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Why Peter Arrorio Is Single


 

Peter Arrorio is a good dude. He takes his mom out to brunch every other Sunday. He has a good job with an investment firm outside of Vancouver. He bikes at least forty miles every weekend and goes on an annual fishing trip in the American West with his buddies from grade school. He’s cute with a smattering of freckles that give off a boyish charm. He recused an elderly dog from the shelter. But he’s 47 and still single. And here’s why.


Before Peter became such a good adult, he was a good kid. He got good grades, stayed out of trouble, and was, by all accounts, the most agreeable child that the adults in his life had ever encountered. And that’s saying a lot, since he’s Canadian. So when his Aunt Tilda swept into his living room on a Tuesday in June, the heavy scent of Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, trailing behind her, interrupting his morning of Fraggle Rock and Cookie Crisp, and insisted that he audition for a new CBC children’s show, The Good Times Gang, he obliged, as she knew he would.


Auditions are a strange beast no matter who you are. And the waiting rooms amp that weirdness up by multiples. Peter sat in the metal folding chair in a small room at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Studios, swinging his legs, stealing glances at the other moms who busied themselves by combing their kid’s hair and spit-shining their cheeks. Aunt Tilda’s attention was consumed by re-applying the Revlon lipstick she’d been wearing since the beginning of the decade. Peter looked around the room and noticed that all of the other kids held typewriter-ed print-outs with a lot of words and stage directions.


“Aunt Tilda?” He interrupted her sixth layer of Rendezvous Red. She smiled at him over her compact mirror. “I think I’m supposed to know all those lines,” he gestured to the other actors. Aunt Tilda looked horrified, twisting down her lipstick.


“Oh, biscuits, they didn’t say anything about lines in the newspaper,” Peter shrugged.


“Go get 'em! Ask someone if you can borrow theirs. And learn those lines just as fast as you can.”


Again, Peter was a good kid. He did what he was told. He borrowed the pages from a large boy with a one size too-small horizontally striped shirt and a lisp who didn’t seem to care one way or the other about their current situation.


Peter returned to his chair and concentrated on the words. Learn those lines, he told himself as Aunt Tilda pulled out a tube of mascara and went to work on the upper part of her face. And learn those lines, he did. Peter had no idea that he was such a quick study until he heard his name called and was ushered into a bright but windowless room where he stood in front of seven adults behind a folding table.


They asked him his name and his age and his favorite hockey team and then asked if he was ready to act out the scene.


“Sure,” Peter said, since not long ago his plan for the day was to go to the local pool and talk his mother into parting with some money to go to Baskin Robbins, he figured that he truly had nothing to lose. So he shrugged, pretending to be the boy on the page who had just found a cat in a tree and needed to talk his friends into helping the cat down. He remembered all the lines and found this sort of play kind of fun. When he was done, he looked at all seven adults and shrugged. They were silent. He wondered if Aunt Tilda would be up for some ice cream.


“That was just…” A man in a suit with a Maple Leafs tie shook his head, “Perfect, just absolutely perfect.” The rest of the adults vocally agreed. “Great job, Peter. We’ll be in touch,”


Peter nodded and left, only to be accosted by Aunt Tilda, who had finished applying her new face, seconds later.


“How’d ya do, baby?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “I bet ya did just great. You’re always the best. Now, maybe we don’t tell your mom about this? I told her we were going to the pool. You know she likes to keep a low profile. But when I saw the ad in the paper, I knew I just had to take you to audition.”


“Sure,” Peter shrugged, his mind preoccupied with a double-scoop cone.


“So, if she asks,” Aunt Tilda threw on a big smile, raising her eyebrows as she nodded, “let’s just tell her that it was your idea.”


“Can we get ice cream?” Aunt Tilda watched as the chubby boy with the too-small shirt walked out of the audition room, tears in his eyes. She turned back to Peter, “Of course, Sugar,” She stole another look at the boy, “but not too much.”


And this is how Peter became a child actor, starring in The Good Times Gang for all six of their seasons on the CBC. He went along with it year after year because it seemed to make all the adults in his life happy. He didn’t mind being on set and liked the rest of the cast. Coming of age on national television, however, had the occasional pitfall. It was the second to last show of the final season that scarred him for life.


The table read, where the entire cast sat in a conference room to go through the new script, went smoothly enough. In the episode, The Good Times Gang somehow got roped into babysitting and Peters's character was the one who brought the twin toddlers into the clubhouse to meet his friends and get their help. Truthfully, Peter wasn’t even paying the most attention to the script. His thoughts were elsewhere. The other actors had been discussing at length what their next moves would be after the show ended. Some of their agents wanted them to move to New York or Los Angeles. Some already had acting jobs lined up. One girl had discovered during their six-year run that she was a certifiable genius and was going off to college in Cambridge after filming wrapped. Peter was unsure.


He’d never intended to be an actual actor and wasn’t sure if he’d been kept on the show because he was genuinely talented or just excelled at following directions. His mind wandered as the read-through continued and he paid little attention to the stage directions involving his big scene with the twin babies.


The next day, after the usual hour of hair and makeup to ensure he looked like a normal teenage boy, Peter arrived on set for the walk-through. He was given two footballs, one to be held in each elbow, to mimic the little humans he would be carrying. Then the director put some blue tape on the floor of the sound stage so Peter would know exactly where to pretend to trip and then pause for the inevitable laughter from the live studio audience. Peter did a campy juggle of the footballs, went over his lines with a few of his casemates, then they broke for lunch where Peter ate a few too many tacos. The lunch part of the job was definitely something he would miss.


When his shirt had been changed, his nose had been powdered, and his lines securely stored in his short-term memory bank, Peter headed to set. He heard the babies before he saw them.


Now, Peter was the youngest of three brothers and all the cousins on both sides of the family. He’d never really been around babies because he’d always been the baby. He found himself, a slightly awkward 15-year-old who, remember, never really wanted to be a performer, standing face-to-face with an exhausted-looking mother who was trying to calm her twins. Peter turned to the director.


“Oh. I didn’t know they’d be crying.”


The director shook his head, reassuring Peter, “They won’t be crying.” They both looked at the mother. She exhaled through her nose,


“They might be.”


“OK!” The director clapped his hands and forced a big smile, “Maybe that’s funnier?” The rest of the producers seemed to agree that staying on schedule was the most important part and that it didn’t matter if the babies were crying or not.


“PLACES!” Peter stood at his spot outside the set door as the mother handed him one child and then the other. This is the moment that Peter realized he had never actually held a baby before. He searched his memory but came up short.


“Um, is this - do they hold on? Do I have to support the head? What if they puke?”


The mother looked understandably taken aback.


“Um, no, no, and why would they do that? DON’T SHAKE THEM.” Her intensity startled and briefly terrified poor Peter. A production assistant came by to make sure his shoes were tied and that he was holding the two wriggling children, as scripted. Peter stood there, frozen, waiting to hear “ACTION!” The twins briefly paused their screaming. When he heard the director yell, he held tightly to the small humans, remembering how secure the footballs had felt. He pushed through the set door while yelling his lines to be heard over the wails and simultaneously looking for his blue-taped mark. And that’s when he tripped for real.


Peter remembers his stomach dropping like an anvil from the Roadrunner cartoons that he liked to watch on Saturday mornings. Then Time itself decided to switch to slow motion. He saw the studio audience, eyes wide. He swore he heard the collective gasp from the twin’s mother. He gripped the two small beings with every bit of strength he could summon as he felt his weight falling to the faux-wood set floor. He felt the tacos threaten to reemerge through his clenched teeth and tears ready to dip from his eyes. He swears he saw his short life flash before him. Now his future was moot. It wouldn’t matter if he was destined to be the next Jim Carey, his life and career were soon to be over. But he didn’t have time to chase any of these thoughts down their respective rabbit holes. At the last fraction of a second, the babies stopped crying, and he broke the fall with his right knee. Directly on the blue tape.


The audience roared, and the babies beamed, clearly meant for show business. And Peter did everything that he could not to cry. The scene continued with Peter in a daze, but still following all directions. He got the babies to the red plush couch where they were meant to be and prayed that he hadn’t noticeably sweat through his clothes. Then came the second part of the scene, the part where he had to pick them up again.


Then and there - in that brightly colored sound stage in downtown Toronto, filled with hundreds of giddy tweens, that Peter made a promise to the show-biz gods.


“Please, let me get these babies to their mom without anything bad happening and I promise I will give up acting and never hold a baby again for the rest of my life.”


The second he heard “CUT,” he raced to the mother, pushing her offspring back into her arms where they belonged, and ran to his dressing room.


The Show Biz Gods must have agreed. Peter finished out the day and the last episode of the season without dropping or injuring anyone. Then he quit acting, went to undergrad in Vancouver, is now 47 years old, and has never held a baby since. This is (possibly) why Peter Orrorio is still single.


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