In "An Actor and A Gentleman" Louis Gossett Jr., known for his portrayal of Sergeant Emil Foley in the hit movie "An Officer and A Gentleman," reflects on his journey in Hollywood and the life lessons and stories along the way.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
There were lots of women in and out of my life during those years, as I discovered that little kids could be babe magnets. I found out that a man caring for a small child without a woman was somehow attractive to other women. "Where is the mother?" they usually asked when they saw me walking into a restaurant with Satie or buying groceries in the supermarket.
"She's gone," I told them, and their eyes lit up with a mixture of sadness and admiration. This led to some delightful experiences. As I got more involved in projects, however, and my fame grew, I had to be extra cautious. I was learning that I could easily become a target, especially to women who might take advantage of my situation. I was slowly becoming a quasi-playboy while being a full-time single father. My need for a little downtime from the constant work was too often time that I filled with women who dealt in drugs and alcohol. Still, despite my media-illuminated missteps, I always had work, and, far more important, I clung to the role of proud and primary parent of a beautiful, loving, albeit spoiled, little boy.
Working on the ABC movie "Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy 'Satchel' Paige," which we filmed in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was a special pleasure, particularly because I'd played baseball in high school. Satch was rail thin, so even though I was a little skinny, I had to resist some of the wonderful barbecues to stay that way during the filming. I also had to wear a hairpiece, which was a real pain, moving as it did all over my head in the oppressive heat. Having Satchel present on the set in his famous rocking chair a year before he died of emphysema added a special dimension to the filming. I have always felt that this movie, directed by George C. Scott, should have been a major film, rather than a TV movie. It was about the great Negro League pitcher who finally made his way into the American League at the age of forty-two, the first of the Negro League stars to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
In real life, I was in my mid-forties, often eight to ten years older than the roles I wanted to play. I was on the mature fringe of the artistic renaissance I saw taking place all around me. I saw so many interesting roles out there that gave actors chances to try new acting techniques, but the competitive edge for those roles seemed to be going to fellow actors who were younger than I was. I had to use up so much energy keeping my name out there, attending functions, being a celebrity, when all I wanted was to create my own family and be home with my son. I understood why so many of my fellow actors simply did not show up for these events, but I did not feel as if I had that luxury. My name had to be constantly in the paper.