| Article ~ "The Lorraine Sinclair Story ..."
by Cayle Chernin
End of the 90ies. I'd spent a decade plus, making documentaries, albeit followed around parts of the world by a camera. I'd done a few plays, a few movies and I wanted to put my doc days behind me and devote myself to acting again.
I met Margo Lane at The Coffee Mill for Lunch, which in itself was totally charming. We hadn't seen each other in some years, brought each other up to date and that lunch ended with Margo becoming my new agent - my new old agent as she had represented me in the 80ies and we had done some decent work together. She was always very respectful of my work and supportive, feeling I hadn't gotten the success I deserved as an actor.
She was willing to try something. Since everybody who knew Cayle Chernin, thought of her as getting older, more of a documentary filmmaker, or writer, than actor:
How about a new look, Margo loves to do a make over and she made me over in her image, which is no easy bar to rise to, because Margo is a looker. Going blonde was the most excruciating part of it. It took several tries and a trip to London to old friend David McDermott to bleach me out to platinum where I only stayed a few days, Margo said it was too hard to live up to…and I agreed.
Pierre Lalande kept it going for about 4 years and we had it down to a science - critics to the contrary, not withstanding. There were actually people who thought I was a natural blonde. Others like my Aunt Etta never got used to it. It was about 50/50.
For me it was great and I thoroughly enjoyed playing in The Lover, Erica Jong in Fear of Flying, and ending my golden days as a dirty blonde in Anita Doron's Not A Fish Story.
Initially the goal was to get me some commercials, Toronto above all else being a commercials' town - there is even a 'blonde' category in commercials, so it opened up a lot of new territory for me - and I began to get some. The best in that first year was Budweiser, none other than the subsequently award-winning automated lobster spot which made my year. I bagged another one of those five years later, also as a blonde - the Mother of the Bride - another little bonanza. What they say about commercials is true. You can make $30,000 from one days work. I know there are even more extraordinary landslides but that was my experience.
Actra said I could only have one name so I had to go Actra and Equity with the new name. Eventually I tried Cayle Lorraine Sinclair, a pathetic attempt to have the best of both little worlds-of-my-own devising. Since certainly the only attention people ever paid me in the Lorraine Sinclair days was to ask me WHY???? Or to tell me they disapproved. Whatever relief it was not to have to spell Cayle and explain its derivation: "My Mother made it up", I now had to explain endlessly why I had made the name change. It was challenging, for sure. When an actor from Rhinoceros Eyes saw me at the wrap party and called me Charlene, I felt Lorraine had outlived her welcome, in my life anyway.
Lorraine Sinclair is credited in the upcoming release of Billy Mintz' short film The Fool, Cayle Lorraine Sinclair in Clement Virgo's Lie With Me, and Cayle Chernin is credited on Alan Powell's Family Practice and Billy Hyde's Leo. Lorraine did Queer As Folk.
Now in the movie version The Lorraine Sinclair Story an out of work actress changes her identity and forges a success so that when anti-semitic elements come to power (like George Bush) and the World goes all to Hell in the blink of a Hurricane's eye she can masquerade as a 'shiksa' and infiltrate enemy territory and save Israel.
Be not mistaken, I enjoyed some aspects of being Lorraine Sinclair very much and I think Margo had balls to go along with it. An angle on my inability to get cast as Cayle Chernin - other than the occasional Jewish role I got to audition for and usually didn't get was that Lorraine was sometimes cast as Jewish way more than Cayle had been. In the Kathy Lee Spinning Out of Control for example.
But Lorraine Sinclair was not Jewish, blonde, blue-eyed - yes we went with blue (actually) violet contacts, (one kid at an audition told me they were awesome), late 30ies, this was about 6 years ago. I'm not saying the work came rolling in but eventually circumstances were such that I'd survived the period and friends who felt I'd killed Cayle Chernin off, walking into audition rooms where other actors say, Hi Cayle and I go in when they call for Lorraine Sinclair, and oh yeah I'm now blonde and blue eyed, and some people even thought I'd renounced my Judaism. I was happy to get a story and cover in the North York Post and that gave me an opportunity to tell the story in print and explain that I was using a stage name to get work.
I scraped the violet contacts shortly after the Casino Niagara commercial where they kicked sand into my blue eyes for 7 hours while I was buried in a tube. Mary, don't ask. I showed up to be the shrink in Lesley Anne Coles' In The Refrigerator and she balked at not having my warm dark eyes to work with. It was such a relief.
Lorraine paid her dues and started to rack up a few credits and I'd found a way, various ways to explain myself. I was soon begging Margo to let me go back. She said you can't go back. I said I had to. It just split the focus too much in a biz'ness where an actor can't afford to work on set one day as Lorraine Sinclair while Cayle Chernin is playing on a movie on TV from another time.
During the Toronto Film Festival a few years ago they feted Goin' Down The Road and I really felt the split. Wined and dined and interviewed us. It's not so much the waste of good publicity as a fragmenting of self that is endemic to me anyway. It messed with my sense of continuity which is tenuous at best - having had so many different 'times' in my life - lived in so many different places - met so many people - in effect had lived so many different lives since I left the bosom of my parents family. In my first year of school when we moved to Toronto from Newfoundland, I went to Bayview Junior High and the next year we moved downtown to Cedarvale. I was crying because I didn't want to move and Mr. Allen my English teacher said he'd always know how I was doing because he'd just have to ask for Cayle. He was suggesting I would distinguish myself wherever I was, and I suppose there is some need in me to try to do that.
It was too weird. I've been back to Cayle for a while and it feels way better. Now hardly anyone remembers Lorraine, although occasionally I still have to bring people up to date who only knew me as Lorraine.
I only hope that some director who worked with Lorraine and wants to find her can find Cayle.
I Googled Lorraine Sinclair and discovered she was a Native ecology activist in B.C. who has passed away.
- 30 -