Thieves Among Us
- A lesson in what it takes to get shit done -
The first time I was robbed was in my twenties. It happened at work. After being called to set, I left my dressing room to report for duty. A few hours later, I returned to collect my things before driving the three miles back home. It wasn’t until the following day I noticed something was missing.
Anyone who knows me knows I have OCD. If not for the fact I’m unable to concentrate on anything until my home is orderly and neat, then because they know I own a label maker - which is pretty much a tell-tale sign on its own. So, when my wallet wasn’t in its usual place the following morning, I found it incredibly strange. But, in retrospect, not as strange as somehow convincing myself I must not have put it back in its place. Obviously, when it comes to someone with OCD, that’s highly unlikely. Yet, to me, so was the notion of someone taking something from someone that wasn’t theirs. Apparently, the only thing more crippling than my OCD at the time was my faith in humanity.
A strange thing happens when you’re a victim of theft. Though you know what’s transpired, it’s almost as if it’s less painful to suspect some kind of miscalculation on your part than it is another human being. The hope that people are innately good is so powerful you start rationalizing alternate, often ridiculous, possibilities that might otherwise explain the reality. Like, for instance, you’re simply crazy. For nearly an hour, I tore my house apart looking for my wallet, even going so far as to think perhaps an angel, in a moment of boredom, hid it from me as some form of entertainment. “Maybe,” I thought, “she wanted to pass some time in the heavens playing hide and seek with a mortal while waiting for one to enter God’s waiting room. Perhaps she put it back in a place I’ve already scoured, and if I look there again, it might magically resurface?” The fact I suspected that had more potential to be true than someone I worked with stealing from me only proved I’d lost more than just my wallet.
Eventually, the realization that people are fucking assholes set in, and my world, like the stock market in ’29 and the housing market in ‘08, crashed hard. I retraced my steps from the day before, determining the last time I’d used my credit card was when I got gas on my way to work. After removing my wardrobe to shortly after change into my character’s, I remembered it falling out of my jeans pocket onto the floor, whereupon I returned it to its place in my wallet. There it was: proof that everything had been there, at work, in my dressing room.
The next day I sought out my supervisor, aka the cocaine mistress adulterer, Walter, to file my report.
“I think someone here stole from me,” I told him. That was my first mistake - thinking.
“Why do you think that?” he asked, my choice of word causing him to question any probable cause. I should have known - give a cheater an inch, and like the few between their legs, they’ll make it a mile.
“Because someone here stole from me,” I said. I went on to tell him how I’d arrived at this conclusion. I pointed out how our dressing rooms were never locked, how the actors weren’t permitted to have keys, and how our names were broadcast over the speaker to call us to set. This gave the perpetrator the foresight to know when anyone’s dressing room was left unattended. Walter leaned back in his chair, listening, bringing the tips of his fingers together in front of his face.
I continued to explain, “My scenes were at the end of the day. The only other people here then were on stage with me. Aside from Greg (our Stage Manager), who certainly would have noticed someone going downstairs to our dressing rooms.”
“Well, did he?”
“No, which, makes me wonder: what’s on the other side of that door at the end of the hallway?” To the left of my dressing room was a single door with only a lock and no handle. I’d no idea what it was for, who used it, or what was hiding behind it. I’d always just assumed it was Narnia.
“It goes to the tunnels that lead to all the other stages on the lot,” Walter informed me.
“And, who has access to it?”
“The security guards,” he replied.
“Interesting,” I expressed. Not to mention convenient, ironic, and utterly fucked up. Perhaps I’d seen too many episodes of Dateline, but to me, this case was coming together quickly and would be open and shut as swiftly as the door my perp had used to get in and out of.
“I think we should find out from security who was working Wednesday night,” I told him.
“Why would anyone here steal?” he asked me, if not rhetorically, then as if I had a studied insight into the criminal psyche and their motives. “And, I’m not so sure I feel comfortable accusing someone we work with of such a thing. Especially someone who’s sole job is to make us feel safe and protected.”
I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable working in an environment where I felt anything but. “So, what are you suggesting we do then?” I asked.
He shifted his weight on the chair, propelling forward and leaning towards me from across his desk. “Look: we can’t give you guys keys to your dressing rooms, and we can’t control security’s use of that door.” I wasn’t sure why there was so much hesitance entrusting actors with their own keys, especially when key holding criminals were evidently purposefully overlooked and blatantly excused. “But, here’s what I can do - I can give you a different dressing room.”
As if changing the outfit would suddenly make my everything invisible and impenetrable? “And, how would that help exactly?” I asked, hoping he could let me in on some sort of logical reasoning I was otherwise missing.
“We’ll make sure it has one of those… free-standing, locking, closet cabinets thingies in it.”
“None of those have keys,” I told him.
“They do. We just don’t give them out. I’ll get one from security and give it to you tomorrow. For today though, you can leave your stuff up here in my office if you’d like.” With that, Walter stood up, making his way to the door to try and lead me outside of it.
“Wait, Security has them?” I asked, twisting my body in my seat to face him from across the room.
“They have all the keys,” he said, matter of factly.
“Do they have copies?”
“I’d assume so,” he said, not picking up on my concern.
I spelled it out for him. “So, wouldn’t they just be able to get into the closet then?”
Seeing I was unwilling to let it go, he offered, “I’ll get the copies.”
Having gathered my things I walked across Walter’s office to try and leave it behind me. When I met up with him at the doorway he added, “Just, do me a favor and don’t tell anyone about this, okay? We don’t want people to worry.” He flashed a quick smile before leaving me to pick my jaw up from off the floor - a position similar to that I’m sure he often left the cocaine mistress in.
I wasn’t able to understand why Walter didn’t “want people to worry.” Shouldn’t they know they were at risk for potentially being violated? Then again, when it came to Walter, I suppose the shoe fit. While he may have wanted to keep waters calm, I certainly didn’t. Especially once it came time to leave the custom painted walls of my dressing room behind. I’d painted the cheetah print pattern myself, never thinking a cheet-er and someone else hunting a different kind of prey, would force me outside of them. And, I thought being robbed of my new Betsy Johnson leather wallet was bad enough…
Two days later my credit card, license, and passport turned up in a garbage can outside of a Bank of America in Venice Beach. I knew if I could just get my hands on the timecards of whoever worked Security that Wednesday, I could see which of them lived in or around the area, and thereby nab both my criminal and my coveted wallet. Alas, it would never happen.
Nor would posting signs around the studio to be on the lookout for thieves among us. Which, is likely why it happened again to another actress just a week later. After that? Still, nothing. Not a single thing was being done to prevent crime or secure justice after it had taken place. That is, until it happened a third time, three weeks later - this time, to an actor. It was the same story: his security had been compromised, his dressing room had been raided, and he had been violated. There was only one major difference - his voice had been heard, and Walter took action when it was.
So, what was my take away from all this? Simple: it takes balls to get shit done, and if you don’t have ‘em, then you sure as shit better find a way to beat ‘em - one way or another.