When Lindsay Lohan was a little girl, it’s quite likely her mother examined her closely — really sat across from her and objectively absorbed the details of her red hair, that freckled face and those thin lips — and thought, “The directors are going to hate her. They’re going to take one look at her and say, ‘Sorry. We’re not casting for a movie on the potato famine.’ Hmmm. Maybe I can fix this. Maybe I can soak her in lemon juice overnight and push her face into a brick in the morning ...”
Stage moms think this way.
I know this now.
Before this past weekend, however, I thought stage moms — like stage moms, not regular moms who go to plays — were simply overzealous human beings who either wisely saw the monetization potential of their offspring or who pathetically and vicariously lived through the children they were pushing on stage.
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But no. They are also monsters who, when presented with the first opportunity for their child to star in a movie, will look at their kid through other people’s eyes and make a vicious assessment.
They look at their little tap dancer and think “Yikes. Her thighs.” They look at their Justin Bieber wannabe and wonder “What’s the minimum age for a nose job?”
They pick up their child and look him squarely in the face and ask him, “Will the producers see the charm in your Marty Feldman eyes?”
My child has Marty Feldman eyes.
Not my child. Sorry. My dog. I am his owner, not his mother, though on Sunday afternoon at the auditions for Neighbor’s Dog in the film “Basement Bob,” I allowed myself to be called his mom.
And when a woman in line with me outside the Port Royal Veterinary Hospital, where the auditions were being held, said, “He’s handsome,” I said “I know” but clarified.
“I mean, I didn’t do this. I didn’t ‘make’ him.”
But he is handsome.
Maybe not “Neighbor’s Dog handsome,” though. You can’t just push Marty Feldman eyes back into a dog’s head.
Because the dog will hide under the dining room table if you do that.
When I was in college, my friend’s mom forced us to brainstorm ideas for new flavors of Jelly Belly jellybeans.
There was no jellybean contest. No class assignment. No actual reason to do it. But my friend’s mom insisted. She even sat next to us as we called the Jelly Belly operator whose phone script clearly did not include what to do in the event that “two girls have thought about it and believe a boxed wine-flavored jellybean is in order.”
“This,” my friend’s mother told us, as my friend mouthed the word “sorry,” “will be a good lesson in assertiveness for the both of you.”
On Sunday I paid this lesson forward to my dog, Newbury, whose interest in acting is nonexistent, as is his ability to be an actual Neighbor’s Dog, never mind a fictional one.
But I needed this experience in assertiveness. We needed to do things my way ... for once.
The day before the audition, however, after scrutinizing his features and assessing his general attractiveness, I realized his only “trick” is to sit 55 percent of the time that he is asked to do so. This is my fault and a total waste of his two degrees from Petco.
So Newbury and I worked on inquisitive head-tilting instead, something he does when bacon is at stake. Something he occasionally does, rather. Again, I have no control over the situation. I am his beta, which is why “Sit (?)” is the only skill I could write with any honesty next to his name on the audition sheet.
Above him on this list were 68 other dogs who could sit, roll over, speak, play dead, play Mozart, play the lottery, play defense for the Patriots, play Neighbor’s Dog.
The other dogs also had all four of their paws on the ground. My dog was relaxing uncomfortably in my arms. Because he is only good around people and other dogs when I’m not there.
And I was there.
I was there exercising my assertiveness on a dog I was holding like a baby. Actually, I was there waiting for someone else’s dog to embarrass them first so I could put my dog on the ground. He was getting heavy.
After one very disgruntled dog at the front of the line set off a chain reaction of barks that my dog did not contribute to, I finally felt confident enough to put him down. He sniffed the grass for a few minutes, then he sniffed the sweet old dog in front of him (who probably speaks seven languages and went to Juilliard) ... and then he went “Road House” on her.
No one won an Oscar for “Road House.”
The dog’s owner turned around as I picked up Newbury, and she was horrified. Just horrified. She started to apologize.
I ... accepted her apology and told her not to let it happen again. Every stage mom for herself and all.
After about 20 more minutes of holding a dog like a giant newborn, we were invited into the clinic for the “audition.” I put this in quotes because it should actually say “sit for one photo.”
Which Newbury, now known as Dog No. 69, naturally could not do.
I panicked because we were in a tiny room full of people who had nothing else to look at but the small dog ignoring its sweaty owner who, instead of saying “Sit” — instead of using the one word her dog knows 55 percent of the time and every other basic dog in this world knows 100 percent of the time — told him to “have a seat.”
His only hope right now is his looks.
So congratulations, dogs 1 through 68 and 70 through infinity. You probably got the part.
Marty Feldman and I will catch you on the big screen. Well, I will. Marty might be too busy brainstorming jellybean flavors.