"I'm not an actor. I'm a movie star!" So proclaimed the character Alan Swan portrayed by Peter O'Toole in the 1982 movie, My Favorite Year. In it, he played an over-the-hill out-of-work actor appearing on a "live" TV comedy show (much like "Saturday Night Live") where he walked out of the studio in front of a live audience because he was frustrated by his inability to ad lib on live TV.
Eventually he did rise to the occasion with his performance, which was so convincing that he proved he really was talented--regardless of the work of others (cameramen/women, directors, editors, etc.) whose job it was to boost the actors' presence in order to reach the masses. That is/was how Hollywood works.
When I first saw the movie in 1982 it really resonated with me. Why? Because I asked myself a similar question (related to music, of course) when I started Twisted Sister in 1973. At some point on my journey, I decided that I wasn't going to be one of the world's great guitar players. I was instead going to channel my talent toward being a rock star--something easily derided to be the creation by a manager, record company and producer who package a mediocre talent in a very pretty box.
When I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, I wanted to be famous. But as I learned to play and improve I became much more serious about my craft. I changed course. I even took jazz lessons in order to get studio work. I was a musician! Then Bowie entered my life with Ziggy Stardust when I was 20 and I changed course again. I knew that I had a certain look, along with a burning desire to perform live. I learned enough about how to play the guitar and I was ready.
I know enough people who are very successful yet somehow manage to believe that they're frauds and they've fooled everyone, and some day the world will find out. The truth of it is that many of these people are just revealing their massive insecurities.
Regardless that you put the hours in, sometimes it happens where the path you originally thought you were on may not be the one that ultimately leads you to the place you wanted to be. For me, there were plenty of times when I didn't give myself enough, or any, credit for what I had already achieved--after all the hours and hard work I put in.
I started out with the one goal of being a great musician, but later pivoted and landed on a different path, which brought me to rock stardom, the place I really wanted to be. Just like the Peter O'toole character! It just took me a long time to recognize it.
I'm often asked if I feel lucky to have made it. I personally, and we as a band worked our asses off to be the best live band in the world. The goal changed along the way and we adapted. That was my strength. That was what I was built for. I became a rock star but I'm also a real musician who changed my focus in order to succeed.
I still marvel at some of the world's best guitar players and recognize that I'm not one of them. No, I can't play 10,000 notes to three people, but I can play three notes to 100,000 people. When I started my journey I never understood that difference or how the dream of being a great guitar player could or would change. I chose a path to be a great performer because that was where my natural talents took me.
In short, I chose to be a "movie star" instead of an "actor."
Which one are you?