Five found new job -- and a new life Chasing a Dream

March 27, 1995|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Sun Staff Writer

Starting over. Almost all of us harbor that fantasy at some point in our working lives. It may happen after the nagging question that follows a bad day at the office: Is this how I want to spend the rest of my working days? Or the scary search for something else when your job suddenly vanishes.

For an advertising executive, that meant becoming a bagel maker. A former clerical worker now has a budding film and modeling career. Another woman jumped off the corporate ladder to work in the classroom. An attorney and his wife, a budding psychologist, gave up professional lives to brew beer.

They gave up -- or were forced out of -- jobs with regular paychecks. But none of them regrets starting over. Although their stories are different, they all had the guts to go for their dreams.

She was bitten by the acting bug

Some people willingly and enthusiastically embark on new careers. Others are forced into early retirements and don't have a clue what to do next. Sandy Watters is among the latter.

Before she starting landing bit parts on TV shows and in movies, Ms. Watters had a pretty ordinary job. She did clerical work in an office.

Now, she's the woman pumping up the inflatable life-like doll in the "Get Gelfman" commercials for WJZ-TV. On the television show "Homicide," Ms. Watters played an old lady who yelled at the detectives for knocking on her door.

She has worked as an extra on many movies including "Clear and Present Danger," "Meteor Man," "Clara's Heart" and "Major League 2." She will be in Jodie Foster's "Home for the Holidays," which just finished filming in Baltimore.

Ms. Watters, 54, fairly glows with vibrancy as she talks about this new life, which did not even begin until she was in her 40s. "When I think of what my life was like then and what it is now, I just amazed," she says.

For 20 years, Ms. Watters worked as an office assistant for the Baltimore Police Department. She was afflicted with carpel tunnel syndrome and eventually had to take medical disability.

"I was in a state of depression," she says. "I was in my 40s, and I couldn't think of any job I could do without my hands."

One day, a friend dragged her to watch the taping of Richard Sher's show on WJZ-TV. A talent agent was there and encouraged Ms. Watters to enter a "Look-Alike" contest. Ms. Watters, a ringer for actress Nell Carter, won first place.

"It was wonderful," she says. "I won some money. But I thought that would be it."

During this same time, Ms. Watters was going through a divorce. Then she lost her only child, Melvin, who died at age 32 of an aneurysm.

"That destroyed me," she says of her son's death. "I had lost my job, was going through a divorce, and then my only child died. I told God this was three strikes, I couldn't take any more. I was in his hands."

Then her luck suddenly changed. A modeling agent had seen the look-alike contest and asked her to do some full-figure modeling. A movie and television casting agent saw her modeling work and began sending her out on assignments.

Then with her newfound career and confidence on the upswing, Ms. Watters decided to hold workshops for other full-figured women interested in the business.

"I'm not making a bunch of money," she says. "But I am having fun. If it stopped today, I would have no regrets. I have lived a dream."

There came a time in Greg Novik's life when he had to ask himself the question; Can a creative, hard-charging, admittedly "Type A" personality ditch the advertising world for . . . bagels?

BMr. Novik did. "I had a colleague who said, 'You will never make a living selling dough,' " says Mr. Novik laughing. Great line, he admits. But, thank God, the colleague was wrong.

For 18 years, the bearded, effusive Mr. Novik thrived in the competitive world of advertising. He toiled as an account executive, creative director or producer for various Baltimore advertising agencies.

Then the business began losing its appeal. "When some of your best work ends up in the waste basket . . . it's time to leave," said Mr. Novik, 48, taking a break from behind the counter of his Belvedere Square shop. "I loved the writing but the political bull was hard to take."

Mr. Novik and his wife, Kathy, had been bagel lovers for some time. And so they got to experimenting with bagel recipes for a few years before they opened the store.

They got so good that I began taking bags of bagels to recording sessions. And people would buy them," he said.

"In retrospect, we were test-marketing the product. I wished we could say we were thinking about that then, but we weren't," he says.

Then the dream began to take hold. And six years ago, he walked away from his advertising job and opened Greg's Bagels. But not without trepidation. "It's scary going into the dark, into the unknown," he says. "It is a risk. And I know this is a goofy job."

Looking back, Mr. Novik is glad that he was a neophyte in the bagel business. "If I had really thought about it, I probably would not have done it," he says.

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