In less enlightened, (or just more sexist) times, it was said that “behind every great man there is a great woman.”
I’m FAR from being anything like a great man, but behind ME every step of the way is a GREAT woman, my wife, Tamra Meskimen.
(That’s TAMRA, no center “A”. Pronounced to rhyme with “Camera.”)
In high school, Tamra was a totally charming and award-winning actress. We didn’t go out together then, but we acted in a play together, Cyrano de Bergerac (she was excellent and really cute.)
When we reconnected years after high school, I fell in love with her on the day– Christmas Day, 1983. It was truly like an alarm going off, or a bell sounding. If it had been a cartoon, the balloon would have said “BOING!”
She set in starting to help me immediately. She’s that kind of person, the kind that makes the world go around. Not one in a million have that impulse and willingness to just help.
An artistic life is too big for any single person. He/she needs a team as soon as it can be managed. Tamra has been on my team since my first beginnings in show business, and I have been on hers.
People often say to Tamra, “How do you live with him? You must be just laughing all day long!” Tamra is very polite when she answers that.
She’s seen me in more shows than anybody should ever have to sit through, in the most ridiculous venues and situations. In the old days, I was forever dragging her off to some weird space to see me perform, (come to think of it, that hasn’t changed much) and I can tell you, she isn’t laughing all day long. Who could? But she’s a trouper.
When we were young, broke and in New York, we had a job together at a trade show where we dressed up as Popeye and Olive Oyl. We had full head masks, gigantic shoes… we really were well cast. If Twitter had existed then, she would have had a million followers.
She naturally looks out for me in a way that I don’t even do for myself.
There’s the little thing like keeping me fed, taking care of me when I’m sick, helping me bring order to my desk, my accounts, my clothing, taking photographs at shows so I’ll have some good shots to use, giving me my wonderful daughter Taylor and helping raise her to her sane, safe adulthood… And a million others that she thinks of that I never seem to remember to do. Tamra is a GREAT friend. An amazing human being.
A few years ago she founded an improv company, The Really Spontaneous Theatre Company, which specialized in one-act plays, just so we could have something fun to do with our friends, and be actors together. We did hundreds of shows, each one a new and exciting experience. She acted in and ran that group, which was like trying to herd cats.
Then, she became a founder of The Acting Center school, a place where actors can get training to become professionals, without the intrusive, critical atmosphere that most “guru-based” acting schools foster. It’s helping hundreds and hundreds of beginning and veteran actors regain their interest and ability in creating compelling and convincing performances without becoming dependent on an outside “critic”. I am a student there, and I’ve been getting a lot out of it.
Of course, she’s still a terrific actress who has done tons of plays, web shorts, TV shows, audiobooks, commercials and just about everything there is for an actress to do in legitimate entertainment.
To say I’m her biggest fan is of course, a very true statement; I have seen everything SHE has done, just as she is an authority on all my work.
It is a marvelous thing about being together so long with a person (26 years of marriage along with the years prior to that) that one becomes an expert, an authority on, and an advocate of one’s mate. We’ve been that for one another, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
So as I head into this next evolution of massive attention, it is not as a single artist going it on his own, but as the second of two parts, one visible and seemingly independent, the other working steadfastly behind the scenes to make sure the visible one doesn’t faint from lack of food, have stains on his suit, or a thousand other possible infractions of good taste, good manners or common sense.
Tamra’s always there for me, and I can’t thank her enough.