"Oh man," she said, "I was just dreaming that they called her back."
"What are you talking about?" I mumbled.
Marty and I were lying in bed. It was a Sunday morning in March and the world outside was gray.
"I'm serious, Jay," she said. "I was dreaming that she got a call back."
"You mean to that crazy Disney thing?"
"Yes. I had to leave them a phone number and they said that we should be by the phone for a call back decision at 9 o'clock."
I looked at the clock. It was just after 7. "When would you have to go back?"
"Today, that's the nightmare. I am worried I am going to have to spend another day down at the Convention Center."
"You know she's going to get a call back."
"Oh it won't be so bad. You'll get to spend more time with the other stage mothers."
"Oh my God Jay, you have no idea."
"Don't worry. I shouldn't think it would last more than, say, six or eight hours."
Marty buried her head under her pillow. She came up to say, "I think you'll have to do it."
"Babe, this was your idea. I told you not to go. I said it's a scam."
Emmy had heard an advertisement for a casting call looking for talented kids who might like to appear on productions like the productions that Disney performed. Emmy was sure she would like to appear on a Disney show. She liked I Carly, didn't see much difference between her and the characters on I Carly. So she did what any enterprising 10-year old girl would do. She picked up the phone, she called the number they gave her on the radio and she made a reservation to audition for Saturday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. at the Convention Center. Then she told Marty that she had an appointment and Marty would be going with her.
"Was it really that dreadful?" I said, "wasn't it funny?"
"Dreadful doesn't begin to capture the experience", she said.
"Everywhere. And by the way everyone was really large. Four out of five of the parents were way large."
"City of cheesesteaks, after all, makes you proud."
"But the worst was that they were playing us. The parents. We all just wanted our kids to get what they wanted, and all our kids want to be stars."
"Let me guess; they could help."
"But they didn't say it to us; it was all aimed at the kids."
"What were the auditions like?"
"Oh they lasted about 60 seconds. They just got the kids on stage and had them read a few lines from a commercial."
"Yeah and then they said we had to wait by the phone for the call back decisions."
"Wow. How did Emmy do?"
"Oh, Emmy was great."
"She's going to get a call back you know."
"I know. It's a nightmare"
Marty said, "I am going to the gym to work out."
I looked at the clock. It was now 8:30 in the morning. "Wait a second what about the call back call at 9:00?"
"You deal with the call back."
"How am I going to do that? I didn't even go to the audition. I don't even know what this is about. I think it's a scam."
"Don't worry, Emmy will help you."
"She can't. She's sleeping on the couch in the hall. By the way, what's that about? What's she doing out there?"
"She couldn't sleep last night. She was too excited about the call back so she slept down here."
"Oh boy, this is going to be bad, isn't it?"
The phone rang. I was in the kitchen. Emmy was still upstairs. She got to the phone first. A few minutes passed. I waited for her to call me to the phone but she did not.
A few minutes later she came downstairs to the kitchen but she was wide awake.
She said, "Dad, where's mom?"
"She's at the gym. Why?"
"Dad, oh no! They called back from the audition. They want to talk to Mom."
"What did they say?"
"They wouldn't talk to me, they only wanted to talk to Mom."
"She won't be back for awhile. Do you want me to talk to them?"
"Dad, they wanted to talk to her. She was the one at the audition. I don't think they would talk to you."
"Well give me the number and let me try."
She turned over, skeptically, a scrap of paper on which she had written the number. She watched skeptically, as I called the number. I didn't get an answer.
"There is no answer Emmy. They must be calling other people."
Emmy began to hop up and down on one foot. "Oh, no! Where is Mom? I want to find out about the call back."
"What do you get if you get a call back?"
"Didn't mom tell you? It's so cool. They pick out some people and then the winners get to go to Florida where a whole bunch of talent agents come to see them perform and then they might hire them to be on TV shows, like Disney shows."
"It's really cool Dad."
"Why did you think of doing this?"
"I just thought it was probably a good time to get my acting career started."
"What are we going to do now?" Marty said.
She had come home from the gym and was still dripping from spinning. I could tell she had managed to forget about the call back while she was on the bike but now she was home and I was handing her the number while she was still dripping. Emmy was upstairs but it wouldn't be long before she discovered that her mom was home.
I said, "Oh you've got to call back. You've got to find out what happened, you've got to find out."
"Why didn't you call?"
"I tried. I tried. But they want you babe."
She looked at me suspiciously. "Did you try?"
"Not very hard. This is your thing babe. I'm the squash guy. You're the crazy Disney audition thing person."
"I know what's going to happen," she said. "They're going to say Emmy should come back down to the Convention Center."
"What are we going to do? I don't want to spend the day at the Convention Center. This thing is a scam."
"I told you it was a scam, but you wanted to go."
"I didn't want to go, but what do you do? She picked up the phone and called and made an appointment. I think that's pretty good for a 10 year old. She wants to be an actress and she is figuring out how to do it. I think we have to support that."
"Well you supported it yesterday. Why to you have to support it again today?"
"What do you think I should do? Just tell her that she is not allowed to go back?"
"Yep. That's what you should do."
"Then you do it."
"Me? Why me?"
"Because I went down to the Convention Center yesterday and spent half the day for her audition."
"Babe, I told you not to go."
"Sorry Bud, I am leaving this one with you."
"Come on Marty, at least give them a call and see what they say. Maybe she won't get an interview."
Emmy bounced into the room, her emotions in high gear.
"Mommy, Mommy, did you call them yet?" Emmy was breathless and hopping in anticipation.
Marty said, "No I just got in. I haven't called yet."
"Mommy, Mommy call them please. They said you had to call right back. You were supposed to be at the phone at 9:00 o'clock and you weren't here! What if they call back someone else instead? I said you'd call right away! Here's the number."
"Emmy. Your Dad and I have been talking about this and we are a little suspicious."
"What do you mean suspicious?"
"Well, we were looking at the materials and they said that when you go for a call back you have to register to go on the Florida trip."
"What's wrong with that? I'm ready to go to Florida. Let's go."
"I think it costs money."
"Okay, you have money."
"Well, sweetie, we're not so sure that it is a good arrangement."
Emmy's eyes began to well up. "Mom, how can you say that? We went down there yesterday and I am waiting for the call back, I want to get a call back."
"Well, I said we would see what this was about. I didn't say you could have a call back."
"Mom, I just want to know if I get a call back. Ru wants to know if I get a call back."
Ru was Emmy's closest friend. She had accompanied Emmy to the audition yesterday. Ru was quite encouraging on the idea of Emmy's career as a Disney star.
"Emmy," I said, "Don't cry. We are just looking out for you. We want to make sure you don't get taken advantage of."
"I just want to find out about my call back. Come on Mom, call them back. You've got to call. You don't know how hard I worked."
I looked at Marty to see whether she was thinking about the hard work involved in the 60-second audition. She was. But she did not laugh, however, and she answered in a patient voice. "I'll call them back Emmy, but I want you to know that I am not going to write anybody a check today. I am just going to see what they have to say."
"Mom, just call them! I just want to see I get a call back."
Marty picked up her cell and dialed. There was a pause. I looked at Emmy. We couldn't hear what was being said on the other side of the line.
"Hello, this is Marty. I am the mother of Emmy Duret returning your call . . ."
"Exactly when would we need to be there?" Marty said.
It sounded like Emmy had gotten a call back. Emmy was delirious with joy. She hugged my leg.
"And how long will she be?"
There was a pause. "So exactly what is the process today? And do I need to sign anything?"
"How much is the package?"
"So, Fred, let me ask you this question. There were lots of girls there yesterday. How many are you calling back?"
"Fifteen? Wow. That's all you are calling back out of the hundreds that were there?"
A longer pause.
"What were you looking for when you did the auditions?"
"You are right, Emmy does have presence. And she is certainly smart."
I looked at Emmy. Her hands were clenched together in rapture.
Marty was concluding. "Okay, Fred, we'll think about it. 3:30? All right we will plan to be there at 3:30."
I called to Marty, "Find out the name of the company."
"So she got a call back."
"Yes, she got a call back."
Emmy had raced from the kitchen to pick out the proper clothing for the call back. It was just Marty and me.
"So what was the name of the company?"
"How do you spell Tay?"
"T-H-E? That's "the." Not Tay"
"That's how he said they spell it, Tay, T-H-E."
"Wow, it bet it's a scam."
"Cause of the name?"
"Cause of everything."
"I don't know. Fred said they only are inviting 15 kids. He said Emmy was really great."
"They are playing you. You said it yourself. How much is it going to cost?"
"Scamorama. I bet I can find it on the Internet."
I opened my laptop. I hunted and pecked.
After a few minutes I said, "Wow, it is really hard to research a company with the name T-H-E. It's an invisible word. That's probably why they picked it"
"You are kidding."
"I am serious. Let me try this," I said. I hit a few keys.
"What did you do?" Marty said.
"I put in "THE" in quotes and then the word "scam.""
"Oh no, what did you get?" She came over and began to read over my shoulder.
"Wow", she said. "It really is a scam."
"Great. Just great. Now what do we tell Emmy?"
We could hear Emmy bounding around on the floor above; cavorting in the joy of a call back.
"We tell her the truth. We tell her it is a scam."
"She'll be crushed. She just got a call back."
"We tell her that it doesn't mean that she doesn't have any talent. It just means these guys are running a scam on talented kids."
"I don't know if that is a good idea."
"It's the best approach."
"Yeah, okay. I guess we don't have a choice. Let me know how it goes?"
"Yeah you found the information."
"Fine, I'll do it."
Emmy was sitting on the couch watching television when I found her.
"Emmy, turn off the TV for a minute. I want you to listen to this."
I started to read from a newspaper article about THE and the complaints that they had from consumers. I read the part about the Attorney General in Connecticut suing them. And them refunding the money to parents.
Emmy was crestfallen, but she didn't seem that surprised.
"So I can't go for my call back?"
"Not. It's a scam. They are bad people."
"Please go away Dad. I need to be alone."
"Don't feel bad."
"How can you say that? Do you know how hard it is for me? I busted my butt. And I really wanted to go."
"I know, I know."
"Please leave. Please. Don't you see I need to be alone?"
Marty was still in the kitchen when I got downstairs.
"How did that go?"
"Oh, it was expensive."
"What do you mean expensive? We decided she isn't going on the call back."
"Then we aren't getting scammed for $2,000."
"They why expensive?"
"Cause she started to cry and so I said we'd be getting her acting lessons."
"Yeah. I figure it'll cost us a lot more than $2,000 by the time we are done."
"Nice work. Very nice work."
"Thanks. It's money well spent."
- Jay Duret