The Casting Couch – Sex as a Stepping Stone

Nearly a year has passed since… the incident. Can I now relay the event without the urge to vomit? Or disclose without demanding a power spray of bleach? Possibly. I don’t know. Pass me the Lysol.

This week: It’s All Fun-n-Games Until Someone Loses Their Dinner

More than  a year has passed since… the incident. Can I now relay the event without the urge to vomit? Or disclose without demanding a power spray of bleach? Possibly. I don’t know. Pass me the Lysol.

A ways back I met a Broadway power-player at an event in which we were both invited as guests. He with his Tonys in his back pocket. Me, with a book and blog upfront to plug. Neither of us spoke much to the other that evening. Our focus was on business with others in the room.

The next morning I received an e-mail via my web site.

“Great meeting you last night. I’d like to continue our conversation.


Q.Z was the impresario I met the evening prior. Our conversation? I didn’t know that we had had one. Beyond speculating the hits of the next season our ‘conversation’ was limited and brief.

I replied to Q.Z. in font. He then volleyed back with an invite to dinner and a show(case). Attending one of New York’s versions of possibly bad community theater was not the most promising of business evenings but I was game for building a new bridge. As the night neared of our networking a sense of dread dominated my demeanor. The cause I reasoned to be my usual case of jitters I suffer when venturing into unknown situations with strangers. Or possibly my trepidations were caused by the prospect of the showcase. Neither scenario sent me into a fevered frivolity.

The night came. We met at one of New York’s theater industry white table-cloth eateries. We spoke of our lives in the business and our professional journeys. Detailing how each of us got to be sitting at that table that summer’s eve in a room whose exposed brick walls were lined with posters from Broadway’s greatest bombs. Then came the missile.

“Do you and your partner ever play together?” he lobbed.

Huh? I must have missed a segue somewhere. Possibly between the wilted salad and buttering my dinner bun. Play? As in what? Jacks? Mario Cart Wii? Pinochle? Of course I knew what he meant. He was asking if I and the Gemini who gets lost trying to find home using his GPS ever intersected with singles or doubles.

Looking at the posters that lined the walls I shifted the conversation to something harmless and benign; Lestat – The Musical! (Bad choice. Damn Anne Rice and her homoerotic overtones.) My dinner partner – now an unexpected and unwelcome date — returned the conversation to sexual exploits. His. Not mine. I wasn’t looking forward to the next two-and-a-half hours I had remaining with this man. My claiming a sudden case of food poisoning – without evidence — would have seemed terribly trite. If only there had been a suffering of gas to put him off the scent.

After finishing our burgers and fries we walked to the theater. We were standing at the corner of Ninth and Forty-Second streets when I mentioned the name of a casting director I once worked for. As the light changed and we crossed south across Boulevard de Disney that’s when Q.Z. casually mentioned that he had had sex with my former employer. Ew. Ick. Yuck. I really didn’t want to know this. But when it came to my ex-boss and entertainment professionals I now encounter it would seem he has been as fruitful as Johnny Appleseed with regard to spreading his seed about New York. A past agent of mine informed me he performed on said same casting director fellatio in the back of a cab. And this I learned at the same restaurant from which I just left. (I try not to go back there.)

Back to Q.Z. I was, as I am oft to do when uncomfortable in social situations that are unpleasant, pulling back on chatter and becoming silent. We watched the show. Why he had chosen for us to attend this particular showcase which was a plot-less musical from the 90s, I had no idea… yet. I would soon discover the answer as the ‘curtain’ came down.

“I’m going upstairs to my office,” he began. “Care to come up?”

O.K. maybe I’m just being overly cynical. But I doubt that it was just coincidence that the showcase and his office happened to be at the same address.

I declined. Went home. For days I was a mixture of disgust, confusion, anger and sadness.

I never heard from Q.Z. again. Fine by me.

I’ve written here prior about the casting couch. And I’m sure you’re not surprised that gratuitous sex is a viral hobby in all sectors of our game that is entertainment (and life). What an odd and powerful tool that aphrodisiac of near anonymous amour.

If I were single would I have joined him upstairs? No.

If my libido were of a voracious appetite and he were remotely an enticing entrée upon my extensive buffet table of tastes would I have sampled his serving? No. Not even if he were a strawberry-n-butterscotch Oreo cookie cheesesteak. Some things are just never meant to be swallowed.

I have never and hope to never cross that threshold which is an exit from professionalism. And if a similar situation is presented to you; I would hope you have more respect for yourself than to let sex be a stepping stone for your career.


My Best,

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plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

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