John Thain: Metropolitan Oakland Int’l to Bob Hope on the NYSE’s Gulfstream IV
While New York Magazine’s profile on John Thain may tell you a lot of things you didn’t know about the man whose cheek bones defy gravity to such an extent as to frighten young children and freshmen traders alike—Thain was instrumental in Corzine’s ousting from Goldman Sachs; Thain’s office is on the sixth floor; Thain possesses an unparalleled proclivity for Gray’s Papaya hot dogs—specifically the Recession Special (two dogs and a small drink for $3.50)—it won’t tell you why he flew to Burbank, California, not too long ago. Know who will? This guy (and girl. Actually it’s just me but Carney gave me a bobble head crafted in his likeness for Hanukkah and insisted I keep it on my desk “at all times, so as to instill a constant sense of insecurity and paralyzing self-doubt” in myself, so it’s kind of like there’s two of us here doing this).
Anyway, Thain. It’s a well-guarded secret on the NYSE that John Thain has been itching to get into show business for years. Years. We’re talking like since before Goldman, before MIT, before his father tried to shame it out of him, trying in tireless vain to get him to “just make contact with the ball.” After several failed attempts to secure any roles that would “showcase [his] leading man abilities” (Thain’s words) at summer stock, many many tubes of red lipstick (it takes at least 1/3 of a stick to write “Yeah, that’s me, taking the bull by the horns. It’s how I handle business. It’s a metaphor” and when you’re doing it twice a day for over twenty years, well…you do the math), and several smashed bathroom mirrors, Thain decided to reach deep down inside himself, visualize his love of the stage, and repress it. And he was doing a great job, for some time. Sure, he had to create an imaginary electric fence around the theater district, lest he step inside that “ring of fire” and risk “getting electrocuted, emotionally,” once again, but he’d at least gotten to a point where a colleague could casually mention Pitt’s latest role without John flying off the handle and into a manic rage about “Braddie-boy’s appalling and awkward-at-best acting skills,” as he had previously been wont to do.
But then. Oh, then. Then came Thanksgiving ’06. Thain’s sister-in-law accidentally knocked over a glass of wine while passing the stuffing across the table and all of a sudden it was “YOU RUINED MY LIFE!” all up in Thain’s somewhat-elderly-at-this-point father’s grill. The outburst lasted a while longer, sure, but the gist of it was basically, “the only time I’ve ever been happy has been on the stage or maybe, when I lowered myself to the pedestrian standards of film, in front of the camera (one commercial counts!), and you took that away from me and I hate you.” No one wanted to further incite the beast and decided it would be best to just “not make any sudden movements,” and even though it was Thanksgiving, didn’t make a fuss when Thain excused himself from the table.
He retreated to his study where he opened a trap door in the floor (that no one else had known about, save for Hilda, the family’s maid and Thain’s closest confidant and sounding board for the pain). He lowered himself at least three feet down a ladder and there it was—THE ROOM. When he’d decided to bury his love of acting, he meant it, but not just emotionally, and in that room, in that underground, tucked away room, was everything Thain had buried that fateful day, when he closed the (trap) door on his old life. His “Jet” costume, from his chorus role in West Side Story. The call-sheet from his Domino’s commercial. The dress he’d had specially made to wear to audition for the role of Marilyn, in a JFK biopic, a role he ultimately did not get. After letting his fingers linger for some time on the creamy white satin, Thain opened a file cabinet, where he’d instructed Hilda to “place the trades.” Premiere had nothing, but halfway through Variety, he found it—an audition for Arrested Development‘s Michael Cera’s upcoming Aleksey Vayner parody. Thain knew he was perfect for the role.
And he was. He flew out to California that night and was first on the set the next morning (it was fortuitous that Cera had waited until the last moment to cast this minor but integral role). He shot all his parts in one take. One take! Later, when he approached Cera about crediting him under his stage name–Nicholas Jasenovic–, Mikey wrinkled his nose and stopped Thain just as he was getting really riled up talking about the eating disorder he’d developed while working as Blythe Danner’s personal assistant, and with one word and a question mark that wasn’t so much a question but more of a “I know I’m right about this but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt with a lilt in my voice,” ended the years of sleepless nights over why he never got to play the hero, hitting the nail on the head that had been so obvious to everyone but Thain himself, who’d just thought his fate was to get the short end of the stick. “Halitosis?”
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