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My First (and Nearly Last) Day on Friends
By Lauren Tom

"Lauren, what are you doing?" It's Lisa Kudrow, she noticed me shaking my hands and now she's talking to me. She is my favorite actress on the show. My mouth has no moisture.

"Oh nothing," I laugh.

Lisa is wearing a skin tight multi-colored top. I had no idea her boobs were so big. Maybe they just look bigger in that top. Did she have them done? Her nose looks like maybe it was done too. Why am I being so judgmental? She's a comic genius. Maybe I can learn more about comedy from her. I try not to look at her nose, concentrating my gaze on her eyes.

"What are you having?" she says brushing her long blond hair away from her face.

"Uh, I don't know, what's good?" I ask, smiling. I have no clue what she says next. I'm too busy trying to come up with something to say to her after she's finished speaking. Let's see, I guess I could say 'what are you having?' No, that's mundane. Well, I know she graduated from Vassar College. I blurt, "You know, you're not nearly as dumb as you seem on TV." Did I just say that? I want to physically catch the words in the air and stuff them back in my mouth. I could've farted and it would've been better. It's official: I'm fired.

She shifts in her chair, blinks several times and lets out a tiny laugh, her mouth in a crooked sneer.

We both turn away from each other. I look at Matthew Perry as he talks to Jennifer Aniston. I take in his clear blue eyes, his black V-neck T-shirt, the light brown hair on his arm, his right hand. Oh my God. He's missing half of his middle finger on his right hand. I try not to look. He catches me and quickly places his hand on his lap. I'm about to be served my pink slip, I can feel it.

"So you're going to be with us for awhile, huh?"

"Yep," I say, my face flooding with warmth. Is this just cursory or is he actually a sweet guy?

"Where are you from?"

Geez, he has really blue eyes too, is that a requirement on this show? No wait, I'm safe, David has brown eyes. "I'm from Highland Park, a small suburb of Chicago."

"Oh, that's not so small. I have a friend who went to high school there."

Uh-oh, I'm going to have to tell him how old I am. He'll see me as this ancient dragon lady.

"Do you know Jonathan Penzer?" he asks biting into a long bread stick.

"Uh, no, I was probably in school way before him." Here it comes. Three, two, one…

"Yeah? When did you graduate?" He takes a sip of water.

"Um. 19…" and then I cough as I say "78."

He laughs and lets it go. The waiter comes to take our order. Thank God, that'll take up at least three minutes. This is almost unbearable. I want to take a nap from all this fun.

Jennifer Aniston orders a salad for an appetizer and fish for a main course. As she speaks to the waiter she picks up a bread roll and gouges out the center leaving a pile of soft white bread on her plate. Then she takes a small amount of butter and spreads it on the inside of her crusty bread shell. Her hair has golden highlights and her skin looks wrinkleless and tan. Her eyes, of course, are blue. Before rehearsal I saw her drive up in her Land Rover. Her parking space is right in front of the set. My space is in New Jersey. The walk gave me time to collect myself.

"What did you just do to your bread?" I ask.

"Oh, there's too many carbs in the roll, so I just gut it. We all do that, especially with the bagels at the craft service table," she laughs. Courtney and Lisa nod their heads.

"I'll have to remember that. Is that how you stay so thin?" I ask picking up a bread roll and copying her creation.

Courteney says, "that, and working out after lunch. Do you want to join us? They have a gym right here on the lot."

"Uh, no, I have to go home and feed my dog. Plus, I hate to exercise."

"I'm with you." My head turns towards the voice. Thank God, Matt Le Blanc has brown eyes too. He is studied casual-bedhead hair, five o'clock shadow, rumpled T-shirt and black jeans. He looks like he's been partying since he could walk. I like his easygoing smile.

"I guess I'm sort of a princess" I say, "I don't like to sweat."

"Really? You're a princess?" he asks cramming almost the entire bread roll into his mouth. "Of what country?"

He's joking right? "Well, of Highland Park, Illinois. I guess. I'm sort of a Chinese American princess. A CAP."

"What do you mean?" he asks, his eyebrows scrunching into a unibrow. "You're a princess from someplace in China?"

"No, I'm not a real princess, it's just sort of a tag line-like, you know, 'JAP'."

"JAP? Isn't that sort of offensive?" he asks, still chewing his mouthful of bread.

"Well, uh, I was trying to make a joke -- like instead of Jewish American Princess, Chinese Amer…"

He's looking at me as if I am, in fact, speaking Chinese. "Oh never mind," I say, waving my hand in the air and shaking my head. I take a deep breath. I'm an idiot. I should just stop talking now.

Much to my surprise, the next six weeks of taping the show proceeds pretty uneventfully. I even start feeling comfortable enough to work out at the gym with the girls a few times. But I never did become a regular member of the cast -- not surprising since I spent most of my energy on being "nice" and "easygoing" so they wouldn't fire me. What's there to fire? I was Ms. Cellophane. Plus, my role was to play the "other woman," the opponent whom Jennifer Aniston's character, Rachel, had to conquer in order to win Ross. The joke was that no matter how "nice" my character, Julie, was, Rachel still thought she was a bitch. Audiences hated Julie because they wanted to see Rachel and Ross finally get together. I was actually booed by the live audience at the tapings. Still, when it comes time to film my final episode, I cry because I don't want to leave -- I feel as if Ross and the show are dumping me. That my 'family' is kicking me out of the house. The cast and producers give me a tearful group hug, and a pair of sneakers with the words "Friends -- Second Season" embroidered on them.

So I am shocked when, the next day, The National Enquirer runs a story on the front page with the headline, "Friends Actress FIRED!" That would be me. The article went on to say that Jennifer thought I was a bitch -- making star-like demands, acting in an arrogant manner, etc. -- and that we had a cat fight on the set, ending in her marching to the producers and demanding that I be fired from the show. What? "No, no, no that was the storyline," I want to shout, "not real life! I was only contracted for six episodes! We all liked each other! They took me to lunch! We hung out in each others dressing rooms!"

Befuddled and hurt, I call a lawyer who demands that the National Enquirer retract the article. But the magazine stands by their story, stating they had an "extra" to verify all the details, and my lawyer says it isn't worth it to sue them. I always thought there was a grain of truth in those stories in the Enquirer and that a tall tale was spun around that kernel, but now I know that sometimes, there isn't any truth at all in them. That's like asking Noah Wyle or Anthony Edwards for medical advice because they play doctors on E.R.

My friends try to comfort me by suggesting that any publicity is good publicity and that a picture is worth a thousand words. Except there was no picture. At least not of me. There was a nice shot of Jennifer though.

But as I think about it some more, I realize that I may have been responsible for the whole shebang. Manifesting the job, doing a respectable if unspectacular job, and then creating the headline, "Actress Fired." Maybe my thoughts were potent little buggers. But if that's true, then the possibilities seem endless. I just have to be careful what I think about.

That should be easy since I'm not neurotic in the least.

So last night I am watching this incredible show on HBO, Six Feet Under. I seem to be having a mild crush on this character, Nate, and I think, I would love to be on that show…

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