You likely saw the "news" story where "Fox News" bizarrely seemed to try to shame actor Geoffrey Owens -- who appeared on The Bill Cosby Show for seven years -- for now working at a Trader Joe's grocery store. Even at face value, it was a bizarre thing to write about for many reasons, the most basic being obvious: slamming someone for having a job just seems weird and nasty. And picking on Geoffrey Owens seems especially odd. Though it was good to see a lot of people noting on social media that what he's doing now is far superior to the star of the show he was on.
How aghast was social media at the unfairness of the "Fox News" article? Not only were liberals and several "Hollywood actors" like Blair Underwood and Justine Bateman outraged at "Fox News" but I saw angry tweets from such far right voices as actor James Woods and Dana Loesch, spokeswoman for the NRA (and one-time aspiring actress) taking "Fox News" to task, as well.
All that aside, there's something else very notably to make clear --
What the "Fox News" story important leaves out is that Geoffrey Owens is STILL an ACTIVE working actor -- and simply checking the iMDB.com movie database would make that incredibly clear. It's not that he's been acting on and off for a while -- rather, he has seven TV and movie credits the past two years alone, including a role this season on the CBS series, Elementary. Indeed, he was worked steadily in films and TV every year for the past 12 years (with one exception in 2012). So, while it would be perfectly fine if he had gotten out of acting and just wanted a nice job at a good company to make a living and get health care and personal respect, in fact that's not the case at all -- he has an an impressively long career as an actor that goes back to 1985. And "Fox News" didn't even bother to browse to his credits, which would have taken about 15 seconds. In fact, given his long career and seven seasons on a hit series, it's likely that he has been successful enough to have been vested in the Screen Actors Guild health care program. And so, he probably doesn't need the health care from Trader Joe's. He just wants the work and salary. Horrors!
(And since he lives in New York, this doesn't include any of the stage work he might have been doing there over the years, as well. I've read one story from a local school, too, that explained how he comes in to teach acting there on occasion, which they wouldn't be able to offer otherwise. Another story was a reminiscence from someone of "An act of kindness. Twenty-two years ago while I was in college, #GeoffreyOwens and his wife found out that I didn't have enough food to eat. I hardly knew them. They bought me bags of groceries and hugged me as I cried - shocked by their kindness. A hero stands tall anywhere.")
The reality is, for most actors, except those lucky few who become stars or who break through as supporting performers, jobs don't come regularly, so the option is to do nothing during your downtime (which can be months because jobs, even half a year) or stay busy with other work. So, in other words, this break news "story" from "Fox News" is that a journeyman actor with a 33-year career has a has a second job to keep him busy and provide income.
I should also note that he picked a very nice company to work at. I've been a huge admirer of Trader Joe's and shopper there for probably 40 years, when they were just a West Coast company, with most of their stores in Los Angeles. And Joe Coulombe was still the owner, and did their radio ads himself. There's a Trader Joe's about half a mile from where I live, and I pass it maybe four times a week on my morning constitutional -- I probably stop in once a week. They're employees tend to be very friendly and incredibly helpful, and seem to actually like working there, so it makes all the more foolish to try to "shame" someone for doing so. I suspect they have a long waiting list of job applicants and are very selective who they hire.
Today's Labor Day, so I won't head over, but I'll make sure to stop in on Tuesday, just on general principle to offer my support. I really only have one quibble with Trader Joe's. And it's not really a quibble at all, just a caveat --
I have a very nice Hawaiian shirt that my friend Deborah (who's from Honolulu) bought me several years back. And I have to be incredibly careful NOT to wear it when I know I'm going to shop at Trader Joe's. If you shop there, you know what I mean and where this is going. One day I was wearing the shirt and browsing around the store -- and every five minutes, some customer would come up to me and ask for help. I didn't mind explaining that, no, I wasn't an employee, I was just wearing my own Hawaiian shirt, but I felt bad for the people asking who always so embarrassed that they had confused my Hawaiian shirt with those of the store. So, there have literally been times when I've gotten dressed in the morning, and then remembered I was going to be shopping at Trader Joe's that day and quickly changed shirts.
Other than that -- and that they periodically drop carrying favorite items of mine -- I think Trader Joe's is a terrific store. And lest they get smeared, as well, for being a demeaning place to work, it's important to know that the very opposite it true.
On the positive side, I wouldn't be surprised if Geoffrey Owens gets a lot of positive notice from this story, bringing his name to the attention of casting directors who are inundated daily with piles of actors' resumes to try and sort through to figure out which lucky few will get to audition for producers -- and who know how monumentally unfair this "Fox News" smear was and may want to do right by him to correct that wrong.
One of the most difficult things for any career actor is to stay visible so that they get those auditions and stay in the eye of casting directors and producers. It's my hope that the attempt by "Fox News" to meaningless "shame" someone living under the wire and out of the spotlight, like pretty much everyone in the world, backfires in a big way and ends up getting an actor more work than he would have had otherwise. But at the very least, it's nice that it has brought out stories about what a good guy the fellow is.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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