The Ingrid Pitt column: the reality of the casting couch

This week, Ingrid offers advice to any would-be starlets tempted to take a shortcut to fame via the infamous casting couch. Take it from her, she knows what she's talking about...

Ingrid Pitt

F.A.Q! There is a bunch of questions which always come up in conversations when the subject is my minor role in the film business. What was it like working with Clint Eastwood? Do I regret taking off my clothes? Who was my favourite actor and does the casting couch still exist?

It was lovely working with Clint. I loved taking my clothes off. I haven’t got a favourite actor and the Casting Couch is a myth! Well, as an actual Couch, anyway. But myth or not, it has led many a simple young girl astray. The problem with the CCS (Casting Couch Syndrome) is that it has the opposite effect to what it is supposed to manifest. Promises of leading roles and a bright future are the lure. Rejection is the reality. Promises made pre-coitus, a string of film parts, megabucks and a prospect of living the millionaire lifestyle – as soon as he leaves his wife – disappear like the post-coital cigarette smoke.

My policy has always been, since the post-war trauma of attending dodgy auditions in bomb-scarred Germany (I used to take my mother with me) right up until the time when the would-be producers/directors stopped making propositions, get the contract firmly signed before even starting to believe any of the blandishments that might be offered with it.

Example: My agent sent me for an audition in the Savoy Hotel. It sounded kosher. I went to the producer’s suite. As soon as he opened the door I guessed I was about to be offered more than a starring role in an epic. The man was dressed in a singlet and boxer shorts. He made a big thing of being caught on the hop, in spite of the receptionist ringing ahead, and struggled into a dressing gown. Not before he had displayed his intention through the gaping fly of his boxers. I should have left then but I kidded myself the deal might be real. After all, my agent must have vetted him, surely?

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He opened a bottle of champagne to toast our future. He handed me a glass and perched on the arm of a chair facing me, again making sure I got the full effects of his boxer shorts. He got so carried away by the wonders of meeting me that he slid onto the sofa next to me and put his hand on my thigh. I knew it was time to leave but still didn’t move. His hand moved further up my thigh. I carefully poured my champagne onto his over-heated boxer shorts. Instead of damping his ardour he took it as a libation to our mutual lust. He, literally, tried to get his leg over. I struggled to my feet and made for the door. He made a half-hearted attempt to stop me but I guess he decided I wasn’t worth the coin. There’ll be another bus along shortly. I tried to think of a witty parting line but nothing appropriate presented itself until I was almost down to the ground floor.

Another example of what wicked men are prepared to do to seduce us poor innocent girls is more of the same – but more elaborate. I received a call from a photographer I knew, Mike Stern. He told me that he had just come back from Hollywood and he had heard of a part that was just right for me. He had given my name to one of the producers and if I was interested I should ring him at the Fox Studios. Of course I was interested. I called the studio and was put through to the bloke I needed to speak to. He promised to send me a ticket to the States for an audition. The ticket arrived and I found myself booking into the Beverley Wiltshire. Wonderful suite with direct access to the beautiful gardens. The first fly dropped into the ointment when I opened the door of the wardrobe. There were some men’s clothes in it. I rang the receptionist. She seemed puzzled that I should find men’s clothes in the wardrobe strange. The accommodation was booked by the man I was there to see. I think I got the picture at that point but I had come a long way and was desperate for the trip to have a happy ending.

That ending moved further away when I looked in the bathroom and found more evidence of a lodger. I rang Fox. The woman there told me that, as far as she could see, no audition had been booked for me in the immediate future. That did it. I rang reception and asked for another room. I moved in my gear and sat in the lounge and waited for my would-be seducer. As soon as he walked through the door I knew him. Short, sun-tanned to mahogany, teeth impossibly perfect, an expensively tailored blazer, a gold Ankh hanging from his neck, white trousers and shoes and the wrong side of sixty. A perfect cliché if ever there was one. I went on the attack immediately. He wasn’t fazed by it. Explained that the audition wasn’t scheduled but that wasn’t a problem. I could be accommodated whenever he said the word. I didn’t miss the implication but remembered what my mother had taught me and told him to stuff his audition. He made me feel guilty by telling me that I had got it all wrong and that he was only trying to do his best for me and if I just calmed down a little and saw things his way I could have a great future in Hollywood. I almost weakened. Then he suggested that we go back to his room and discuss the situation further and I decided I had had enough.

I’ll give him his due. Once he saw I was determined to leave he paid for my room and gave me a couple of days to sort myself out. Two days later I was serving table in a diner. But that’s another story.

So take some advice from an old bag that has a cupboard full of T-shirts from all over the world. If you are invited to a man’s apartment to discuss your future – take your mother with you. You won’t get a lot of work but you can starve happy in the knowledge of your virtue.

Ingrid Pitt writes weekly at Den of Geek. You can catch up on last week’s column here, or visit her website at www.pittofhorror.com.