Broken Pieces

Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker by Marla Martenson (Excerpt)

The doctor came into the room and coldly announced that the diagnosis was terminal and that Dad had six months to live, at the most. Then he just turned around and walked out the door.

Neither of us could look at each other.

Then Dad said, “You think it’s too late for me to start eating that tofu and carrot juice you’re always trying to foist off on me?” We laughed and I hugged him.

Back in Chicago, it took me only five days to pack everything, close bank accounts, tell my boss I was leaving, say good-bye to dear friends like Rita—who would take care of Daphne for me— and hire a moving company. When I got back to California, Dad was no longer in the hospital. He had deteriorated so much that he was put into a nursing home. I spent days and nights at his side, crying and praying for help getting through this.

Mercifully he died a few days later. I was living at my aunt’s house, waiting for my things to cross the country from Chicago on a moving truck. The second hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life was to drive over to the cremation place and pick up my dad’s ashes. I paid the four hundred dollars and was handed a cardboard box that weighed about ten pounds. I hid it in the back of the closet of the guest room that I was staying in.

That night, lying on the inflated mattress that was my bed for the next two months, I felt and heard a buzzing sound in my left ear. Then I heard the words in my dad’s voice, “We did okay, didn’t we? I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said.

I always feel Dad at my side in stressful times. Like right now.

I think he’s telling me to do what makes me happy. I feel in my heart that he helped me right after I moved back to L.A., back to Hollywood.

I planned on getting an agent and a job—in any line of work except waitressing—and start auditioning again. I finally found a cute little studio apartment in Hollywood that accepted dogs, a small miracle, and Daphne and I moved in. Decorating the place helped me cope with the loss of my dad, but I still felt very lost and lonely.

I did some French translation work and was also cast in bit parts as an actress. I began doing “audience work.” Yep, they actually pay people to sit in the audience at tapings of game shows and late-night talk shows. I had no idea “audience work” existed as a profession until my girlfriend, Anouchka, introduced me to it. It paid a pittance—six dollars per hour cash, sometimes more—but it was interesting. Getting on the Judge Judy show, for instance, paid a whole $40 for just sitting on your butt, staying awake, and looking interested while people bickered, ranted, and endured magisterial sarcasm.

One evening, I walked to a pharmacy up on Sunset Boulevard to get some vitamins. There I met an adorable little Polish woman from New York who also lived in the neighborhood. Sabrina and I became solid friends. We went to plays and comedy clubs together—it was a lot of fun. She introduced me to one of her girlfriends who was an agent. She signed me right away. In the meantime, Sabrina was always talking about a guy who lived in her building. She told me he was dating a gal, but it wasn’t serious.

I didn’t really care to hear about a guy who was “in a relationship,” but every time I saw Sabrina, she kept talking about this guy. She told me that he played piano at a place in Playa Del Rey. I can’t explain this, but I felt like my dad was nudging me. I was just kind of glowing with expectation the night I decided to go to the piano bar with Sabrina to secretly check him out.


I liked his music, the way he played the piano, and just . . . the way he looked: Latin, handsome, with a warm smile. He came over and sat with us during his break. When he was done for the evening, we all went over to Sabrina’s apartment and had a drink. We sat next to each other on her couch, and our lips, I don’t know . . . they just . . . somehow . . . locked like magnets.


I will receive a belated tip from an old actress for $62.37 (adjusting for inflation and interest accrual).

My happy clients shower me with appreciation.

My Dad watches over me.

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Genre – Memoir

Rating – PG13

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