Friday, July 30, 2004

My Mentor - Lois Auer

Cracking open any book on screenwriting, you'll find the same old first-person story on how somebody famous managed to break into Hollywood:

"...Well I moved out here from Idaho hoping I could someday make it big. I lived off top-ramen noodles and slept on my friend's couch for six months until one day my agent at CAA finally called to tell me I had a job in the next big summer blockbuster."

Eh, hey buddy, where the hell did that agent from CAA (the biggest agency on the planet) come from? Why do these people always leave out the most important part? That key to how they made it. It's as if they're embarrassed to tell you.


Yesterday morning the person who gave me my career passed away in her sleep. And as my own personal eulogy, I would like give her credit for what she has done.

Lois Auer began teaching acting in the 1930's, and continued teaching until the day before she died. It was not unusual for her first student to show up around 7am and for her last student to go home well after 10pm.

Among her more famous students were David Hasselhoff, Shannen Doherty, Barry Williams & Jodie Foster. She used to hate it when people would brag about her resume or how long she had been teaching... but I could get away with it.

I met Lois not as an acting coach but as my late Grandmother's best-friend. They had been friends for over half a century, but it was not until my Grandmother's youngest grandchild was born, yours truly, that Lois had a member of my family who was interested in whatever wisdom she could impart about Hollywood.

A little over a year after graduating from college, I began working in LA and visiting Lois on a regular basis. Although this was under the guise of "Acting Lessons" what she was really doing was telling me everything she could about the entertainment industry and giving me her opinion on what I was doing to move forward in my career.

Sometimes, during the last 20 minutes or so of our two hour meetings, she would teach me acting.

As a writer, it's a good idea to know your audience. And as a screenwriter a good chunk of your audience is going to be actors and actresses. So it would of course be in my best interest to know what would be going on inside an actor's head when they were reading my work.

Soon after I began my "lessons" with Lois, I quit the job I had moved to LA for and began work on my first real feature length screenplay. Throughout the process, Lois would listen to my various rants and ideas, while offering up her own pearls of wisdom.

A few days after finishing the script, I showed up at Lois's to give her a copy. She instead sat me down and announced I was going to read it to her. Three hours later, when I had finished, Lois of course told me it was one of the best scripts she had ever heard. She mentioned she wanted to show it to a lady who had grown up across the street from her and who now had some clout in the industry.

I thanked her and went home to begin the long arduous task of finding an agent to represent my script, or *gasp* even someone who might buy it.

A month later I got a call. It was not an agent... It was not one of the hundreds of people I had sent a query letter to. It was Lois's former neighbor. We met and she optioned my script with a very generous contract. For the past three years now, Lois's former neighbor and I have worked together developing my script and getting it underway. As of now they are in the process of signing on a director and possibly an A-List star.

Optioning that script to Lois's neighbor is what made me legitimate. Thanks to Lois I have a career that will put food on my table, send my children through college, and entertain millions.

In the end, I owe my career to a phone call made by a little, then 93 year old, lady.

Thank you Lois. No matter how big my name becomes, part of my work will always be for you, and to thank you for making it all possible.

Thank you for everything.


Blogger Legolas said...

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Sat Jul 31, 07:59:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Legolas said...

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Sat Jul 31, 07:59:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Legolas said...

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Sat Jul 31, 08:02:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Legolas said...

Sorry for your loss Cocles. She sounded great, I wish I could have met her.

This explains why you have been gone. I'll talk to you later.

Sat Jul 31, 01:01:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Legolas said...

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Sat Jul 31, 01:03:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Cocles said...

Legolas accidentally made the same post multiple times.

Sun Aug 01, 01:47:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear the loss of this nice lady :-( From what you describe she's a person who really loved to help people.

Lois Auer may you rest in peace.

- Techo

Sun Aug 01, 06:48:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually shed (sp?) a tear. I believe in your writing ability, big C. And I'm sorry to hear of the news. But I can tell you're putting your talent and experience and knowledge to work (and I mean that in a big way). I'm sure Lois is proud of you.

Tue Aug 03, 08:50:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent a little time with Lois as well, and I remember her telling me of your script. She was a wonderful woman, and I am pleased to see you are keeping her alive in your heart... even now.

Thu Apr 21, 09:18:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lois auer, sherman oaks

I took drama classes from Lois Auer, in the 1970's. She was WONDERFUL -- a consummate professional.

I've always wondered why I could never find her mentioned on the net; I was also curious what had happened to her.

(As a child actor without much experience, I was help immeasurably by Lois Auer's help... I'm curious what happened to other fellow child actors who were in Auer's workshops with me -- Teresa Warder, Suzanne Roth, and others.)

Thank you for piece on Lois. She was wonderful.

Sat Sep 10, 03:53:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bud Wiser said...

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Sun Oct 02, 01:33:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Bud Wiser said...

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Tue Oct 11, 11:50:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Wed Feb 08, 03:59:00 AM PST  
Blogger Joyce Granville said...

I loved your story about Lois. I too took acting lessons from her in her home in the early 60's. She was always nicely dressed in a suit or skirt and blouse and high heels. I was in a small acting group. She had alot of patience. When we would get the giggles she would leave the room and then come back in. She also taught Larry Matthews who portrayed Richie on the Dick Van Dyke Show. He was then 5 years old! Lois had a beautiful home up in the hills of Sherman Oaks. We would gather in her living room and do skits, etc. She waas very helpful! She charged $15 for the class and it all helped us loosen up! The last thing I remember is that she had acquired aa large Weimaraner dog, I believe for protection. He was huge and sweet and his name was "Garm"! Here's to you Lois and to all the things you taught me! Sincerely, Joyce Granville
San Francisco Bay Area

Fri Mar 16, 01:29:00 PM PDT  
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Anonymous Peter Cicero said...

I took acting lessons from Lois Auer back in 1962. I was eleven. Lois was a warm, gracious lady who instantly made me feel at ease in her home.

Occasionally Lois would read a part aloud for her students' benefit. I remember being awed at the sheer energy she invested in each reading!

Although I did not pursue a career in acting, I will always fondly remember Lois Auer and my Saturday trips to her drama classes in the hills of Sherman Oaks.

Mon Jul 28, 01:10:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took lessons from Lois in her Sherman Oaks home for 3 years in the 80s. We also became personal friends and she would pick me up in her huge white car (a Cadillac, I believe) and we would attend plays at the Ahmanson downtown). I will always remember her with great affection. I'm so glad to hear that she taught right up until the very end.
Mary Lane

Sat Aug 30, 01:20:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Erica Hunton said...

I also took classes from Lois from age 6 to 13. She was amazing. The last time I saw her was when I took my daughter to her for classes in the mid 90's. My daughter, now a working actress still talks about Lois and that old black phone she used as a prop. I have thought often of Lois and will continue to do so with fond memories. Thank you for the wonderful eulogy for Lois.

Mon Dec 01, 04:23:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Greg said...

I found some childhood headshots recently and on the back it listed I took lessons from Lois Auer. It was in 1963 but I remember the lady as being nice and strict. She wanted you to learn and I did. Unfortunately, we moved in a couple years later and I didn't pursue an acting career but I won't forget how I enjoyed it. I returned to California a few years ago and I am trying to break back into the business. I'm 58 so I doubt I'll ever make it big, but I'm happy if I can be a part of it.
I'm glad I found your blog that helped me remember some of those fond memories.

Fri Mar 13, 01:39:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Ethan Nielson said...

Thank you for your comments about my dear friend Lois Auer. I unfortunately lost contact with her, but studied with her over a period of fifteen years. I have many happy memories of traveling up to 3850 Cody Road in Sherman Oaks to study with her both privately and in group sessions. Every once in a while I'll bump into someone who knew her, like Eleanor Donahue and we'll reminisce about what a lovely womam she was.
Thank you again for this wonderful tribute to her.
Ethan Nielson
Glendora, Ca. 91740

Mon May 25, 10:08:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should do a Wiki on this woman. I studied with her too. she was an amazing force.

Sun Dec 12, 01:46:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes you should do a wiki on Lois.

I have forgotten your name but saw you every time I took my son for lessons. If you think about it he had long dark shaggy hair, wore overalls and sheepskin slippers. They were UGGS but the rest of the world had yet to discover what Australian surfers and I had found perfect for cold sand down under. Anyway, sometimes you were there when we got there and other times you were there when we left.
I do remember you picking my son off the roof of my white minivan and setting him down as he ran into to squeeze Lois.
Lois would say, "Squeeze me as hard as you can!"
"NO!! Don't, don't! She only wants you to make the noise!"
My son would say, "IIIII know mom. I'm an actor."
And he would give it all he had, "Erghhhhhhh!"
And she would laugh and laugh.
Nice to know who you are at five.

What was the story she would tell about her chairs and her son? Do you remember? She told it all the time!!

I would bring Lois soup and sandwiches from the Whole Foods down the road. I wanted to make sure she was fed and we came 5 days a week.

My brother studied with Lois back when Jodie Foster did. I would see her now and then after she left Lois' and I would keep the scripts they were working on because memorizing scripts was my thing. I didn't want to be an actress. I had the old "Courtship of Eddie's Father" scripts, "My Three Sons" and a few others.

Oh my she loved you! You were an angel sent to her. You did so much for her as she was not just your mentor but a soulmate of sorts.

Lois had told you, the earthquake had made it so hard to live out of the boxes and you said, "Lois, that earthquake was YEARS ago!!"
She told me she hadn't realized that time had passed.
I would LOVE to talk Lois with you as I had known Lois since I was five. She taught my brothers. For many, many years she was my brothers best friend. They also had a remarkable relationship.
What was your script? What happened next in your life? Did you continue to lift weights? Cook? Write?

Talk Lois to me. I am hungry for Lois stories:)

Tue Aug 13, 02:46:00 PM PDT  

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