Kathryn Joosten did just that when she was 42. She had worked as a psychiatric nurse quite successfully, ending up as the head nurse of a prominent Chicago psychiatric hospital. She married her psychiatrist boyfriend and retired to housewifery. They had two sons and a girlfriend. The husband ended up with the girlfriend and Joosten ended up with the two young boys and a need for more income.
She worked for a local advertiser, hung wallpaper and found locations for photographers and industrial film makers in the Chicago area.
Several life changes conspired to push Joosten into a pursuit of an acting career. Her marriage ended. Her mother’s death at 49 was preceded by great gnashing of teeth over opportunities never pursued. And she needed cheap babysitting, which was found at the local community theater. Intrigued by the performing, on a lark she auditioned for and got a small part in a play. Thus the ever pernicious acting bug bit her squarely in the wahoozie and she decided that was going to be her next career. At 42.
Now, hons, if you were to get an appointment with an agent today, somehow, without being 5’10”, drop dead gorgeous and skinny as a toothpick, you would be laughed right back out onto the street. Kathryn sacrificed her personal life to the time gods and worked her tushie off to get her first acting job, a street performer at Orlando’s Disney World in 1992.
That job only lasted a year and after three more years of trying in Florida, she packed it in and moved to Hollywood in 1995, now 56 years old. After five months of actors workshops and pounding the pavement, she booked two lines on the show “Family Matters” playing against the character “Urkel.” Yes, Urkel catapulted her career And thus, her star ascended into the firmament to burn brightly for 16 glorious years. She became the “It” girl for cranky old characters on television. You’ll probably remember her most as Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing and Kathy McClusky on Desperate Housewives.
She passed away in June of this year from lung cancer, which she battled successfully for several years. Her credit list is quite impressive. She won Emmys, a SAG award and numerous other honors for her talent and hard work.
Now, hons, the woman was not a beauty by Hollywood standards….
…but by all accounts her extraordinary success did not go to her head and make her a petulant martinet, as often happens in Hollywood. She was considered kind, gracious and very funny by those who worked with her and knew her. Plus, I’ll bet all that psych experience really helped in dealing with the extraordinary personalities in her profession!
The inspiration in Kathryn’s story is on several fronts- if you really really really love a particular field of endeavor, then by all means pursue it. If you really really really want to make a living from it, then you will have to pursue it to the exclusion of a personal life in pretty much any sense, and work very hard every day to make that happen. Plus have a day job or money to live on in the meantime. And you will also need to have a lot of physical energy. Given all of this, it does not matter how old you are or what you look like. Though I do suspect having two noses might be a deterrent in Hollywood, if acting is your game.
Single minded focus. I’ve already asked Santa for some this Christmas.