53: David’s Story

53: David’s Story

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

David’s Story

Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.

~Denzel Washington

Each year in the early spring there is an Annual Open Call at Wilhelmina Kids & Teens, a leading modeling and talent management company of which I am president. It is a widely publicized event and a chance to get discovered. It is always well attended, with a line around the block at the company’s offices. Everyone on line is waiting to become a star. It is a huge event and my staff and I have a great time meeting the candidates on this high-energy day.

I spend a lot of time walking the line so I have a chance to talk to the aspiring youngsters in a low-key atmosphere when they are comfy and casual and not under the spotlight. This way I can get a better sense of who they are and make sure not to miss anyone.

One year, I spotted a very exotic young teen three-quarters of the way around the block. He was small for his age and quiet, and I just knew the camera was going to love him. He and his family had recently moved from Morocco. He spoke perfect English and a remote French/ North African dialect, which I knew would come in handy for a movie part someday. His parents had taken their life savings and opened a coffee shop downtown. It would be perfect—the mother’s job allowed flexibility and they lived in Manhattan, so auditions and Go Sees (auditions for print work) would be easy to coordinate. His name was David.

Over the course of the next few months David went on some Go Sees and auditions. He booked a few jobs but nothing significant.

Then came the breakthrough I still remember. It was a snowy Friday afternoon in the dead of winter. I received a phone call from the London production office to which I had submitted David for a role several months earlier. I thought the role was perfect for him, plus the role required knowledge of the French/North African dialect that David already knew. Shortly after I had submitted him for the project I followed up with a call to the casting director and was told the project was on hold. They said when they got the “green light” they would be in touch. That’s what they always say, but it rarely happens.

Well, they were in touch. The director wanted to meet David and he was flying in from London for one day, Saturday, to do so because shooting started in London on Monday. Wow, the director flying in on the weekend just to meet David. Perfect. They must have been really interested in David.

We worked on all the details for the director to meet David and his mother, Solange. To make things easier for the director, I suggested they book a suite at one of the airport hotels. They could spend a few hours working together and get to know each other, because this young man would have the title role in the movie.

The snow that started Friday continued heavily through the night, and the director’s flight to New York was cancelled because flights were not landing. The snowplows could not keep up with the snow to clear the runways.

All the airports up and down the Eastern Seaboard were closed. I had been up all night watching and listening to the weather reports. It was not looking good. All I could think was: Oh no, would they book their second choice, who lived in London, and be done with it? Would David miss the opportunity of a lifetime? Would the stupid weather prevent the director from making it to New York?

Early Saturday morning I got a call from my friend Lori. Lori is an early riser and always thinks everyone is up as early as she is, so it is typical for her to call me at 6 a.m. I was already awake from being up all night watching the weather, so it was okay. She told me she would not be able to meet me for lunch. She’d had a last-minute business trip to London and her return flight could not land at JFK because of the weather, so it was diverted to Boston. Wow—sorry about the lunch but what great news. The Boston airport was open—have the director fly to Boston and have David take the train up to Boston and meet him. What luck that I had a date with Lori and she called to cancel. Now all I had to do was get the director on the flight, and how was that going to happen?

Next thing, my boyfriend Robert, who was in Costa Rica, called to ask how I was weathering the storm. I told him how crazed I was with the David-and-the-director situation. He took down all the information. He told me he would call his friend on the Board of Directors of British Airways who owed him a favor and would get the director on a flight. Oh my god, was it going to happen? Was I that lucky? Was David actually going to meet the director?

As all this was happening, Solange kept calling me for updates. Every time she called she told me she had lit a candle in David’s room so the director could find his way to David.

The next twelve hours were a haze. Robert ended up getting the director on a flight that landed at JFK that morning. It was the only flight that landed until the afternoon. It was as if the angels cleared the runway for the director to find his way to David. The director and David spent three hours together. When the director walked out of the room, he was like a proud father. He announced that he and David would be spending a lot of time in London and so would Solange. She was going to play the role of his mother. Who knew she was an actress?

A warm fuzzy show biz story but wait—the part I didn’t tell you was that the family’s coffee shop was downtown, a block away from the World Trade Center, and it was destroyed earlier that year by the 9-11 attack. The family was broke, living hand to mouth, and the money David and his mother would earn from the movie was enough to pay for all the restaurant renovations and part of David’s college tuition. David is very lucky his mother lit that candle.

~Marlene Wallach

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