Mary Rose Betten is a playwright, poet, retired character actress, and three-time Clio award-winner. Recently her 41-year marriage to her husband, "the theologian" ended, suddenly. Her life has been filled with road blocks, humor and courage. Back by popular demand, she has added a fourth post to her series. It is about her determination to be an actress.
An aspiring actress in New York I exaggerated by padding my bra, shoulders and resume. Outright lying true, but I had this habit of eating to maintain.
Like my first stand-up comic appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show I had never appeared in a nightclub. Oh, I’d done “open mikes,” at the world famous Duplex cabaret in Greenwich Village with: Dick Cavet, Rodney Dangerfield, Jay Leno and Richard Prior appearing on the same night. Of course they did their five minutes and I did mine but come on, technically I “appeared” with them, just later in the evening, okay, early in the morning, so the place was almost empty but I was there.
Ultimately open mikes, landed me The Tonight Show! Unknowns come on last, if there’s time remaining you come on. Behind curtains you wait, kleenex in arm pits. First clue you’re not going on? Tonight Show theme music swells. Home you go, back you come, ready you stand, curtains open, claim that couch, from his desk Johnny asks, “Where are you appearing?”
“Oh,” I fabricated “The Duplex.” Appreciative of the national plug, the Duplex booked me. My act resembled an eulogy but hey, I was appearing, actually appearing, so people exited when I entered yet I was appearing wasn’t I?
On to Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, next big break; Dean Martin’s Comedy Hour selected to film my five minutes at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas billed as an up and coming star on national TV. I sent telegrams to every casting director in the known world. Minutes, just seconds, nano-seconds before my segment aired, President Nixon came on national TV to resign, casting my face on the cutting room floor. A new president, sure, but it took me a year to pay for those telegrams.