One Reason For Severing A Family Connection

Imagine tossing out a family memento before you realized what you had. That’s the way I felt when I discovered the old photo I showed you in this post and talked about in the follow-up one yesterday.

In the mid 90s, I had a little plastic surgery. When I did it I unknowingly severed a connection to my family history. I have to admit I felt a little wistful when I saw the old photographs and realized what I had done.

Looking back, it seems fairly shallow and superficial that I spent so much time worrying about a physical characteristic that most people didn’t seem to notice. It bothered me a great deal though and when I got a bonus at work, I took a bit of the extra money and changed my look.

Elizabeth Harper - 1993

Ignore the mullet and how it oddly looks like both ears are sticking out here.

Not only did my right ear stick out in a way the left one didn’t, it was flat inside with none of the whirled bits that most ears have. I never considered I had the option of changing it until I was in my 30s and mentioned it to the plastic surgeon who reworked the area where my melanoma had been removed. She talked to me about the ease of having it done and before I knew it, I was living with a new ear.

When I went in for my post surgery follow-up, I said it felt like she’d cut my ear off and sewn it back on. The look that passed between my doctor and her nurse confirmed I was probably not far off in my sense of what it must have looked like during surgery.

My Ear After Surgery

Was it worth it? I never really questioned my decision not even when I realized the connection to other family members. After years of avoiding getting my hair wet while swimming, and wishing I could wear my hair cut really short, I could finally do both without worrying about how my ears looked. The only lasting negative side effect has been the way my ear sometimes aches when the weather’s very cold.

Elizabeth Harper With Jersey Girl

After years of turning my head to avoid showing my ear, I have trouble remembering to face the camera fully and it’s difficult to find pictures showing both ears at once even since my ear surgery. This shows me with longer hair, but you can still see that the ear closest to Jersey Girl is no longer sticking out through my hair.

I loved the results and rarely thought about it when looking in the mirror or tucking my hair behind my ears until I saw the picture of my great-grandmother and discovered that what I’d considered an imperfection was a family trait.

As someone who worked for years in an industry that liked to have cheerleader pretty types marketing their products, I was acutely aware that product knowledge needed to be balanced somewhere between bubbly attractiveness and at least the appearance of youth.

Elizabeth & Alley - 1994

I look hyped up on caffeine, but I had just rushed in from Atlanta to grab our cat so my daughter Miranda could have her at school for pet day. Notice the before surgery ear I’m trying to hide with my big hair. It’s hard to see my ear with that door knocker hanging off it. 

As a working actor, I recognized that pretty, and young, were often at the top of the list when casting a part. It’s no accident that my ear pinning happened while I was working as a drug rep and auditioning for film and commercial work.

Elizabeth Harper - 1996 - Funny Ears

See it sticking out on the left?

When I was working towards my university degree, I had an advisor tell me that I would not get much work as an actor until I was older as I was more suited for character roles. I thought at the time that he must be thinking that at 24, I was too old and not pretty enough. Having spent time a little time in front of a camera, I think he was right.

Can you find me in the photo below?

Elizabeth Harper - UGA - With The Major-General And His Other Daughters - Pirates Of Penzance

I haven’t done any acting since 1998 when I changed companies and didn’t have time to do both and these days I’d rather spend my time writing. I was never really that good of an actor, but if I’m ever moved to dip my toes back in the shallow and often ‘looks focused’ waters of the acting world again, I can totally rock a Dame Judi Dench haircut especially now that both of my ears match.

Dame Judi Dench (Internet Photo)

Elizabeth Harper - 2011

Extra, Extra, Doc Martin Is Back In Cornwall

Port Isaac is sometimes home to the cast and crew of the hit British television comedy, Doc Martin and as I discovered yesterday, will be again this summer.

Whenever John and I walk in on the coast path from Port Quinn, we can usually see people posing in front of the cottage below which is used for both Doc Martin’s home and office or doctor’s surgery, as they call it here.

Doc Martin’s Cottage

This is the flyer I spotted in my doctor’s waiting room when I went for an appointment yesterday.

A copy of my last headshot, a memento from my acting days.

When I was working as an actor, which really means when I was auditioning for work because that’s what most actors do the bulk of the time, I used to get sent out on auditions for a variety of roles such as Police Woman, Firefighters, Moms, and Waitresses. Once I went to an audition dressed fairly provocatively under a long overcoat for the role of a ” New York City Street-walker ” and ended up being cast as a ” Butch Lesbian ” instead.

Cast as a Butch Lesbian

I think it was the military training listed on my headshot that actually got me the callback for the ” Butch Lesbian ” part as they assumed the army had taught me hand to hand combat and the role called for my character to get into a physical fight in a jail cell. The director saw me during the callback and thought I might be ” too little ” to pull it off, but my tough girl swagger convinced him that size in this case, might not matter.

Getting an agent

Getting an agent was a necessary step to finding work as an actor and you can read more about how I did it in the post, ” Picking Up Steps “ on my first blog if you’re interested.

When you first get an agent you generally will have to work a few times as an extra before being sent out on a proper audition. It’s a good way to become more comfortable on a set where there’s no time to waste with the untrained. I did it a few times before Joan felt I was ready to represent her agency in front of a casting director.

Extra work and Kevin Kline

Because I had been working as a principal for a while, I was surprised one day to receive a call asking if I was interested in doing extra work on a movie being filmed in Atlanta. Just as I was saying, ” Joan, you know I don’t do extra work anymore … ” she cut me off with the words, ” Kevin Kline is in it.”

” Kevin Kline,” I said, with the next words being, ” Will he be on set while we’re shooting? ”  Now, I’m not usually one to go starstruck, but having loved Kevin Kline since his brilliant role in Sophie’s Choice, I said, ” Yes,” immediately after hearing her answer.

Never mind that it also had Kevin Spacey and Forest Whitaker in it, I was totally focused on the possibility that I might get to see Kevin Kline at work. And see him I did, as I stood next to him in a scene where he and Forest Whitaker were seated at a table in a bar. There’s more to that story, but that’s all I’ll say here. It’s nothing shocking, so put down the phone number for The National Enquirer or The Daily Mail. It does involve Kevin Kline and it adds to the story, but I’ll save it for another day.

You can see me clearly in two shots in Consenting Adults, ironically the extra work I initially didn’t want gave me the most visibility on the big screen.

I actually worked a good bit for a part-time actor who also had a busy day job in the pharmaceutical industry, but much of what I did as an actor was not very exciting and was often an industrial training film like a two-day shoot I did for UPS.

Doc Martin

Next week, I’m going to take a ride over to Port Isaac to see if I can do a little work on the next season of Doc Martin, a quirky comedy about a London surgeon who develops a blood phobia and ends up working in a small fishing village in Cornwall.

Martin Clunes character has no bedside manner and isn’t as charming as Hugh Laurie’s character in House, M.D., but I find him screamingly funny and I hope they’ll find my American face  ” Cornish ” enough to spend a bit of time on the set.

Do have a look at the video below if only to see more of Port Isaac. It’s about ten miles from where we live and interestingly where the main office or Doctor’s Surgery is located for the doctors I see when I need one.