I wanted to be a Movie Star!

By Alicia Gargaro-Magaña

Born and raised in Hollywood, movie palaces were my churches and old movie stars, my angels. When I first saw the luminescent Myrna Loy as Nora Charles open her apartment door to welcome her guests with a tray full of cocktails in The Thin Man, I said, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up!” And so it began . . .

Born and raised in Hollywood, movie palaces were my churches and old movie stars, my angels.I’ve always loved the movies. I started the film club at my high school and later spent a summer at Northwestern University studying radio, TV and film. While working in the publicity department at the renowned Crown Publishers, I attended and graduated from film school at New York University. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my entire life: to write, work in film, be a movie star – never an actress – no, I wanted to be a movie STAR! and a studio head – I wanted it all. I was certainly headed in the right direction.

Over the years, I’ve worked at most of the major studios: Columbia, TriStar, Universal, Fox and Disney. I relished my life in the industry as I partied with my associates after work. It was the 1990s – we went out; we smoked cigarettes in the studio offices; we drank at lunch to relieve our hangovers from the night before; and we did it day after day after day.

Then I decided I was going to make documentary films. Only I didn’t. I became what we refer to in this show-business industry – a freelance worker. I spent most of my free time drinking with other freelancers like me. I started temping, which thankfully led me to be hired by Universal Studios for three marvelous years.

Then a friend of mine suggested I be hired as assistant to the producers on the Academy Award-winning What Dreams May Come starring the incomparable Robin Williams. Making that film was sheer magnificence. Production was on Treasure Island in San Francisco. We had a great crew who liked to celebrate after each and every long, shoot day. We rolled onto the set each morning to film heaven and earth; and we did it for one long, extraordinary summer.

After wrapping the film, I was hired to produce on Deepak Chopra’s early website, MyPotential.com. We had a genuinely terrific year building an innovative and progressive website – but then the dot.com bust happened in 2001, and all these potentially marvelous websites closed. I went bust with them.

At age 35, just to make ends meet, I was struggling to write articles on perfect pesto for cooking magazines while all my friends were becoming high-powered studio executives. I drank at night and was hungover during the day, unable to get my feet on the ground. By this point, I saw only darkness; I didn’t care anymore. For the first time, I understood what it meant to want to die, to actually think, If I weren’t on this planet, it wouldn’t really matter.

On August 22, 2002, after attending a friend’s birthday dinner, I was arrested for drunk driving. As I left jail the next day, I knew I couldn’t drink again. I went to my first Twelve Step meeting two days later and my life changed – forever.

When faced with my sober self for the first time, I began to learn the miracle of who I really am. I found I could manifest my true potential. I had direction and perseverance. When I was hungover, I could only hope for shots of tequila to get me through the day. When newly sober, to get through the day I found I could pick myself up by my bootstraps and just keep on walking – even when I couldn’t bear the thought of once more putting one foot in front of the other.

All my past experiences have brought me to where I am today. I keep it simple, go to at least four meetings a week, and practice prayer and meditation every day and night. My commitments at meetings and my wonderful sponsor help me keep on track. I am of service to my community and to my three sponsees, who inspire me each time we connect. I stay in action and gratitude.

In 2004, a friend from the MyPotential days asked me to join him at the award-winning production company, World of Wonder. Since then, I have worked on many marvelous projects with them and other production companies. I have remained sober and grateful.

I was a producer on the documentary, Tammy Faye: Death Defying, about the lovely Tammy Faye Bakker Messner as she battled cancer. I have produced and worked on several well-known reality series, including American Idol and the award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race. These are documentaries – real life projects.

In addition, I started my own production and publishing company, Pictures of Los Angeles, Inc. Each week I write a blog, and have published my first novel, Miss Fancy Pants, the story of one drunken girl’s journey from darkness into light. My dreams are being realized, and I have only begun to reach my potential.

I do not in the least “regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” My time drinking was amusing and adventurous; but in the end it was dark, and I lost my way. Today, I am grateful to share my experience, strength and hope with those walking this path with me. I am not alone. I have an amazing family and a wonderful husband who is a television editor.

We are all “free to be you and me.” We are graced with the strength to power-up, suit-up, show-up and stir-it-up. As in the movies, we create magic in recovery by turning the spotlight on and projecting our beautiful lives for all to see – The Best Picture, ever.

Alicia Gargaro-Magaña is a writer and producer in Los Angeles, California. Miss Fancy Pants is her first book with more to follow soon. Her blog may be read at aliciagargaromagana.com.

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