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Secret Agent Man

The Centennial Column

The Centennial Column
Many of you would like to find out my true identity. You wonder how you can trust what I say when you don't know who I am. So you write in and demand to know: Who are you, Secret Agent Man? In response, I can only say this: "Who" is but the form following the function of "what," and what I am is a man in a mask.

My journey as Secret Agent Man began three and a half years ago, when real estate still had value and a misguided fool was in the White House. I was home after a long day at work, enjoying a drink and watching Christian Bale in the first "Dark Knight" film. As the vodka kicked in, I started to wonder: Why does Batman wear a mask? Is it because he's a coward? No. Of course not. Batman wears a mask because it protects his identity, and this protection gives him the freedom to act without endangering himself or those around him. The mask allows him to fight crime without fear of retribution. The mask is power.

That's when the idea hit me.

Actors live in a world without heroes. You pay to attend workshops taught by casting assistants who answer phones for a living. You study audition technique with teachers who have never auditioned. You buy advice books written by people with no real experience. Why do you do this? The answer is simple: You're desperate for knowledge in a business where everyone lies. You feel weak in an industry where all the secrets are closely guarded.

So I decided it was time for me to speak the truth. I would become Secret Agent Man, a source of knowledge and strength for all actors in need.

Over the years, your response has been extremely positive. I'm gratified by all the letters I've received from actors who were helped by these columns. But like Batman, I still find myself facing off against readers who are fixated on knowing who I really am. Why is that so important, I wonder? Do my words have any less meaning because there's no name attached to them?

Some of you have even pointed out how my tone changes from column to column, positive one week and discouraging the next. How is that possible? Well, did it ever occur to you that Secret Agent Man might be more than one person? That maybe I've enlisted my own Robin? Or that the word "man" might not be as gender-specific as it sounds? The truth is that Secret Agent Man is more than any one man or woman. It's an idea.

You see, actors don't always fail because they're not talented. Sometimes the culprit is a lack of information. I've always felt that knowledge is power, and power is the one thing most actors don't have. That feeling of impotence is what keeps you up at night, wondering if you've made the right choices. That's when the monsters come out from under your bed. The idea behind this column is to empower you with the strength you so desperately need to face those creatures.

Trust me. I'm not hiding behind this disguise. Being anonymous has given me the freedom to write 100 columns over the last three and a half years. The mask I wear has allowed me to share the truth with you, warts and all. So stop worrying about my true identity. It doesn't matter. Instead, focus on the idea behind this column. Ideas have power. And that power can be yours.

Who am I? I'm Secret Agent Man. And that's all you need to know.

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