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How I Made My Career Dreams Come True — in My 80s

It ain’t over till it’s over.

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Hands holding film clapperboard
Margeaux Walter
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All my life, I’ve had a long list of wants. I wanted to be a recognizable TV actress. I wanted to feel important. I wanted people I admire to admire me back. Most of all, I wanted an audience: a large, large audience of adoring fans.

None of that ever happened – until it did — when I was in my 80s.

I began by doing all manner of crap jobs. Children’s theater, where one kid asked, “Are you a puppet?” Free shows in nursing homes, where a resident yelled out, “Hey, is this gonna be over soon? It’s almost time for cake.” One line on a soap opera: “The doctor will see you now.” And — worst of all — tedious, brain-sucking days on the sweltering sidewalks of New York as a movie extra. Then my husband and I moved to Los Angeles, where I started to get semi-regular work as a TV actress, including a returning role as Doris Klompus on Seinfeld.

But I still had too much time on my hands. So, I decided to try writing and performing my own words — as a storyteller. Once again, this meant a steady diet of struggle and humiliation. One event was at a grungy barbecue joint deep in the bowels of the San Fernando Valley. When I got there, I discovered that most of the audience spoke English as a second language — the first language being Mongolian. Needless to say, my piece about my son’s Jewish wedding did not rock the house.

Another show was on the freezing front patio of a coffee shop in East Hollywood with noisy traffic going by. Six storytellers, with four people in the audience. Everyone was under 25, so once again, my piece about my son’s Jewish wedding did not rock the house. A much warmer reception greeted some guy’s detailed description of his battle with genital herpes. 

One ray of light during those dark days was my husband. Benni came to every show, every gig, every performance. And his response was always the same: He would say, “You were terrific.”

I would say, “How can you say that? I got zero laughs!” 

He would say, “That’s because they were really listening. Trust me, they loved you.” 

The man was delusional, but his faith in me strengthened my faith in me. My goal as a storyteller was to appear on The Moth Mainstage. Every time I performed, I sent them a video, saying, “Hi, Here’s a new piece. Hope we’ll work together soon.” 

I did that several times a year for nine years. Then one day I got a call from New York. “Hi, Annie. This is Catherine at The Moth. Thanks for being so patient. Listen, we’d like you to perform in L.A., St. Louis, Berkeley and the Shubert Theatre in Boston. We’ll also put you on our radio show and on our website, and maybe in our next book. Oh, and the story we want is that wonderful piece about your son’s Jewish wedding.” 

So, just like with the acting, I kept getting nowhere until one day I woke up and I was somewhere. It turns out that constant failure is a great learning opportunity. One day I asked someone at The Moth why it took so long for them to book me. “Oh,” she said, “you got better.”

So, it wasn’t just my stubborn perseverance that finally paid off: It was my never-ending effort to improve my skills. Some people are overnight successes, and some people, like me, just have to keep doing it wrong until they get it right. Now I’m in my third act, and things are looking up. I am getting more acting jobs than ever before, and on some notable shows, like Pen15 and The Shrink Next Door.  

Plus, miracle of miracles, I have found totally unexpected acclaim as a social media star. I simply took those storytelling skills that I had honed over the years, and used them to post itty-bitty videos on TikTok, where I now have over a quarter million followers — the large audience I’ve been seeking all my life.

A few months ago, I was rehearsing a scene on a movie when the director, Paul Weitz, took me aside for a moment. Now, Paul Weitz cowrote and codirected one of my favorite films, About a Boy, so I am a major fan. And I know what he’s going to say to me. Every director I’ve ever worked with gives me the same note: “Annie, I like what you’re doing. Your timing is great. But on the next take could you just … bring it down a little bit?”

But that’s not what he says. The great Paul Weitz says to me, “Annie, I just have to tell you how much I love your story about your grandchild on TikTok.” Oh my God! My lifelong dream has finally come true! Someone I admire admires me back!! And it only took 83 years!

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