The Importance of Being Ernie:

The Importance of Being Ernie: by Barry Livingston Read Free Book Online

Book: The Importance of Being Ernie: by Barry Livingston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barry Livingston
Tags: Fiction, General
didn’t really understand. I figured I better pretend or get fired on the spot.
    Reiner was no rube, though, and saw that I was scared and bluffing. He knelt down, gently patted my cheek, and whispered: “Think about something you remember, something that shocked you. Memories are like magic, you know. Just relax and go with it. Okay?”
    I nodded yes, but I still didn’t really know what he meant. Memories? Magic? The “old pro” was clueless but game.
    Take three: Richie and I enter, the pj’s are revealed, my jaw sagged, the audience screamed, and just as I feared, another tickle started to percolate in my innards.
    What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve never had this problem before! my brain screamed. The giggle kept rising. If it reached my mouth, I was screwed, the jig up, my acting reputation toast.
    Then a miracle happened. The memory of my dog, Lady, popped into my mind’s eye, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. My pet was lying in the street after a car had run her over; she was dead . Granted, the image wasn’t the same kind of shock as seeing somebody’s dad in funny pajamas, but I was grateful that something, anything, popped into my head. I decided to go with the memory as Reiner suggested and focused on Lady’s black eyes, glassy and motionless, and her furry midsection that looked flattened by the tire that rolled over her. Not surprisingly, the tickle began to recede.
    The audience was not to be spurned, though. They howled like Greek sirens luring me onto the rocks. I fought back with another memory: a grumpy city worker scooping up my dead pet with a big shovel and flinging her limp body into the back of his truck. Believe me, my “stunned, frozen slack jaw” has never hung lower.
    At last, the scene ended. The studio bell dinged, just like it does at the end of a boxing match; I had finally won the bout.
    Reiner returned to the set and pronounced me a comedy genius. Well, not actually. He just thanked me, I assumed for not screwing up his show, again, and the cast and crew moved on to the next scene. My work was done, not a moment too soon, and I was sent packing.
    Driving home from the studio, my mom could see me lost in thought. “Don’t worry, Barry,” she said. “People make mistakes. There’s a lot to learn.”
    “Uh-huh,” I mumbled. I hated when adults said things like that. Secretly, I was still rattled but couldn’t admit it. My first live performance was a disaster, and that took my cockiness down a couple of notches. Perhaps I didn’t have it all figured out.
    We rode in silence, and then my mother asked, “So, what did Mr. Reiner finally tell you?”
    I sighed, wanting to put the whole weird evening behind me, and said, “I forget.” Of course, that wasn’t true because the director’s words were still echoing in my head. So was my dog’s ghostly memory. Lady’s appearance was a godsend and a revelation. She was still alive, somewhere in my body or soul, and I had the power to call upon her. My dog could still come to my rescue if I ever needed her help.
    Reiner was right. Memories are like magic.

    The Top Secret TV Series
    While I was busy working in movies, Stan was on the verge of an acting break that would change his life forever, and eventually mine, too.
    Our agent told Stan that he had an audition for an untitled, top-secret project. Our family was intrigued. Nothing grabs your attention more than a super-classified project. The only thing that could be revealed: a huge movie star was attached to the enterprise, which was a pilot for a new TV series. This was an era when major film stars rarely appeared in TV projects; it was considered beneath their stature. This series was going to be very special.
    At Stan’s audition, he learned that the untitled project actually had a name: My Three Sons . Somebody also leaked the name of the show’s star: Fred MacMurray. MacMurray was a huge movie star, having come off a string of Disney hits like The

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