Actor David Selby's mom was a big fan

Born and raised in West Virginia, David Selby's extensive film, television and stage career included prominent roles in two very different TV shows in different generations: ABC's gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows" in the 60s and the prime-time soap "Falcon Crest" on CBS in the 80s.

"My mother (Sarah) loved that I was an actor," said Selby from Los Angeles, but she had no background in the entertainment world. Her upbringing in a coalmining town was a tough one, being responsible for raising her brothers and sisters.

"She managed to graduate from high school and met my father who was raised on a farm," recalled Selby. "Mom continued to work hard at various jobs including the local Montgomery Wards, in a bakeshop, and her last job was as a bookkeeper in an office supply place. But she never liked to talk about herself – at all. Her focus was always on the family. She was also a meticulous housekeeper and did not like messes."

Tidying, says Selby, is a trait he inherited and for which his family has always ribbed him for his constant dusting, washing and sweeping. "Sarah is among us!" he says his wife, Chip, will lovingly announce.

To honor his late mother and her influence on his life, Selby wrote "They Don't Call Me Sarah for Nothing," a short but compelling monologue he composed for Smartphone Theatre, a live stream digital performance platform presented via Zoom and created during the early pandemic months to showcase original productions. Selby's reading streamed live in March 2022 and can be viewed on YouTube (https://youtu.be/cm7mFA_VF6c).

"I would act like my mother unconsciously," he said. "The kids would say 'grandma says that' or my wife would say 'you sound like your mother.' So, I wrote 'They Don't Call Me Sarah for Nothing' because it was cathartic for me to talk about her and realize, my God, how much she meant to me."

Despite their loving relationship, young David found her constant working difficult to understand. Nevertheless, he recalled, "she always somehow managed to look like a million dollars, Even taking out the trash or going to the grocery store in our little community, she was always cautious about looking her best."

As he grew older and with no initial interest in acting, Selby planned to enroll in West Virginia University but needed tuition funds. "So, I went to Atlantic City in the summer and worked at a restaurant, then returned with a pocket full of money to pay for my first half-year's tuition. I lived at home so I could walk to class as a freshman, but didn't really know what I was going to do."

That's when an adviser for students whose names started with an 'S' spotted Selby standing in the enrollment line for classes. "He said, 'you look like you could be in theater' and it turned out he was a theater instructor," Selby remembered. "He talked me into it and, lo and behold, I began doing plays at the university right away."

After completing his degree, Selby moved to Illinois where he completed a Ph.D. in the arts, but not before moving to the East Coast and accepting his first TV role.

"I didn't finish my Ph.D. until after I was in New York doing 'Dark Shadows' – in fact, I copied my dissertation at the office where we shot the show," he recalled. His wife even took a job as an editor and then as a college English teacher so David could pursue his acting career (see http://www.davidselby.com).

But what did his mom really think about his acting career?

"She watched every show I did, from the plays at university and summer stock to 'Dark Shadows,' 'Falcon Crest' and everything else," he says. "Aside from my wife, my mother was my biggest fan. I loved her dearly."

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, in Alabama, and has written features, columns, and interviews for numerous magazines and newspapers. See http://www.getnickt.org.

Author Bio

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 750 magazines and newspapers.

 
 
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