Jilly didn’t know Bon Jovi. She didn’t know him personally or generally since she came of age in 90s grunge and listened to a singular local radio station where the DJ possibly held a vendetta against singers from New Jersey. She made this assumption later in life when she realized that she’d missed out on the Springsteen catalogue as well. Her musical and sort of, well, personal introduction to Mr. Jon Bon Jovi happened one Fall day in the Tri-State-Area.
She, like so many of the heroines of Anxiety Addicts, moved to the City That Never Sleeps to pursue her dream of making it as an actress. This was before iPhones or ubiquitous cell phone usage at all. The calling card of an aspiring thespian was, of course, the headshot. Today, a stunning and well-lit photo of oneself is simpler than making instant oatmeal, but, twenty years ago, it was… sort of a process.
She had to find a real photographer, from ads in the back of a real newspaper, with a real camera who took her headshots on real film. She then had to take that film to a company to print actual, physical pictures with two nights of her waitressing money. The next step was to print up a resume at Kinkos (this was before they got into bed with FedEx) and then use their industrial paper cutter to trim the paper down to the size of the headshot. Once her hands were attractively bloody, she then would staple all four corners so casting directors could easily flip over her photo and see that she had been in an eight grade production of Pinnochio where she had delivered a memorable performance as Blue Elf #1. She sat there in Kinkos, listening to John Mayer on her iPod, repeating this process a hundred times, dreaming of the heights to which this new calling card would undoubtably take her, ignoring the four other women around her doing the exact same thing.
These headshots and resumes were then slid individually into manilla envelopes and sent to the top casting directors and agents in a book physically purchased at an actual bookstore. Now, this wasn’t so long ago that Jilly had to actually lick the stamps herself, but you get the idea as to how much the schlep has been streamlined.
This process felt exhilarating to Jilly, as is everyone’s first foray into a creative field. She ran home anxiously after class each day to see if Stephen Spielberg had written her back. Each day, the mailbox was full… of pizza flyers.
It’s such a weird industry. You send out the most curated photos you’ve ever taken with the apex of your creativity on your resume, making a school play sound like a Broadway show, and then you just wait for someone to call you and tell you that they’d like to change your life. At least, this is how Jilly thought it worked.
She doesn’t remember if it was snowy or rainy or a good day or a bad day when she received a call from an unknown New York number on her Samsung flip phone, but she does remember her heart skipping a beat. Answering with her most professional sounding voice after three throat clears, Jill opened her phone up to answer.
“This is Jilly.” Now, we’re being interrupted. Jilly insists I save you from the let down- it wasn’t Steven Spielberg. Nor was it his assistant. Nor was it casting for Will & Grace, anyone at HBO, or even an associate from one of the half dozen soap operas still clinging to life in Midtown Manhattan that Jilly had so intentionally targeted in her first marketing campaign.
At first, the call felt incredibly exciting. It was a woman from Warner Brothers, The WB. The station that welcomed Full House into all of our early 90s living rooms. Then Jilly felt her skin fizzle. The woman was calling from a dating show. The gist of the program was that they would feature a couple, split them up to go on dates with other people, and then let them decide if they wanted to stay together. It was aptly entitled, Change Of Heart. Apparently, the show used actors and actresses to play the dates and would Jilly be interested in auditioning? (Yes, dear reader, she had to audition for this highbrow art.) She immediately accepted.
Jilly’s audition went well. In retrospect, she giggles that the fact that speaking somewhat coherently and knowing how to apply mascara were the only job qualifications but she was still over the moon when she got the phone call booking her for her first official acting job.
She listened as the casting agent gave her the rundown of where she was going, what she should wear, and how the date would go. This is how she ended up in New Jersey, sitting on a picnic blanket in a vacant lot across the street from Bon Jovi’s house, having a date of cheese and grape juice (she was only 18) on a televised date with the rockstar’s self-proclaimed biggest fan. Awkward doesn’t come close to describing the night. Jilly was uncomfortable in every which way. It was cold out in Jersey, she’d dressed more appropriately for a much warmer activity. She wasn’t a fan of the guy, who’s idea of conversation was rattling off his top sixty favorite Bon Jovi facts - his favorite food is chicken noodle soup- and, to top it all off, she was lactose intolerant and the cheese that looked so good on camera felt less good in her digestive tract.
The date slugged along. Jilly tried her best to appear excited about all things JBJ and reminded herself that this was her New York City acting debut, so she “no way!”ed and “Really, that’s amazing!”ed through the evening, learning fact after fact about a band she secretly had never heard of.
As the night progressed, her brain became the proud owner of facts such as the band’s second album – “7800° Fahrenheit”, released in 1985, was titled as such because that’s the temperature at which rock melts. She learned that “You Give Love A Bad Name,” was almost sold to the Canadian Band, Loverboy, which thank the rock gods they didn’t because it turned out to be one of their biggest hits. She learned fact after Bon Jovi fact until she couldn’t take it any more.
“Are we going someplace after this? Someplace… heated?” The Fan looked disappointed. It turned out they were. The producers had been at this gig a long time and knew that the novelty of squatting in a vacant lot 300 yards from THE Jon Bon Jovi’s house had run it’s course. The crew packed up the sad little charcuterie board and Jilly got into a Camry with Babs, Change Of Heart’s producer.
“I think he can tell you don’t like him,” Babs wasn’t thrilled with Jilly’s acting. “Please, this show is only interesting if he picks you.”
Now, Jilly might have been an only child but she was still a fiercely competitive young woman and she certainly wasn’t going to be the loser for her network acting debut. She shook off the cold, ignored her gassy stomach, and willed herself to be the most charming human that Bon Jovi’s biggest fan had ever met. In retrospect, it wasn’t the hardest or most embarrassing job of her decade long acting career, but it was one she buried the deepest in her psyche.
For the rest of the evening, she turned it up a notch. Babs smuggled the cold, bored, and underage Jilly tequila shots off camera and, in turn, Jilly turned herself into the most easily amused, Bon Jovi loving woman that the WB had ever met. At the end of the night, she felt like Meryl Streep probably felt after Kramer Vs. Kramer.
A week later, on a TV couch on a TV sound stage, Jilly confessed that she’d fallen for the fan in the field with the cheese. His girlfriend hadn’t had the time of her life on her separate date and chose to stay together. This was the moment of truth. Or 'truth' as far as the beginnings of reality tv were concerned.The fan looked at Jilly, Jilly tried her best to gaze at the fan adoringly. She licked her lips like a recent issue of Cosmo had suggested when one is trying to look seductive. She batted her eyelashes. She felt her pulse race as if she was stepping up to bat in Game Seven. Jilly was determined to knock this one out of the park. In a move she regrets almost 25 years later, Jilly took the fan’s hands in her own and pulled out her last stop:
“Did you know,” she smiled right into his eyes, feeling the cameras creeping closer to her face, “that Bon Jovi has a Superman tattoo?” With that one fact, Jilly had dynamite-ed a tunnel right to his heart. He looked at his girlfriend, a lovely woman who had put up with him for almost a year, and told her that, yes, he’d had a change of heart. And in that moment, Jilly’s broke.
She kept the smile plastered on her face until the director yelled, “Cut!” Then she ran off the stage faster than Richie Sambora left the band. She snuck out the back door, avoiding eye contact with all breathing humans, and rushed to the subway, back to her apartment. She got out one stop early.
Why? To go to The Virgin Megastore, where she bought her first Bon Jovi CD which she still listens to, to this day, whenever she needs a pick-me-up, or a good cry.