Cultural Watch


(MONTCLAIR LOCAL) Geoffrey Owens, September 30, 2018 — It’s difficult not to feel like a failure when you have a degree from an Ivy League college … and you were a featured actor on one of television’s most famous shows… and yet you’re now cleaning the men’s bathroom at a local grocery store. You can spin it to yourself any way you like, but you can’t help but feel that something is unequivocally wrong.

There was one day in the store, I was on my hands and knees, changing the garbage bag below one of the registers, when a customer leaned over the counter and asked me for my autograph.  Moments like this tempted me to quit. The reason I didn’t, however, was the same reason I took the job in the first place: I desperately needed the money.

Most people don’t realize that the vast majority of actors — even some who achieve considerable fame and recognition — are often unable to make a sustained sufficient living in “show business.” Somewhere in the middle of the road of my life, I found myself in the dark wood of chronic unemployment and ever-increasing debt. I had no choice but to do whatever I could for the sake of myself and my family.

Working at the grocery store was difficult, in a number of ways, but it was also very good for me. It gave me a sense of stability, security and satisfaction that I hadn’t felt in a long time. It also provided me with a feeling of peace — even a kind of innocence. The whole 15-month experience helped me, emotionally and spiritually. It reminded me of what the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov says in his works about the necessity and dignity of work. (I also thought of a Shakespeare line: “For never anything can be amiss, when simpleness and duty tender it.”)