Jay Cameron Parker
On Acting and Directing
Movies were a wonderful escape for me as a kid. I spent most Saturdays at the Garmar, our local movie theater in Montebello. I was alone most of the time. A few times, a friend accompanied me. Besides the typical children’s fare, I remember seeing movies like Night of the Living Dead, Executive Action, Billy Jack, Superfly, The Last House on the Left, THX 1138, Willard, Cabaret, Gone in 60 Seconds, What’s Up Doc, The Getaway, Take The Money And Run, Young Frankenstein. The list goes on. Some of these movies were R-rated, but nobody seemed to care that I was around ten years old.
After seeing Steve McQueen in Bullitt, I wanted to be a cop when I grew up. After seeing John Wayne in The Cowboys, I wanted to be a cowboy. I saw the Cary Grant version of The Front Page on television, and after that, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. Later, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to be any of those things; I just wanted to play those things. So I decided I wanted to be an actor and I wanted to make movies.
Somewhere I came across an old movie camera. I got myself a paper route and bought film with the money I made. I wrote short scripts; the film and the processing were expensive, and each reel ran about 100 ft. (about 7 min.) I directed my friends in these movies. The plot usually had to do with a monster or pie fight. That was my first experience as a director.
In high school, I took drama classes. Off the stage, I was painfully shy and frightened of everything. But on stage, when I was playing a telephone repairman or young man escaping his family’s business, I wouldn’t shut up. In high school, all I had to do was be loud and willing to let myself go. Once in college, I started learning the craft and techniques of acting and directing. And I’ve been learning ever since.
Most of my work has been on stage. In the 90s, some actor friends and I formed a comedy trio. We called ourselves the Subterranean Lounge Lizards. We performed at The Comedy Store, The Ice House and The Laugh Factory, and many other comedy venues that aren’t around anymore. I worked as an actor at Universal Studios Hollywood for many years. I did stand-up around Los Angeles.
In the early 2000s, I opened The Lizard Theater with a friend of mine, and we ran that place for four years. It went over so well that the city moved us into a more prominent building and gave us a load of money to convert it into The Mosaic Lizard Theater. That theater stayed open for six years until the city sold the building.
I’ve directed over 50 plays. I’ve lost count of the acting gigs. Sometimes I’ve done pretty well as far as money is concerned. Other times not so much. I’ve never regretted my career choice, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else.