk naked before the world.
She, just a writer, an actress -- an artist.
Just Bea Leeve.
And as these thoughts faded the brightness of the press room to a mercifully peaceful dusk, the inexplicable whirring in Bea’s head returned once more.
Suddenly aware of its cause, Bea switched off the ignition of her 50-inch-cut Gravely walk-behind mower and shut the trailer door. Another day as Bea the landscaper had ended. Time to go home and finish that song lyric she’d started last evening. Wow. "Gun Control". What a great title that would make for it.
And she smiled at this thought. And at the memory of the ceremony she’d so recently attended, the memory of the life which she would indeed yet live.
In the meantime, however, she would press on, keep working and stick to the philosophy that made her who she’d always been, who she’d always be...
Just Bea Leeve.