Rosa Blasi remembers when she auditioned for Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone.
The director looked at Blasi's TV-packed resume and quietly asked an associate, "What is Lifetime?"
'Oh, Second City!'Mount Prospect native Rosa Blasi says one reason she hit success so quickly as an actress stems from her Chicago-area roots. Seriously?
"Seriously," she said. "People know that if you're an actor coming from Chicago, you really worked as an actor. You weren't a waiter. Out here (in L.A.), if you say you're an actor, people assume you're a waiter. If you come to an audition with a Chicago background, they assume you came here after working as a real actor and being paid for it in Chicago."
Chicago's Second City is another door-opener in L.A.
"People totally have a respect for Second City," Blasi said. "If I had a dollar for every time a casting director looked at my resume and said, 'Oh, Second City!' I'd never have to work again."
"That's a network, Mr. Stone," the man replied.
Stone looked squarely at Blasi.
"Are you famous?" he asked.
"Not if you've never heard of my network," she replied.
This single anecdote illustrates four things about Mount Prospect native Rosa Blasi:
She's an actress.
She's also an author, having written the 2011 play-by-played memoir "Jock Itch: The Misadventures of a Retired Jersey Chaser," an intimate tell-all of her affairs with a string of professional athletes.
The 39-year-old actress guest-stars in the season finale of TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland" (coproduced by Glen Ellyn native Sean Hayes), airing Wednesday, June 6.
Blasi starred on the recently canceled ABC Family series "Make It Or Break It," along with Lifetime's "Strong Medicine" for six seasons, plus appeared on a variety of series TV shows and a couple of daytime soap operas. On late-night talk shows, she's verbally fenced with such people as Bill Maher and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
She even played Bill Pullman's wife in the transplanted Japanese horror film "The Grudge" back in 2004.
Blame most of it on Blasi's parents, Rocco and Joyce Blasi, who still live in Mount Prospect.
"I love that they never said to me, 'This is impossible!' Or 'There are going to be times you want to kill yourself!' Or 'It will mutilate your self-esteem, this business!' They never said anything like that. They said, 'You can do whatever you want. You can totally do this.'"
Also, blame it on the TV sitcom "The Love Boat."
"I remember watching it with a baby sitter," Blasi said. "I must have been pre-age 8 at the time. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders were on and they seemed so cool and so glamorous. I said I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. It never dawned on me that they were on a TV show. As soon as I realized this was something you could do as a job, that was it!"
Blasi started out not long after. She was only 8 when she set foot before the footlights of the now-defunct Des Plaines Theater Guild in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
Blasi graduated from Prospect High in 1990, then attended the University of Kansas and Chicago's Columbia College before a representative for TV producer Aaron Spelling persuaded her to abandon academia and seek her fortune out west.
"I never thought about the odds," she said. "Or that I was this little olive-skinned, brown-looking child, and everybody on TV were these sunny California blondes. I just knew I was going to do this, from writing plays in my backyard -- starring me and casting whatever neighbor kids I could get -- then forcing people to watch us perform. I couldn't wait to do community theater."
Blasi particularly remembered her role as one of the young Von Trapp family singers in Best of Broadway's Northwest suburban run of "The Sound of Music," featuring Schaumburg District 44 music teacher (and a certain film critic's wife) Peggy Gire as Maria.
"To date, that's the only show I ever had to exit in the middle of a scene to throw up backstage because I was sick, then come back on," she said. "If that's not an example of 'the show must go on,' I don't know what is."
Blasi said the key to her success on TV, film and stage probably came from the fact she never had a backup plan if showbiz failed.
"I arrived in L.A. thinking that I would have my own show in six weeks," she burbled. "All you had to do was be in California. For me, in Mount Prospect, California was this magical place. I figured you just had to be here and it would happen. I had decided this at a really early age."
Blasi then said something she admitted might sound a little crazy. Yes, it does.
"I loved watching TV and imagining things and walking to Lion's Park School, because back then you could walk to school without being abducted or molested," she said. "I remember imagining on my walk to Lion's Park Grade School that people were filming me in the trees for my true-life story. Yes! I invented the reality TV show in my mind."
These days, Blasi has succumbed to some disillusionment with the conflicts and politics of the acting profession. But at heart, she remains a self-proclaimed showbiz super fan.
"I'm so grateful I had that (Mount Prospect) upbringing because to this day, I'm a fan!" she said. "I'm doing the season finale to 'Hot in Cleveland,' and I'm ecstatic because I'm a fan! I'm excited to meet Betty White! I read Valerie Bertinelli's book, you know?"
Blasi is also a fan of motherhood. Make that a superfan.
"I really, really, really, really, really wanted to be a mom," she said.
She got her wish after she married New York Giants fullback Jim Finn in 2004. Her daughter is now 5, but the marriage ended in 2008 after sensational reports of Finn's infidelities surfaced.
"She's just as much as I dreamed she would be," Blasi said of her daughter. "Even though I had a Jerry Springer marriage, I'd do it all again to have her. I think she was put on the earth to make me belly laugh. I'm the most grateful for her."
One thing Blasi's not grateful for: high-definition TV cameras.
She thinks they add age to performers.
"I believe that only athletes and animals -- which are kind of the same thing -- should be shot in HD," she said.