Donít Call Me Marcel

by Tess Crosbie

OK, so I shouldn't have smashed the guy's camera, but there's only so much a monkey can take.  Let me make this perfectly clear at the outset; my name is Mr Jinks.  Not Marcel.  It wasn't as if the photographer hadn't been warned.  He knew as well as the next person that the 'M' word is verboten in my presence but did he listen?  Did he heck.

There are times I wish I'd never taken that acting job ... What do you mean, what acting job?  The part of Ross's monkey on 'Friends', of course.  You've never seen it?  You're kidding me, right?  What are you, some kind of hermit?  It's only the biggest sitcom on the planet.  And I was there at the beginning, series one, playing Ross's cute companion, Marcel.

It was the best time of my life.  Well, at the beginning, certainly.  Already, the show was getting rave reviews and by the time I joined them, it was on a roller coaster no one could stop even if they wanted to.  And why would we want it to stop?  Suddenly, I'd shot from the odd advert and bit part to a regular slot at prime time.  With a huge pay cheque to boot.

Now, my feet are planted as securely on terra firma as the next guy's but when you're earning more per episode than you've ever earned in a year, something has to change.  It wasn't just the money - the fan mail I was getting was unbelievable.  From complete obscurity to adulation and offers of marriage - serious! - in about four weeks.  I'd challenge anyone to stay normal under that sort of pressure.
To cut a long story short, I went a little loopy.  Spent too long at parties drinking and dancing and then having to face a gruelling shooting schedule and I just couldn't cope.  End result was that they cut my part.  No word of a lie, I was actually relieved - no, honestly, I was - and looked forward to a break from all the palaver.

A couple of months later, it was a shock to discover that I wasn't as big a commodity as my press clippings had led me to believe.  I got interviews, sure, but you could guarantee that about four minutes into the conversation, the casting person would call me 'Marcel'.  It got so I'd be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for it, which meant my concentration was completely shot.  Soon, it got to me so badly I didn't go to any more interviews.

It wasn't much better out on the street.  I'd be minding my own business and someone would call out, "Hey, Marcel!"  Or "How's Ross, Marcel?"  It was like they had no concept of reality outside the TV.  I became a complete recluse.  Couldn't leave the house, even.  Eventually I was sectioned and sent for rehabilitation at the zoo.  OK, it was humiliating at first.  Mega-star living with dumb animals who don't know anything about the world outside the cage bars but after a while, I found it relaxing.  No pressure to perform or behave nicely, you know what a relief that can be?

So things are going great until the day Beard Man comes by with his Pentax.  I'm absently searching my new friend Lucy for fleas and I hear this voice.

"Marcel!  Smile.  Come on, Marcel, give me a wave."  I flipped.  Less at the terrible joke which, believe me, I've heard before, than at that name.

"My name is Mr Jinks!" I screamed.  Waste of time when humans can't understand a word you say but the entire monkey enclosure went silent.  Lucy was so startled, she ran off sobbing with fright but outside the bars, Beard Man just kept clicking on.

"Come on, Marcel," he kept taunting me.  No one could keep their temper under such provocation.  I took a deep breath.  I reached my arms out to him and he got all excited, probably working out his commission for a cute shot of "Marcel".  Swift as you like, I grabbed his camera and smashed it on the ground.

"My name," I repeated slowly and deliberately, "is Mr Jinks."

So that's what happened.  In a nutshell, as you might say.  The photographer never pressed charges, thanks to a few greenbacks exchanging hands between him and my agent, Dougie.  Unfortunately, Beard Man had a friend who snapped me grabbing his mate's camera and that's the one that made the front page with some pretty unpleasant headlines next to it.

So I nearly got myself thrown out of the zoo.  But there was that good old silver lining to my rain clouds.  While I was in isolation, I had time to reflect on the sorry state that passed for my life up to that point.  I had some serious decisions to make.  I could pull myself together and make something better but different for myself or I could become some sad loser, continually whining about what a big star I'd been.  I couldn't choose that - I'd have even bored myself.

What do you do when you've felt the pain of life?  Go down or use the experience. That's the only good point about hitting the bottom - the only way to go is up.  Who was it who said that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger?  You've got to suffer for Art.  I suffered and I'm a  stronger monkey for it.  Hey, don't feel too bad for me.  At least I had my five minutes of fame, right? 

Hence my new career as a writer.  You've heard that old saw about given enough monkeys bashing aimlessly at typewriters for enough years, eventually, one will tap out the complete works of Will Shakespeare?  Who's to say those monkeys aren't Capuchins.  And if one them can produce Shakespeare, it stands to reason that every other piece of work ever written will be serendipiditously produced, too.  Can this be one of the other results or is this something I created myself?  There's a thought to keep you awake at nights.
I'm pretty pleased with it, personally.  Might send it off somewhere.  There are enough publishers and writing competitions around.  Hit enough keyboard keys for long enough, one of us monkeys has got to produce a winner.  Why not me?

©2002 Tess Crosbie

Tess would love to hear what you think of her writing - email her now