Reference > Erinsborough News > Lucinda: The Waiting Game
Lucinda Cowden still remembers her first time on stage at the tender age of seven. She knew then acting was the only thing she wanted to do in life, but she soon learned she would have to play a waiting game.
Even when Lucinda landed her first small role in Neighbours, there was a two-year wait before the producers called her in and signed her up for a six-month stint as the slightly dippy Melanie with the dreadful laugh.
A further contract followed and Lucinda is delighted. “I decided if you come in with enough gusto, you get noticed and Melanie certainly has gusto! Brains maybe not, but gusto…”
Lucinda, who married comedian David Cotter in April, says the role of Melanie was a challenge “to make something out of nothing. When I was first given the character, she had a laugh – that’s all. There was no character breakdown.” However, she knew by the lines Melanie would be dippy. She says a stint she had a couple of years back as a waitress in leotard, high heels and spangled top at a Melbourne nightclub stood her in good stead.
“It was revolting, but I was studying at the time and desperate for the money.” Lucinda’s worst memories are of the drunks who used to hassle her.
“The club where I was working was in a major Melbourne hotel, so a lot of guests staying in the hotel came in, guys in town for a convention. You know the sort. They’d take one look at me in this ridiculous outfit and think here’s a girl with nice legs and they’d take advantage of you. You couldn’t just turn around and say ‘Just leave me alone. I don’t want to know about you.’ They were customers and you were there to be nice to them so they’d order more drinks.” Lucinda says she feared she’d be too embarrassed to cope.
“Guys really do say the silliest things when they have had a few drinks,” she says. “At first I used to pretend I hadn’t heard them and I’d just walk away. Then I realised that was silly as it was my job and I had to go back and serve that person. I used to pretend I was stupid and didn’t know what they meant. You couldn’t get feminist on them and say ‘Leave me alone and treat me like a person’. I don’t think that would really wash with these guys. And you’re hired because you look okay in this silly outfit and you can be pleasant. I had to tell myself, ‘Look, this is just for a short time and I’m doing this because it’s good money.’ It was, too. I used to make more in tips than I did in wages. I’d work a five-hour stint from 12 midnight and get say $60 and another $70 in tips just for being stupid.”
“I’d think to myself ‘This could probably work on television’,” Lucinda giggles. “The only was I was able to cope was to pretend I was playing a role, to create a character for myself, so whatever they said didn’t affect me. And it worked. You can be as silly and dumb as you like – because those sorts of guys are really into that. And it wasn’t all bad,” Lucinda recalls.
“There’s a special camaraderie among the club workers. If anyone became too heavy – the more they drank the more they were likely to try and grab you – you could call a bouncer and have them thrown out.” But Lucinda was desperate for a real job. So when she landed the role of Melanie, she was determined to give it everything she had.
“It only gets me down when I’ve had a really hard day and kids in a big group come up and see who can ask the rudest question. Then I tell them how silly they are – a bit like guys in nightclubs.”
This article originally appeared in New Idea magazine, dated 8th September 1990 and was written by Patrice Fidgeon