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'No' Contest

Secretagentman Readers continue to write in about our new column Secret Agent Man, written by an anonymous talent agent. Here are two such letters. The first is in regard to the March 13 column, "No." The second is in response to the Feb. 28 column, "The History Boys (and Girls)." To read Secret Agent Man online, click here.

I wanted to express my gratitude for your recent Back Stage article about the importance of saying no. I am an early-career actor new to NYC, the experience of which has been expectedly slow-going, mostly in part to my feeling that actors -- especially women -- are too apt to do anything.

I was particularly taken by your use of the word prostitute to describe participation in a reality show. In my view, the word actor is still somewhat synonymous with whore, as it was several hundred years ago.

Few people seem to realize that ultimately the industry cannot change unless performers are willing to refrain from projects that don't serve them as artists or serve art itself. I do not feel any less dignified as a temporary receptionist than when I am working as an actor on meaningful projects. After all, we are willing to strike for money. Why are we not willing to do so for other aspects of the industry?

I hope to see more articles from Secret Agent Man in the future.

-- H.W.
New York

The tired cliché of the "business of show business" has really taken away a great deal of the fun of acting. I have great memories of absorbing Hollywood history when I started in the late 1970s. A friend of mine, Charles Pogue, who later became a fairly successful screenwriter, and I used to spend some of our off time exploring old Hollywood haunts, watching old movies, and hearing great stories from an old bartender at Formosa Cafe [in West Hollywood].

I personally feel that saturation in the industry served us far better than these casting-agent seminars ever could, provided me with some great memories, and it was a hell of a lot more fun. In other words, your column was good advice.

-- Patrick Skelton
Los Angeles

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