I recall the first time I saw his picture on the cork board in the engineering booth.
I knew his name by that point because for several years I’d been obsessed about all the supporting character actors on TV and would try to catch names in the credits before they were gone (back in the old days when you couldn’t pause TV) and I’d seen him many, many times and already knew his name: Earl Boen.
But to know that picture had been taken in this very studio where I sat and regularly worked…
I was itching to work with him.
And then for the next 5-6 years… I knew he was recording with them, but our characters never crossed paths.
I briefly wrote about when our paths did finally cross in Lounge of Legends.
Please read that- if you have not already done so- before you go further.
This is a post I was going to save for Volume 2. But… timing and rough drafts do not always go together as blissfully as an author would want.
In the effort to tell the story chronologically there has been a bit of a narrative challenge and it kinda has to do with Earl Boen.
And I had been nervous about writing this while he was alive because… well… he plays an oddly significant role in the history of my life for someone I only worked with a couple of times.
This post is going to be all over the place. As you will shortly understand.
And again, I don’t really feel like finessing it too much cuz kinda low on the spoons…
But earlier today, I learned that Earl had passed away.
Earl has been on my mind a LOT lately.
For those following this blog there are some massive spoilers about to drop and I don’t even have the energy to put the warning at the top of the page.
If you are new to this blog… I HIGHLY recommend you scroll right up to the top and click on the READ ME FIRST section and go from there.
Because if you are new to this content… this is not a happy story.
The entire blog is a trigger warning if you read it correctly.
So if you are here thinking that I am going to serve up some warm memories of working with Earl you are about to be sorely disappointed.
This post is not about Earl.
We are headed somewhere very, very different.
Last. fucking. warning.
Turn back now new readers….
So… Earl Boen, unbeknownst to him, played a major factor as an Unaware Catalyst/Inciting Incident in my first suicide attempt. <find better sentence later>
Before I go further I want to say that every experience I had with Earl was wonderful and he was a gracious and gentle talent. Immense talent. Absolutely one of the top 3-4 I ever worked with.
And the information in this post is somewhat out of order… so it’s gonna be a mess. And I’m sad. And I’ve had a bad week.
This is the other, um, thing I am somewhat stunned by…
So, some things have happened this week. Some I will share with you and some are not relevant to this content.
The odd AF juxtaposition of Earl dying literally this week of all weeks is a heckuva coincidence. And it has forced me to write something at a time I genuinely do not have the headspace for writing.
So I will rework this later when I actually get Vol 2 rolling.
Earlier this week, I had an incident I would classify as a suicide attempt.
Or 50% of the way there.
I was stopped by someone who loved me. And while that’s not a thing I enjoy admitting publicly, I did promise at the beginning of this blogject that I would be open and honest about the journey that I’m on.
This is your view of the world through my blood-shot eyeballs.
Sometimes that view is not fun.
Anyway… my first major attempt in a decade. I won’t be mentioning methodology or details about that stuff due to others perhaps being inspired. But, I’m here and safe. And likely to be ok. These moments are rare for me. Have been under a lot of intense life stress lately. Whatever. That’s my path.
The next day as I recovered from my suicide effort, I received my first hate mail from writing this blog.
Dave I don’t even know where to begin! I’ve never seen such an attention seeking display in my life! “I was treated so badly and I’m mentally ill so my opinion counts soooooo much more than the folks who love aio and agree with them, that those folks should shut the fuck up because they don’t deserve to have an opinion but I do!” That’s what this post was! – Angry Fan
Now I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking, “Dave I bet it’s awesome right after a suicide attempt to get hate mail from fans.”
It’s going to surprise you that this was perhaps not very welcome in my world.
And the main reason I never ever ever wanted to ever do this.
BUT SINCE FASCISTS ARE DESTROYING MY GOVERNMENT btw how was the 2nd anniversary of the Jan 6 Inusurrection go? Did everybody get sworn into congress without incident?
WELL THEN I GUESS I HAVE TO KEEP TALKING ABOUT SUICIDE AND HOW AWFUL THE FUCKING EVANGELICALS™ ARE (and continue to be).
Actually had multiple people send in multiple pieces on the same day so the blog must’ve got shared somewhere…. but the AIO haterfans (technical term) have finally arrived this week.
Anyway… that’s christian love for you and a typical treatment of mental illness by the crowd that claims jesus’ name. So do keep in mind again, for those of you who remain silent in your opposition to MAGAVANGELICALS that those who are sticking their necks out do so at a cost.
So, as I had my little moment of vulnerability…over my lifetime dealing with severe mental health episodes and chronic issues I tend to look back over them, I suppose the way a cancer patient has relapses and remission over a decades long battle. And this week as I was reflecting on prior attempts… I thought of Earl. And I’d already been thinking of him because he literally kicked off the suicidal episode that launched me into the nightmare that later became my life.
And then there’s a moment AFTER that attempt where having just worked with Earl played a really bizarre role in a major way that caused my life to be further destroyed. That little tidbit I will save because it’s such an epic bombshell moment in my life that I’m certain is unique in the history of the world and I gotta save some good info for later…
NONE OF THIS IS EARL BOEN’S FAULT, btw. I want to be clear here.
He’s an unwitting catalyst in the story of Dave.
So, the fact that I’ve been thinking of Earl for months now trying to map out the next volume of content here… and then my life got difficult this winter. And then… well… this week… happened.
AND THEN EARL DIES THIS WEEK.
Like… huh. I do not have suicide attempts that often. They are rare.
I mean more common for me than most of you, but as someone wired to be suicidally depressed all the time I manage to keep them away a lot of the time and fight it back and control it. So, the timing here is once again… odd.
DO I SUSPECT FOUL PLAY FROM GOD ALMIGHTY?
I do not.
But… suicide… plus blogject hate mail… plus Earl dying…
IT’S A HELL OF A DAVE COINCIDENCE TRIFECTA™ (davcofecta?) IS ALL I’M SAYING.
Was literally thinking of Earl and the post I wanted to write about that first attempt WHILE I was walking in my local arboretum today trying to knock the cobwebs outta my brain and create… and how many times does this happen to you all?
You’re thinking of an old actor friend and the strange role he had in your first suicide attempt (and then the second situation)… and then you have an attempt this week and as you shake it off and try to get the creative brain going again you get a buzz on your phone and a message of an article written about the very person you are thinking of dying.
How many of you had that happen?
Just me… again?
This blog will attempt among other things to explore: Does God Exist or Not?
I know I said that we will declare christianity to be the true religion in the rules of the blog in a post way back there at the beginning, but I also want to acknowledge the very real part of my narrative where I began to question all of that. So we will walk with a foot in both conceptual realities.
God exists and these kinds of incidents are connected and there’s plans for your future and Lord works in mysterious ways and whatnot.
It’s a heckuva coincidence.
Either way, I will let you, Dear Reader come up with your own answer.
BUT IT DID GET ME WRITING TONIGHT WHEN I DON’T WANT TO.
Back to Earl.
<This year it will have been 30 years. Wow. If you had told that suicidal kid that he would be writing this story 30 years later… I really did not expect to live this long.>
When I first started writing this project, I thought I was NOT going to talk about the WHY of my suicide attempts and placing blame here or there. And I meant it then.
Last summer when I was staring at that first blank screen and knowing that I was gonna have to talk about difficult things… and knowing how many of the people involved are still alive… I was hesitant to assume causation. Because mental health is tricky and difficult and cults make it worse and who knows where something that complex begins.
But as the writing started flowing, I started having a lot of recall of memories that had been largely forgotten in my life after that first suicide attempt occurred and the descent into hell that is Volume 2. This story is mostly supposed to be about Volume 2 and beyond. The first volume is just to explain who I am and why I matter enough to have the ego to write about myself as our new hate mail alluded to. After Volume 2 the story gets completely away from a lot of the early drama that was happening behind the scenes in my life.
And it was during the writing of Volume 1 that I recalled the battles with my family over my career. Something largely forgotten about later when I become a professional patient.
Also, a major part of what happened involves my family. And they are very much still alive. And tbh, I had largely forgotten some of the subtext of that first attempt until it came flooding back in that last week of writing hell I had in October. This is so rambly, fuck me. Rough draft.
Seriously, new readers… go back to the start.
What is this post about?
Earl Boen and Dave Suicidin’.
I said in the Aloha reveal post that I had my first suicide attempt the day AFTER we recorded those episodes.
That was a lie.
I manipulated a real event in my story for dramatic purposes.
Remember how I told you I was going to teach you about Art & Propaganda and messaging… well… here’s an instance of it.
Sometimes, narrative and information dropping in a certain way is helpful to garner a particular audience reaction like shock or surprise.
Sometimes, part of the goal of story telling is to put the reader in the shoes of an experience and elicit emotional response.
This is what we do in the Art forms of Writing and Acting.
Because the truth of my story is a bit darker.
And a later reveal of relooking at old information in a new light can bring about a new audience reaction that builds upon the first. Like seeing a scene from one character’s point of view versus another.
And then at the end you see that, in fact, Bruce Willis has been dead the whole time and the clues were always there.
I’m going to do that again to you now.
In Aloha, I dropped the bombshell that I had a suicide attempt the day after recording a beloved three part episode that most fans adore.
Here’s the uglier truth.
The first actual attempt occurred a few days earlier.
I would try again harder after that session.
one of the reveals of my life story…
is that the episodes of Aloha Oy were recorded
WHILE I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A SUICIDAL TRAUMA EVENT.
Again, I will spare details… but the first event had occurred at the end of the prior week. And my parents took me to the psychiatric hospital to see if I qualified for treatment.
They suggested I needed it.
They also told my folks it would be $40,000.
This piece of information will completely destroy my life years later as that number hangs over my head for my entire life and becomes the reason why I get on disability.
In the parking lot I begged my folks not to admit me.
It was a just a mistake! I won’t do it again.
And I know that kind of financial hit would ruin the holidays and xmas (weird thing for a suicidal teen to be worried about).
But the main reason I didn’t want to go to the hospital is BECAUSE I WAS GOING TO BE RECORDING ON MONDAY WITH AIO.
Please don’t take this from me.
It’s the only thing that makes me happy.
they held off…
and a TotallySuicidalDave™
walked into the Lounge of Legends and laid down a historically epic 2 day session of COMEDY… during a suicide attempt.
I say again… as proof of my skill sets.
I lay it out there for the world to judge.
A suicidal 16 year old kid IN THE MIDDLE OF A SUICIDAL MULTI-DAY ATTEMPT recorded one of the funniest fan favorite shows in the history of the show.
And I want to really drive this point home. Because I’ve thought about it for 30 years.
How many other examples of that exist in recorded media? I know there are instances of people committing suicide on TV for effect… but do we know of any legendary (and yes I’m going to call that a legendary performance) performances where the recordings/footage still exist where an actor is known to be suicidal at the time of recording?
What you are listening to in Aloha Oy 1, 2, & 3 is someone suffering from severe suicidal depression that was life threatening.
There’s gotta be some out there. Some songs or something. Movies? Concerts? Chris Cornell comes to mind, but I feel like I’ve heard snippets of that performance and it was kinda obvious he was not well.
Does it sound like I was suicidal?
And so… I feel like Aloha is a unique piece of recorded Art in the history of humankind. You are listening to the sound of someone in the middle of trying to kill themself and covering it.
It was the same feeling for 5 days straight.
A thing you will learn about me is that you rarely will know how terrible I’m feeling. I can smile at you and make you laugh and go home and cry for hours. it’s what I’ve always done. It’s WHY I make people smile. Because sometimes seeing them smile and knowing I did it saves me that day.
I made someone laugh I can’t suck that much, right god?
And this will be a point of self-introspection as the years would roll on when I would try to suss out “am I as good at this as I think I am?” and how does the mental illness factor into that.
And I believe the reason to be like Hulk in the original Avengers movie… “I’m always angry…”
Well… I’m ALWAYS sad. Always have been. I’m always anxious. I’ve always wanted to die. And I’ve been faking it the whole time.
And you learn to be a helluva an actor as a mode of survival at a young age.
And when I look back over why I was that good an actor… it was because I was that sad all the time. Acting saves my life.
“Fine!” Dave lied as he smiled.
Anyway… treat yourself to a listen again.
Does it sound like that kid is suffering?
You never know what someone is going through.
So what the fuck does that have to do with Earl, Dave?
So the WHYofitall.
WHY was this kid so miserable during the recording of Aloha?
Because of Terror From the Skies.
When I got to work with Earl.
And here’s where we get into the sticky mess that is my family.
They have a right to some semblance of their privacy.
But I have a right to my story. And the right to tell it.
And as my religious parent always told me my whole life, “don’t do something in life you don’t want your grandfather to read about in the newspaper.” Always a good threat to keep me line since that was my favorite person and I’m named after him.
But in that same sense I will say, “don’t do things to your kids that they will later blog about after Earl Boen dies.”
<MY LIFE IS SO FUCKING WEIRD. So many unusual sentences I have to write…>
I have made some mentions of how my parents actively did NOT want me to be successful at this acting thing.
They tolerated it. But they were never comfortable. Hollywood made them nervous. Dunno if you’re aware but there’s lot of irrational (and rational) hatred for Hollywood amongst the Conservative and Religious Ones of our lands… and my parents were adamant that this was an extra-curricular activity and not a viable career path.
There was a problem with that theory.
I was insanely good at this.
And I HATED school. I mean, every kid hates school, but I was suffering from some very real psychological problems that school was exacerbating.
And I would battle my religious parent, “why do I have to go to school?”
“So you can go to college and get a good job some day.”
“But I’m good at this job! Let me get my career started.”
“After you get an education.”
“But the time is now. I’m literally booking stuff now.”
And on and on and on it went.
My. parent. would. not. budge.
And I was an unstoppable force.
What do you think is gonna happen?
And I was at that cocky age where I was looking for ways to prove myself.
And prove to my parents that I was good enough to do this professionally– hell I already was. But getting the agents and managers and having this become more of a thing… they didn’t want that and would block it. And when I was ten, sure. I get it. But I was nearly an adult… and this was active stifling/sabotage.
I remember the first time my dad ever said the word “fuck” in front of me.
“You don’t understand how fucked up the people in that industry are. THEY ARE FUCKED UP.”
He was a kid from Bristol Tennessee. Never in a million years imagined his kid would be a phenom at this stuff.
My parents were genuinely worried. And that’s a good thing.
To. A. Point.
But when you are actively thwarting what a young person about to be an adult is good at– especially when they are world class good at it… is to deny them their truth and reality.
Stifle the kid.
It’s a thing the Fucking Evangelicals™ do.
I was lied to and gaslit for years about how good I was at this.
And this is where I’ll go more into this stuff later, but I wanted to give an overview of a few elements of the story ahead.
Complicit in this effort of gaslighting me was the team at Adventures in Odyssey who had been holding back any kind of information or data that I was good at this at the legit level I was.
And so I never had any way to prove I was professional level other than doing the show. I don’t get paid like a pro. I don’t get feedback like a pro. I don’t have any knowledge of where the show is or who listens to it or what kind of fans are out there so I can figure out how to calibrate my career– which this part I am grateful for because I would have easily gone further down the evangelical mediasphere rabbit hole.
So, I had no way to argue my abilities to my parents. I had no way to explain that I was like a Kenny Wayne Shepherd of voice over.
I suspect they were smart enough to know how good I was and that was WHY they were worried. But, the show’s creative team definitely held back all information from me so that I could never fight on my own behalf.
[Also, a question for later… why would a professional media organization working with children NOT want them to be properly represented by agents and managers? If you care so much about children like you say you do… don’t you want to know that they are being well-cared for by professionals?]
And I’m 16.
And I’m at that age. Where I see the big world out there and am chomping at the bit to get out from under the control of my parents.
And they are terrified that I’m about to end up as a hooker in Hollywood.
And the theater I had worked at with the Theater Lady had closed by this point and there was no other outlet for me. School plays… like mind numbing to work with kids just stepping onto a stage for the first time. AIO was my ONLY outlet at this point. The only way I’m allowed to do the Thing I’m Good At.
And I almost never get to do it and am miserably depressed when I go long stretches without.
And I get a call right in the heat of all this psychic turmoil…
They want you again.
As I enter the Lounge of Legends at the Marc Grau Studios I come in through the back entrance directly into the green room. And there, as I step down the steps the main table is in front of me. Hal at the head of the table. I remember the room was very crowded.
And sitting with his back to me was Earl Boen. I recognized the back of his head and his unique bald pattern.
I have remarked that part of what impressed me about the crowd I was working with is how they were the stone-cold-killers of the industry. These are not people that have temper tantrums and stomp off to the trailer. These are the blue collar worker bees of the industry that you surround the A list talent with.
And a funny thing had happened since I had first seen that picture of Earl on the cork board all the way back in Pomona.
A little film called Terminator 2 had recently come out a couple years earlier.
It was the first rated R film I ever got to see.
And there on the screen is Earl Boen stealing every single frame he’s in of that film. And his single take expression of seeing the molten metal Terminator melt through the bars after being convinced for years that this Sarah Connor is crazy as fuck thinking machines are trying to kill her…
That scene is a legendary performance. Earl Boen is the star of that scene. That shot is the most famous shot of that film. Of that entire SERIES.
Because his performance is necessary to sell the reality of that moment.
Like THAT is the actual acting industry. That single-shot performance is so brilliant it got a laugh while people are on the edge of their seat and hating this character.
That shot is so amazing it CREATED work for him in in the third film where they bring him in as comic relief.
Like that’s genius acting that people don’t understand.
Your work today is to have one single wordless physical expression to sell an entire film concept.
Call. Earl. Boen.
A stone cold killer of scenes.
One of the all time greats.
And that was the lesson I was observing from afar of this kind of supporting actor work. I never suspected I would ever be pretty enough or muscly enough to be a leading man. But I was thinking I could do this character work. Come in for a day or two on set, kill a performance that’s critically necessary for the flow of the story and go live in Hawaii in the off season. Like Earl.
He had been a hero of mine from far away for years.
And this 16 year old kid trying to prove to his parents that he’s good enough to become a professional NOW just walked into the Lounge of Legends and there sits one of the finest actors of all time.
It’s hard to describe how good Earl Boen was. But he was literally in everything. Every show, he made a guest appearance at least once. Played a lot of doctors and psychiatrists. If you needed someone to hypnotize Steve Urkel on Family Matters you need a great straight man with sober gravitas. And Earl was such a genius at utilizing his character type to its greatest effects dramatically, comedically, anything you need. He had the full arsenal.
Today I get to work with Earl Boen AND JANET WALDO.
Like this is it.
This is the proving ground.
This is everything I have been battling my parents to show proof that I am AS GOOD AS THESE ADULTS ARE.
And I rocked that performance.
And I knew that day I could stand with the best and hold my own at the age of 16.
And it didn’t matter to my parents.
Not. One. Bit. They. Still. Would. Not. Budge.
Meet unstoppable force.
And then give me an epic Aloha session with Pamela Hayden to really drive the point home that I’m world class but who cares go learn algebra so you can get a real job some day, kid.
All while the AIO team just twiddles their thumbs never informing my parents (or anyone) of how successful the show was.
No real money.
You get to work with the greatest of the great and prove that you belong and it doesn’t mean diddly squat to your conservative/religious parents who are terrified of Hollyweird.
Almost every other child actor on Earth suffered from having parents trying to live out their failed dreams through their kids.
I was that rare actor whose parents actively sabotaged my efforts to move forward.
And that is WHY a 16 year old acting phenom tried to end his life.
Also… not having a tutor in studio set me behind in school and the stress of falling behind was actively exacerbating my suicidal thinking and anxiety.
On that level… God bless Will Ryan for going on strike AIO and forcing them to have tutors for the children. That did actually hurt my life a bit.
But the much larger problem was the one-two punch of my parents denying me the career path I knew I was capable of… and the religious media company that was very happy to ensure that I would never have an agent or advocate in those rooms ever.
And caught between these two forces… I popped.
And so that is how… Earl Boen.. oddly became a weird unwitting bystander to a building catastrophe in a teen actor.
They say never work with children or animals.
I was fine to work with…
until they turned me into an animal.
And let that be an appetizer for the Volume to come.
I would like to add that this story is entirely about me and something that happened 30 years ago. And that Earl did die today/yesterday and I am sad about that. But sometimes the wild horses arrive and you just gotta ride ’em and write what needs to be written.
This is not my attempt to upstage on such a solemn occasion.
Rather this is my way of honoring Earl is to explain the significance he had on me and how much I greatly respected his talent.
Earl had family and friends and colleagues and fans that loved him dearly and he will be greatly missed and I would count myself among them.
I would get to work with him once more after this… he actually remembered me!
One of my favorite moments in my life is being at the 500th taping/recording and there’s a moment where I’m in a hall outside the studio with Corey Burton and Earl Boen and the three of us were geeking out on each other. It was adorable and one of my fav– I’ve said too much.
That’s volume 3 material.