Finding the Actual Me

Posted by Tommi Trudeau-Street
Richard "RB" Botto Richard "RB" Botto

Today's blog comes from one of the first members to join Stage 32, and one of the selfless, friendly people you'll ever meet, Tommi Trudeau. Tommi is an actor, producer, and director and regularly schedules Stage 32 actor meetups in Malibu.

This is one inspiring (and brutally honest) story… I thank Tommi for sharing his very personal journey.




“But that I, turning, call to thee O soul, thou actual Me…”
- Walt Whitman “Passage to India”

Once upon a time, I was living a completely different life. I was in a small town running the family auto dealership that was founded by my grandfather in 1938. I was doing pretty well financially and it was important to me to make sure that the family business would continue to be a success in the decades to come. I lived with my beloved wife Emily on a small ten-acre hobby farm just outside of town. We had thousands of pretty flowers, 70 chickens, 10 geese, 8 ducks, six cats, five dogs, two wooly sheep, one turkey, one potbelly pig, one very ornery goat, and a partridge in a pear tree... I was also an actor. It was my life’s purpose… It was, to quote Walt Whitman, “The Actual Me”… I never really had a choice about running the family business. Growing up, I was always the “little adult” you know, the dependable child that everybody counts on and so it was just assumed that I would take over the business and continue on with the family’s good name. But still, the arts were a “Fire Burning In My Bones” and I just could not ignore it. For most of my life, I had been a classically trained actor and I spent every spare moment in the pursuit of my all-consuming passion. Emily was a great wife and she was very supportive of my dreams and goals. We were living a good life together and we were very happy.

One day, I got the hair-brained idea to “expand my horizons” and I gave my secretary, Shauna an assignment. I had just bought this really cool postal machine and I decided to put it and Shauna to good use. I had over 5000 post cards with my headshot on them printed up and I compiled a database containing every known casting director, agent, and manager in the civilized world. I then put Shauna full time to mailing out these post cards. Soon, a honest-to-goodness, Hollywood-casting director called me. His name was Dennis Hansen and we immediately became good friends. In no time at all, I found myself flying back and forth to Los Angeles acting in small movie roles while also running the family business back home. It was actually, pretty cool. I loved it!

Then the storm came…

When things are going well and you’re making a lot of money, you tend to take your good fortune for granted. I just assumed that my prosperity would continue on forever. Well, it did not… Because of some really dumb business decisions that I had made and also, due to the economy taking a nosedive, I found myself embroiled in a multi-million dollar bankruptcy. I watched helplessly as my entire world crumbled right before my eyes. It all fell down like a giant house of cards and I lost everything, including my beloved wife. For the time being, I still had this old, classic, convertible, 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Indy Pace Car Edition. It was painted pearl white and had a custom, red leather interior. It was really one badass ride and man I loved that car! I knew that the bankruptcy court would soon seize it and so on a winter’s night, being literally at the lowest time in my life, I pulled that Cadillac into my shop and closed all of the shop doors and windows sealing the place up tight. I opened the hood on the Eldorado, pushed my tool cart near the car, took off the air cleaner, positioned a few carburetor adjustment tools on the fenders, connected the shop exhaust hose to the tail pipe and cranked up my Caddy… The shop was now filled with the loud, deep rumble of that 500 cubic inch motor idling away. I then went to the rear of my Caddy and pulled off the shop exhaust hose letting it fall to the floor in just the right position that it would appear to have fallen off. My plan was to make it look like I pulled my Caddy into my shop to adjust the carburetor and the exhaust hose fell off allowing lethal carbon monoxide to quickly fill the shop. I was sure that the authorities would determine my death to be an accident and Emily would then receive my life insurance benefit. (I’ve never told anyone about this. not even Emily…) my shop had an old fridge and a great stereo so I grabbed a cold beer, turned up the jams and just waited… The next thing I knew, I awoke lying outside the shop flat on my back in the middle of the gravel driveway with my dog, Emma licking my face. My head was hammering from the most intense headache that you could ever imagine. I thought to myself, “Well… That didn’t pan out…” I really don’t know just how I got out there. Maybe, an angel carried me…  It was a cold, clear, gorgeous night and as I lay there on my back staring up at the stars, I was overcome; I was filled with awe at the absolute, magnificent, stunning and exquisite beauty of the universe. It was then that I came to realize that life is much bigger than anything that I could possibly comprehend and at that very moment; I knew for certain that God was watching over me. What I thought was the end was in truth, the beginning… 

So I got up, patted Emma on the head saying, “Good Dog..” and I staggered off… I flushed my system by drinking lots of water, took some aspirin to nurse my pounding headache, and I started my life over from that point on… I soon found a book entitled, “ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!” and I not only read that book, I consumed every word! I then decided that I would look at my situation as an ADVENTURE and suddenly, I found myself actually, HAVING FUN!! So, having lost virtually, everything, with barely enough money for gas in my pocket, I loaded what little I had left into an old, beat-up Ford Escort and I headed for LA. You know, it’s amazing how brave you can be when you have nothing left to lose… When I rolled into this town, I had just five dollars left in my pocket. However, I wasn’t worried; I was HAVING A BALL! I was BORN AGAIN into a wonderful, brand-new life in an exciting, brand new town. I was like a kid let out on summer vacation. Finally free to pursue my dreams! 

That was almost ten years ago and since then, I’ve had many grand adventures and I have made many beloved friends. I have found, the ACTUAL ME and I am finally living the life that I have always wanted. I own a film company, I live in Malibu, and I ride around on the most badass, custom, Screaming Eagle Harley Davidson… ever! And, I must admit… I like my Harley EVEN BETTER than that old, gas guzzling, oil leaking, Eldorado! Today, Emily and I are good friends and we talk on the phone at least once a week.

I am living proof that no matter what life hands you, you CAN overcome it! When life handed me lemons... I made LEMONADE! And so can you.. Have faith… God loves you and is not done with you yet… :-)

RB's Weekend Reading (and viewing) - July 27th, 2013
Making Connections In The Land Down Under
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