Bigmouth Strikes Again

Last month I had the opportunity to speak to a class of acting students about my work. Dean Armstrong—dear friend, colleague, and founding director of Armstrong Acting Studios—thought insight into my unique career in the arts would be of value to his students. Since the speaking engagement included a trip to Toronto, I couldn’t resist the invitation.

Toronto is one of my favorite places. Both the 2006 short and 2008 feature-length films of Repo! The Genetic Opera were filmed there, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the city. I’ve also made many lasting friendships north of the eastern U.S. border, including Dean (Repo! fans will recognize him as Repo Man’s “Thankless Job” victim).


Even though performance is a big part of what I do—and I’ve worked with and employed my fair share of actors over the years—I’ve never spoken from an acting perspective about my profession. I suppose this is because I identify more as a writer and visual artist than ac-tor. Also: from a film production standpoint, those brief moments when the cameras are actually rolling often feel like breaks from work when compared against the years it takes to develop, assemble, and execute projects. As such, I was a little unsure how to approach a seminar geared specifically to thespians.

After brainstorming, the only thing I was certain of was that I wanted my seminar to deliver an experience for AAS students that was wholly different from that of the casting directors, agents, and actors that traditionally come to speak at the school… so I broke out the duct tape and plastic blankets, and got to it.


As a writer, I’m generally more interested in why people do what they do than how they do it. As such, I decided to kick off my three-hour evening seminar with a personal and creepy story about secretly drawing naked women when I was a schoolboy. I chose to share this tale because I believe it informs much of my present state and drive as an artist.

As has been the case with so much of my public work, the reaction from the classroom gallery to my dirty confessional seemed divided—especially when gauged by the furrowed brow on the father of the only child actor in the room—but as I went on to describe using primary passions to fuel success and find an authentic artistic voice, I think most in attendance came around.


In addition to attempting words and tales of inspiration, the T.O. visit afforded me the chance to visit old stomping grounds and reconnect with folks I hadn’t seen in years, including Dr. Berta Bacic (considering the motley band of degenerates that make up the majority of my friendship circle, it’s weird to know that any of my familiars are doctors… even ones residing some 2,500 miles away).

Berta owns and operates a dental practice in Burlington (thirty minutes outside of Toronto) and is about to open a second clinic in the city. In 2009, when I was in town for my first live Repo! shadowcast experience, Berta examined my much-neglected choppers and sent me back home to Los Angeles with a clean bill of dental health and a toothier grin. I blogged about the adventure in detail here.

Five years later—and five years since my last tooth exam—I again found myself strapped to Dr. Berta’s skillful chair.


Like a vintage vehicle, the older I get, the more maintenance seems necessary to preserve my banged-up chassis. An x-ray and a few minutes under The Scraper proved that my teeth were no exception to this declining motor standard as my mouth bore early signs of gum disease. If my jaw wasn’t already pried open, it would’ve surely dropped as Berta informed me of this.  She then said that four-hours of chiseling would be required to safeguard my not-so-pearly whites.

It’s strange to have hands and metal digging under your gums. It’s also strange to realize mid-treatment that your beard has gotten so out of control that the dentist needs to push your lip whiskers aside to properly do their art. Even more strange is leaving the clinic to kill time before catching a plane back home and finding that the only place within walking distance with Wi-Fi is a McCafé. Strangest of all is answering a phone call from an identified number (with post-dental numb gums) and hearing the voice of a relative you haven’t spoken to in years calling you from prison on a smuggled cell phone. Yes, this all happened.


I want to thank Berta and Leigh Ann for tending to my devil-may-care mouth. If you’re in Southern Ontario and in need of dental nurturing, be sure to visit Dr. Berta Bacic & Associates. I also want to thank Dean and the students of Armstrong Acting Studios for making me feel welcomed, and for letting me ramble about things I love. To all my friends in Toronto, ’til the next time.

Any fair readers looking to share their own tales of joy and woe upon the dentist’s slab, please do so in the “Comments” section below.

  • Leticia Castaneda

    I was born with weak enamel, so I’ve been having dental problems since the rude little things popped out of my gums. I also appear to have inherited my family’s extremely crooked teeth so when my adult teeth started coming in, they were cheek-by-jowl up against my baby teeth which was extremely uncomfortable. I had to have at least five teeth extracted that I can remember, and the dentist always gave me my baby teeth in a tiny plastic treasure chest. I guess it was supposed to make the experience more tolerable. I also have had (due to the weak enamel) my fair share of fillings and in high school, a couple of root canals. I’ve had to be on prescription toothpaste since I was in middle school, which I was always inexplicably ashamed of.
    I haven’t had health insurance since I was a kid, so I’m sure I have all kinds of things wrong with my teeth since I haven’t been to the dentist since I was about 17. I also chipped my front teeth when I took a nasty fall just before last Thanksgiving…I can’t imagine what all is wrong there. I actually don’t mind going to the dentist though. Maybe it’s from all those years of going as often as twice a month, but I don’t think my smile is terrible. I’ve also got the most natural fangs of anyone you’re likely to meet. :-)

  • Desi Olson

    i also had my teeth worked on recently. i had five wisdom teeth removed. the two on the bottom were actually on their sides. thankfully they werent touching the nerves, but they were pretty damn close. the ones on the top werent too bad. i had a tiny extra tooth coming in. they had to be removed so i could get braces which im kind of excited for. i really hate the way my teeth are. ive been wanting to get them fixed since i was little. i know theyre gonna be sore for a bit, but i really think it’ll be alright :)

  • Neztra Nez

    Luckily, I have the type of enamel that causes dentists to have small oral orgasms when I sit in their chairs. I am not kidding; apparently my enamel is dentist porn. At 37 years old, I still have never had a cavity. I hope to eventually attain toothy nirvana like my 90 year old grandmother who still has all of her own teeth and not a single cavity, crown or filling. Fingers crossed.

    Best wishes, sir. I have not been peeking through your virtual windows lately as I have had a lot on my plate but I am happy to see you are still in rare form.

  • Anna Kristina

    “- What are you afraid of?
    - Two things: dentists and darkness…
    - Dentists I can relate to. But why darkness?
    - Just imagine how many dentists might hide in darkness!”
    I had this really negative experience when I was six, so this fear of dentists lurks somewhere in the depth of my mind still:).
    We just moved back to Moscow from Slovakia, and I had some minor cavities, that my parents took me to treat to some public clinic. There was this huge Soviet drill-machine operating with a pedal of some sort. The dentist lady told me: “You’ll just feel a small worm biting at your tooth” and pressed the pedal.
    No anestetics and all that… I tried to imagine something biting at my tooth, and that felt rather like a damned chainsaw:). On top of that, her drill kept getting stuck in my tooth, and she kept pressing the pedal harder in order to get the drill work. Hurt as hell. Worthy of some Repo man in his best:)
    I’m almost 30 now, but I still remember:).

  • Chris K.

    The dentist….just another doctor to add to the list of horrifying experiences I’ve had with the medical field. Cliffnotes version: I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 13. Shortly after treatement started, it caused a second disease known as AVN (avascular necroisis) which basically cuts the bloodflow off to the bone.that caused a bunch of pain and they went through a myriad of pain meds to find one that worked. Eventually these fentanyl suckers did the job. Now with them being suckers I probably should’ve thought that they might harm my teeth but since the doctors were constantly telling me of possible side effects, and nothing to do with my teeth was mentioned, I didn’t worry about it because it took the pain away. A couple years pass and one of my teeth chips off. I already had a fear (albeit at that time irrational) of the dentist so I didn’t do anything about it….until it started hurting. I tried to tough it out until I had to be rushed to a dental clinic so they could remove it. The infection pocket was so big that the novacaine didn’t work, even though they poked until they couldn’t give me anymore. Oh and did I mention the infection had spread to 4 of my other teeth? Yeah. So I had to sit there, awake and feeling everything, as they ripped out five of my teeth each one more excruciatingly painful than the last. So now here I am, almost 4 years later at 21 years old, with five teeth missing in the front, and nearly all of them fucked up beyond repair, well repair I can afford. It’s a killer for self-esteem. This was supposed to be a cliffnotes version wasn’t it? Oh well I feel all of this info was necessary to the story in one way or another.

  • Kayla Alexandria

    Your blogs make me happy Terrance(:
    i’m so surprised Repo! was filmed in Toronto! I went in 2012 and was excited because ”Scott Pilgrim vs the world” was filmed there too and I spent my time freaking out about that. I might go back now C:

  • Mary

    I’m very scared with needles. You can cut a person in two thousand pieces and i won’t complain, but needles just scares me insanely. Late last year I had to extract a tooth. The anesthesia needle scared me so much that I had to extracted the tooth without anesthesia feeling. That’s my sad story. :D

  • volleigh13

    haha thanks for the “thanks” — glad to have met you and hopefully prolonged the life of your pearly whites :)

  • SavFem

    Love me some Toronto and hate me some dentists! ;-) Though I haven’t been back to Toronto in nearly 12 years it holds a dear place in my heart with drunken, sci-fi geek antics, hours of getting lost & trying to maneuver public transportation, touching toasts with a bottle of Dom Perignon, and seeing one of the BEST live shows: Cobra: The Musical! I really need to get back there!!
    Alas, I, too, had a negative experience with a quack dentist as a child that probably traumatized me enough to not visit the dentist as often as I should, but luckily I have found a good one in ‘adulthood’ that is trying to get me back on the straight & narrow.