I used to be the star of a kid’s show called Lola’s Dollhouse back in the eighties. It was one of those that aired on a few local channels. I’d always wanted to be a movie star as a child, so when auditions were held, I begged my mom and dad until they caved. They made sure I knew there was next to no chance that I’d get the part. After all, dozens of little girls who had acting experience were already trying out for parts. The odds were not in my favor.
I proved them wrong when I scored the lead role of Lola. Lola was a curious little kid who had a big imagination with what went on with her dolls. Once her ‘parents’ left, her dolls would grow to full size as a full doll family and they’d go on magical adventures together. I know. Real ground breaking television right here.
The Doll Family were made up of Mom, Dad, Brother, and Sister Doll. Sister Doll was a little girl whose name was Jessica Pearl. We were the same age, we both loved cats, and we both loved to be actresses.
Jessica had already gained some stardom by doing commercials, but she loved being Sister Doll. She told me the director was a lot more fun. And that was true, Michael Harding or ‘Mike’ as he told us to call him was a pretty great dude. He knew how to work with kids.
I loved going to Jessica’s house, her family had made good money off of Jessica being a star. Her mother loved to chatter on about how Jessica was in line for another part, or that if she really tried she’d be in the movies within a year. She was kinda naggy. But Jessica didn’t mind. “She just wants me to succeed,” She’d say.
I was only acting in Lola’s Dollhouse, I hadn’t considered trying out for anything else… until Mike told both of our parents about his brand new show he was making with his brother.
It would be called Rainbow Ride, which would be about a child exploring the world on their magical rainbow train. That’s all I remember of the plot. Jessica and I both wanted the part, but I remember a pact we made, under my treehouse at night.
No matter who got the part, we’d both still be best friends.
When we went to audition, the building was packed. I think I even recognized a few other child superstars. Jessica and I held hands, we were terrified. But Jessica’s mother, I think her name was Betsy, looked smug.
“No way is any of these children going to be able to compete with my Jessica!” She proclaimed, quite loudly I might add, right in both of our earshots. For a few seconds Jessica beamed, until she saw the crushed look on my face.
She leaned in close to me. “She does this to bring up my confidence. Don’t worry, she doesn’t really mean it, we both have equal chances,” She whispered. That comforted me, I smiled and told her thank you.
We both did have equal chances, and it was exciting to try out at all. They would invite you into the room and you’d read the part they gave you, or if you couldn’t read, you’d just have to have the lines fed to you. Jessica was a much better reader than I was, but I tripped over a few words.
I was thrilled to find out that I made it past the first round of auditions, and so was Jessica. We both made it past the second and third round as well.
The night before the final audition I was having a sleepover at Jessica’s. It was great, we ate pizza, gorged ourselves on ice cream, and practiced our lines for Rainbow Ride. Betsy would come in every so often and bring us even more snacks. It was a dream.
Around midnight I woke up to find myself covered in vomit. I’d puked all over myself and woke up afterwards. I felt terrible, my stomach hurt horribly and I begged Betsy to call my mom so she could take me home.
I remember being leaned over the toilet while Jessica sat beside me when I heard Betsy say in a sickly sweet voice, “So I suppose your friend can’t try out tomorrow?” Talk about a kick in the gut. Here I was sick as a dog and now I realized I couldn’t audition like this. Not while puking and hurting.
Jessica ignored her mother. Betsy tutted her tongue.
“Well, that’s show business, I suppose.”
The next day I spent in bed, curled up in a little ball, completely miserable. The weather chose to match my mood by raining all day and that did not help. I heard the phone ring and my mom answer it, but when she asked me if I wanted to talk to Jessica I told her no. I knew the only reason she would call me is if she got the part and I just didn’t want to hear it right then.
Early the next morning I was woken up to my mom shaking me awake. I could hear her breath shuddering, like she’d been crying.
“Amanda, there’s been an accident.”
I don’t remember what my mom said next, not really. Just little pieces, about how Jessica and her mother were going to sign some contracts, the road was slippery, the car slid… and Jessica was in the hospital.
When I saw her lying on that bed, her face covered in a plastic mask, I started to wail.
The doctors explained she was on life support, that she could be okay, but I just knew. I knew at that point my friend was dead and I wasn’t going to talk to her ever again.
I walked with my mother down the hall to where Betsy was, she looked even worse with all those nasty cuts and bruises on her face. But she was awake. And when she saw me, she was livid.
She forced herself to sit up and started screaming at me. I hid behind my mother, still traumatized by what happened earlier, but these are the words that stick with me.
“You! You little bitch! It was supposed to be you! My daughter’s dead because of that audition! It’s because of you!”
My mom rushed me out of there, but it was like someone flicked a switch.
I remember about the time we went to bed Betsy brought us juice, in a red cup and a pink cup. I initially reached for the pink cup, but Betsy swatted my hand away.
“No, this is your cup. Don’t be sharing now, you don’t want to get each other’s germs before the audition!”
My mother broke down crying when I told her what happened that night. I think she instinctively knew what had happened when I came down sick out of nowhere, but she never knew it would end in a tragedy like this.
Rainbow Ride was canceled. Mike didn’t want anything more to do with the project. I tried to back out of Lola’s Dollhouse but I had to film at least three more episodes, according to my contract. The new Sister Doll was a girl named Holly. Holly liked dogs, was three years older than me, and didn’t have any dreams to become an actress. She was just doing it for the fun. I think no one told her what happened to Jessica, and as an adult, I know that was for the best.
After it was over my parents announced a move. We ended up moving across three states. New school. New life. No more Lola’s Dollhouse. No one who could even recognize me as ‘Lola’.
I’ve never acted again. Not even in school drama. It’s too painful. And every time I see a car rush by on a rainy day, I remember that day and wonder how things would be different if I went to the audition.